Dividing the Karakoram and Ladakh ranges, the three-armed Nubra Valley forms a deep trench through some of the world’s highest mountains. To get there from Leh, you have to drive north over the breathlessly high Kardung La – at 5,700 m (18,700 ft), one of the highest motorable mountain passes in the world.
On the far side, the landscape is wilder than that of the Indus Valley, with fewer settlements. Thanks to the lower elevation of the Nubra Valley, however, locals are able to grow crops of barley, wheat, peas, mustard, walnuts and apricots, and you’ll even come across the odd almond orchard.
The main settlement of the area is Diskit, 150km from Leh at the confluence of the Shyok and Nubra (aka ‘Siachen’) Rivers, where hundreds of traditional Tibetan-style houses, an old palace and ruined fortress overlook a dramatic plain hemmed in by giant peaks. Diskit has a surprisingly wide choice of accommodation for such a remote location and we’ve found some particularly desirable retreats.
Aside from village walks and dramatic road trips, the signature activity in Nubra is trekking on Bactrian camels. The animals are a throwback to the bygone era when this was a waystage on a spur of the old Silk Route connecting Kashgar in Xinjiang Province and Leh. They live year round in the dunes, grazing on seabuckthorn and taking tourist out on rides in the summer months – a great photo opportunity!
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