The Nubra Valley is situated at the end of the road, at the cap of India, in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir. It is a hidden treasure with fine silver sand dunes cradled by gargantuan mountains. This is a politically sensitive area, and all visitors require an Indian Inner Line Permit to enter. Inner Line permits are issued for a small fee by agencies serving to tourists, based in Leh, Ladakh’s capital. Because of this, arriving in the Nubra Valley feels like quite an achievement for a traveller. This, plus the fact that getting there requires an arduous two-day road journey over high mountain passes with thinner air. The road to the Nubra Valley from the Khardung La Pass is mostly very well maintained and comfortable, which came as a pleasant surprise after the Manali-Leh road, sections of which often vanish due to landslides.
Despite increasing numbers of visitors to Ladakh every year, the Nubra Valley still requires extra effort to get to. It separates the mountain ranges of Karakoram and Ladakh. The Shyok River that flows through Nubra is a turquoise colour, the likes of which I had only ever seen in subarctic territories like Iceland. We usually only see colours like these in paintings, as rivers this colour are so strikingly rare. The turquoise is so bright it appears to emanate light. The streams of the river separate and unite and separate again into many smaller streams and branches at the base of the valley, creating large-scale, irregular winding and weaving patterns. On my journey I soon realized that I couldn’t snooze in the car because I didn’t want to take my eyes off this spectacle.
On our way down the valley we had a short stop at the Diskit Monastery. It’s perched high up on a hill, and houses a larger-than-life statue of Maitreya Buddha. Once in the valley itself, we were met by the beautiful site of the pristine high-altitude desert and its white sand dunes glimmering in the sun. Wind-swept mountains surrounding the basin were all beige and blueish in colour. Patches of green vegetation and fluffy white clouds looked so perfect they might have escaped from a children’s cartoon. Huge fluffy double-humped Bactrian camels live here, which was a surprise treat.
Although I just made a day trip to the Nubra Valley, it is possible to make it a two-day journey from Leh. This gives you the chance to visit Panamik and Hunder villages, the last places that foreigners are permitted to enter.
Article and photos by Gabriela Ghillanyova.