Introducing Nubra Valley
From Leh, a rough road runs north over the awesome Khardung La, the highest motorable pass in the world. Even in summer, the crossing is crusted in permafrost and the Border Roads Organisation faces an ongoing battle to keep the pass open through winter and autumn. Beyond the pass is the wide, flat Nubra Valley, crisscrossed by the winding channels of the Shyok and Nubra Rivers.
At first glance, the valley seems parched and dry, but this is prime farming land by Ladakhi standards. Farmers grow apples, apricots and barley and harvest the orange berries of the tsestalulu (sea buckthorn bush). Dotted around the valley are ancient gompas and ruined palaces, and villages are close enough together to make this magnificent walking country.
However, you do need a permit, which only allows travel as far as Hunder and Panamik for a maximum of seven days. You must hand over photocopies of your permit on both sides of the Khardung La and also by the bridge to Sumur.
Note that guesthouses are often booked up by tour groups in summer – arrange a room in advance unless you fancy a chilly night under the stars. In all the sleeping places listed in this section, bucket hot water costs Rs 10 to 20.