Visit Zanskar Valley – Have the vast Himalayas been your dream for a long time? Nepal, Sikkim, Tibet, Bhutan…you’ve listed out all the destinations you wish to conquer. But why not go to discover the Indian Himalayas? Uncrowded, authentic and predominated by the Tibetan Buddhist culture, Ladakh is situated on top of the world in the far north of India. At the heart of an arid desert environment is one of the most spectacular valleys: the Zanskar.
The name also refers to the river that runs through it; you will encounter it from your very first steps in this pristine paradise. The lunar landscapes are so stunning, they will have you stopping every few moments just to marvel. You will come to admire the towering gorges the most. There are also high altitude canyons that will delight geologists. Your eyes will be amazed by the mystical monasteries perched atop rocky spurs that are only accessible by foot.
When to visit Zanskar Valley?
Zanskar has climate similar to the rest of Ladakh, although with even more marked seasons. The winter in Zanskar is, however, much more rigorous. Nearly eight months in a year, snow blocks all the mountain passes. During this time this beautiful valley lives in complete autonomy. The small villages are isolated from the rest of the world.
The summer, from June to September, when a good part of Asia is soaking wet, is the best time to visit Zanskar Valley. The monsoon rarely crosses rocky barriers of more than 7000 m and here, even the passes sometimes exceed 5000 m.
Travellers in search of extreme adventure can visit Zanskar Valley in January for a unique experience with the Zanskaris. For 4-5 weeks, a tiny little breach temporarily ends this isolation. That’s when, under the influence of extreme cold, the river water freezes and becomes the tumultuous Chadar (Blanket of White Frozen Water): The Frozen River Trek.
How to reach?
Zanskar is not arrived at in a snap, but with some adversity. The most beautiful places on earth deserve to be achieved after some effort!
Book your international flight to Delhi. I would recommend you to stay overnight, and not land in Leh too tired. Altitude is already quite a challenging factor, so visit Zanskar Valley in a better shape. A very early but spectacular flight will take you from Delhi to Leh, the district headquarters of Ladakh, located at 3500 m altitude. It is imperative to acclimatize properly so that your trip goes smoothly. Stay in the Indus valley in the beautiful and historical Nimmu House at the confluence of the Indus and Zanskar rivers. After two days in Nimmu, you will be fit enough to visit Zanskar Valley. Then you could go for a trek of several days or weeks. You can go for full day rafting trek or by Jeep if you’re not afraid of the miles.
What to do in Zanskar?
In a region where the notion of time is not so important, I would advise you to walk through the Zanskar valley. This mythical land offers exceptional trekking routes. Contemplate the diverse landscape of this remote area set amidst rocky mountains and green oases villages. Come and meet the Zanskaris – these friendly people who still live in autarchy. This is a unique chance to discover some of the most remote monasteries perched on spectacular cliffs. You could visit Phuktal Monastery, for example!
You have two options depending on the time you have and your level of commitment to such a trek. We always offer routes from north to south for better acclimatization. A short option is the 8-day power trek that takes you from Lamayuru in the Indus Valley to Padum, the capital of Zanskar. The most exciting part of the trek is that you have to conquer no less than 7 passes to reach the heart of Zanskar. The return journey to Leh is covered in two days by jeep. Take the opportunity to extend your trek to another valley, near the lake of Changtang, for a change of landscape.
For those who have more than three weeks at hand, it would be a shame not to cross the Zanskar in its entirety. Within 18 days of walking, you will be able to visit every valley in Ladakh. The trek will also expose you to the forested landscapes and Hindu cultural spots of Himachal Pradesh, where your trek will come to a finish.
The trek in Ladakh is organized in the form of camps with a travelling team: a guide, cook, a mule and his small flock to carry your luggage and equipment. Walk lightweight so that you can breathe easier when at an altitude of over 5000 m. Lucky ones may also get to witness a traditional festival in one of the monasteries. The one at Karsha monastery is usually held in the summer.
For the thrill seekers ready to join the winter adventure of Chadar – Frozen River Trek, the camp will equip you for temperatures between -15 to -20 degrees. It is essential to be fully prepared, for the river remains frozen and it gets very cold. You will sleep in tents and sometimes home-stays, with your entire team including the guide, cook, porters and their sleds!
[Check our program for Frozen River Trekking in Zanskar]
To go further in your discovery of Zanskar, we recommend the works of avid photographer Olivier Föllmi, and films including Marianne Chaud’s “Himalayas, the way to heaven”.
Shanti Travel welcomes you to visit Zanskar valley for the 2015 season. Do not wait any longer to contact our experts. Tell them your preferred destination and they will prepare a trek for you that best matches your levels of fitness and your desires.
[Check our programs for Trekking in Ladakh and Zankar]