Panah The Earthen Retreat - Living with luxury in Nurba Valley

Panah - The Earthen Retreat, is a sustainably focused luxury retreat in Ladakh’s Nubra Valley. The resort opened in 2019 and is today one of the most sought after luxury properties for two key reasons - comfortable stay, and curated experiences in Nubra Valley. I stayed here for 4 days recently and this is my review of the resort.

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Panah - The Earthen Retreat

Siddhartha Joshi, travel blogger
Welcome to Panah :)


This was my first visit to the iconic Nubra Valley of Ladakh, and I was very unsure about what to expect. Even though this was April, Leh was still very cold (I experienced two snowfalls in my first week there), but Khardung La pass was even colder, and I felt my dreams of finding a slightly warmer heaven in Ladakh fade away. However, things changed as we crossed the town of Khalsar - I could finally see the vast expanse of the magnificent Nubra Valley, and the temperature here was distinctly warm too. The warmth grew by a few more notches as we reached Panah and their staff welcomes us in the traditional Ladakhi way with a shawl. I already knew then that my stay here was going to be memorable.

Nubra Valley, travel blogger, siddhartha joshi, Ladakh trip
Nubra Valley

So Nubra Valley is a unique and culturally distinct part of Ladakh and is formed by two rivers - Shyok and Siachen (or Nubra) coming together. Nubra valley is also one of the lowest regions of Ladakh and that makes it much warmer than other parts, and also much greener. Winters here can be harsh, but summers bring true joy and vitality to the valley. It’s known for it’s sand dunes, double humped camels, lush green villages (in summers), natural hot springs, Buddhist Monasteries and warm locals. We experienced it all during our stay here.

Panah - The Earthen Retreat

Panah literally translates to shelter, and this resort absolutely lives up to its name. Located in the Hunder village of Nubra Valley next to the famed sand dunes, the retreat is small and very exclusive. There are only five villas and one of them is a Presidential suite for bigger families. Sustainability is at the core of how the resort functions - all villas are made with locally sourced mud bricks and coated with Multani mitti to regulate the temperatures, the resort is 100% solar powered, the toiletries are handmade using sustainable materials like bamboo. The food is also locally sourced as much as possible, though it’s not easy in Nubra as some things have to come from the capital Leh. 

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The retreat

Nubra Valley, travel blogger, siddhartha joshi, Ladakh trip
Enjoying the morning sun

The single storied villas are large and extremely comfortable. The most unique feature of the retreat is Hamam in each villa. Yes, it’s the same concept of middle eastern Hamam and it’s simply amazing to come back to the retreat after exploring the valley all day long, and then rejuvenate in the hamam which is prepared with essential oils and salts.

Villas at Panah

Each villa is large with its own living room and hamam. It's perfect to relax as well as to work. If you need wifi access, do reach out to the staff at the front desk and they'll help you with it. However, I recommend taking a break from your devices while you are here.

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The villa from outside

Nubra Valley, travel blogger, siddhartha joshi, Ladakh trip
My room at the retreat

Food at Panah

Food is certainly the highlight at the property. Not only is the food so good, it’s also served in sustainable cutlery. My favourite place to eat my meals was Machaan - I always started my day with a hot cup of chai here and often ended the days here too with dinner.

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The cutlery at Panah

Nubra Valley, travel blogger, siddhartha joshi, Ladakh trip
Blue Pea tea

Nubra Valley, travel blogger, siddhartha joshi, Ladakh trip
Himalayan cuisine 

Nubra Valley, travel blogger, siddhartha joshi, Ladakh trip
Simple and delicious local food!

For your meals, you can eat them in your room (do it only if it’s really cold outside), or eat at many different spots created out in the garden. 

Nubra Valley Explorations

As I mentioned earlier, the highlight of the stay at Panah are the beautifully curated experiences to explore and learn about Nubra Valley. Here are some that we got to experience.

Siachin Safari

Siachin is world’s highest battle ground, and though it’s not accessible to civilians, this safari takes you to as close as possible to the glacier to get an experience and appreciation to the our armed forces who serve the nation in such inhospitable conditions. The safari starts in the morning after breakfast and the first stop is at the Sumoor sand-dunes, followed by the visit to the hidden Trisha Tso. We actually had our rather exotic lunch in the middle of the desert near the lake and it was quite an unforgettable experience. Afternoon was spent driving closer and closer to the Siachen glacier.

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Nubra Vallet with Shyok river

Before reaching the last accessible monastery on this road, we stopped by the side of the road to see prehistoric rock art. This was quite a surprise as I never quite expected to see art like this in Ladakh - reminded me a lot of Bhimbetka in Madhya Pradesh. 

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With the monks at the Monastery

Finally we reached our last stop for the safari - Yarma Monastery. This ancient monastery is one the simplest and quaintest that I had been ever to and fell in love with it instantly. The monastery has 12 students and their teachers and that’s all. We got to visit the old prayer chamber, see the wall paintings up close, had excellent adrak chai in the kitchen with the little monks and had lovely conversations about their life at the monastery. As the sun set, we drove back to the resort. The last bit of the road is rather rocky, but our 4x4 handled it with ease. 

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With the kids at Yarma Monastery

As always I spent the evening at the retreat in the hamam. The hamam certainly one of the highlights of the trip and make sure you are back at the hotel around 7.30pm to enjoy it. The staff would already prepare the hamam for you and you can just slide into the hot water when you are back in your room.

Balti Safari

Baltistan is a region in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, but a part of it became part of India after the 1971 war, and this safari goes deep into Indian Balti region and gives the travellers an introduction to the culture and its people. There are two key highlights of this Safari - a visit to Turtuk town and a visit to the last town before Pakistan starts - Thang. 

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Nubra Valley gets quite green in parts - this is Hunder

Thang is special also because of a very special man who lives there - Mr Goba Ali. In 1971 he was separated from his family as they were left behind in Pakistan, and he was then raised by the Indian Army. He’s been a huge supporter of India and its armed forces ever since, and has written poems on their valour and kindness. If you visit Thang, do plan to spend sometime with him and learn about his life and also Balti culture.

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With Mr Goba Ali at Thang village

Turtuk is a beautiful town before you reach Thang. A short walk from the main road takes you to the village and once there, you can easily spend a few hours there. 

Sundowner on sand dunes

A very unique experience curated here is sundowner on the sand-dunes. Just before sunset the team will pack up delicacies and take you to a sand dune where you can sit, munch on sandwiches and brownies, drink hot coffee and watch the sun go down. It’s one of the best ways to end your days in Nubra. You can also go for stargazing at night after dinner, but unfortunately we didn’t have clear skies at night so we couldn’t do it.

Booking your stay at Panah

Panah is open from April till October and the best way to book a stay here would be through their website Panah - The Earthen Retreat


Disclaimer: I visited the property on invitation of Panah. All views expressed are my own and based on my personal experiences. 


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