Situated at an elevation of 10500 ft, Shyok Valley is present on the north of Leh. This valley got its names because of the river Shyok which flows here. The water melting from the Khumdang glacier forms Shyok River which by its tributary – Nubra and Changchenmo rivers. The Shyok River further flows westward and joins the Indus River in Baltistan. Interestingly, the Shyok River is also known as the river of death. It is believed that many of the Yarkand people or the Central Asian traders taking this dangerous route over many centuries perished while crossing the valley. This is why Shyok is called the river of death. During the winter, the Shyok River freezes forming a pass and an easier route between the Khaplu and the Nubra valleys.
Shyok Valley: An offbeat destination
Moving towards the lower-lying areas of the Shyok Valley, the land is more fertile and appropriate for the cultivation of apricot, apple, mulberry and walnut. Out of all the villages, Temisgam produces good quality as well as a huge quantity of these fruits and nuts making it the richest village here. In terms of scenic beauty, Khalsar village has an alluring beauty all around the year. Tourists can visit the Digar La and Khardung La on the way to Shyok Valley.
Places to visit in Shyok Valley
Diskit: Located 135 km from Leh, Diskit is the first and largest village of the Shyok Valley. The Diskit Gompa is the oldest and biggest Tibetan styled monasteries hosting around 120 monks in Nubra Valley. These 760 years old Gompa is entirely linked together through the wooden steps on different levels.
In additions, the huge 106 ft long statue of Maitreya Buddha along the banks of Shyok River is one of the top places to visit in Ladakh.
Hunder: Around 7 km from Diskit, there is a small and quaint village named Hunder. This place has a heavenly look with white houses, several water streams and beautiful green fields. Tourists can also enjoy the sand dunes structures created by the water flowing through the Shyok Valley.
Not to forget, Hunder is famous for the camel safari on its very own Bactrian camel. People from various places come to Hunder and enjoy the safari in the white desert on the double-humped camels.
Turtuk: Unlike Diskit and Hunder, Turtuk is relatively a newer village in Shyok Valley. It has great significance in recent history as it was captured during the 1971 Bangladesh war. However, this village was opened in 2010 for tourists and still remains culturally a part of Baltistan.
Fairs and Festivals in Shyok Valley
Diskit Gustor : Specifically celebrated in the Diskit Monastery, Diskit Gustor is a festival of Ladakh that celebrates the defeat of evil. This festival is celebrated for two days in the month of October. During this festival, Lamas perform Chaam Dance by wearing sacred masks and dancing to specific music. Tourists can get to witness some soulful music as well as unique musical instruments from drums, longhorns to cymbals.
Plan a trip to Shyok valley along with festival dates. It will give you an insight into the ancient culture of the locals and will help you connect with them better.