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Zanskar Valley, Leh Ladakh Overview

Nestled in a remote corner of Ladakh, the Zanskar Valley is one of the most enchanting places to visit. It is located in the eastern corner of Jammu and Kashmir and is separated from Ladakh by the Zanskar Mountain Range. It is a part of The Tethys Himalayas which is formed with weekly transformed sedimentary series. Zanskar Valley is known for its wide views and sceneries, cave monasteries and mostly travelled to for its trekking trails and river rafting experiences and the Suru Valley, the two valleys almost always visited together.

Nestled between two tiny alpine lakes, most isolated of all Himalayan valleys, Zanskar Valley has an area of about 5,000 sq kms and is situated at an elevation of 13,154 above sea level. This valley is cut off from the rest of the world for over 9 months of the year because of heavy snowfall in the region. Due to the distinct flora and fauna and the extremely variant climate, Zanskar Valley has become one of the most sought after places to visit. With a backdrop of the beautiful snow-capped glacier mountain peaks and the crystal clear water gushing down the valley, it has gained even more popularity. 

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Summer days are pleasant at the Zanskar Valley, however, nights can turn a bit chilly. April to August is considered to be the good months but the weather can be a bit unreliable during early summers, so July to August would be an ideal time to visit. Winters are too cold to travel in Zanskar.

Padum to Shilla Camp:
With multiple stay options, Padum, which is located at a height of 3669 m, is a perfect place to start one’s 10-day trek to Zanskar Valley. Since it is a big town and an administrative centre in Zanskar, it is quite easy to reach the starting point of the trek in Padum via road. On reaching the road to Padum, you will come across a big Tsarap River which is the starting of the trek. From Padum, trek upstream and after that, you will across Mani Wall which is full of grassland. From there, trek further to the river facing Shilla camp, which is the first campsite of the trek. The overall journey takes 1.5 hours.

Shilla Camp to Reru
This route lies mostly on the eastern side. As you go southeast, you will come across a small village called Bardhan Gompa which is carved with prehistoric writings on the stones, indicating that Zanskar was inhibited by hunters many years ago. From there, trek for 2 hours along the Tsarap River to reach Mune Monastery that is located in Reru. The total journey takes about 5 hours.

Reru to Changpa Tsetan
This route takes 6-7 hours to complete the journey. In this route, you have to head southeast along the Tsarap River. From there, the journey becomes rocky and crossing streams get a little tiring at times. The presence of Ichar Village after crossing the stream will be mindblowing. After that, the trekker comes across Pepula and further along the journey, the campsite of Changa Tsetan come into view.

Changpa Tsetan to Purne
Crossing a few torrents and heading east takes the trekker to Ammu Village which is on the other side of the Tsarap River. En route, you will come across the villages of Surle, Kalbok and  Zantang as well. Moving further along the course of the river comes across the confluence of Kargyak and Tsarap River which is a pleasant sight indeed. Moving further, you will come across Purne Village which is the destination for the day. It takes about 4 hours to reach the village.

Purne to Phugte to Purne
This trail includes a trail from Purne to Phugtal and then back to Purne. The total journey takes 4-5 hours. Phugtal is a small monastery, which is nestled in a cliff and is famous for its bee-hive appearance. It is also known as the ‘Jewel of Zanskar’ and is located in the remote Lungnak Valley which makes it a prime attraction in Zanskar and is highly recommended to be visited.

Purne to Kargyak
This trek is one of the longest among the treks encountered in the overall journey, which takes about 8 hours. For this trek, trek southeast towards the Kargyak River. Over there, you will encounter a bridge over the upslope trek and this trek continues till a person reaches Yal Village which is 3870 m long. En route, you will also come across Testha, Kuru and Tanse villages.

Kargyak to Shingo La
This requires a person to trek along the Kargyak stream. Staying on the left and walking for further 45 minutes brings the trekker to Gombu Rongjum which is in a monolithic rock form. After crossing this, trek for 1 hour to Shingo La camp base. Overall, it takes 5 hours to reach the campsite.

Shingo La to Ramjak
The stretch to Ramjak includes the highest point in the trek and is located at an altitude of 5050 m. The trek is a very long and you need to cover yourself from the bright sun rays and the gusty wind along the entire trek. The overall trek takes about 7-8 hours which includes  2-2.5 hours to a place called Chumik and then 3-3.5 hours more to Ramjak.

Ramjak to Pal Lhamo
This route marks the entry of Ramjak into Pal Lhamo which accounts for 7 hours of the journey. The journey is entirely downhill from Ramjal which is welcome with beautiful flowers and lush greenery everywhere.

Pal Lhamo- Darcha
This trail marks the end of the journey in Zanskar Valley. Darcha is a small village which comes along the trail of Zanskar Valley. The journey is around 3.5 km long which takes about 3 hours to complete it.

1. Carry enough food supplements and medical kit in case of any contingency
2. Drink enough water and carry as many water bottles as possible since that would be required during the journey to Zanskar Valley.
3. Carry Oxygen Cylinder for climbing on high altitude mountains

The name ‘Zanskar’ refers to natural occurrence of Copper which is known as ‘Zangs’ in Tibetan. It also has alternative derivations like ‘Zangsd-kar’ which means White Copper, ‘Zangs-mkhar’ which means Copper Palace and ‘Zangs-Kar’ which means Copper Star.  The locally accepted name of the word is however ‘Zangsd-kar’ in Tibetan since this word is closer to the actual meaning of Copper.

Zanskar Valley is home to a variety of species. They include domesticated animals like Yak, Dzo, Sheep and Horse. Wild animals like Wolf, Snow Leopard, Bear and Marmot are also found in that region.

Tibetans from high plateaux of the North-East settled in the Indus Valley around 500-600 BC. At that time, the Bon Tradition was followed. In the 7th Century, Buddhism was introduced in Ladakh by the Great Llama Songtsen Gampo. Its influence soon spread across Zanskar towards the Kashmir Valley.

Due to the isolation of Zanskar, the area has remained devoutly Buddhist whereas the more accessible part of kashmir has turned into Islam. After a period of independence, with periodic internal conflicts, Zanskar was finally annexed by Ladakh in the 17th Century. The kings of Ladakh and Zanskar belonged to the same family, which ensured a period of peace. From 1842, Ladakh and Zanskar have become a part of Jammu and Kashmir, the only Indian state to extend to both sides of The Himalaya.

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Zanskar Valley Reviews

10 months ago by Devesh Kaushik

A must visit place in Ladakh region

10 months ago by Devesh Kaushik

A must visit place in Ladakh region

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