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Sham Valley in Ladakh – A Complete Travel Guide

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Sham Valley Travel Guide - Ladakh
Sham Valley Travel Guide - Ladakh

Last Updated on: Dec 3, 2022 |

About this Blog: Sham valley is another beautiful valley of Ladakh. Located near Leh town, Sham valley is a popular sightseeing destination from Leh. Read this travel blog to know about it, attractions and places to visit in Sham Valley and other relevant information.

Ladakh, also known as the “Land of High Passes” is like an elixir to travellers. There is so much to see, so much to explore. Among all the places to visit in Ladakh, Sham Valley has been gaining quite a popularity. Infact, a large part of the Srinagar-Leh Highway snakes through the Sham Valley. Those of you who have already been to Ladakh, you might have already explored parts of the gorgeous Sham Valley. And for the first-timers in Ladakh, Sham Valley is definitely a worthwhile addition in your Ladakh itinerary.

Mountains of Sham Valley

Even a few years back, Sham Valley was known mostly amidst the trekkers through the Sham Valley Trek. But trekking is not required to explore Sham Valley. The region is easily accessible by cars. However, trekking is always a wonderful activity, something that brings out the best in people and places. Let’s move on to Sham Valley!

Where is Sham Valley?

Srinagar-Leh Highway

So, which part of Srinagar-Leh Highway falls within Sham Valley? Usually, it is thought that Sham Valley starts after you cross Spituk Gompa and goes till Lamayuru. The common notion is that the road from Leh to Lamayuru passes through the Valley. However, Sham Valley actually consists of a number of villages off the main Srinagar-Leh Highway. Roughly, it starts a little ahead of Likir. Some of the main villages of Sham valley are Suspol, Bazgoo, Saspochey, Hemis Shukpachan and Uley.

Autumn colours at Basgo village

This is just the geography of the area. For the sake of travel and planning your trip, we will simply write about the interesting and must visit attractions in and around Sham Valley. So that when you plan your trip to Ladakh, this Sham Valley Travel guide will help you decide where you want to visit.

Places to visit in Sham Valley

There are quite a number of attractions in the area. A day trip from Leh is enough to do a Sham valley trip. There is actually a long list of places to visit, but the driving distance is only around 160-170 km for a complete round trip from Leh.

Some interesting signs by BRO on the roads of Ladakh

Some of these places are falls right on the Highway, while for the others you might have to take a detour. While some places like Magnetic Hill, Alchi and Likir Monastery are quite well known in the Ladakh tourism circuit, a few others are relatively offbeat and only a few visit those places. Take a look at these places and then make an informed choice on the place you want to visit depending on your interest and time.

A signpost by BRO on Srinagar Leh Highway

At the end of the places, I have mentioned the approximate duration needed to explore the places. It is just a general idea if you just explore the place without any particular aim. You might require more or less time as well.

1. Gurudwara Pathar Sahib

If you are starting from Leh, this is one of the first places you might visit. Located around 22 km from Leh at an altitude of 3600 m, Gurudwara Pathar Sahib is a beautiful oasis amidst the rugged terrain of Ladakh. Dedicated to Guru Nanak, this place is located right of the Srinagar-Leh Highway.

The place is known for a large boulder that has the imprint of Guru Nanak Ji’s hand on it. There are a number of stories and legends related to this place. The huge boulder was found by the BRO in the 1970s who were working on the construction of the Srinagar – Leh Highway. The boulder was found with Buddhist flags covering it. The BRO tried to move the boulder, but they were unsuccessful. They even employed a bulldozer and dynamite to remove it. However, even that failed.

Later the army officer and the driver of the bulldozer had a dream that asked them not to remove the boulder. Finally, local Ladakhis and others came together and the boulder remained in its place. The Gurudwara was built later.

Gurudwara Pathar Sahib is a peaceful place. Visit the Gurudwara, offer your prayers and then continue your journey in the beautiful land of monasteries and monks.

Just after Gurudwara Patthar Sahib, you will come across the longest Mani wheels on the road.

Longest Mani wheels in ladakh

Duration: 10-15 minutes

2. Magnetic Hill Ladakh

The next attraction is the Magnetic Hills located around 5 km ahead of Gurudwara Pathar Sahib and around 30 km from Leh. You will easily identify the place with a large signboard on the road put by the army.

Magnetic Hill Ladakh on Srinagar Leh Highway

We had first visited Magnetic Hills in 2012 in our first trip to Ladakh. We were quite excited to visit the place at that time because it was one place that defied gravity! It is believed that the hills nearby have magnetic properties and so have a strong pull on the car. So, if you place your car in neutral in the marked area, the car will go uphill.

I remember being pretty excited to see the phenomenon. At that time, it was one place that seemed to defy science. 10 years later, I am no longer that excited to visit Magnetic Hills, but I always enjoy the drive through the roads and the striking landscape of Ladakh.

Nowadays, it is said that the entire phenomenon is an optical illusion. It might be. You be the judge.

Such points that defy gravity are also found in other places like Ultapani in Chhattisgarh and Kutch in Gujarat. I have visited these two apart from Magnetic Hills. There might be other places. If you have visited such a place, please let us know in the comments below!

Duration: 10 – 15 minutes

3. Sangam Point, Confluence of Indus and Zanskar Rivers

Sangam point of Indus and Zanskar River at Nimmu Leh Ladakh trip

Another 3 km ahead of the Magnetic Hill is the Sangam or the confluence of the Indus and Zanskar Rivers. Sangam is one of my favourite places in Ladakh. From the vantage point, you can see the confluence of the Indus River flowing in from Tibet and the Zanskar River flowing from Zanskar Valley.

Zanskar River is known for the famous Chadar Trek. Even a few years back, Chilling village used to be the starting point of Chadar Trek. Nowadays, with new roads, you can go further and the trek starts from Tilat Sumdo.

You can spend some time at Sangam point, click some pictures and then head towards the next destination.

Duration: 10-15 minutes

4. Basgo Monastery

View of Basgo Palace from the Highway

Basgo Monastery, located about 40 km from Leh poses an impressive sight. You can see the ruins of Basgo fort and palace from the highway. Basgo was once the seat of political power and cultural centre of Ladakh. The Namgyal rulers of Ladakh had Basgo as their capital. It was also a strategic point on the way towards the Silk route.

Basgo Monastery has three main temples, one of the temples, Chamba Lhakhang, has a two-storey tall Buddha statue. If you want to know more about Basgo, please read our blog on Basgo Monastery.

Duration: 1 hour

5. Likir Monastery

Likir Monastery - Ladakh monastery

Likir Monastery is another impressive monastery in Ladakh. Located about 52 km from Ladakh, Likir Monastery was built in the 11th century and was rebuilt again in the eighteenth century. However, the major attraction of Likir Monastery is the 25 feet gold-plated statue of Buddha. You can see the golden Buddha statue even from a distance.

After Basgo, as you drive towards Saspol, you will find a diversion towards the right just about 10 km ahead of Saspol. This will take you to Likir Monastery. Likir village is located about 9 km from the highway and the monastery is located atop a hill.

Maitreya Buddha statue at Likir Monastery

Likir Monastery is quite beautiful having two assembly halls. There are beautifully painted murals inside the monastery. You will get a sweeping view of the surrounding vistas from the terraces of the monastery. This is definitely a must-visit place in Ladakh.

Duration: 1 – 1.5 hours

6. Alchi Monastery

Alchi Monastery Ladakh

Alchi Monastery is one of the oldest as well as important monastery complexes in Ladakh. Unlike most other monasteries in Ladakh, Alchi monastery complex is situated within the village by the banks of the Indus River and not on a mountain top, which is a common feature in most of the monasteries built during the 10th to 13th century AD in Ladakh.

To reach Alchi from Likir, you have to come back to the highway and then drive further 10-12 km towards Saspol. At Saspol, take the Alchi Bridge towards the left that goes to Alchi village.

The monastery complex has 6 temples, monk cells and a circumambulation path. This is one of the oldest monasteries in Ladakh and houses some of the most ancient scrolls, thangkas and statues found in Ladakh.

Exploring Alchi Monastery is like a divine experience. There is a sense of peace you will find here. We have visited quite a number of monasteries in Ladakh, but Alchi remains one of my favourites.

Duration: 1 – 1.5 hours

7. Saspol Caves of Sham Valley

Inside the Cave temples at Saspol, Sham Valley

Saspol Caves houses some of the finest examples of Buddhist art found in Sham Valley region. The caves are located about 60 km from Leh, on a ridge in the Saspol village on the northern bank of the Indus River. The Alchi Monastery is located on the other bank of the Indus River and can be seen from the hilltop on which the cave temples are located.

Here, there are a series of beautiful rock cut temples adorned with vibrant wall paintings belonging to the period between the thirteenth to the fifteenth century AD. The paintings are definitely one of the finest examples of fusion of the Indo-Tibetan art.

Cave paintings at Saspol Caves in Sham Valley

The caves are in a bad condition. These days, only 2 caves are accessible out of four. The other two caves have collapsed. To reach the caves, you have to hike uphill for about 10-15 minutes. There is also a ruin of a fort on the hilltop near the caves. From the hilltop, you will get an amazing panoramic view of the Sham Valley.

Duration: 1 hour

8. Uleytokpo, Village in Sham Valley

Fall colours at Sham Valley

Uleytokpo is a small village located about 70 km from Leh at an altitude of 3048 m. located just on the Highway, this charming village is a treat to the eyes. There are a few homestays in the village for those who would like to spend a night here.

9. Rizong Monastery

Rizong gompa Ladakh
Source: WIkimedia

Rizong Monastery is located on the top of a mountainside valley on the north of the Indus Valley. It lies on the west of Alchi on the way towards Lamayuru. It is believed that Guru Padmasambhava meditated in the caves around the Rizong Monastery. The lamas used to meditate inside the caves and isolated themselves from the rest of the village. The villagers would send them one meal in a day through a one-foot square opening in the cave. Inside the monastery, there is a sacred chamber having the statue of Mahakala.

Duration: 45 minutes – 1 hour

10. Mangyu Monastery, Hidden Gem of Sham Valley

Statue of Maitreya Buddha inside Mangyu Monastery at Mangyu in Sham Valley

Mangyu Monastery is a hidden gem in Sham Valley that we discovered on our last trip to Ladakh. The monastery is almost as old as Achi Monastery and is similar to Alchi in terms of iconographic features.

Wall painting of Sakyamuni inside the prayer hall (Dukhang) of Mangyu Monastery in Sham Valley

To reach Mangyu village, you have to take the 7-km link road from the Srinagar-Leh Highway. Mangyu Monastery complex has two temples (Dukhangs) dedicated to Vairocana and Avalokitesvara. and two chapels. There is also another temple inside the complex. Mangyu Monastery also has a number of ancient and beautiful wall paintings and murals. If you are interested in monasteries and culture, Mangyu Monastery is a must visit.

Duration: 1 hour

11. Hemis Shukpachan

Hemis Shukpachan is a small Ladakhi village in the Sham Valley located about 80 km from Leh town. The village is famous for a gold-covered statue of Lord Buddha. The village is quite beautiful surrounded by cedars and lots of greenery. There are a number of homestays available for those who want to spend a night here.

Sham Valley Trek

If you really want to explore Sham Valley, then the best way to do it is by doing the Sham valley Trek. It takes you through the remote villages inside Sham Valley. The trek can be done in 4 to 5 days. If you wish to do the Sham Valley Trek, please take the services of a local guide from Ladakh.

The never ending roads of Ladakh

In Conclusion

Sham Valley thus has a mix of nature and cultural experiences in Ladakh. You can explore all these places or make a choice according to your time and preference. We did not explore all these places in a single day.

Sometimes, tourists visit some of these places on the way from Kargil to Leh. In such a case, you might be able to visit Gurudwara Pathar Sahib, Sangam Point and Magnetic Hill. Also, Alchi and Likir Monastery if you stretch your time and travel really fast. But then, you will not be able to enjoy these places to the fullest. We recommend you to keep one day in your itinerary for the Sham valley tour. It will definitely be an incredible travel experience.

Sham Valley Travel Guide (FAQ’s Answered)

Ruins of a fort at Saspol Caves
How can you do a Sham Valley Tour?

Sham Valley tour can be done as a day trip from Leh. You can hire a car and explore the attractions in Sham Valley and around. The rate of cars is usually fixed by the Leh-Ladakh Taxi Union.

Is Sham Valley worth visiting?

Sham Valley is a beautiful place in Ladakh definitely worth visiting. Also known as the apricot valley, the place has a few amazing destinations. You can have both nature and spiritual experience at a Sham Valley trip.

How far is Sham Valley from Leh?

Sham Valley is an area in Ladakh located about 75 km from Leh town.

What is in Sham Valley?

Sham Valley consists of a few villages off the main Srinagar-Leh Highway. The major attractions of Sham Valley and around are Alchi and Likir Monastery, Basgo Palace, Sangam Point (Confluence of Indus and Zanskar River), Magnetic Hill and Gurudwara Pathar Sahib. There are a few lesser-known places as well such as Saspol Caves, Mangyu Monastery and Rizong Monastery.

How much time is needed to visit Sham Valley?

Usually a day trip from Leh is sufficient to explore the attractions in and around Sham Valley. You can visit Alchi and Likir Monastery, Basgo Palace, Sangam Point (Confluence of Indus and Zanskar River), Magnetic Hill and Gurudwara Pathar Sahib. If you have more time in hand, you can further visit Mangyu Monastery, Saspol caves, Hemis Shukpachan and Rizong Monastery.

Sham Valley Guide Ladakh

Hope you liked the post about Sham Valley. Are you planning to visit Ladakh? Are you planning to include Sham Valley in your itinerary? Which are the places you want to visit? Do let us know in the comments below.

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Places to visit in Sham Valley

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Agni Amrita Travel Blogger

Agni Amrita

We are Agni and Amrita, the 2 Backpackers embarked on the adventure of life together. In between, travel makes us happy as we explore offbeat places and Untold Stories.

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