Nubra Valley – High Altitude Cold Desert

Nubra Valley is one of the must visit places in Ladakh especially if you are visiting for the first time. Living in remoteness for most of the year, the valley comes to life during summers. Thanks to this isolation, it is one of the unspoilt destinations in India far from the madding crowd. Wedged between Pakistan, Tibet and China and India’s Himachal Pradesh, it forms the eastern part of Jammu & Kashmir. North of Leh, Ladakh’s ‘capital’, lies a far-flung and austerely beautiful enclave cradled by rugged mountains ‒ Nubra Valley.


Nubra Valley is among the sub-districts in Ladakh, located in North East side having Diskit Village as the its main headquarters. Diskit is situated about 120 odd KMs from Leh town which is the main capital of Ladakh district. The Shyok River, a tributary of Indus River, meets the Nubra River to form a large valley that separates the majestic Ladakh and Karakorum mountain Ranges. The Nubra River is also called Siachen Naala by locals as the Siachen Glacier melts into this river.


Like the rest of the Tibetan Plateau, Nubra is a high altitude cold desert with rare precipitation and scant vegetation except along river beds. The ultra-wide landscapes, humongous mountain faces, lovely trails, wide variety of colors and musical Shyok River flowing midst the valley will take your breath away at first sight. The ancient Silk Route passes through this valley.


The major attraction of a trip to Nubra Valley is going over the so called or hyped, highest motorable road, Khardung La Pass Being at lower altitude than Leh at an average altitude of 10000 Feet. Khardung La is situated 40 km by road from Leh. The pass is strategically important to India as it is used to carry supplies to the Siachen Glacier (the highest battlefield in the world) which lies partway up the Nubra Valley. Nubra Valley is an ideal place to fit into the acclimatization schedule of your Ladakh trip once you reach Leh.

Khardung La Pass

The main attraction here is Diskit Gompa or monastery, perched high above town on a craggy spur. It is the headquarters of the Nubra Valley, 150 km from Leh.  The town is dominated by the huge 14th century monastery which is the oldest and largest in the valley. It houses the remains of a respected 14th century lama from Nubra who returned from Tibet after serving as regent to the first Dalai Lama at Tashilhunpo Monastery in Tibet. The monastery has been a very sacred place since centuries. You can drive up here but it’s a joy to walk among the mani walls (elongated, almost artfully arranged mounds of stones engraved with Buddhist prayers and mantras) and whitewashed chortens (dome-shaped monuments housing Buddhist relics).


About 10 km west of Diskit stands Hunder village. It was the capital of the erstwhile Nubra kingdom in the 17th century. Between Diskit and Hunder lie several kilometres of massive white sand dunes that glisten in the sun, reminding you that you are in a high altitude desert. At sunrise and sunset, the angular rays of the sun bring to life this stretch of desert with the dance of light and shade. Camels can often be seen grazing on the dune-like landscape between the foot of the mountains and the braided Shyok River. It’s a pretty village, ideal for ambling, with a small roadside monastery known as Chamba.

Suggested: The Nubra Valley Trek – 10 Days

camel safari ladakh

Suggested: Nubra Valley Safari – 10 Days

Between Sumur and Kyagar villages, tourists can visit Samstanling monastery. Panamik village is famous for its hot water springs and a sacred Yarab Tso lake nearby the entrance of the village. Turtuk Recently opened for tourists, offers a much different landscape and cultural orientation than rest of the Nubra Valley. You can see apricot trees loaded around the entire village with views closer to Karakorum Range.

Suggested Tour:

Best Time to Visit: May to August

How to Reach: Nubra Valley can be easily accessed from Leh, the capital town of Ladakh, via Khardung La. But special permits are required for tourists to enter the valley and the permit is valid for a maximum period of seven Days only.

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