Duration: 30 days, 25 days on trek
Accomodations: Hotels/Camping on trek
Best time: Mid-July to September
Grade: Moderate to Strenuous
Sandwiched in-between the Himalayan ranges of the Karakorum and the Tibetan Plateau lies the high-altitude desert of Ladakh, or 'Little Tibet'. Previously a major halting post on the caravan route through Asia, this Buddhist land is more culturally akin to Tibet than the lowlands further south. The beautiful multi-colored desert landscapes are arid and dotted with small villages inhabited by rugged-looking people of Tibetan heritage. Zanskar is predominantly a Buddhist inhabited area lying in the south part of Ladakh. It is a land of wonders and exhibits a wide spectrum of natural formation and landscapes. Right from the prayer-flagged passes, chortens, gorges, snow-capped mountains, old fortresses, palaces and cliff temples to the low-lying villages, green pastures, barren mountains, it is truly a place for adventure. There is a single road track over the Pensi La to Padum, connecting Zanskar to the rest of the world in the summer months. Due to heavy snowfall in the winter, this road is closed leaving Zanskar closed into itself. In this trek, you will get accustomed to the several river crossings and walking down the traditional bridges made of birch twigs. One of the memorable sights during this trek is the Phuktal Gompa, clinging to a cliff façade and the warm pleasant people of Zanskar. The town of Padum and the neighbouring villages still bear the essence of traditionalistic and simple way of living.
DAY BY DAY ITINERARY
DAY 1: ARRIVAL IN DELHI. You will be met by our representative at the International airport and transferred to the hotel. The remainder of the afternoon is free to rest and relax.
Day 2: FLY TO LEH. (11500ft/3500m)
Transfer to the airport for the early morning flight to Leh, the ancient historical capital city of Ladakh and once a stop on the Asian “Silk Route.” This is undoubtedly one of the most spectacular one-hour journeys on earth as the Airbus 320 jet flies out of the scorching Indian plains over a virtual sea of snowcapped Himalayan peaks before landing at the ancient city of Leh in the Indus River Valley. Situated at an altitude of nearly 12,000 feet in elevation, Leh is in stark and spectacular contrast to the urban intensity of New Delhi.
Because of the early departure as well as the dramatic elevation gain, your first day in Ladakh will be a restful, easy one. You may wish to stroll in the Leh bazaar, where there are many shops selling Ladakhi, Tibetan, and Kashmiri goods. (B, L, D)
DAY 3: ORIENTATION WALK. We’ll walk from our hotel to the town center and walk gradually through the Old Town of Leh to Lehchen Palkhar, the ancient palace of Leh which was built in 1600 by the then King Singge Namgyal. Above the castle is the “Red Chapel” which houses a statue of Maitreya (the future) Buddha as well as 3-story-high statues of Avalokitesvara and Manjushri on either side. Above this Chapel is the Namgyal Tsemo, “Tower of Victory,” which was built during the reign of King Tashi Namgyal. We then walk down to the village of Chubi to visit the Women’s Alliance center and return to town for lunch. In the evening, we’ll drive to Shanti Stupa, a Japanese Peace Pagoda, to watch the sun set over the Indus Valley. We’ll drive a short distance to tour Changspa, one of the most popular places in Leh, and explore its many restaurants, bakeries, internet cafes and shops. (B, L, D)
DAY 4: DRIVE TO BEYOND GILL. (3,780m/12,401ft) (7/8 hours)
On this day we drive to the west part of Ladakh on the Leh-Srinagar highway en route visit the Alchi and Lamayuru monastery. Alchi lies on the left side bank of river Indus and so the drive crosses the Indus River to reach to it. The famous Alchi Monastery was founded by the Tibetan Scholar, Lo Tsava Rinchen Zangpo in the 11th century. Its wall paintings are distinguished by its marked presence of Kashmiri art and Tibetan art. Lamayuru, also known as the ‘Moonland’ is famous for its inimitable lunar landscape. Apart from the picturesque terrain, it also houses a 13th century monastery perched on the hillock of the village. It was founded by the famous Indian Scholar, Naropa (956-1041AD).
Leaving Lamayuru, we drive through the Fotu La (4,108m/13,479ft) and after two hours we reach yet another pass, the Namki La (3,824m/12,550ft). We arrive at the village of Mulbeck after an hour’s drive from the Namkila where there is an incredible 8 metres high statue of Maitreya Buddha dating back to 700AD. Trekking towards Gill we start at the base of Sapi La which is a half hour drive from Mulbeck. The descent from the top of the Sapi La (4,350m/14,271ft) will land you down to the bottom of the valley called Changyl, beyond Gill where you will be camping that night. (B, L, D)
DAY 5: TREK TO RUSI LA BASE. (4,430M/14,534ft) (5-6 hours) This day marks the starting day for our trek towards Zanskar which first takes us to the Suru valley, which is predominantly inhabited by Muslims. Leaving camp, you walk to cross the bridge and climb steadily up and around the rocky peak. After 3 hours of walking up, you reach a small unnamed pass 4.375/14,354ft where you can spot quite a few marmots. There we follow a shallow descent leading to a curve that will take us to a higher valley with a cirque of impressive rocky peaks and a long ridge. For the night, we will camp near the valley with the stream flow. (B, L, D)
DAY 6: TREK TO PASTURE CAMP. (4,261M/13,980ft) (5-6 hours) via RUSI LA. (4,900m/16,000ft)
It is a rather long, slow and steady pull for the starting part of the day’s trek and then a steep climb to reach the top of the ridge. Here it can get quite windy, though there are great views from the viewpoint. You may well be able to see the Mt. Nun (7,135m/23,410ft) in the distance and also the pass ahead of you. The descent is a long way down the screed mountainside and eventually lands you through nice meadows with a running stream alongside.
At the bottom of the valley, you transverse into a small elevated valley which further directs you left into yet another v-shaped valley. This valley is abundant with marmot burrows which will delight you. Your campsite is just ahead of the valley. (B, L, D)
DAY 7: CROSS CHARDO LA/PASS (4,380m/14,370ft) (6.5 hours trek) END 1ST STAGE AT BARTOO, DRIVE TO NAMSURU. (4,261m/13,980ft) From the campsite, it is an easy 15-minute walk to the acme of the pass. From the top, you can see the valley below with patchwork of fields and the village itself. Beyond the village, the valley deepens into a gorge with occasional hamlets at the base. The villagers will most certainly be busy in the field with their crops. Arriving at Bartoo, you will meet the road again and the vehicle will drive you onto Namsuru in the Suru valley. The road can be pretty rough in these parts of the valley but the drive will soothe your eyes with amazing view of the twin peaks of Nun and Kun. It is the highest peak in Kashmir and Ladakh for 400 miles in every direction. On your way up to Namsuru, there are several police check posts where your passports will be checked. Overnight camping. (B, L, D)
DAY 8: DRIVE TO RANGDUM MONASTERY. (4,100m/13,451ft) The drive up to Rangdum monastery will take up to 3- 4 hours. If the weather is fine, then we strongly recommend that you make the short trek from Namsuru over the Parkachik La and down to the road on the other side, where you can continue the drive to Rangdum. There is plenty of time to do this little side trek and well worth it. It should take only an hour or two to walk up the pass and even less to descend to the road. The vehicles will be waiting for you at the road where you pick the trail to Rangdum Gompa passing through Gulmathang where there is a Police check post. Rangdum Gompa sits atop a solitary rocky outcrop in the middle of an otherwise vast, flat valley. The monastery was built in the 16th century and belongs to the Yellow Hat or Gelukpa sect of Buddhism. It houses the main shrine and the assembly hall with some impressive statues. The village of Rangdum is a few kilometres away from the monastery where there are numerous camping spots. You could visit the monastery in the afternoon or morning as you please. (B, L, D)
DAY 9: TREK TO KANJI NALA RIVER CAMP. (4,320m/14,173ft) (6.5 hours trek/8-9hours to camp) From the Rangdum monastery, there is a large valley heading northeast leading to the Kanji La. Instead of crossing the Kanji La, you turn off to climb over the Pudzog La. The first hour of the trek will be a smooth walk on the river bed after which the path gradually contours up the mountain side on the right and a contorted cliff on the left. You will face a box canyon made up of glacial deposit which the river, over millennia, has cut through. There are lots of squeaking marmots and soaring eagles here. The gorge below will lead you further into another side gorge off the river. After 3 hours of trekking, you will stop for lunch before heading further ahead to an easy river crossing. Camps will be set up just before the Kanji La turn off. (B, L, D)
DAY 10: CROSS PUDZONG LA. (4,895m/16,060ft) (9 hours) Today’s trek is rather long but exciting as you move forward to cross the Pudzong La. Apart from being among the amazing gorges, today you will be crossing the stream several times. You will be walking for 7 hours before reaching the summit of the Pudzong la. But the reward is exhilarating as the view from the top is superb- snowy peaks in all direction and the valleys submerged below the height. Descent from the top is rather short, 2 hours along the zigzag path to the valley some 900m/3,000ft. The camp is amongst an area of clumsy small trees and bushes. (B, L, D)
DAY 11: TREK TO SUMDO CAMP BEYOND DIBLING. (3,870m/12,697ft) (5.5 hours trek) Today’s trek involves a bit of river crossing but mostly it is an easy walk through the vast land before reaching the pretty village of Dibling. The village has some 14 houses and a village monastery as well that sits atop the village. The monastery belongs to the Gelukpa (yellow hat) sect of Tibetan Buddhism and inside the monastery are the main figures of Sakyamuni Buddha, Maitreya Buddha and Tsongkhapa (founder of Gelukpa). It is quite incredible to know that Dibling is the only village in the valley and isolated from Ladakh and Zanksar by very high passes. Leaving the village, you walk for more miles before settling in your camps at Sumdo, a lovely area overlooking the junction of two rivers. The Ladakhi word for river junction is Sumdo hence the name of the area. (B, L, D)
DAY 12: TREK TO BARMI LA BASE. (4,005m/13,140ft) (5 hours trek) It is yet another day with sights of amazing rock formations, narrow gorges and several river crossings. After an hour of leaving the campsite, you reach the point where the path actually disappears into the stream and you will have to wade downstream to reach the other side of the river. It is some 3 hours down the gorge to reach Lingshed Sumdo (3,745m/12,287ft). You hop across the stream a few more times and enter narrow gorges before getting to the flat area to camp, i.e. the Barmi la base. (B, L, D)
DAY 13: BARMI LA (4,680m/15,354ft) TO LINGHSED. (4,010m/13,256ft) (7.5 hours trek) It is just over 3 hours to the pass and an easy gradual climb until the last 300m where it becomes a little steeper. The pass itself is board with a chorten and prayer flags fluttering in the wind. It is a thrill to get to the pass and watch the village of Lingshed emerged in the valley with patches of fields and peaks marched off in the far distance. The climb down to the village is gradual and by the time you camp, you will be flaked out. The camp sits just above the village monastery so you will need to climb down to visit the monastery in the evening where you can join the evening prayer with the monks. The entrance to the monastery is through alleys and corridors leading straight to the main prayer hall with big windows overlooking the valley. (B, L, D)
DAY 14: CROSS MURKUM LA (4,310m/14,140ft) AND KIUPA LA (4,465m/14,649ft) TO YULCHUNG. (4,000m/13,123ft) (7 hours trek) The path winds its way from the monastery and it takes an hour and a half to reach the Murkum La. From the top you can see the village of Skyumpata lying in the bottom of the valley and a zigzag path leading straight to the Kiupa La. After dropping down to the river below and crossing it, you start the long haul over the Kiupa La. Trekking on some exposed tracks, you reach the top of the pass from where you can see the main path to Lamayuru contouring around, but the trek route is straight ahead down to a shallow slope. After following an indistinct path that funnels down through two rocky outcrops, it brings you out above the village of Yulchung. The main thing dwarfing everything else in Yulchung is a complete amphitheatre of orange/grey rock mountains, cliffs and pinnacles. There are gorges within gorges, mountains have frontage of mountains behind and little snow caps at the top. You camp in Yulching on a flat terrain. (B, L, D)
DAY 15: DESCEND TO ZANSKAR RIVER (3,420m/11,220ft), TREK TO NYERAK VILLAGE (3,680m/12.073ft), TO LABAR LA BASE. (4,700m/15,420ft) (8 hours trek) Physically, this must be one of the hardest days on the trek, but also one that will give you a great sense of achievement. The day starts easily, traversing above the fields to the Yulchung village where you could be invited in for tea by the friendly villagers. The path from the village takes you to a stupendous gorge that leads to a small pass, the chocho-guru La (4,005m/13,140ft). It is about an hour and a half to reach to the pass. The descent from the pass is a series of zigzag track virtually all the way down to the turquoise blue-coloured Zanskar River. Reaching the river, you come across an ancient wooden cantilevered bridge high above the river that you cross over. The big climb is now infront of you and it takes an hour to get to the village of Nyerak. From here, you just have to grit your teeth, put yourself on autopilot and slowly trek upwards. It is one of those tracks where you think the camp must be after the next rise, only to find it to be a wishful thinking. Console yourself with the thought that a high camp will make things easier for the next step. (B, L, D)
DAY 16: CROSS LABAR LA (4,925m/16,158ft) TO NAMTSE LA SUMDO. (3,810m/12,500Ft) (9 hours trek) From the camp, it is a two hour’s easy pull past two little tops to the main pass, the Labar la. The climb down into remote mountain countryside will allow the chance of sighting bear tracks on snow patches and lots of ibex/blue sheep. The trek ahead will see lots of imposing rocky mountains, screed slopes, impending cliffs and finally a steep narrow descent between two white cliffs which looks like it has been cut into two equal halves. It takes a little under four hours to be there between the jaws of these two cliffs. After passing through, you find yourself out in the valley with running streams and stunted bushes and shrubs. There are lots of pinnacles with large boulders on the tops on the way down before reaching a narrow gorge to clamber up. You should take care while placing your footsteps on the narrow tracks. Here, it is advisable to use horses for transfer through an incredible canyon, 200 yards long, barely one animal- width, with completely vertical sides. Your path takes you to the top, and coming down on the other side you traverse past some amazing rock slabs and reach down the valley at Namtse Sumdo. Overnight camp (B, L, D)
DAY 17: CROSS NAMTSE LA (4,465m/14,649ft), DESCEND TO HONIA (3,525m/11,565ft) TREK TO MEADOW CAMP BEFORE ZANGLA. (3,485m/11,434ft) (8 hours trek) Today will be another interesting day walking through lovely valleys with pinnacles on the sides, several hops over streams, sometimes with trees and shrubs with the stream running throughout. It will take 3.5 hours to reach the top of the Namste la (4,465m/14,649ft) which comes unexpectedly after the valley. The climb down looks stony, however it takes 3 hours to get down to the road including a brief stop for lunch. The village of Honia lies at the base of the gorge and is a very small place with few houses. The kingdom of Zanskar and the river is spread out as you come out of the shadows of the confining gorges after an hour’s walk. Tonight you will be camping at Meadow camp just before the village of Zangla. (B, L, D)
DAY 18: REST DAY IN ZANGLA/ VISIT PADUM. After days of walking, it is good to have a day off to tidy up yourself and relax. There is an option to make an hour’s drive to Padum, the main town of Zanskar to catch up on emails and roam through the small market. Assuming he is at home, you should be able to visit the king of Padum, Gyalpo Phunchok Dawa. Return to the camp in the late evening. (B, L, D)
DAY 19: TREK TO SUMDO BEFORE CHARCHA LA BASE. (3,845m/12,615ft) (6 hours trek) The village of Zangla can be reached in 45 minutes winding your way to the old castle of the king of Zangla. It is believed that the famous Hungarian explorer Csoma de Körös had lived in the castle whilst he visited Zanskar in 1800s. From the castle, you trek towards the ravine due east. The next 3.5 hours of the trek to Sumdo is full of astonishment and wilderness of the mountains with breathtaking cliffs, mountain caves, steep cliffs and contorted mountain strata. You need a comfortable pair of river sandals as you will be wading through the river at least 20 times today. However, it is never deeper than the knees. Near the end of the path up the gorge you come to a river junction. This is a lovely place with stunted willows and a delightful campsite. (B, L, D)
DAY 20: CROSS CHARCHA LA (4,910m/16,109ft) TREK TO CHUPCHAK. (4,495m/14,747ft) (7.5 hours trek) It is an early start today so that you reach Charcha La base and make a good height gain before the morning sun hits you. The track ahead is a series of zigzags and a steep climb that it almost looks improbable but it is possible. The chortens on the Charcha la pass can be seen from a distance and achieving the height can be exciting. The stony path down the pass leads into a deepening gorge and you will follow the river through progressions of narrow tunnels. Lying ahead of the tunnels is a river junction where you camp for the night. This place is called Chupchak. (B, L, D)
DAY 21: TREK TO STABDONGSA. (3,790m/12,434ft) (9 hours trek) There are many river crossings to be made today, so river slippers should always be with you for the day. After several hours of trekking, you come across a big snow peak at the end of a side valley. At one point the gorge becomes narrower and narrower and the monstrous cliffs rise straight out of the earth. The campsite is at a junction of three valleys with magnificent rock scenery on all side. (B, L, D)
DAY 22: TREK TO NYARI NYARSANG. (3,770m/12,369ft) (3.5 hours trek) Wading through various rivers is a cold shock straight after breakfast, but the impressive scenery makes up for it. It is about an hour and a half to walk to Tilat Sumdo, where you may see snow leopard tracks in the trail dust. After Tilat Sumdo, the river is a bit deeper and wilder as you trek along to Nyari Nyarsang. This is a lovely spot for camping at a junction with willows in the surrounding. A much shorter but still an incredible day! (B, L, D)
DAY 23: TREK TO RABRANG. (4,310m/14,140ft) (7 hours trek) You head up for yet another extraordinarily beautiful valley with zigzag paths, tattered prayer flags swinging in the wind, old tree trunks in odd shapes, steep cliffs and narrow ravines with river crossings. Throughout the day, you are in and out of shade passing through the gorges. One or two bends before the campsite, the valley widens out and a big unnamed snow peak (5,700m/18,700ft) appears on the right. You may see herds of blue sheep in this region. Rabrang is a nice campsite on a ridge above the gravel river bed. (B, L, D)
DAY 24: CROSS ZALUNG KARPO LA (5,090m/16,699ft) (3.5 hours) – TREK TO TIKYU. (4,615m/15,141ft) (6.5 hours trek) Leaving camp, you walk to the very gravel bed above which was your campsite. After an hour from this spot, you enter the Zalung karpa La base in an enclosed bowl. In front of you the path zigzags on a steep gully to climb some 200m in 30 minutes. Coming out of the gully, the ridge soars above and ends in a narrow slot in a dry watercourse. The real climb to the pass begins from here which is an hour and a half of patience and slow zigzags to the summit. Fluttering prayer flags welcome you to the top of Zalung Karpo pass (white stony windy pass) with a fabulous panorama of the surrounding peaks. The highest mountain in the Zanskar range, Kang Yatse (6,400m/20,997ft) can be seen from the pass with its very striking steep sow ridge on the summit. With an eagle eye and a pair of binoculars you can, in fact, see mount Nun (7,135m/23,410ft) in the far distance, and it is with a sense of pride you can look at it and know that you have walked almost all the way from over there. It is now an easy path down through a bare valley. The valley becomes prettier the further down you go, and in under three hours you arrive at Tikyu. It is a nice camp site next to a stream on a grassy area. (B, L, D)
DAY 25: CROSS KONKA NONGPO LA. (5,090m/16,699ft) (8 hours trek) Leaving camp, the walk is easy and gentle down to the valley of Langtang Chen (4,365m/14,321ft) for 1.5 hours. The path diverges here, one path leading to the Marka valley and another to the Konka Nongpo Pass, whose height is the same as the Zalung Karpo La. The ascent to the pass takes about 4 hours and is gradual in progression. As you climb higher, the back side of Kang Yatse appears. Upon reaching the top of the pass, you can see Stok Kangri (in Leh) in the background and the plains of Nimaling down the valley. There are plenty of campsites in Nimaling where you will be camping for the night and have a good hearty dinner. (B, L, D)
DAY 26: CROSS KONG MARU LA (5,216m/17,257ft) (2 hours trek) TO END TREK AT SHANG SUMDO. (3,745m/12,287ft) (7.5 hours trek) DRIVE TO LEH (2 hours drive) Today is a long and tiring day, though the climb to the pass is less than 2 hours from the campsite. The descent from the top will offer you an amazing view of the hillside with unusual cliffs, coloured rocky beds and eroded pinnacles. Reaching the place of ‘Shang’ you might want to stop for lunch in the lap of nature. The path from here is easy down the pretty valleys and finally to the village of Shang Sumdo where your vehicles will be waiting to take you back to Leh. The drive back to Leh will take about 2 hours at the maximum whilst you enjoy the drive after being in the mountains for long. (B, L, D)
DAY 27: AT LEISURE IN LEH. After completing such a long, hard trek, it is time to have a day off. You might want to stroll through the main market of Leh and shop for presents for your friends and family. (B, L, D)
DAY 28: FLY TO DELHI. It will be an early morning flight to Delhi over the great Himalayas bidding goodbye to the serene land of Ladakh. Our represenative will meet you at the airport in Delhi and transfer you to your hotel. (B)
DAY 29: RELAX IN DELHI. International flights usually leave after midnight, so sleep in and relax. Leave for the airport about 10 pm.
DAY 30: FLY HOME.
LAND COST: on request
- All accommodation in Delhi and Leh with breakfast.
- Camping accommodation as per the program with all meals during the treks.
- Mule drivers and mules during the trekking.
- All monastery entrance fees, wild life fees and camping fees.
- Hindi/English-speaking guide in monasteries and while trekking.
- Service of cook and attendants during the trekking.
- All camping equipment including North Face or equivalent sleeping tent, foam mattresses, dining tent and toilet tents
- All transportation from Delhi Airport pick-up to departure.
What’s not included:
- Medical and evacuation insurance
- Miscellaneous expenses and tips for the staff
- Alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
- International Air ticket to and from Delhi.
- A single supplement.
- Laundry and other services not mentioned in the package. If you need any arrangement, please let us know.
- Trip cancellation, travel delay or baggage loss insurance.
- Charges incurred as a result of delays, natural calamities beyond the control of Yama Adventures.
IMPORTANT TREK NOTE:
Whilst every effort is made to keep to the above itinerary, clients will hopefully appreciate that this is Adventure Travel in a remote mountain region. There will quite likely be changes to the itinerary in terms of anything from on-the-spot choice of campsite to when a rest day is taken. Weather conditions, road conditions, vehicle breakdowns off the beaten track, local availability of horses or yaks, can contribute to the need for changes. The Trek guide will do everything in his power to see that you are inconvenienced as little as possible in such circumstances. Timings are approximate.
© Yama Adventures, 2017.