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Head To Nubra Valley

An unforgettable trip!

To the north of Leh, there is a beautiful and austere region that is cradled by rugged mountains called the Nubra Valley. A tuft of land on the very scalp of India, this deep-cut valley offers tremendous scenery on a grand scale, with villages surrounded by thrillingly stark scree slopes, boulder fields and majestic mountains. Add to that, the sand dunes, ruined palaces and monasteries give travellers more than one reason to step out and explore this region, in all its majestic glory.

During the earlier decades, local communities prospered in the region, thanks to an extraordinary trans-Himalayan trade route that originated with the Silk Road. And while on the map, Ladakh might look impenetrable, mainly due to the presence of huge mountains, yawning valleys and uninhabited lands, yet for centuries it has been at the centerstage of highly profitable trade, with caravans carrying various products like spices, jewellery pieces, indigo and opium to trade with these communities. However, when China sealed its borders in the late 1950s this trade between them, eventually ended.

Since that time period, Nubra Valley has been pushed into obscurity and today despite it still being a sensitive border area, things are getting better. This is mainly due to the fact that government agencies and private companies are injecting a lot of money into this region and now more and more tourists who visit Ladakh are willing to go the extra mile and visit this region.

That being said, many places in this region still remain out of reach for the normal traveller. On top of this list is the Siachen Glacier, which after the polar regions is the longest glacier in the world. However, unless you are willing to go on a fully fledged expedition, this area will remain outside your reach.

PS: Did you know that Siachen is the highest and coldest battlefield in the world, with India and Pakistan having fought at this spot many times. Currentlu, a ceasefire has being held here since 2003.

With explorations that can easily fill more than a few days, make sure you stop at the following attractions, while you are here.

Diskit Monastery - The main administrative centre of the valley, the Diskit Monastery is located in Diskit, which is Nubra Valley’s prime commercial area. Located on the edge of Shyok-side deserted area, this monastery was built in 1420 AD  and belongs to Yellow sect of Tibetan Buddhism. And while you can always drive here, it is joy to walk among its mani walls (elongated and artfully arranged mounds of stone that have Buddhist prayers and mantras engraved on them) and whitewashed chortens (dome-shaped monuments housing Buddhist relics), that are located on the way.

Another major attraction of the monastery is the 32 metre high statue of Maitreya Buddha that is placed near the small hillock, close to the monastery. The statue overlooks the valley, facing the Shyok river and is a prime example of the amazing skill possessed by the craftsmen of this state. If that is not enough to tempt you, the views of Karakoram range from this monastery is truly stunning and Instagram worthy, so make sure you do not miss an opportunity to head here.

Pro-tip: Try to visit this monastery in the early dawn, when monks gather for their morning prayers. The chanting monks, crashing cymbals and deep horns together make for a truly memorable experience. Close to the main hall, there is another hall, where there is a famous statue of a protector deity brandishing the apparently mummified head and arm of a medieval Mongol soldier. A lot of people  do not enter this hall, because of erratic admittance but if you are with a local guide, the chances are better and higher.

Hunder Village:  Another popular place in the Nubra Valley is the white sand dunes of the Hunder village that is located close to 8 kms from the Diskit town. A white desert, this is one of the best places that truly depicts the majestic hues of the Nubra valley and is perfect for taking a long scenic walks. You can follow a trail up to the hills that might look intimidating but it is pretty straightford and offers some truly amazing views in the end. If walking is too much, you can also enjoy a camel ride from Diskhit to Hunder Village. Till 2010, the valley was accessible only till the Hunder village, but now you can go ahead and explore other lesser know Ladakhi villages  as well.If you have time,  head to Turtok, which is close to two hours away. With well metalled road that provide spectacular vistas of the valley, the journey between these two places, clearly depicts the transformation from Buddhist Diskhit to a Muslim culture around Turtok. Also, Turtok is a friendly, but conservative place, so make sure you tread carefully.

Other places that warrant a visit in Nubra Valley include Panamik, (the last accessible village before the Siachen valley, it is renowned for its hot sulphur springs and Pashmina goats that are relatively easy to spot here. The village also serves as a base camp for trekking expedition to the ENSA GOMPA, which is a 25o old monastery that is known for its well restored Buddhist murals and scriptures) Samstanling Monastery and Yarab Tso Lake.

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