Diskit is the capital of Nubra and it is about 150 km north from Leh town, the capital of Ladakh district of Jammu and Kashmir India. Local scholars say that its original name was Dumra (the valley of flowers). The Shyok River meets the Nubra or Siachen River to form a large valley that separates the Ladakh and Karakoram Ranges of the Himalayas. The Shyok river is a tributary of the Indus river. The average altitude of the valley is about 10,000 feet above the sea level. The common way to access this valley is to travel over the Khardung La pass from Leh town. Foreign nationals are required to get a Protected area permit to visit the Nubra Valley. Since 1 May 2014 Indian citizens are no longer required to get an Inner Line Permit to visit the valley.
Nubra is a high altitude cold desert like the rest of the Tibetan Plateau, with rare precipitation and scant vegetation except along river beds. The villages are irrigated and fertile, producing wheat, barley, peas, mustard and a variety of fruits and nuts, including blood apples, walnuts, apricots and even a few almond trees. Most of the Nubra Valley is inhabited by Nubra dialect or Nubra Skat speakers. The majority are Buddhists. In the western or lowest altitude end of Nubra Valley near the Line of Control i.e. the Indo-Pak border, along the Shyok River, the inhabitants are Balti of Gilgit-Baltistan, who speak Balti, and are Shia and Sufia Noorbakhshia Muslims. Siachen Glacier lies to the north of the valley. The Sasser Pass and the famous Karakoram Pass lie to the northwest of the valley and connect Nubra with Uyghur. Previously there was much trade passing through the area with western China's Xinjiang and Central Asia. The people of Baltistan also used the Nubra valley for passage to Tibet.
Diskit town in the Nubra valley have become the congregation centre for people of the region. Diskit is the headquarters of the Nubra Valley and thus has lot of government offices with basic facilities. It is also connected by road with Leh. The 32 metre Maitreya Buddha statue is the landmark of Nubra Valley and is maintained by the Diskit Monastery. Along the Nubra or Siachen River lie the villages of Sumur, Kyagar, Tirith, Panamik, Turtuk and many others. Samstanling monastery is between Kyagar and Sumur villages, and Panamik is noted for its hot springs. Across the Nubra or Siachen River at Panamik is the isolated Ensa Gompa. On the Shyok River, the main village, Diskit, is home to the dramatically positioned Diskit Monastery which is built in 1420 AD. Hundar was the capital of the erstwhile Nubra kingdom in the 17th century, and is home to the Chamba Gompa. Between Hundar and Diskit lie several kilometres of sand dunes, and (two-humped) bactrian camels graze in the neighbouring "forests" of seabuckthorn. Non-locals are not allowed below Hundar village into the Balti area as it is a border area. The beautiful village of Baigdandu is also located in this area. There is a marked presence of people with startling blue eyes, auburn hair and rosy cheeks as against the typical mongoloid features of the Ladakhis. Local lore has it that they were a Greek tribe who came in search of Jesus Christ's tomb and eventually settled here. Baigdandu is also known for the goats that give you the famous Pashmina shawls.
It is open throughout the year as its the highest motorable road in the world. An alternative route opened in 2008 crosses the Wari La from Sakti to the east of Khardung La connecting to the main Nubra road system via Agham and Khalsar along the Shyok River. There are also trekkable passes over the Ladakh Range from the Indus Valley at various points. Routes from Nubra to Baltistan and Yarkand, though historically important, have been closed since 1947 and 1950 respectively. The valley was open for tourists till Hundar (the land of sand dunes) until 2010. The region beyond Hundar gives way to a greener region of Ladakh because of its lower altitude. The village of Turtuk which was unseen by tourists till 2010 is a virgin destination for people who seek peace and an interaction with a tribal community of Ladakh. The village is stuffed with apricot trees and children. The local tribe, Balti, follows its age old customs in their lifestyle and speak a language which is just spoken and not written. For tourists Turtuk offers serene camping sites with environment friendly infrastructure.
Globetrotter flock towards Hunder village to adore a ride upon the unique two humped Bactrian camels on the sand dunes in Nubra Valley. Hunder is located approximately around 160 km from the Leh. After crossing Khardung La, the world's highest motorable pass to reach this remote village. The village of Hunder is located at an altitude of 10,600 feet above the mean sea-level and is more or less the same altitude as the Leh town of Ladakh. 7 km further up from the Diskit town is the charming village of Hunder in Nubra Valley. The Hunder village is located amidst the broad Shyok Valley. The small lanes and roads along the village are lined with tall willow and poplar trees.
Group of seven travelers is the preferred way to reach the Hunder, Nubra Valley. Is to hire a jeep that takes around five hours from Leh, provided one leaves early in the morning and avoids getting caught in the traffic jam near Khardung La. Shared jeeps also ply this route on a daily basis and are a good option for solo travellers. Buses for the Hunder leave Leh, several times a week from the Old bus depot of Leh. These buses return back to Leh the following morning. It is advisable to check the timing of the buses the previous day and also reach an hour before the departure time of the bus since the buses are always over crowded. The bus journey takes around seven hours and is one bumpy ride thanks to the bad roads. The jam packed bus does not make for easy travel making one feel more like sardines in a tin.
These largest living camels are even-toed ungulate natives to the Steppes of Central Asia and were brought to Nubra Valley during the ancient silk route trade era. Bactrian camels were the main mode of transportation during those period. At the sand dunes in Hunder, tourist will enjoy a safari ride on these Bactrian camel that range from a short 15 minutes rite to an hour long excursion. There is a small entry fee that has to be paid at the entrance of the sand dunes, the proceeds are used for the upkeep and maintenance of the dunes. A unique feature of the sand dunes in Nubra valley is that they are grey in colour.
The area surrounding the village of Hunder is arid and barren, but the village however is a vast expanse of greenery and plenty of cultivable land. Horticulture products such as apricots, walnuts, apples and almonds are grown in the village. Hunder is also the only place in India where the medicinal rich plant called sea-buckthorn is found. This plant is popularly known as ‘Leh Berry’ and is known to have biomolecules, vitamins and nutritive properties. In traditional medicine, sea-buckthorn used for treating diarrhea and dermatological disorders. The plant is also used as a skin softener added to medications in belief it affects pulmonary, gastrointestinal, cardiac, blood or metabolic disorders.
While travelling to Hunder much like the rest of Nubra Valley it is important to carry light woolens even during summers since the temperature in the night falls considerably. Hunder also does not have any ATM so it important to carry enough money before leaving from the town of Leh. Hunder has plenty of guest houses, private hotels and tented accommodation. Hunder is famous for its luxury tents which have nothing less than a five star accommodation in the cold desert. Many villagers in Hunder also provide home-stays for nominal rent which includes food. There are no restaurants in Hunder and most of the rooms or tents come with meals. The village has a couple of general stores that sell almost all commodities.