I’ve been along some pretty spectacular roads around the world, and travelling one of the highest roads in the world, from Leh to Nubra Valley over the pass at Khardung La, was up there with the best.
Incredibly this was part of the original Silk Road, between Kashgar (in China) and Leh (in Ladakh, at the top of India). Around 10,000 horses and camels would cross over the 5,359m pass at Khardung La. Its a little quicker these days, taking around five hours by car. We drove it twice, on the way to and from the Nubra Valley.
The road was built in 1976, and opened to the public in 1988. It is well maintained to allow army access to the disputed Siachen Glacier, the highest battlefield in the world, with Indian and Pakistani armies stationed at over 6,000m above sea level. Far more soldiers have died there from the climate and terrain than from enemy fire.
Out of Leh the road relentlessly climbs along numerous switchbacks, with views back down the surreal Leh Valley.
There were impressive frozen icicles by the side of the road.
And incredibly a wild dog roaming around a long way from seemingly anything.
After 39km we reached Khardung La, at 5,359m one of the highest driveable roads in the world. This was one of the busiest pass of the trip, with probably the world’s highest souvenir shop and cafe.
I was more interested in the colourful, prayer flag covered gompa just above the pass.
We soon lost altitude coming down the other side, with greenery and yaks appearing toward the bottom of the valley.
We got stuck for fifteen minutes while road maintenance was carried out ahead.
It was a pretty scenic spot to wait though, with the Karakoram Range ahead.
After a pleasant picnic lunch we headed along the most spectacular stretch of road of the day, and possibly the whole trip. The views were just incredible, I couldn’t take my eyes (and camera) off them.
A village was obvious by the irrigated greenery in a barren landscape.
We drove along the bottom of the valley, before heading up the other side.
The views were expansive across the valley, though the sunshine was beginning to be replaced by cloud.
By early afternoon we reached our home for the next two nights, Desert Himalayan Camp, to be covered in a seperate post on the Nubra Valley.
The return journey was of course equally spectacular if without the surprise of the new, had different light conditions, and we passed nine cyclists climbing up to the pass as we headed downhill, an impressive effort given the climb and altitude involved.