The Majestic Sand Dunes of Nubra Valley, Ladakh – A Desert Oasis at 11,000 Feet!

The remote Nubra Valley in Ladakh offers one of the most unique landscapes in India. Towering dunes are set against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains and cold, crisp air. While most people associate dunes with scorching heat, the dunes of Nubra Valley are a chilly desert oasis at an altitude of over 11,000 feet!

An Unlikely Desert in the Himalayas

The Nubra Valley lies just north of the main Himalayan range in the union territory of Ladakh. The valley is home to the Nubra and Shyok Rivers, which originate from the Siachen glacier. The rivers carry meltwater and deposits downstream, forming the alluvial floodplain where the dunes are found today. Strong winds shape the sands into waves and ripples, creating a striking contrast to the rugged mountains.

While one may expect a true desert to be hot and dry, Nubra Valley experiences pleasant summers and extremely cold winters. Temperatures can drop below -20°C in the winter! Rains are scarce, with just about 80 mm of annual precipitation. The high altitude, rain shadow effect, and strong winds make Nubra Valley home to dunes despite its cold climate.

nubra valley

The Beauty of Hunder Sand Dunes

The most famous dunes are located near the village of Hunder, about 150 km from Leh. The Hunder Sand Dunes span about 30 sq km, with heights up to 100 feet. Bactrian camels graze lazily on the sands, while locals and tourists enjoy camel rides. The best time to visit is between May and August when temperatures are comfortable for camel rides. Winters are too cold, and snowfall can make the roads inaccessible.

The smoothly curving dunes interspersed with bushy shrubs make for excellent photo opportunities. Sunset is an especially beautiful time when the golden sands seem to glow in the fading light. Sit back and enjoy the changing hues of the sky and sand as the sun dips below the mountains.

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Just 4 km west lie the Sam Sand Dunes near the village of Sumur. Slightly larger than Hunder, these dunes are just as picturesque but less crowded. Lone camels wandering through rippled sands make a timeless scene. Grab your cameras for some magical shots.

Exploring the Nubra Valley

A trip to Nubra Valley is incomplete without visiting Diskit Village dominated by its 106 feet statue of Maitreya Buddha. The statue was constructed in 2010 facing the Shyok River, blessing the valley. Diskit Monastery houses a temple within the statue, accessed by a staircase. The monastery itself is over 300 years old, with beautiful murals and thangkas. Don’t miss the panoramic view from the monastery rooftop.

Cross the Khardung La (the world’s highest motorable pass) to enter Nubra Valley from Leh. Stop at the village of Khardung with its traditional homestays. The green oasis of Deskit and Hundar villages offers a contrast to the barren mountains. Visit the ruins of the 400-year-old Hundar Palace, and see the endangered double-humped Bactrian camels.

The emerald blue Pangong Tso and Tso Moriri lakes are also within easy reach. Combine a trip to Nubra Valley with visits to Pangong Lake and Tso Moriri for an unforgettable Ladakh experience.

nubra valley

Why Visit The Sand Dunes

Nubra Valley’s sand dunes offer an unusual natural spectacle and a peaceful escape from crowded tourist destinations. Here are some key reasons to add the dunes to your Ladakh itinerary:

  • Unique desert landscape at high altitude – dunes with rugged mountains as a backdrop. Excellent photo opportunities.
  • Camel rides on the sand waves with views of the Diskit monastery.
  • Besuch sleepy villages like Hundar and interact with the friendly locals.
  • More peaceful alternative to crowded tourist spots like Pangong Tso.
  • Comfortable weather from May to August for exploring the dunes and valley.
  • The base for visits to Diskit, Deskit, Sumur, and Panamik hot springs.

So ditch the typical tropical deserts and head to the Hunder dunes for an unforgettable cold desert experience!

nubra valley

Trip Planning Tips

Planning a trip to Nubra Valley? Here are handy tips for your journey:

  • The best time to visit is late May to August. Road access is difficult in winter. Summers are pleasant for exploring the outdoors.
  • Permits: Indian nationals need an Inner Line Permit, while foreign nationals require a Protected Area Permit. Get them in Leh.
  • Transport: Hire a taxi from Leh. Nubra Valley is about 150 km away, crossing the Khardung La pass.
  • Stay: Hundar and Diskit villages offer budget homestays. High-end camps at Hunder for luxury stays.
  • Camel rides: Available at Hunder Sand Dunes from INR 300 per person. Fix rates before getting on.
  • Food: Local eateries offer Ladakhi thupka noodles. Carry snacks and water for long drives.
  • Gear: Carry sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, and lip balm for sun protection in the high-altitude desert.

With breathtaking views, camel rides, and charming villages, Nubra Valley offers an outstanding experience. Follow these tips for a memorable trip to Ladakh’s dunes!


Where exactly are the Hunder Sand Dunes located?

The Hunder Sand Dunes are located near the village of Hunder in the Nubra Valley of Ladakh, about 150 km north of Leh. Hunder village is situated close to the India-Pakistan border.

How can I reach Hunder from Leh?

To reach Hunder Sand Dunes from Leh, take a shared or private taxi to Nubra Valley via Khardung La. This scenic drive passes through Khardung village and takes about 5-6 hours. Crossing the Khardung La pass requires an Inner Line Permit.

What is the best time to visit the Hunder Sand Dunes?

The best time to visit Hunder Sand Dunes is in the summer months between May and August. Temperatures are pleasant, ranging from 15 to 30 degrees Celsius during this time. Winters can be extremely cold with temperatures dropping below -20 degrees Celsius.

What activities can be done at Hunder Sand Dunes?

Some popular activities at Hunder Sand Dunes are camel rides, sand boarding/sledding down the dunes and simply enjoying the scenic views. Photographers flock here to capture the beautiful landscape.

Are there any accommodations near Hunder Sand Dunes?

Yes, there are a few accommodation options ranging from budget homestays to luxury camps near the Hunder Sand Dunes. Many camps and homestays are located in Hunder village itself. High-end camps with amazing views can also be found at Diskit, 5 km from Hunder.

So pack your bags and head to Ladakh’s Nubra Valley for a Desert experience like never before – complete with camel rides on dunes surrounded by snow-capped peaks! Just obtaining the necessary permits in advance will ensure a smooth trip to this majestic natural wonder. I recommend this channel you can just click here for stunning view.

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