Nubra Valley from Maitrayee Buddha- Himalayan Detination

Nubra Valley and around journey from Leh

Khardung La Pass / Khardung La, is situated at an altitude of 18,379 ft. above the sea level, Khardung La makes one feel on the top of the world. It was once believed to be the Highest Motorable Pass in the world, but facts prove it is among the highest motorable passes in India. This mountain pass in the Ladakh  union territory of  was prepared for motors in 1976 and opened in 1988 for the public.

Khardung Pass (as ‘La’ implies ‘pass’ in Tibetan Language) is the gateway to the remote Nubra Velley (Nubra and Shyok valleys). The mountain pass holds a special significance as it is the way to carry supplies to the Siachen Glacier. It offers astonishing views of the twisting roads up the mountain and the awesome valley.

Alternatively known as the ‘Pass of Lower Castle’, Khardung La Pass is the inspiration of motorbike, automobile and mountain biking expeditions. This makes it adventure aficionados’ paradise indeed. Visit to Khardung La is one of the must do things in Ladakh. The picturesque panoramas and pure air lures tourists from every nook and corner of the world.

  • Temperature at Khardung La keeps on varying rapidly. It is really obscure to predict the correct temperature here. However, the Average temperature in summer reaches up to 20 degree Celsius while in winter in can go as low as -40 degrees. The pass gets wrapped up by a 10 feet snow during snowfall.
  • Road Conditions to Reach Khardung La is one of a kind feeling. But, it isn’t a child’s play to be at such an altitude. It takes lots of efforts to get that victorious feel. The first 24 km of the road from Leh to Khardung Pass, i.e. till South Pullu Check are made up of concrete. Out of the 39 km route, the next 15 km of the road, i.e. till North Pullu is uneven consisting of dirt, loose rocks and some streams appearing due to snow melting. Going beyond this point is easy as the roads are very well maintained.

How to Reach Khardung La from Leh?

Khardung La lies at a distance of 39 km from the Leh. The breathtaking views en route make the journey worth experiencing at least once. Although, this pass is a gateway to Nubra Valley, people grab an opportunity to reach and spend quality time here only. Thus, with the passage of time, traffic is also increasing at this vehicle-accessible-road.

There are four stops from Leh to Khardung La. These are Leh – Phyang – South Pullu – Khardung La. Since, this pass is gaining popularity day by day, entry and exit timings are restricted. In order to run the traffic smoothly, vehicles coming from Leh are allowed from 9 am to 1 pm. Similarly, the exit timings from Khardung La to Leh are from 1 pm to 5 pm.

Things to carry while traveling to Khardung La

It is always better to be safe than sorry. One must carry some essential things while traveling to Khardung La.

  • Take Diamox for overcoming acute mountain sickness. But, do consult a doctor first.
  • Carry chewing gums, chocolate and energy bars with you.
  • Drink lots of water to stay hydrated.
  • Keep on eating light food at regular intervals.
  • Do keep some alternatives for oxygen like camphor or portable oxygen cylinders.
  • Take waterproof backpacks.
  • Keep some pain relievers with you.
  • Woolen clothes, extra socks and raincoats are a must.
  • A good quality camera to capture the superb moments.
  • Fully charged batteries and chargers.
  • Examine your vehicle thoroughly before the journey begins.
  • Large containers for fuel.
  • Sun glasses and sunscreen lotions.
  • Sturdy shoes.
  • Medical Kit.

Things to Keep in Mind While Visiting Khardung La

A sojourn to Khardung La is full of adventure and awe-inspiring views. Get clicked with the signage of Khardung La is a matter of pride for many. However, it is always good to keep an eye on some of the important things for security and safety, which are mentioned below –

  • Climate may change very quickly
  • One can suffer acute mountain sickness. Thus, it is better to leave the place after a short duration.
  • If someone feel problem don’t out from car.
  • Keep notice continuing to your children and senior citizen and avoid over physical activities.
  • Do not travel the pass during snowfall.

The thrill of being at the very top of the world is sure to give you butterflies in your stomach. Khardung La Pass is not just a mountain pass in Ladakh, it is an adventure of a lifetime. Adventure lovers swear by the mountain pass as a journey that changes you forever.

Maitreya Buddha, the impressive 106 ft tall statue, most popular tourist attractions in Ladakh, is visible from a distance as soon as one enters the Diskit Region. Perched atop a hillock, facing the Shyok River towards Pakistan and complementing the surroundings, Maitreya Budhha was constructed in 2006 keeping in mind three objectives – protection of Diskit Village, prevention of further war with Pakistan, and to promote world peace. The statue was inaugurated by H.H Dalai Lama in 2010. The imposing and colourful image, also known as Jampa is mounted on a large hall that has a preserved a huge drum and a collection of statues and Buddhist literature. One can see statues of Shakyamuni Buddha and Guru Rimpoche inside the hall.

Getting There

In order to reach Diskit and the Maitreya Buddha, one has to book a cab from Leh City. Bikes can also be hired.

Things to Do and See in and around

On the opposite hill of the Maitreya Buddha is the oldest monastery in Nubra Region, Diskit Monastery. One can witness the beautiful thangkas and frescoes here. Another thing to do around Maitreya Buddha is to visit Hunder Village, where there is a cold desert. One can enjoy ride on the double-humped camels here.

Best time to visit

The best time to visit Diskit is in the summer, between the months of June and September. In winters, roads are mostly blocked due to heavy snowfall.

Diskit Monastery, the oldest and the largest Buddhist Monastery in all of Nubra Valley, stands tall at an altitude of 10,300 ft in the cold desert of Ladakh. It was founded by Changzem Tserab Zangpo, a disciple of Tsong Khapa, in the 14th century and belongs to the Gelugpa (yellow hat) sect of Tibetan Buddhism. It is a sub-gompa of the Thiksey Monastery.

Diskit, mostly because of the 106 ft tall Maitreya Buddha statue, has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Ladakh. The Diskit Gompa / Monastery, milky white, is nestled on a high hill at the edge of a road that links with Parthapur and Those. You need to hike up to the monastery alongside the stunning white Chortens.

A popular festival called ‘Dosmoche’ or the festival of the scapegoat is celebrated here at Diskit with a lot of festivities usually in January or February. So if you are willing to endure the harsh winter months and want to explore the white beauty of Ladakh, visiting Diskit during the Dosmoche festival would be a good time.

Inside the Monastery Complex has intricate frescoes and wall paintings, the Gompa is a delight to the eyes and the soul. Inside Dukhang, the prayer hall, there are huge drums and images of the Buddhist guardian deities. Diskit Monastery also has an elevated cupola (dome adorning a roof), with a wall fresco that depicts the Tashilhunpo Monastery of Tibet.

There are numerous shrines, and Mongolian and Tibetan religious texts preserved in the storehouse of the monastery. Diskit Monastery has some Mongolian influence as well, which goes like this: there once lived a demon near the monastery which was an evil anti-Buddhist being; he was killed at the monastery but is said to have been resurrected multiple times since his demise. Today, his wrinkled head and hand are said to be lying in one of the temples of the monastery.

Lachung Temple, is one of the oldest temples in the Nubra region is the Lachung Temple, which sits right above the monastery. Here, a large idol of Tsong Khapa, the founder of the Gelugpa sect, is worshiped. The monastery also runs a school in its premises, which teaches Tibetan children, with the help of an NGO called The Tibet Support Group.

Diskit village, is located in the Nubra Valley, which is best known for the Double-Humped Bactrian Camel, its night sky, the desert, and scenic landscapes. The Nubra River is a tributary of the Shyok River, which flows parallel to the Indus River on the northern side of the Ladakh Range. As the valley is at a lower altitude, it has a favorable climate for lush green vegetation in the valley, thus rightly called the “Orchard of Ladakh.”

While visiting Diskit, make sure you visit the river below for stunning sceneries. You should also visit the nearby Hunder village. The distance of Diskit to Hunder Village is just 8 km. Hunder is popular for its Silver Dunes, Double Humped Bacterian Camel Rides, beautiful settlements, and a clear night sky for stargazing.

Turtuk Village, a hidden treasure, an unknown little hamlet, flanked by Nubra on one side and Baltistan on the other, lies along the shores of Shyok River. An enigma in itself, population around 4000, is the last northern most village before Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK).

While time has not touched the exquisiteness of this place, the friendly nature of its residents is hard to miss. Turtuk has a history as colorful as the apricot plantations one sees all around the region. therefore, it is an amalgamation of all the cultures that have lived here.

Turtuk known as village divided by a border, thanks to a petition by locals to connect with the world, Turtuk opened its doors to inquisitive souls in 2010. Turtuk was part of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir up until 1971 when Major Chewang Rinchen got the village under India’s command. However, initially villagers were skeptical of India and their trust in Indian Army was non-existent. As many residents served in the Pakistan Army. Naturally, their allegiance to alter immediately was unrealistic.

Of course, for many born before 1947, they went from being Indians to Pakistanis to Indians again. For many, Pakistan was their only home. Thus, adjusting to a new life where the “enemy” now defined their identity was not an easy shift. Consequently, of 300 families that call Turtuk home, many have relatives on the other side. However, the Indian Army has kept its promise, keeping villagers safe & bringing about multiple reforms while encouraging growth and prosperity.

Mainly, Turtuk has been a secluded region, thanks to both geopolitical uncertainties of recent times and its exceptionally daunting geography. Cradled by The great Karakoram Range, it is one of only four villages in India that lies in the Baltistan Region.

Culture of Turtuk village and surrounding nearby areas follows mainly Baltistan. Baltistan was a separate kingdom far before the era of war glorification that have defined the region in recent times. The Yagbo dynasty, a Central Asian empire, with monarchs from Turkistan ruled the region from 800 to 1800 AD. Of course, as with Ladakh, Baltistan was a predominantly Buddhist region up till the 13th century. Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani, an Iranian poet and prominent Islam scholar, brought about cultural changes in the region. Thus, they began settlements and unions of cultures. So much so, that one spots beautiful Gompas in this predominantly Muslim region. Turtuk’s Mosque reflects a delicate coming together of Swastikas, Buddhist patterns, and Iranian designs.

Geography of Turtuk

Since Turtuk is at the height of 9845 ft, it is far friendlier than the surrounding ranges. And it is one of the gateways to Siachen Glacier, making it a strategically important location. Also, Turtuk lies on the bank of Shyok River, around 85 km from Hundur (Nubra Valley). The village of Turtuk is integrated by way of three sections:

  • Chutang– Chutang is the settlement by the river bank. This place is the educational and cultural center of Turtuk. Early mornings, one can enjoy watching the kids’ daily routine, and hear bellowing symphony of the National Anthem when school begins. During winter months, villagers that stay at difficult heights, move down to the river bed- vegetation and water’s primary source.
  • Yul– The oldest area of the village, Yul, is densely populated, a sanctuary of greenery, tradition and generosity. It is home to one of the two mosques.
  • Pharol– Across the river, you can reach Pharol by crossing an idyllic bridge. With open buckwheat fields spreading as far as the mountains would allow, one can view K-2 peak from here. Pharol houses most of the guesthouses in the region.

Weather of Turtuk

Being a high desert, Turtuk virtually experiences no rainfall. Of course, the peak summer month is July and experiences temperatures of around 22 degrees. And, the lowest temperature of around -10 degrees can be experienced in January.

Languages of Turtuk

Turtuk boasts of a predominantly Muslim population, and influence of its history you can be seen in the local dialect. Here, the primary languages include Ladakhi, Urdu and Balti. Balti is an amalgamation of Persian and old Tibetan. Of course, old Tibetan they hardly use in recent times and the language is melodic.

Best time to visit of Turtuk

The best time to visit Turtuk coincides with the tourist season of the Ladakh region, i.e. June till September.

Inner Line Permits to visit of Turtuk

While visiting any remote area in the Ladakh region, Inner Line Permit (for Indian Nationals) or Ladakh Protected Area Permit (for Foreign Nationals) is required. One can get permits online. Also, they are available at TIC Office, Main Market, Leh on all working days between 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM.

Major Attractions / sightseeing in and around Turtuk

Even though it is a small, idyllic village, there is a lot to do here. Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie looking to embark on your next crazy adventure, or seeking out spirituality and humanity, or learning more about new cultures – Turtuk has you covered. The below list does not include the multitude of Apricot and Walnut farms which you see sprinkled across the highest producer in Ladakh.

  • Natural Cold Storage– In Turtuk, all villagers keep their perishables inside little hollows, which are naturally cold. This practice is due to an underground glacial watercourse keeping these quarters icy throughout the year.
  • Polo Ground– A 16th Century Polo Ground. The younger generation loves to play Polo. Of course, if you’re lucky, you will be asked to participate in a friendly match.
  • Brokpa Fort– The ruins of Brokpa Fort will take you back in time, into how the Yagbo royalty lived.
  • Water Mill– A simple Greek-style watermill is bound to take you to the nostalgic period.
  • Mosque, Balti Heritage House, Monastery– All are beautiful touristy locations to visit. These showcase unique combinations of the plethora of cultures that have left their mark on the region.
  • Waterfall– A very tricky climb, literally hugging the mountain at certain places. This trek will take one high up to the origin of the waterfall. Yes, it is challenging, and it will have your heart pumping. But the view from the top is indescribable. In the distance, one will catch a glimpse of the mighty K-2 (the second highest peak in the world). The miracle of nature and the mightiness of landscape is something that easily leaves you speechless. However, you will have to earn your views with approx. 3 hour climb.

Important Tips to visit of Turtuk

  • Electricity runs only a few hours a day. Hence, please remember to charge your devices (mainly the camera).
  • Also, BSNL post-paid connections can work intermittently. So, ensure you connect with the outside world, as needed.
  • The nearest petrol pump is in Diskit, Nubra, so, it is intermittently stocked. So, don’t try your luck and carry enough fuel for your complete journey.
  • There is a public health center in Chutang. Also, Bogdang has a hospital, if need some medical help then you can go there.
  • Of course, as can be expected, there is a massive army presence in the region. Naturally, due to the region’s sensitive nature, movement is frequent. Also, when in doubt, feel free to get in touch with the Army for any assistance.
  • Carry your own water bottle and fill it up when possible. Undeniably, it is essential to stay hydrated to combat the symptoms of AMS in the high altitude desert.
  • Likewise, as there are no commercial places en route Turtuk after Hunder, so carry your essentials.
  • Visiting during Ramazan might leave one with limited food options, as being a predominantly Muslim region, almost everyone would be fasting. Guesthouses and home-stays will provide one with lunch.
  • Turtuk is a conservative place and it hasn’t been long since the place was opened to tourism and in fact for most residents of the village this was their first contact with the outside world. It is requested to tourists to please respect local customs, sensitivities and culture. Suggest to wear dress modestly in full-length trousers and long sleeved shirts, this applies to both men and women. Please don’t smoke or consume alcohol.
  • Though the village is Muslim, there is a small Buddhist Gompa / Monastery perched on a hillock above the village. It’s a pleasant hike up to the Gompa / Monastery and there are fine views from the top, including the snow-clad peak of K-2.

Sumur, is the extended dunes as Hunder. The village is reached by taking a prominent right from the fork after Khalsar village (left goes to Diskit and Hunder). To go to the dunes, take a left on an unpaved road 1km before the Link Road junction. The dunes begin about 800m down from this road. Don’t mistake the trio of uninspired restaurants at the junction as all the village has to offer. To access several guesthouses and prayer wheels, take the right on Link Road and turn left at a road fork 2km down the road. The road winds up another 1.5km to the colorful and extensively rebuilt Samstemling Gompa. The gompa is alternatively accessible by driving a 2km asphalted spur road from the main road, i.e. the northern end of intriguing Tegar (Tiger) village. Directly overlooking that junction, the creepy rubble of Nubra’s former royal citadel leads to the three story shell of Zamskhang Palace. Cautiously climb up to the roof for valley views.

Panamik, is just 20km from Sumur, Panamik is famous for its hot springs, but these are not the best reason to visit the two springs on the southern end are utterly forgettable dribbles of ferric-orange water, with way too many people bathing in them. Panamik’s actual crowning glory is the scenery of surrounding valleys, best appreciated from the bridge just west of Hargam. Since 2010, permits allow you to cross that bridge and double back down a very rough road (part stream) towards little Ensa Gompa / Monastery.

Yarab Tso, is a hidden treasure of this beautiful village. Just before you enter Panamik Village, where the traditional gate built of flag as seen before start of almost all villages in Ladakh, there goes a dirt track / very rough towards left which takes you a place right at the foot of a small hill. The hike to Yarab Tso from that point is hardly 20 minutes while from Panamik side, the hike is a bit tough and longer.

Things to remember for travel to Nubra Valley

Phone Signals in and around Nubra Valley

BSNL Postpaid Connection does work like a charm in most parts of Nubra Valley with some loss of signal at few places though.

Petrol Pumps in and around Nubra Valley

Do not forget to refill petrol / diesel at Leh petrol pump. Now a day a petrol pump in Nubra has been constructed but it might be out of fuel most of the time. So better to full your tank at Leh and move further with few options of more fuel with your hand.

ATMs in and around Nubra Valley

You will not find any ATMs in Nubra Valley and hence, it is always better to carry cash from Leh (the only place where you find ATM in Ladakh) itself.

Medical Facilities in and around Nubra Valley

Diskit Village has a hospital where you will be able to get basic medical aid and treatment.

Preferred Vehicles in and around Nubra Valley

The higher ground clearance vehicles are preferable and 4×4 ones generally not required. However, quite a few people do it in hatchbacks and sedans as well. But, it depends upon your skills to drive and road conditions at the time of travel when you take a hatchback or a sedan. But Hatchback and Sedan is not suggested vehicle for visiting this lonely planet or Himalayan Destination.

Permit for Nubra Valley
There are certain areas in Ladakh which are considered inner line (areas close to the border with either China or Pakistan), and Nubra Valley is one them. Therefore, Indians will need to obtain an inner line permit for visiting this place. Foreign nationals visiting this place are required to obtain a protected area permit if they want to travel from Leh to Nubra Valley. Earlier, obtaining an Inner Line Permit (ILP) was a cumbersome task.

Best Time to travel to explore in and around Nubra Valley

  • Early December to March, Nubra Valley remains shut down for thick layer of snow. Only a few options are available to stay and open to welcome guests. Suggest for extremely adventurous tourist for this time who want to know how locales are survive in the cold desert. Stay at centrally heated guest house / hotel at this time for your safety. Main problem in this season is chilled weather as well as food and water.
  • April, Nubra Valley, some guest houses start to open, but the food does remain an issue in most places. You have to rely on home stays or guesthouses and home cooked food only mostly. You can see apricot flowers blooming all over Nubra Valley in April.
  • May, June, July and August, Nubra Valley, which is the peak tourist season in Ladakh. You can find all accommodation options open with full staff and support even in Nubra Valley during these months of the year.
  • September and early October, Nubra Valley, the tourists start to reside as the cold starts to set in and accommodation starts to pack up too. In our opinion, this is by far the best time to visit Nubra Valley to see the full glory of the burning colors of Ladakh with clouds hovering like candies in the blue sky.
  • Early October to early December, Nubra Valley, going to shut down again. Temperature drop frequently. Few areas inaccessible due to snow falls started. Limited options are available to stay. Suggest for adventurous tourist for this time who want to survive and enjoy the chilled weather. Stay at centrally heated guest house / hotel at this time for your safety. Main problem in this season is chilled weather as well as food and water.

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