How to plan a trip to Nubra Valley from Leh?

Nubra Valley still remains one of the most underexplored areas of Ladakh. Though tourism developed recently there with the shifting of the line of control beyond Turtuk village, tourists are yet to explore the beauty of Nubra.

Unfortunately, Nubra Valley is often just a stopover for people visiting Khardung La (one of the highest motorable roads passes) and some get highly disappointed that they can’t do it as a day trip from Leh. As a result, some people stop in Hunder, the Desert of Ladakh, for the night and head back to Leh next day. But there are many more interesting things to do in Nubra Valley.

In this post, I’d like to give you a general overview of Nubra Valley as a destination, suggested itinerary, internet availability, connectivity and other useful details to help you plan your trip.

  • Best time to visit Nubra Valley
  • Nubra Valley altitude and acclimatization
  • Permit for Nubra Valley
  • Places to visit in Nubra valley and itinerary
  • How to reach Nubra Valley from Leh?
  • Accommodation in Nubra Valley
  • ATM in Nubra Valley
  • Phone calls and Internet in Nubra Valley
  • Other useful tips

Best time to visit Nubra Valley

Turtuk nature
I’ve clicked hundreds of pictures of green fields in Nubra Valley – after the silent mountains around Leh, it was a bliss!

Best time to visit Nubra Valley is from mid-May to mid-September. During these months the weather is pleasant (in the context of high-altitude mountains).

The valley blossoms in spring with numerous apricot orchards. If you come during the summer months, there will be fresh fruits and vegetables almost in every garden.

I don’t recommend comparing the temperature in Nubra Valley you see online to other places in India. On a cloudy day with a strong wind (even if it’s +15 outside), you will be waiting to reach your guesthouse and hide under the pile of blankets. 

There are some pictures of people in T-shirts or light shirts in Khardung La on the snowy background. Personally, I do not know the time when you can feel comfortable wearing light clothes in the area (beyond Insta, YOLO and other similar scopes. I promise, you will not regret down the line if you prioritize HEALTH first). I strongly recommend packing warm clothes and some wind protection even if you plan a trip to Nubra Valley in Summer. 

If you are looking for better deals, you can visit Nubra in a low season – mid-April to the end of May, September to mid-October. Despite less touristy feel, the weather during these months will be quite chilling.

Outside of summer months, the weather in Nubra Valley is uncomfortable to extreme cold.  When it snows, Khardung La Pass is closed – as a rule, from November to April, making it impossible to reach Nubra Valley by land.

Read also: Best time to visit India – a guide to Indian seasons

Nubra Valley altitude and acclimatization

Many people underestimate the importance of acclimatization in the mountains and it ends up spoiling their vacation. Everyone is limited in time, but don’t let it impact your health. On my way to Nubra Valley, I saw three people vomiting at the highway. It was not because of bad food, but the AMS symptom.

This info doesn’t have the goal to scare you. Most probably you will not feel any mountains effect if you do proper acclimatization.

In a nutshell, it doesn’t matter whether you come to Leh by flight or by road. If you come by flight, you’ll need to spend 3-4 days with a light head to adapt to the altitude. You can spend the same time, by gradually gaining altitude on the road.

The average altitude of Nubra Valley is 3050m or 10000 ft. It’s much lower than the city of Leh. But: to reach Nubra Valley, you need to pass the almighty Khardung La which is one of the highest motorable roads in the world. The journey is quite tiring, thus I recommend starting it in good health!

Khardung La snow
On the way to Khardung La pass

Nubra Valley Permit

You need a Protected Area Permit (PAP) to visit Nubra Valley. I’ve seen several sources online, telling that Indians don’t need permits, but I’m yet to meet an Indian who crossed the check-post without one. An exception is people with residence in Jammu&Kashmir state.

If you are a foreigner, you can only get a permit in the tourist agency in Leh. All you need to provide them is your passport. The agencies charge from 600 INR to 1000 INR which include the cost of the permit and commission. The maximum duration of a foreigner permit is one week.

Indians can apply for the permit by themselves in the DM office (opposite to J&K Bank on Fort Road). There is an application form which you need to fill online. The permit for Indians costs 550 INR for one week, but Indian citizens can be allowed to get a permit with a validity of up to 3 months. There is a daily environmental fee (20 INR), so the final cost of the permit depends on its duration.

Indians who want to avoid the queues and documentation can opt for a travel agency service for 700 INR. In this case, only Aadhar or other identity card is required.

Solo traveler permit in Ladakh

Turtuk Shyok river
Pakistan – so near, so far – looking into Shyok river rapidly flowing and connecting both countries

Dear foreigners, you can’t travel solo (on papers) to protected areas. Indians can travel solo – lucky you! I was visiting Nubra Valley during the low season, so it took me three days to find another foreigner to make a permit. If you are there during high season, it shouldn’t be a problem to find someone faster. Some of the things I did might sound weird, but they eventually worked out.

  • I visited the top 4 hostels in the central area and talked to the foreigners there and left my contacts at the reception.
  • The biggest agencies are in the area of Fort Road. I visited seven of them and left my contacts there as well.
  • I was trying my luck with foreigners who were sitting alone in the cafes or roaming on the streets. (One of the biggest challenges of my life – go introverts!) I did eventually found two foreigners who were heading to Pangong lake a few days later.

Note: It doesn’t matter to which protected area of Ladakh you are heading. There are agencies who will make permits for all the areas you need for the same price.

Important note: Make two photocopies of your permit and keep original with you. You will need to submit a copy at South Pullu – a check-post before Khardung La.

Places to visit in Nubra Valley and itinerary

Hunder safari
The signature picture setting of Nubra you will find almost everywhere

If you really want to explore Nubra Valley beyond getting your photograph clicked at Khardung La, I recommend reserving minimum 4 days for this trip. Here are some of the highlights you can consider adding to your itinerary:

Diskit – a gateway to Nubra Valley

You will cross Diskit a few times irrespective of your itinerary as this is the main town in Nubra Valley. Beyond its administrative role, you can find a few tourist sites: one of the famous Buddhist Monasteries of Ladakh region is here and a huge statue of Maitreya Buddha. I recommend staying one day in the town if you would like to get a feel of the place.

Read more: An introduction guide to Diskit

Hunder – sand dunes in the mountains

Hunder is by far the most famous and touristy place of Nubra Valley due to Bactrian double hump camels that can be found only in this area and Hunder sand dunes surrounded by mountains. There is also a Buddhist monastery, but the whole tourist attention has been taken by desert itself.

Turtuk – the Northernmost village in India

Turtuk village

Turtuk – a village with a complex and diverse history. Here you will meet people who look Kashmiri, Ladakhi, Balti, Central Asian and other interesting mixtures. You can meet people whose ancestors lived on the same land and houses for hundreds of years. Beyond cultural and historical aspect, the village can boast with picturesque views and apricot orchards all over the territory!

Read: Why I recommend staying in Turtuk over a day trip?

Sumur & Panamik – a lake and hot springs

Panamik is another popular tourist town due to the hot springs. From Panamik you can hike as well to Yarab Tso lake. Sumur’s famous site is a Buddhist monastery. There are also ruins of a palace, where the kings used to live (it is believed so).

Overall, if you spend a day in each of the places mentioned above, you will need around 4-5 days for Nubra Valley sightseeing together with the road. If you have less time, choose according to your interests!

How to reach from Leh to Nubra Valley?

Khardung La road
Roads are in great condition mostly)) Except passes – those ones are terrible.

The road from Leh to Nubra Valley leads through Khardung La Pass. You can opt for a bus, shared jeep service or your personal vehicle if you are on a road trip. The distance between Leh and Diskit is 116 km, though upper parts of the road near the pass are not in the good condition, and you will usually find traffic jam at the Pass. These two factors increase the length of the journey by a few hours.

As a rule, it takes 6-8 hours to reach from Leh to Diskit (main city). During the tourist season, there are daily buses going from Leh Bus Stand (near Polo Ground) to Diskit at 7.30 am sharp. The ticket costs 250 INR.

Alternatively, there are shared jeeps that leave from the same area near the Polo Ground. They charge 400 INR, but they leave once all the seats get filled. Try to start early from Leh (before 8 a.m.) to avoid crowds and traffic jam at Khardung La Pass.

The overall route from Leh to Nubra is the following: Leh – South Pullu – Khardung La – North Pullu – Khardung Village – Khalsar (here is a split of the road to Warshi and Turtuk. If you come by public transport, you will go to Diskit in Turtuk direction) – Diskit.

The vehicles usually make a stop mid-way in the village of Khardung – a short drive after Khardung La Pass. You can grab some basic snacks and food there.

Khardung La Pass
Let’s keep it real! Khardung La is crowded – someone will get in your click and the queue will put pressure on you to click faster)

Accommodation in Nubra Valley – where to stay?

With tourism development, there are new accommodation options appearing every year. You can find in Nubra Valley hotels, homestays,  luxury guesthouses that fit different budgets.

As of now, I haven’t heard about any hostels in the whole valley. If you are a solo budget traveler, your best bet is finding a homestay. You can get them within the range 300 – 800 INR per night.

It is a way better decision to group up in Leh with fellow travelers and find better deals together. Here are some options for two/or more people:

Budget stay in Nubra Valley  (<1500 INR/night per room)

Mostly, these options will not be available online and you will need to talk to the local families on spot.

Diskit: Sonam Guesthouse – I was staying here and can’t recommend this family enough with whole my heart! They truly created a homey atmosphere with common dinner, evening gatherings in the living room, garden, and conversations about the valley and beyond.

Turtuk: Ashoor Guesthouse – a lovely and helpful host. If you are a foreigner, this is a great opportunity to talk about anything and everything about the local lifestyle and culture in English with Mr.Ibrahim.

Hunder: You will find many accommodation options in Hunder as this is the most tourist spot in Nubra valley. Personally, I haven’t stayed here as I’ve chosen less popular areas according to my interests.

If you decide to stop in Hunder for the night, I recommend the main part of the village if you like quiet and more local ambiance. Goba Guesthouse is the option to look into – check out their prices and reviews 

Mid-Range stay in Nubra Valley (1500 – 3000 INR)

Goba Guest House | Olgok Guest House | Lotus Eco Resort

These online options are in Hunder since it’s more developed as a destination. In my destination posts about Nubra Valley (DiskitTurtuk), I mentioned the names or contacts of places I found. If you would like to connect to them personally beyond online platforms, check them out directly.

Splurge (3000 + INR/per room)

There are numerous tents and villas you can find online as well as on spot in the villages. Nevertheless, I couldn’t find enough reviews and feedbacks to recommend something in this category.

Phone calls and Internet in Nubra Valley

Diskit Gompa

As of now, your best bet for phone calls in the area is BSNL. That’s the network local people are using in Nubra Valley. My Airtel connection disappeared just after crossing Khardung La.

There are several ways to get internet in the valley, but most of them are in Diskit or Hunder at the most. There is an internet café in Diskit at a distance of 5-minute walk from the bus stand. It is also close to the ATM.

Alternatively, you can take one of the guesthouses/homestays that have an internet connection. Consider, that electricity is available in Nubra only from 7 pm to 11 pm daily. Out of these hours, you might not get internet unless the house has a generator to supply the electricity in off hours.

Also, during storms and strong winds, there will not be internet anywhere no matter what guesthouse owners will tell you.

If you are planning extensive travel in India, I’ve written also a comprehensive post about getting a SIM Card in India in different states and situations.  

ATM in Nubra Valley

There are two functioning ATMs in Nubra Valley. One is near the military camp in Pratapgar, another is in Diskit. I checked the ATM in Diskit (coordinates: 34.550542, 77.54622), and it had cash. Nevertheless, I strongly recommend taking the required amount of cash from Leh and keeping these ATMs for an emergency.

Nubra Valley guide - places to visit, accommodation, itinerary, how to reach from Leh and other useful tips
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Petrol Pump in Nubra Valley

There is a hand operated petrol pump in Diskit. According to local people, it’s functioning. Same as with ATM, I recommend getting enough fuel from Leh and use this one only in case of emergency.

Other useful Nubra valley travel tips

  • If your next destination is Pangong Tso, you don’t need to come back to Leh, but can make a way through Shyok(village).
  • Nubra Valley is clean and every village has a certain initiative to maintain it. I strongly encourage to eat local fruits instead of snacks and take a reusable water bottle. In many places, you can refill water just from the source.
  • According to local people, the original name of Nubra Valley was “Ldumra” which means the valley of flowers. Despite the region is surrounded by dry mountains, most of the families hold farms and gardens.

I hope this post gave you a good overview of Nubra Valley in Ladakh and a base to start planning your trip!  

21 thoughts on “How to plan a trip to Nubra Valley from Leh?”

  1. Beautiful post. I thank you for writing such a detailed post on Nubra valley. I was supposed to visit it when I went to Ladakh two years ago, but I fell ill and had to come back from Leh. I still feel bad about it. Anyway, hoping to visit Ladakh sometime this year.

      • Hello Natalia, this is very useful for me to plan my trip this September. Did you use a private taxi? Or public transport? I’m a solo traveler as well and I think it’d be pretty expensive to hire a taxi for the whole route.

        • Thank you for reading and feedback Zinara! I traveled Leh-Diskit by shared sumo (mainly because I was late by 5 minutes to catch the bus). Within Nubra Valley, I was commuting by the local bus. I found it the best value for money, personally. The down-side – during my visit, there was just 1 bus per day, so you need to plan everything well.

          Alternatively, there is a station in Diskit with sumos that come from Leh. You can negotiate with them about a trip to Hunder, Turtuk, etc. But it might be challenging to gather a group to fill the car and make it reasonably priced since the drivers are interested in return trips (e.g. in case of Turtuk, since it’s remote).

          To be honest, it’s challenging to travel on a budget in the whole J&K (comparing to roughly 20 other Indian states I’ve visited), but its incredible nature, hospitable people, diverse culture, authenticity make it totally worth time/money/challenges.

          Have a great trip! I’ll be happy to hear about your experience afterward)

        • Thanks alot for giving Such a nice article with complete info about the leh nubra Valley visit. Very useful for me as we are planning to visit during second week of october. Please let me know Is it safe to visit during october..if you know

          • Thank you for reading, Koduri!
            If you are asking from the weather perspective, the pass is usually opened till November or till high snowfall. You can expect really chilly weather, so take several layers of warm clothes. Other than that, Nubra, as well as the rest of J&K, are very beautiful in Autumn season) Have a great trip!

  2. Thank you so much. We are leaving for leh on 8/06/19 and i was lucky enough to come across your post. This is really helpful. But how s the temperature? Do we need to carry some really thick woollens or body warmers?

    • Thank you for reading and feedback, Sumeet! Woolens are always a great idea in the mountains, moreover, with constantly changing temperatures around the clock.

      Even if you get sunny and warm summer days due to the sun, nights can get cold. During my visit, there were 2 very windy days when it was cloudy during day time. I felt comfortable wearing a full-sleeve base layer and a fleece sweater. I took also a coat & hat which I used mainly on Khardung La.

      What you pack also depends on how you are planning to commute. I mainly travel by public transport and explore the towns on foot. That’s why I wear layers (t-shirt, full-sleeve base, fleece sweater, etc) and keep dressing/undressing depending on the weather and time of the day. Hope it helps)

      Nubra is one of my favorite places in Himalaya) Wish you a great trip!

      • Hi,Natalia, a beautiful as and vivid description of Nubra and Turtuk.I am planning a trip cum visit in October this year and got a lot of information from your Post.
        Thanks a lot for the info .

        • Thank you for reading and feedback, Sanjoy! I can only imagine the beauty of Nubra in Autumns) Have a wonderful trip!

  3. Hi Natalia,

    Really Good!!! very helpfull information for Nubra valley travel. Would you please give some more information on acclimatization for travelling in mountains. Once again Thanks!!!

    Vijay

    • Thank you for reading, Vijay! Most of the travelers fly to Leh and this force many people to spend 4-5 days in the city for acclimatization due to feeling light-headed. Others go by road and gain altitude gradually through Manali – Keylong – Leh route.

      Whatever way of transport you take, don’t forget to drink lots of water daily to stay hydrated, sleep a lot, eat healthy (I would exclude any unhealthy habits in the mountains at 3000+ altitudes that put pressure on the organism – e.g. smoking, drinking alcohol, spending too much time with phone/technology). Some people seem to do fine without any preparation. A good practice is not to gain more than 500m of altitude per day after 2500m.

      If you feel well in Leh 2 active days in a row (if you fly, for the first 2 days you will be mostly taking rest and not sightseeing around), take a trip to Nubra. Since it’s a valley, it’s lower in altitude than Leh, but Kharung La pass is the most “challenging part” due to a long queue of vehicles. Hope it helps.

      Have a great trip!

  4. Absolutely wonderful post.. very informative and covers crucial points as only one who has travelled a lot would know the importance of.
    Planning to visit nurba end april 2020.. so knowing the latest is important. Your post goes a long way in helping me get a clear mental picture of how I would expect it to pan out barring the unforeseen. Thank you for your efforts.

    • Thank you for reading and feedback, Vijaya! I’m happy to know this blog helped you get an idea of what to expect from the Nubra Valley trip) Wish you a great experience!

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