Hunder in Ladakh, India, will leave you speechless

WHY I WENT

I was flying into Leh and staying in the region for six days (I had a wedding to attend). So, I didn’t have much time for acclimatisation. I had two day to spare before the wedding and the choice was between Pangong lake and Nubra valley (where Hunder desert is situated). The latter made sense because it was at a lower altitude than Leh and it decreased the chances of me getting ill with altitude sickness.

WHY YOU SHOULD GO

First, Hunder has the coolest out-of-the-world landscapes. It’s this cold desert of white sand surrounded by the incredible Karakoram mountains. Second, this is the only place in India where you get to see (and ride) the double-humped Bactrian camels.

Rainbow seen from Hunder desert. You can also see the Diskit monastery
Rainbow seen from Hunder desert. You can also see the Diskit monastery

The first time I laid my eyes on the Nubra valley from the Diskit monastery, I was too exhausted to appreciate the landscape that geologists would surely describe as orgasmic.

The road from Leh to Nubra was uneven, winding and low on oxygen (It passes through Khardung La, the world’s highest motorable road). It also offers some of the most beautiful landscapes you’ll ever see. The road is heaven for photography enthusiasts.

Most accommodations at Hunder village are tents and we got into one at our camp. There was no Wi-Fi where we stayed but I enjoyed being off the grid.

The tents at our camp in Hunder village
The tents at our camp in Hunder village

This was the first time I was staying at a tent. It was pretty cool. Our big tent housed three beds for the three of us and the back had another outlet connecting to a second smaller tent, which was the toilet-cum-bathroom with all modern amenities (no hot water though).

Unless your camp isn’t located too far from the desert, it is possible to walk over. There’s a bakery on the way. Don’t bother buying stuff from there. It’s not really that good. But make sure you keep several hours for the desert. Don’t just do a camel ride and come back.

We got up late, had a very late breakfast of the staple aloo paratha with achar and tea and drove to the Hunder desert. You cross a little bridge over the stream from the car park and walk into the breathtaking landscape. I was reminded of a book I had as a kid with pictures of prehistoric landscapes in which dinosaurs lived.

You cross the stream from the car park and walk into the dunes
You cross the stream from the car park and walk into the dunes
Walk to the dunes
Walk to the dunes

On the left are some small trees and shrubs, which is where the camels were chilling and eating (the rides hadn’t started yet). That was the first time I saw a double-humped camel, which was munching on some thorny bushes.

The first double-humped camel that I saw
The first double-humped camel that I saw

Up ahead the entire desert with all those beautiful white dunes was waiting for us to explore. There was not another tourist on this side, the few that were there were on the dunes beside the car park. We walked ahead, climbing up and sliding down dunes, collecting colourful stones (a friend of mine picked up camel poop by mistake!). We could also see Diskit in the distance and the sun and clouds cast ethereal shadows on the mountains.

One of my friends walks on the dunes
One of my friends walks on the dunes
Pastures with cattle grazing 1
Pastures with cattle grazing 1
Pastures with cattle grazing 2
Pastures with cattle grazing 2
Cloud shadows on the Karakoram range
Cloud shadows on the Karakoram range
Diskit monastery from Hunder desert
Diskit monastery from Hunder desert
Colourful pebbles
Colourful pebbles

Tired after a couple of hours, we came back and waited for the camels to come out so that we could take a ride. Once the came, we took a 15-minute ride. It was quite fun and adventurous. It rained a bit too while we were at it.

The camels arrive in the afternoon to offer rides to tourists. A 15-minute ride costs INR200
The camels arrive in the afternoon to offer rides to tourists. A 15-minute ride costs INR200 (2016 prices)
Most of the camels seemed like they are well looked after
Most of the camels seemed like they were well looked after

Soon after, the sun came out and there was this huge amazing rainbow stretching from the mountains on the left of the valley to those in the right. It was pretty breathtaking with everyone clicking pictures and going wow.

The beautiful rainbow
The beautiful rainbow

So, whether you are a camel enthusiast or not, the cold desert of Hunder deserves to be in your “to go” list anyway.

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