The Sham Valley Trek
Khardung La, Nubra, and Pangong are generally the places that come to mind if you’re traveling to Ladakh; Tso Moriri, Hanle, and Zanskar if you like off-beat places. But a circuit that everyone does or rather should be doing is the Sham Valley.
Sham Valley lies along the Leh – Kargil Highway and encompasses some of the most beautiful landscape and monasteries in Ladakh. This is the reason I have visited Sham Valley during all 9 of my trips to Ladakh and have plans to explore it even more, during my future trips.
Sham Valley is located at similar or lower altitude than Leh, making it a superb choice for anyone still acclimatizing to the high altitude of Ladakh. In fact, this is the reason why I recommend a tour of Sham Valley to anyone flying to Leh before they explore other parts of Ladakh.
How to Explore?
You can explore Sham Valley in your own vehicle or rent a motorcycle, scooter, taxi or even a cycle from Leh. Since it is fairly easy to ride/drive, you can try and explore it on a motorcycle, even if you aren’t confident about riding to the high altitude passes. Though please keep in mind, since the road is good, traffic travels at fairly high speed, so you have to be cautious while traveling on this route on your own. Alternatively, if you’re traveling from Kargil to Leh or from Leh to Kargil, you can easily cover Hall of Fame, Magnetic Hill, Gurdwara Pathar Sahib, Indus and Zanskar Confluence, Basgo and Alchi Monasteries along with Lamayuru and Mulbekh Monasteries en route. Just make sure to start early in the morning.
You can also club Sham Valley tour with a visit to Dah and Hanu Villages, which are famous for their inhabitants, who are of pure Aryan blood and thought to be descendants of Alexander’s army. Though in this case, you will need inner line permit for Dah and Hanu from the Leh or Kargil DC Office.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit this trek is between May and mid-October. During this time, the weather in Ladakh is pleasant and the average temperature ranges between 20 and 30°C in the daytime. July and August are the ideal months for Sham Valley trek as during these months Manali-Leh and Srinagar-Leh highways also opens for private vehicles.
How to Reach?
By Air:- Leh Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport is the main airport in Leh City. It has a number of flights that connect Leh with Delhi as well as with few major cities of India.
By Road:- Leh is connected to the rest of India by two highways: NH 1D (Srinagar-Leh Highway) and Manali-Leh Highway. The Srinagar-Leh Highway passes through Kargil and Zoji-La (3505m), whereas Leh-Manali Highway passes through famed Rohtang Pass and Tanglang La (5325m). It also passes through the upland desert plateau of Rupshu whose altitude ranges from 3,660 m to 4,570 m.
Established in 1515, this monastery is located at a distance of 15 kilometers from Leh in Fiang Village. It is noted for several sacred shrines and frescoes dating from the royal period. The monastery is also home to a 900-year-old museum which has an extensive collection of idols including a number of fine Kashmiri bronzes probably dating to the 14th century, thangkas, Chinese, Tibetan and Mongolian firearms and weapons. To get here, you will have to leave Sriangar Leh highway and take the diversion on Phyang Link road. The diversion is about 11 kilometers after Ladakh after you which you will be driving for about 5 kilometers until the monastery.
Gurudwara Patthar Sahib:
It is a beautiful Gurudwara, built in the memory of Guru Nanak Dev and is located at a distance of about 25 kilometers from Leh. Built at a height of 3,600 meters, this Gurudwara is famous for a huge boulder that is believed to have an imprint of Guru Nanak Dev on it.
Move further towards Kargil on Srinagar Leh Highway. About 5-6 kilometers from Gurudwara Patthar Sahib and about 30 kilometers from Leh is the famous Magnetic Hill of Ladakh. You will not have problem spotting the area as there is a large board put up by Indian Army there. This particular part of the road is believed to have some sort of magnetic part that pulls car up on an ascending road even after their engine is not running. Visit here and experience the phenomenon yourself.
Just near Nimmu village, you can see half a kilometer long Mani Wall, considered to be the longest in the world. To decode it for you, it is a wall built by stones known as “Mani stone”; a stone plate, rock or pebble, inscribed with Buddhist prayers.
It is an ancient monastery built in year 1065 AD and is famous for a 25 feet gold covered Buddha Statue. There are also some artifacts here which are believed to have been created with butter but never melt. The location too of both the village and the monastery is quite scenic and it is well worth a visit. This village is located about 9.5 kilometers from Srinagar Leh highway and to get here, you will have to take the diversion just about 10 kilometers before Saspul.
Once you have visited Likhir Monastery, return to Sriangar Leh highway at head towards Saspul once again. Upon reaching Saspul, you will once again leave the highway, turn on the Alchi Bridge and continue for another 7 kilometers until the small village of Alchi. This is another ancient Monastery in Ladakh, built sometime in 10th century. There is a path from the monastery that leads down to the shores of river Indus if you want to take a walk. This is a good place to stay as well in case you want to break the journey. There is a camp site here known by the name of Sumtseg Camps that is run by the monastery itself.