“How do you survive winters without electricity?” I asked curiously. “That’s a very good question. I think people can adapt to anything with time” – told Sonam, one of the residents of Nubra.
Diskit is the main town and administrative center of Nubra Valley. If all the roads lead to Rome, the roads of Nubra Valley definitely lead to Diskit. Irrespective of your itinerary, you will cross this town a few times at least.
The tourists often skip Diskit in favor of commercial Hunder sand dunes. Both places have a different appeal. If this town is on your list, in this post, I’d like to tell you more practical information about Diskit and how to plan your trip there.
Places to visit in Diskit
Diskit Monastery and Buddha statue are the most popular attractions in Diskit. Diskit Gompa is one of the largest and oldest Buddhist monasteries in Nubra Valley. It is a home to 100 of monks and a large Dosmoche festival (also known as “Festival of the Scapegoat”) in February. Unfortunately, the Khardung La pass is closed during winter, so it’s not possible to attend this festival for tourists. Nevertheless, there is the same festival held in Leh Palace in Leh.
As in the case with Thiksey Monastery (one of the biggest monasteries in Ladakh), Diskit Gompa is a part of Gelugpa (Yellow Hat) school of Tibetan Buddhism. Moreover, in the 18th century, the control over the monastery was given away to Thikse. Since then, Diskit is considered a sub-gompa of Thikse.
Diskit Gompa is roughly 3 km away from the bus stand. You can walk this distance within half an hour. The climb is quite steep though. There is a paved road as well if you come by car.
Maitreya Buddha is a huge 32-meter statue on the top of the hill overlooking the valley. The views of Nubra Valley from there are breathtaking.
Diskit Monastery and Maitreya Buddha are part of the same complex. There is one entry for both the places. The ticket costs 30 INR for everyone. It takes around 2-3 hours to explore both places. If you get hungry, there is a café with reasonable prices in the complex.
Despite this complex is an impressive place to visit in Diskit, in my opinion, the best feel of the region you will get by talking to local people. They live through harsh winters with no permanent electricity, the travel from the valley to Leh is mostly not possible during winters because of the snowfall. Nevertheless, they work it out, look for new projects and opportunities to implement in the valley to contribute to its development.
Where to stay in Diskit
With the tourism development in Nubra Valley, there are various types of accommodation appearing annually. From my search, I’ve figured that options around the bus stand are mid-range (1200 – 1600 INR per night). The Government Guesthouse is an exception (coordinates: 34.55007, 77.547474) – they provide basic rooms for a budget price (800-1000 INR range).
As a rule, the more you distance yourself from the bus stand in the direction of the river, the cheaper options you will get. I’ve chosen to stay in Sonam Guesthouse – it’s roughly 0.5km before the bus stand. It gives a feeling of home.
Sonam and Yangchen are very lovely hosts ready to help you with any advice about the place. They also make delicious dinners and traditional Kashmiri breakfasts. Sonam is a high school principal in another village of Nubra. He can give you a great overview of the education system in the valley and the lifestyle of the local people there.
There is also a guesthouse hub near the roundabout, where the climb towards Buddha statue starts. In this area, you will find a few cafes as well. There is a Guesthouse near the Buddha statue as well, which costs around 1000-1400 INR per night. If you come by foot, the climb with luggage will be quite hectic.
Read also: How to find accommodation in India?
How to reach Diskit from Leh?
The only way to reach Diskit from Leh is through Kardung La pass. Though the distance from Leh to Diskit is only 116 km, the road can take up to 7-8 hours depending on your way to commute and the traffic at the Kardung La (Spoiler: it might take you up to 2 hours to cross it).
There is a bus that goes daily during warm months from Leh Bus stand to Diskit near the Polo Ground (coordinates: 34.161793, 77.587854). It starts at 7.30 sharp (German time sharp). I came at 7.40 and the bus had already left (not a common case in central & North India). The ticket costs 250 INR.
There are also shared jeeps which leave once they get filled. They charge 400 INR per person. Beware, sometimes jeep drivers cooperate with each other and don’t leave till several cars get filled up. This can increase your waiting time (by a few hours).
Personally, I recommend starting as early as possible from Leh (6-8 a.m. timeframe). After 9 a.m. there is a big Indian family gathering photoshoot in Kardung La pass.
Other useful tips
- Best time to visit Diskit is during summer months from May to October. The weather gets warmer in the valley this time and Khardung La pass opens.
- The electricity comes in Diskit daily from 7 pm to 11 pm. If you need to stay connected or charge your devices in other times, choose the stays with generators.
- There is an ATM in Diskit, roughly 0.5km away from bus stand. Ask locals or here are the coordinates: 34.550542, 77.54622. I’m OCD, so I took all the cash with me for the whole trip. Out of curiosity, I’ve checked this ATM, there was cash. Still, I recommend reserving it as an emergency option. Better to carry the required sum of money from Leh.
- Don’t underestimate the importance of acclimatization. If you have health issues in Leh, there is an airport to escape. If something happens in Nubra, you have to cross one of the highest passes (5600m), drive around 8 hours and then you reach Leh.
- There is an internet café in Diskit not far from the ATM. You know, in case you want to stay connected)
Diskit was a special experience for me, maybe because of the homestay that created a homey environment. If you plan to visit this town in future, hope you will find the information in this post useful!