Steep, high brown peaks with a deep, nearly treeless valley between them. A long frozen river in a vertiginous defile. Ancient inhabited monasteries built high up a cliffside. And a limitless blue sky filled with clouds like mountains. That’s the Zanskar Valley, on the border of Ladakh, one of the most remote valleys in the most remote region of India, well above the foothills of the Himalayas. For its beauty, its challenge, its culture, and its remoteness, the Zanskar Valley has been a trekker destination since it was opened to foreigners in 1974.
The Zanskar Valley is, even now, inaccessible for eight months of the year, due to heavy snowfall in the mountain passes that remain the only route into or out of Zanskar. For many trekkers, it’s a dream come true.
Any Headrush Expeditions’ plan in Zanskar begins with trekking into Zanskar. While plans can be designed that include transportation to Padum, the administrative center and only formal town in Zanskar – many of our trekkers with time on their hand prefer that we take them through the on-foot journey from Ladakh. This is very achievable and rewarding, especially because of the stunning Lamayuru Tibetan Buddhist monastery along the way – and we’d recommend it to our adventure enthusiasts!
From Padum, trekkers have a number of our trekking routes to consider depending on their interests. Some of our routes focus on trekking to Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, but don’t think that means these treks are easy: the monasteries are forbiddingly located. The Phugtai Monastery in the southeast and Zangla in the north (as much a ruined castle as a monastery) are particularly stunning.
Other Headrush Expeditions trekking routes emphasize the Zanskar ridgelines or venture higher up the Himalayan slopes, especially in the north and south of the valley. These routes tend to be difficult, but offer more impressive mountain heights for very fit trekkers.
After trekking in Zanskar is complete: the route south from Padum to Darcha, in Himachal Pradesh is an option we give our trekkers.
Trekkers deadset on seeing Zanskar in the winter do have one option, but it’s tough: the Headrush Expeditions Chadar trek along the frozen Zanskar river. It’s a long trek from Ladakh to Padum in below-freezing temperatures, but the unique experience of trekking on an ice sheet can’t be matched. And Zanskar valley inhabitants have managed it for centuries.
Because of its remoteness, Zanskar Valley is a haven for Tibetan Buddhism and traditional Ladakh culture. It is off-the-beaten-track even compared to other Himalayan valleys, so it’s a must for an adventurous trekker.
Call us today – and have our experts design your plan!