North of Leh, the Nubra Valley is a sublime mixture of cultivated fields set in an arid desert that glows with white sand surrounded by the Karakoram Range and sliced by rivers. After crossing the Khardungla Pass, you descend to the villages of Nubra, which were important stops for rations along the Silk Road to Central Asia. You find here the rare double-humped Bactrian camels once used for transport on the Silk Road.
Day 1 - Hundar
Drive from Leh to the Nubra Valley (150 km, 4-5 hrs) by crossing the Khardong La (5602m), possibly the world's highest motorable mountain pass. From the pass, one can see all the way south over the Indus valley to the seemingly endless peaks and ridges of the Zanskar range, and north to the giants of the Saser massif. The villages in the Nubra (meaning green) Valley are irrigated and fertile, producing wheat, barley, peas, mustard for oil, and a variety of fruits and nuts, including apple, walnut, apricot and even a few almond trees. Before partition, the Nubra Valley was a centre for trade, as the famous Silk Route passed through this area. Every year, over 10,000 pack animals - horses, yaks, Bactrian camels, and an especially sturdy breed of local sheep - traversed the Nubra region, carrying Varanasi brocades, Chinese silks, pearls, spices, Indian tea, pashmina wool, salt, indigo, opium, carpets, and gold. Hundar was the capital of the erstwhile Nubra kingdom in the 17th century, and is home to the ruined Chamba Gompa. In nearby Diskit, you can visit the 15th century Monastery. This is the most important monastery in the Nurba Valley, and the various rooms are full of thangkas, statues and effigies of the Buddha, and old mural paintings. A huge modern statue of Buddha overlooks the valley from a nearby hill. Between Hundar and Diskit lie several kilometres of sand dunes, and (two-humped) bactrian camels graze in the "forests" of seabuckthorn. You have a unique opportunity to ride on a bactrian camel (double humped) amidst the sand dunes of this high altitude desert with snow capped mountains on the horizon. You stay overnight in a pleasantly located hotel in Hundar. The hotel has a lovely garden where you can relax and enjoy evening tea.
Day 2 - Kyagar
From Hundar you cross the Shyok river and head further north to the Samstanling Gompa, in a peaceful location overlooking the green fields of Sumur village. Parts of the 19th-century monastery have been recently restored, and feature impressive images. Your next destination is the sacred Yarab Tso, which is popularly known as the hidden lake. From the road, there is a short 15 walk to the shore of the lake. The lake is very beautiful and a great place for a picnic lunch. You then continue to Panamik. This was a major halt on the caravan trade route, and is now well known for its medicinal hot springs. You stay overnight in a family-run hotel at the edge of Kyagar village. A late afternoon stroll through the village and the surrounding greenery is a fascinating and restful experience. As the Nubra Valley opened to foreign tourists only relatively recently, the friendly local Ladakhi people are still pleased to see visitors.
Day 3 - Leh
You cross the Khardong La again (140km, 4-5 hrs) to return to Leh where you stay the night.
Day 4 - Leh
Your tour ends after breakfast. If you want to continue your adventure then you can either travel overland to Srinagar (The Road to Leh in reverse) or follow the Leh Manali Highway. Alternatively, you can fly back to Delhi.