Route: Leh – Phyang – Khardung La – Khardung – Khalsar – Diskit – Hunder – Diskit – Sumur – Panamik
Distance: 335 – 375 km round trip covering Diskit, Hunder, Sumur and Panamik.
Route Opens: Mid May to late October (depends on the weather)
Bus: J&K SRTC along with several other travel companies run regular bus service from Leh to Diskit and other parts of Nubra Valley. While some are one way local transport buses, others are part of packaged tours.
Taxis: Taxis are the prefer mode of transport for locals as well as tourists, due to the fact it is faster and more comfortable than a bus. You can get a seat in a local taxi which is normally run in the same manner as a local bus or you can hire one yourself. For more details please contact the Leh Taxi Union at 01982 - 252723/253039.Hiring Motorcycles: Motorcycle enthusiasts who are unable to take their motorcycles to Leh can get one for rent for local sight seeing and to go to places such as Nubra Valley. One can find numerous bike rental shops at the old post office road or you can ask your hotel to arrange one for you. For reference, please read "Renting Motorcycles in India".
There are various ways to do this excursion, people short on time prefer to only drive/ride till Khardung La, spend some time there and come back to Leh, a trip of this sort should come out to be 80 kms.
However many people do decide to go to Nubra Valley, which is highly recommended. You will need at least couple of days for such an excursion, with a night stop at Diskit, Hunder or Panamik.
Leh – Phyang – Khardung La (40 kms): An early start should ensure that one reaches Khardung La without encountering lot of traffic. Despite all the hype surrounding Khardung La, drive/ride to the summit is relatively easy. Road beyond South Pallu (check post where one needs to submit the permits) is in a bad condition and gain in altitude is substantial, however it isn’t as strenuous or steep as Chang La or for that matter Tanglang La.
Once you reach the summit, you can take time out to get your photo taken next to the signboard which says “Khardung La, 18380ft, Highest Motorable Road in the world”. For those out of breath, there is a café at the summit, where one can have a much needed cup of tea/coffee along with some snacks. There is also a suvnior shop selling Khardung La memorabilia.
Khardung La – Khalsar (58 kms): After break get ready for a bumpy ride/drive till North Pallu (one needs to submit permits here as well) this is also the last place before the village of Khardung where one can expect to find food.
Roughly 30 kms from the Khardung La pass is Khardung Village, it is quite a small settlement and there are only a few restaurants here, a quick stop here for photos is recommended due to the lovely mountainous backdrop.
Roads from Khardung to Khalsar are once again in good condition, Khalsar is the preferred pit stop of taxi/bus operators for breakfast/lunch.
Khalsar – Diskit (20 kms): Few kms down the road from Khalsar the road bifurcates into two, road on the left leading to Diskit while the road on the right goes to Panamik. This is also the place where you first experience the changing vistas Nubra Valley is famous for, few kms into the road leading to Diskit the scenery changes from arid desert to a small oasis.
Many people choose to stay at Diskit and there are phone facilities available here as well as hotels and guest houses. While in Diskit don’t forget to visit the ancient Diskit Gompa which was built in 1420AD. Perched on top of a hill overlooking town of Diskit, the Gompa provides some breathtaking panoramic views. Access to Gompa is via a half hour trek through a two meter wide steep path; however the views and the Gompa more than make up for the effort. The main attraction of the Gompa is the main Deity, which holds in its hand the mummified human forearm and head, which is believed to be of a Mongol warrior.
Diskit – Hunder (8 kms): 8 kms down the road from Diskit is the village of Hunder. Hunder is set amidst fields of rye and barley and surrounded by fruit orchids and sand dunes; for people used to seeing the moonscape scenery of Ladakh, Hunder is a welcome break.
Hunder – Sumur (40 kms): After backtracking for 20 odd kms you should be back at the bifurcation from where you had taken the diversion to Diskit, now you need to take the other route going towards Sumur and Panamik. The 20km drive from here to Sumur is scenic to say the least, with the views changing every few kms. Sumur’s main attraction is the 150 year old Samstening Gompa and apart from that the village itself is an oasis in the middle of a desert.
Sumur – Panamik (20 kms): 20 kms down the road from Sumur is the village of Panamik, famous for 250 year old Ensa Gompa and hot water springs. This is also the last point tourists are allowed.
Restricted Area: Nubra Valley is a restricted area and to visit it you need permits which are easily obtainable from the DC’s office in Leh and can be procured by either submitting the application yourself or through a travel agent. The permits are issued for a maximum period of three weeks, in case you are visiting other restricted areas like Tso Moriri and Pangong Tso you need to mention them in the permit as well.
Make at least 4 photocopies of the permit per region, since you would need to submit them at various check posts.
Diskit: Diskit is the district headquarters of Nubra Valley and has the maximum number of accommodation options. Add to this quite a few households in Diskit run small guest houses from their home, which provides cheap and clean accommodation to travelers on a budget.
Hunder: Hunder has few guest houses and camping ground where one can find decent accommodation.
Sumur: Like Diskit, Sumur also has wide variety of accommodation options and is a favorite pit stop of many travelers.
Panamik: Unlike Diskit and Sumur, Panamik has fewer accommodation options. However the guest houses here do provide hot water from the hot water spring which believed to have therapeutic values.
Petrol Pumps: It is advisable to tank up at Leh itself and carry enough petrol/diesel to see you through this trip, since only Diskit has a petrol pump and availability of petrol/diesel can be an issue there.
Phone services: Diskit has quite a few pay phones that one can used to make long distance and overseas calls.