A high altitude semi-desert, Zanskar Valley lies in a remote uninhabited corner of the Trans Himalayan region, nestled between the Himalayan and the Zanskar mountain range. Heavenly beautiful despite being devoid of any greenery, there are many reasons to visit Zanskar apart from capturing the sheer beauty of this barren colour changing landscape. Adventure seekers from everywhere throng to Zanskar Valley to take part in some of the biggest adventure thrills of their life, from the famous Chadar Trek over the frozen Zanskar River in winter to river rafting over the ferocious waters of the Zanskar in summer.
There are no two ways about it; no other place promises an adrenalin rush like the Zanskar Valley. Traveling to the valley is an adventure in itself with only one accessible road that originates from Kargil and remains closed for 7 months in the year due to heavy snowfall. You will encounter virtually no signs of civilization for miles as you reach close to Zanskar, the landscape is as barren as it is beautiful, while winters offers a snow covered beauty of a totally different kind. The only way to reach Zanskar Valley in winters is by trekking over the Zanskar River, an ancient route used by locals to get essential supplies from Leh during the bitterly cold winters which has now translated into the “Mecca of Trekking”, the famous Chadar Trek.
Perfect time to visit Zanskar:
This is the one of the most isolated valleys among all the Trans Himalayan valleys and it remains closed for 7 months in a year. The best time to visit Zanskar is between the months of June to September. During winter of course, all the high passes remain inaccessible.
The only accessible road runs between Kargil and Padum and passes through Suru valley. You need to cross the Pensi La Pass, located at an altitude of 14,000ft, the highest point on the Kargil – Padum highway offering a fantastic view of the Drang Drung Glacier.
Places to see
Zanskar is known for its various monasteries which reflect its Buddhist culture. The beautiful ancient monasteries like the Zaongkhul, Stongde, Karsha, Phuktal, Bardan and Sunni Palace will leave you breathless with their beauty. You can cover most of them in a day or two and the best way to travel is the jeep which is easily available from Padum.
There are adventure enthusiasts who travel to Ladakh only to visit Zanskar and experience the thrill of pitting their strength and courage against the mighty Himalayas.
Adventure activities in Zanskar include:
White water Rafting
The ferocious Zanskar River is the ideal place to indulge in white water rafting in summers. It is no mean feat to go white water rafting on Class 4 and 5 rapids, that too with the Himalayas looming large in the background. You can go for a short 6 hour rafting trip or decide to spend an entire 7 day vacation indulging in the sport. Most rafting expeditions start from Padam and end near the confluence of Zanskar and Indus at Nimoo.
The cold barren valley offers several interesting treks. The famous Chadar trek which involves trekking over frozen sheet of ice that forms over the Zanskar River during winter starts from Chilling and ends at Leh. The sheer thrill of navigating the treacherous ice sheet that breaks in parts leaving you exposed to the icy waters of the river beneath, camping in caves and tents in freezing sub -zero temperatures at night, absence of civilization all add up to an adventure of a lifetime.
Many tourists take part in trekking expeditions up the Zanskar range for an opportunity to catch sight of the majestic snow leopards seen only during winters. In summer there is always the possibility of catching sight of the Ladakhi Marmots and the awe inspiring Himalayan Bear.
Himalayan Car Rally: Zanskar Valley is also the site of the highly popular annual Himalayan Car Rally that draws thousands of participants every year during the summer months.
Accommodation and Eating Options
Padum is the administrative headquarter of Zanskar and the only place which offers decent accommodation. The major attraction in this place is the market area which has hotels and restaurants lined up one after the other. You can also visit the popular Stakri mo Gompa on the hill side as well as the famous monument carved on the huge rock beside the river bank while in Zanskar.