Khardung La

Take the route to Khardung La via the Nubra Valley to stand on top of the world, Kashmir, India by Maximum Exposure Productions 2013Take the route to Khardung La via the Nubra Valley for the most incredible views of the country © Maximum Exposure Productions 2013

The Nubra Valley and Khardung La, the mountain pass you cross to reach it, lies to the north of Leh, in the north-eastern corner of Ladakh towards the border with China. The road from Leh (the imaginatively named Khardung La Road) winds its way initially along a vibrant green valley where each irrigated field is lined with shade-giving trees. Substantial houses and large white stupas dot the landscape. Small streams cascade over rocks. The road then begins to climb, gently at first but then becoming steeper, the hairpin bends contorting across the hillside. The loose scree slopes are barren and dry, only the red, iron-rich rocks breaking up the dusty, brownish grey.

With views that will leave you breathless, take a trip to Khardung La and stand (almost) on top of the world.

Khardung La is the top of the world, at least if you believe the signposts. Supposedly the highest motorable road on earth (though with a few close contenders), it climbs to 5,602m, and so it’s not only the views that will leave you breathless. It’s a hugely popular destination for domestic tourists, the majority of whom come here on a day trip from Leh, but also the principal route via which people access the Nubra Valley.

The principal attraction of Khardung La is the pass itself and the views from either side, either looking back towards Leh or down into the Nubra Valley. Glaciers are currently visible in two places (though given the rate at which they are melting this may sadly be the only edition of the guide in which this is the case) and on a clear day you have a fi ne view of Stok Kangri too.

If there’s still air in your lungs you can scramble up to the small prayer flag-strewn shrine overlooking the road, or browse the souvenir stand. Music and chanting blares out of the loudspeakers, giving a party atmosphere, and of course you need to stop and pose for a picture in front of one of the two road signs declaring the height of the pass.

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