True to its name, the ‘Nubra’, which essentially means green, is a fertile and well-cultivated oasis, in the face of a wide, formidable expanse of sand. Nubra Valley is often referred to as the ‘Great Himalayan Desert’, it does absolute justice to the absurdly magnificent landscape of the Ladakh region as a whole, for where else would you find sand dunes and camels on a mountain?
Local scholars even say that its original name was Ldumra i.e. ‘the valley of flowers’, clearly demarcating the area as the greenest in all of the district. The region comprises of two rivers─ Nubra and Shyok that cross barren lands and jagged mountains, and eventually form tiny little valleys composed of habitable villages that boast of the best climate in the otherwise arid and stark region, a claim I can personally support from my overnight stay at a cozy hotel in Nubra. While it was still cold for city amateurs like us, Nubra was certainly a warm break from the harsh cold of Pangong Tso and Tso Moriri.
In addition to its striking landscape and balmy weather, the region also has a rich history to brag about. For instance, not everybody knows that several local communities once participated in an extraordinary trans-Himalayan trade network through this route. For centuries, huge caravans of wool, opium, spices and precious materials such as coral and turquoise, gold and indigo were transported through hazardous passes between Leh and Yarkand (in China). While the trade died in the late 1950s when China sealed its borders, it gave this valley a uniquely nostalgic reputation in the sub-continent.
Sharing boundaries with three countries, Nubra Valley has dealt with several geopolitical conflicts and border disputes over the years. However, this hasn’t deterred tourists as hoards of adrenaline junkies are spotted braving their way through the treacherous Khardung-la pass (in addition to the extremely steep roads and bends along every corner), the highest motorable road in the world that advises you do not exceed your little sojourn beyond 20 minutes, to reach this exquisite piece of land, nestled between the most surreal mountains and skies.
A getaway to the largely inaccessible Siachen glacier, Nubra Valley, with its tiny hamlets of handsome homes and barley fields, thrown in with ancient Buddhist monasteries and a handful of Bactrian camels, seems like the final pit stop for those who crave human touch, before plunging into the unnerving world of icy-glaciers and piercing winds.
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