Zanskar is the little sister of Ladakh. Down at the lowest bottom of the district Kargil is the 7.000 qkm small enclave located. With an average altitude of 4.000 m Zanskar is one of the highest inhabited regions of the world. Just approx. 10.000 people live on an area a little smaller than Cypros. Most of them follow the religion of tibetan buddhism. And they live really isolated: seven months a year is the only 1980 constructed very rough link road to Kargil covered by snow and ice. In this time Zanskar is totally cut off from the surroundings. Due to this extraordinary position, the local culture in this small region south of the Himalayan Mountain Range is very well preserved. Over the centuries the Zanskaris could keep their traditional values of sharing and living together in harmony. One could think that time stands still in this remote part of the world. But if one takes a closer look, one sees that it is flowing as everywhere else.
Travelling to Zanskar you need some effort, but then you’ll get highly rewarded with a tour to a region where not many travellers go. Warm-hearted Zanskaris will welcome you happily and make your travel to a real special and unique experience.
(Until now) we don’t offer any grouptours to Zanskar, but have some packages in our offers and will organise your time as an individual tour – either as a tour on its own or in combination with Ladakh or Kashmir.
Below we are introducing some topics which we think will be of interest for your time in Zanskar. More information we’ll deliver happily – as myself had a really intense time with the Kamerakidz in Zanskar.
There is only one road to Zanskar – the 285 km route from Kargil to Padum. It is not in a good condition and one has to calculate a minimum of 10 hours. Bute you will be compensated with a diversified drive through fascinating and impressive landscape. You can have a break in the middle in Rangdum, a beautiful high altitude valley with a unique located monastery and a nice camp. To avoid travelling this distance twice, there is only the trekking-alternative. But here you can choose between several routes. They are working on new road-connections towards Chilling and Darcha, but how long that is going to take – nobody knows in India…
The choice in Zanskar is not big. Few buses are driving, a strong taxi union keeps the rates quite high and there are few roads (but at least to all monasteries except Phuktal and Lingshed) – many Zanskaris just walk long distances by foot. We think, that at least walks should be part of your itinerary, if not a proper trekking. Just like that one can get a good feeling of space and dimensions of the landscape.
Accommodation in Zanskar is limited, especially in the better standard. There are few hotels in Padum and around, which can be categorised as the utmost as 2-**-star. Few guesthosues are spread in the valley of Padum – most nice is to stay privately in a homestay. Especially the ones in Karsha are managed by very friendly families – a good alternative to Padum. A special experience is the guesthouse of the king of Zangla. Just we cannot garantee for his presence (but it is quite likely).
The Zanskaris follow the tibetan buddhism (with a small muslim minority in Padum) and acknowledge the Dalai Lama as their spiritual-religious head. There are 10 bigger monasteries and 6 smaller nunneries as well as several cared for temple-buildings you can find in each village. To the monasteries of Lingshed and Phuktal you have to walk by foot. All monasteries/nunneries are open for visits and worth a sightseeing. Sani, Karsha and Stongde are celebrating the most liked Chamdances in the summer – the dates you find here. Another important date in the buddhist calender is Buddha Purnima (birth, nirwana and death of the Buddha), at which the holy books out of the Pothang are carried via Pibiting and Padum. The date is usually in May or June.
Zanskar is a trekkers paradise. Very easy is a homestaytrek to the monastery of Phuktal (have a look at the Packages) or a roundtrip through the huge Valley of Padum – all other treks are including high passes. One can stay within Zanskar or trek in or out. Here are some examples (for sure there are variations and combinations possible):
Stongde-Ichar / 4 days
Stongde-Phuktal-Tsetan / 6-7 days
Rinam-Rangdum / 8 days
Zangla-Tsetan / 10 days
Abram oder Phey-Pishu / ca. 6 days
Tsetan-Sarchu / 6 days
Tsetan-Brandy Nalla / 9 days
Ating-Kishtwar / 7 days
Pishu-Yulchung Gongma / 5 days
Zangla-Juktak / 9 days
Kanji-Rangdum / 3 days
Zangla-Hemis / 9 days
Darcha-Tsetan / 7 days
Glaciertrek: Bardan-Miyarvalley / 7 days
Please contact us for further trekkinginfos and variations!
A visit of a school is always a heartwarming interesting experience. Exciting to see how the children deal with the simple conditions and keep on learning with intense concentration. All over Zanskar there are gouvernment-schools – but quite some of them are lacking teachers and good education. Private schools sponsored by western NGOs were yearlong the only alternative to the bad situation of the gouvernment-schools. Who wants to get further education after class 12 has to go outside Zanskar. You as an interested visitor are always welcome to visit a school! Mostly we like to show you the Secpad-School in Youlsum (nearby Karsha), where the Kamerakidz-Projekt takes place 😉
Zanskaris like to merry around! Beside the already mentioned monastery-festivals, where everyone is going, for whom it is possible, the several days lasting New Year celebrations of Losar is the highlight of the year. On 15.8. the Independance Day is celebrated in Padum with performances of several schools. In July, when there is not so much work in agriculture, there are quite some weddings. Archery-competitions in the villages are a welcoming way to party with some happy drinking. Maybe you are lucky to pass by some celebrations and are invited to join. For this our flexible not too tight itineraries offer a good chance.
There are 45 villages in Zanskar, some of them consisting of only 5 houses or less. Some villages are along the few roads, but many are accessible only by foot. All Zanskaris are doing agriculture and husbandry and have to gather food and burning material for the long winter. Life is strongly regulated by the seasons. Share the village life for some time! Have a look how the soil is ploughed, the seeds are sown, the fields are watered. And when the harvesting starts, there are activities like harvesting, thrseshing, separating, roasting, milling and storing to observe. Much of it is done the same way as since centuries, in some areas there are already modern machines to help. In fall the bringing down of cattle and yaks from the mountain pastures towards the stable is an event really well worth seeing.
Winter in Zanskar is a big adventure – but just for the really tough ones… The only possibility to get to Zanskar during the time of road-blockage is either by helicopter or in january or february the trek on the frozen zanskar-river. The Zanskaris are just between themselves, having much time for each other, spontanous festivities, volleyball-matches, the children are speeding down the slopes on the self-made ski and sledges, gliding around on the ice and the women are knitting, spinning, kharding wool etc. A good insight into the daily life of the winter in Zanskar is given in this book: Kamerakidz: Winter in Zanskar.
Additional to the above mentioned travel experiences Zanskar has to offer a bit more. In Karsha there is the famous Amchi and Lonpo (doctor of tibetan medicine and astrologer): Meme Angchuk. With a little luck he is at home and shares a bit of his knowledge. But you can also visit an Amchi anywhere else.
The Zanskaris love to go for picknicks. There are several beautiful spots at the big rivers, where one can have a good rest and food. We like to arrange a picknick for you!
There is also the possibility of River-Rafting on the Zanskar-River. You start in Padum and in 4 days you reach Nimmu. The nights you spend in a tent on the banks of the river. A unique way to experience Zanskar!