You must be wondering, why I am writing about traveling to two of the most visited destinations in Ladakh. After all, pretty much everyone who travels to Ladakh, visits Nubra Valley and Pangong Tso. And it is fairly common knowledge, that in order to visit these two destinations, you need to first visit Nubra Valley via Khardung La and then come back to Leh and next day travel to Pangong Tso via Chang La!
Well, that is one way and if you have the time, and you want to stick to the usual tourist infested route, instead of taking the path less taken. Then by all means, go for it!
The two routes I am writing about today, help you travel directly from Nubra Valley to Pangong Tso in a single day. Minimize the number of kilometers you need to cover. And help you explore some of the most beautiful areas of Nubra Valley, which you would have otherwise missed.
Then read on…
I have been searching for an alternate route from Nubra Valley to Pangong Tso, ever since I visited Ladakh for the first time in 2005.
The map I had at that time, showed two direct routes from Nubra Valley to Pangong Tso. However, no one seemed to know about them in Ladakh!
In 2007, I finally got some confirmation from taxi drivers, and also a bad news. Shyok River was flowing in full force and crossing the river on motorcycles was impossible.
Couple of years later, Wari La become operational and updates and enquiries about the Agham – Shyok route started flowing in as well. As more and more people turned to Google Maps and as usual, it showed the shortest, but not the most feasible route to travelers.
I finally got to visit Wari La in October 2015 and in September last year, on my 8th trip to Ladakh; I covered the Agham – Shyok route as well.
Having covered both the routes, I feel it is now perfect time for travelers to start exploring these routes. Since they are more adventurous and at the same time, comparatively safer and doable than they were ever before.
Route 1, Nubra Valley – Wari La – Chang La – Pangong Tso: Traveling from Nubra Valley to Pangong Tso via Wari La and Chang La used to be my top recommendation, until last year. This route is less susceptible to flooding and landslide than the alternate route via Agham and Shyok Village. And on top of that, you get to visit the beautiful Wari La and the mighty Chang La passes.
You also end up saving 50kms by taking this route, instead of going via Leh. Plus you can take detour from Shakti Village to Karu and top up on fuel.
However, Wari La is only open from mid-June to October-end, and can close down easily, in case of heavy snowfall. Plus snow makes climbing the steep hairpin bends of Wari La quite difficult. So it is only a good option, until heavy snowfall occurs. Plus unlike Khardung La, finding help at Wari La is extremely difficult. Since only a handful of vehicles cover this route.
Route 2, Nubra Valley – Agham Village – Shyok Village – Pangong Tso: Until last year, I used to seldom recommend this route to travelers. Since bridges on this route were under construction and you had to drive through Shyok River at couple of points. Plus there were constant landslides and road was in bad condition as well.
Bridges have been built and majority of the route between Agham Village and Shyok Village is in decent condition. And by taking this route, you end up traveling 110kms less than what you would have done, had you traveled via Leh.
Plus the route is beautiful and you end up saving a lot of time as well, and this can be done anytime of the year!
Here is a time-lapse video of my journey from Hunder to Pangong Tso via Agham and Shyok. As you can see, the route is very much doable now.
However, there are a few choke points, which are landslide and mudslide prone. So even at the best of time it is recommended to inquire from vehicles coming from the opposite direction and locals about the state of the road.
Also by taking this route, you’re dependent on the petrol pump at Diskit Village, which became operational last year. There are no petrol pumps near Pangong Tso, so you have to carry enough fuel or buy fuel in black. Especially if you’re planning to take the Chushul route to Hanle and Tso Moriri.
Of course, neither of these routes is going to be as safe or easy as the usual route via Khardung La and Leh. However, this is where the thrill of adventure lies and makes it all, worth it!