Zanskar valley is the most isolated region in Laddakh and this place remains cut off because of non-connectivity to the rest of the world for 8 months during the months of winter. Heavy snow takes place in the region which disconnects this region from the rest part. The only way is to visit this valley is through trekking over the frozen Zanskar river in this season. Valley got its name from the Zanskar river which flows through it and merges with the Indus river at Sangam point. Zanskar valley is located very beautifully between the two mountain ranges of Himalayan and Zanskar ranges. This valley is a beautiful combination of deep gorges, meadows, mountain ranges, and Zanskar rivers which remain in a solid state for nearly 8 months.
Because of the frozen state of the river Zanskar, you can have a trek on the top of this river to visit this valley. In doing so, you will be exposed to frozen water trekking or chadar trekking which is quite difficult in terms of level. So you must be physically and mentally fit before undertaking this trek, and you will be checked by health officials before starting this trek. And if you are an amateur trekker, you must go through 6 simple trekking tips.
Why Zanskar valley is famous:
This beautiful valley is famous for its amazing landscapes with lofty mountains which remains snow-covered throughout the year mostly. It got its name from the village Zahar in the Kargil region. Valley has many things to do for adventure lovers and it is becoming popular among tourists for Chadar Trekking and beautiful Leh Laddakh Road trips. You must have sufficient time in your hand to explore this valley to the fullest.
Permit to Visit Laddakh Region
As this area located near the border area, it is strategically important for India. Hence before visiting here, you have to obtain permits from the authorities. Domestic or Indian tourists need an Inner Line Permit, which can be obtained both offline and online. To have an offline permit, you have to visit the Tourist information centre at Leh town or the DM office in person. For the foreign tourists, a protected area Permit is required to visit the Pangong lake which can be obtained online or through registered travel agents. The inner line permit can be obtained online by visiting the Official Website of Leh District Permit Tracking System. For Indian nationals, the option of ‘Domestic client’ can be clicked and permits will be issued online after filling in the required details. The fees for issuing permits is very nominal at the rate of 420 (400 as environmental fees and 20 as inner line fee).
How to Reach Zanskar valley
This valley is located at a distance of 460 Km from Leh and you can reach here through Leh or Srinagar. Laddakh region has Leh as its headquarter with broad connectivity to the rest of the country. The region is connected with mainly Air and Road while the Rail network is not available to reach leh. You can take different options available to reach this amazing location from the capital city of Delhi. And I tried my best to put together all possible means of commute till Leh so that it can be of any help to you in planning your trip.
By Flight To Zanskar valley
Leh city has its own airport named Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport, which is connected with major cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Srinagar, and Jammu. This airport is located at a distance of just 9 Km from the main Leh city and a taxi can be easily hired from the airport to reach Leh. There are direct flights from Delhi and Srinagar to Leh while connecting flights from Mumbai and the frequency of flights is continuously increasing as this location is gaining popularity among tourists. From Leh, you have to hire a private cab to reach the Zanskar valley with a drive for almost 11-12 hours. You also have the option of taking a flight from Jammu to Leh, and Air India is the only airline that operates on this route.
By Road to Zanskar valley
To reach the valley, you have to either reach Srinagar or Leh. Leh can be accessed from the man parts of India by road throughout the year. From Leh, you have to further drive for more than 12 hours to reach this beautiful valley. There are two ways to reach this region by road and here are the details for you:
One is from Delhi- Jammu – Srinagar – Kargil – Leh
& another one is
Delhi – Manali – Rohtang Pass – Sarchu – Leh- Kargil-Srinagar – Jammu
Among these two options, the second route from Manali to Leh is famous among travellers in common because of good road and transport network connectivity. You can take both ordinary and deluxe type busses being operated by Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir UTs governments. Also, regular buses from Kargil to Srinagar and Leh are operated by Jammu and Kashmir UTs. Last year a new bus service was introduced directly between Delhi to Leh which takes almost 24 hours to reach the destination and you can utilize that as well. If you are an adventure lover and loves driving then Bikes and cars can be hired on rent at Manali and can be returned at Leh.
Ideal Route: Among the two routes listed above, the second route i.e from Manali to Leh is the best. The actual detail of this route is like:
Manali – Rohtang La – Tandi/Keylong – Darcha – Sarchu – Tanglang La – Upshi – Leh (from Leh you can take separate routes to Khardungla and Nubra, Pangong and Tso Moriri and Hemis) – Lamayuru – Kargil – Drass – Zozi La – Srinagar – Patnitop – Chandigarh.
By Train to Zanskar valley
There is no direct connectivity through rail between Leh to Delhi and the closest railway station is at Pathankot (746Km), Jammu (682Km), and Chandigarh (719Km). You can reach up to these locations easily as they are connected with main Indian cities by rail network where trains run frequently. From these stations, you have no options except taking the road to Leh by hired or govt transport. From Leh, you have to further drive for almost 12 hours to reach this valley of Zanskar.
Best Time to Visit Zanskar valley
Being located in the cold desert region of Laddakh, the valley is accessible only in the months of the summer that is from June to September. Travelling in other seasons is not at all possible because of bad roads and heavy snowy conditions. You can plan your travelling in the months of winter, but the only possible way to access the valley is by trekking. Beautiful chadar trek is the only available option for you to reach here and this trekking must be picked only if you are prepared to undertake that level of physical exertion.
Things to do at Zanskar valley
This monastery is reached through one-day trekking and It is built with the natural caves present in the mountains and located in the Phutkal village of Lungnak valley. As per local tales, these natural caves have been visited by many scholars and sages dated around 2250 years back and present-day Gompa was established here some 1500 years back. The one-day trekking to this isolated village starts from village Khangsaar or Cho. You can enjoy the panoramic view of this monastery and can spent some good times here. A scenic view of the Lungnak river and valley associated can be another reason for you to visit here. Phutkal monastery compound has one temple along with a prayer hall, library, living quarters for monks, a kitchen, and teaching facilities inside it. The architecture of Phuktal Monastery is primarily Tibetan in style with walls of the monastery got beautiful paintings and carvings.
This place is a bit less popular among the tourists for a halt because of its location near to leh. Leh is just 39 km from here, so you can easily reach here by any means of transport. This location has a beautiful Sangam point along the highway, which means you don’t have to divert your route to visit Sangam point. Sangam means confluence of two things and here Zanskar river meets with the Indus river. The view of confluence is great and can be the best moment for nature and photography lovers. Nearby attractions include Magnetic hill and water rafting in the Indus river for you to explore.
The Chadar trekking got its name from the frozen river Zanskar and so also known as frozen river trekking as well. Chadar trekking lies in the Zanskar valley and trekking is the only option available here in the months of winter which lasts for 7-8 months. This trek is a walking route over the frozen Zanskar river, which is often used by the locals for trade purposes. The word Chadar depicts a blanket, which correlates with the ice sheet that forms over the Zanskar river during the extreme winters. If planning to participate in the Chadar trekking then you should visit in January and February when the sheet of ice over the river is thickest.
Hotels in Zanskar Valley
Once you planned for a trip to this region, you should not worry about the stay because you will get enough options to reside here. Zanskar valley has many small towns where you can stop for a halt over and also enjoy the scenic beauty there. Apart from Padum town, famous villages like Sankoo, Panikhar, and Rangdum have good accommodation options available within. You can book cheap hotels conveniently in offline and online mode by paying through Plastic money like credit cards easily. Alternatively, if you want to spend time in the clear sky, you can go camping options in the Zanskar valley. You will find a luxury camping option in Padum and Village Sankoo.
Services Available in Zanskar Valley
Mobile connectivity – Mobile connectivity can be assumed as Not available because, in most of the regions and valleys, you don’t have access to it. Mobile network is found only around the major towns like Leh and Kargil.
Medical facilities– No, Medical Facilities and Hospitals are not available in the region. The only town of Leh has some good facilities and no other part will be serving you with any of it except some basic first aid.
ATM– ATM is available only in the town of Leh. You will not find ATMs anywhere in the entire region except here. So it is recommended to carry enough cash while travelling to the region.
Fuel Station– Fuel stations or Petrol Pumps are available on the highway only and that also not so frequent to access. So it’s better to drive with enough fuel so that can catch another station located distantly. After Leh- Manali highway the first petrol pump you can find is at Tandi village. However, black fuel can be found in the village Karu, Spangmink, Chusul, Tangtse, Chumthang.
Automobile Repair shops will be accessible in major towns like Leh and Kargil only. In the rest part of the region, there is hardly any repair shop for your vehicle, so be mentally prepared for handling any contingency of breakdown.
Tips for Trip to Zanskar Valley
Some small tips will help you in Planning your Trip efficiently. These tips must be kept in mind before boarding the beautiful region of Laddakh. To get details you can go through other blogs on Things to carry on the trip as well.
Driving by Bikes: If you are a bike rider and visit the lake by bike, you should carry enough fuel with you. As there is no fuel station available from Leh/Srinagar onwards and you have to be self-sufficient for that purpose. Also, an option of bike repair will not be found easily, so must have a mechanic with you or else have an arrangement prior.
Do carry necessary documents to prove your identity, in case asked. As you are travelling to border areas where frisking can be there by the security forces, you should be in a position to furnish all details to them when asked.
Don’t Disturb the Beauty: You are travelling to a beautiful location, and it is our moral duty not to disturb the beauty. Don’t throw garbage and keep all your used baggage with you and dispose of it at a designated place only. Please don’t throw Plastic and other garbage in this hill area, and if possible collect and dispose of it off at the designated place.
Be polite with the local people out there, because they welcome travellers with a warm smile. It is our duty to maintain harmony to benefit future travellers.
Be Free and always plan your travelling in such a way that you have enough time available with you to explore to destination fully. Because travelling with a disturbed mind or under paucity of time will spoil your entire trip.
Medical Facility: If possible carry some minimum required medicines in your First Aid Box with you because the availability of medicine is scarce in the region. You can go through the checklist of minimum required medicines in the other dedicated blog on the Travel medicine kit.
Required Clothing items must be carried along in the trip to this region. Proper winter clothing, including socks, undergarments, shoes, pants, and shirts, keeps the region’s harsh cold weather in mind.
Carry enough cash while travelling, as there will be no ATM or internet banking facility in the far-flung areas of the valley. Most of the iconic places are located in the deep valley or on the border area where there is no cash-dispensing mechanism.
Capturing the beautiful visits is another thing we must stick to while visiting any place. When you are visiting such a nice place, it is recommended to carry a good quality camera with additional batteries and storage space to let you capture the landscapes fully to cherish forever.
Small but Effective Tips
⇒ Please adhere to simple but effective travel safety tips.
⇒ While planning trekking, you must go through 6 basic trekking tips.
⇒ Food and other required stuff are priced heavily at the isolated locations, hence it is recommended to carry sufficient stock.
⇒ Carry sufficient water and chocolates along in the trek to keep yourself energetic. Please keep filling your reusable water bottles from the waterfalls and streams you are going to cross during the trek. It will save your pocket and also it will save the environment in another way.
⇒ Don’t litter the place around you while at the peak or during the trekking, it is our moral duty to respect mother nature.
⇒ You must have enough cash available with you as there may be a non-availability of an ATM. Hence you should carry enough cash along with you prior.
⇒ No mobile network is available at the peak
⇒ You must carry a small travel medical kit with you on every trip to make you safe from small infections and allergies.
⇒ Try to have minimal weight in your backpack because a heavy load at the back can cause discomfort while trekking. You can go through a helpful guide to backpack for travel.
⇒Don’t throw Plastic and spoil the beauty of Hill station ( and U know Distilled water, Cold Drink Bottles are the main culprit)
⇒Please left this beauty for our next generation to enjoy as well
⇒Try to taste local foods wherever you go
⇒Be polite with serving staff
⇒If time and your will permit, please help locals collect garbage thrown over there by visitors like us so that we can plan the same destination again.
⇒Hotels can be checked online but if possible please visit Hotel personally and then only proceed for payment (especially in the Offseason). If possible book your hotel using Plastic money like Credit Card or Debit Card.
⇒Check your Hotel room for any suspicious things like a Camera and all as frauds are on the peak so Don’t compromise with your personal safety.
⇒To take your Camera + additional batteries + memory cards to allow you to capture memorable moments forever without any glitches.
⇒Wherever needed please, Hire local Guides.
⇒Try to enjoy the time there and don’t just keep clicking images unnecessarily.