Until 1994, the lands north of Leh were off-limits to tourists and had been unexplored by outsiders since the nineteenth century. Now, the breathtaking Nubra Valley, unfolding beyond one of the world’s highest stretches of driveable road as it crosses the Khardung La (5359m, though local signs claim a higher elevation), can be visited with a seven-day permit, which gives you enough time to explore the stark terrain and trek out to one or two gompas. The valley’s mountain backbone looks east to the Nubra River and west to the Shyok River, which meet amid silver-grey sand dunes and boulder fields. To the north and east, the mighty Karakoram Range marks the Indian border with China and Pakistan. In the valley the climate is relatively mild, though dust storms are common, whipping up sand and light debris in choking clouds above the broad riverbeds.


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