Sham Valley, also known as the “Apricot valley”, is one place that I always recommend to everyone visiting Ladakh. Also known as “Apricot valley”, it is home to some of the remotest villages in Ladakh. Unlike Nubra and Pangong, you do not really need to dedicate days or a lot of time to experience the beauty of Sham valley. As a matter of fact, if you are traveling to Leh by road and including Srinagar Leh highway as well in your travel plan, you will be able to cover most of the tourist attractions here without going too far away from the highway. If you however reached Leh by flight or doing the journey both ways on Manali Leh highway itself, then you must dedicate one day in your travel plan for a day drive to Sham valley.
The actual Sham valley is a little ahead of the village of Likir, towards Khaltse. The villages of Suspool and Hemis Shukpachan are right in the center of the valley. The village of Hemis is well connected by road whereas the road towards Suspool ends a little before the village from you will have to trek towards the valley. Unfortunately, most of the villages in Sham valley are not connected by motorable road and trekking is required if you truly want to enjoy the beauty of the valley. The trek starts from Likir and ends at the village of Hemis Shukpachan from where you will trek back to Srinagar Leh highway, ending the trek at Nurla or Khaltse.
To begin with, bellow is a list of some of the major tourist attractions in Sham Valley. Most of these places are actually on the way towards Sham valley and not actually in the valley. The reason why I am keeping this on the top is because after reading through the list, you will get an idea on how you can plan a journey here. Other details like total distance, modes of travel etc will be covered later in the article.
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.
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.
Further ahead from Magnetic hill and a little before Nimmu village is the confluence of Indus and Zanskar rivers. Indus river flows in from Tibet, originating in the vicinity of Mount Kailash and Lake Mansarovar, while Zanskar river originates in Zanskar valley before both of them merge together here. It presents a beautiful sight worthy enough for a quick photography break. There is also a place near the shores of the confluence where you can spend some time.
Zanskar river is famous for two things. One is a summer activity and other is a winter one. There is a road that runs right next to Zanskar river for approximately 20 odd kilometers until the small village of Chilling. If you have some time, take a drive on this scenic road. In river, Chilling is the place from where the river rafting in Zanskar starts, ending at Nimmu village. In winter, this river is famous for Chadar trek.
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.
Located around 40 kms from Leh is the small village of Basgo which in ancient times was considered a political and cultural center of Ladakh. The ancient Basgo Palace which also houses the Basgo Monastery is located here. The ancient palace was built in 15th century but the Monastery is believed to be even older than that.
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.
After visiting Likhir, return once again to Srinagar Leh highway and head a little further towards the village of Uleytokpo. This village is famous for stunningly beautiful Rizong Monastery. This monastery was built in 1831 and sits at the top of a rocky slide valley. This monastery is also called “the paradise for meditation” and is noted for its extremely strict rules and standards. About 2 kilometers from the monastery is Jelichun Nunnery, a home to about 20 nuns at present.
After Rizong, if you still have some time, the small village of Hemis Shukpachan is worth a visit too. It is a small but beautiful and traditional village which is famous for another gold covered status of Buddha. The location of the village is quite scenic too and it is a good place if you wish to stay for the night. There are several home stay options available and you will be surprise by the greenery around this village. The road until the village is good and in my opinion, if time allows, stay here for the night and continue either your return journey to Srinagar or back to Leh the next day. This village, named after the grove of cedars, is one of Ladakh’s prettiest.
One of the high altitude passes that you will cross while trekking from Likir to Yangthang village. It is at a height of 3580 meters. This passes is only however a trekking route and not connected by road.
Another not motorable passes that lies on the trek route to Yangthang from Likir. It is at a height of 3630 meters.
Another pass at a height of 3750 meters that you will cross to arrive at the village of Hemis Shukpachan from Yangthang. This too is only accessible by trekking.
As you approach the village of Ang from Hemis, this will be your first past to cross at the height of 3816 meters.
Last high altitude pass to cross to reach the village of Ang. At a height of 3,750 meters, this pass too is not connected by road and you must trek to reach here.
If you trekked from Yangthang to the small village of Uley, thn this will be the pass you will cross to get down to Hemis Shukpachan. This one is highest of all the passes on trek route, at a height of 4100 meters.
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