Zanskar Trek in Ladakh

Red Chilli Adventures
  • 12 days
  • Moderate
  • 4.9
  • Hilly

Zanskar Trek in Ladakh by Red Chilli Adventures


The ancient Buddhist kingdom of Zanskar is hidden deep in the western reaches of the great Himalayas. For most of the year the high passes are inaccessible because of snow, making the deep gorge of the frozen Zanskar River the only way of transport by walking. Villages nestling high up on cliffs, the greenest fields where peas and buckwheat are grown and ancient monasteries, are just some of the attractions on this spectacular trek.


  • Day 1:

    Leh – Phanjila via Lamayuru (5 hrs drive) We leave Leh in the morning for Lamayuru by jeep. Along the way, we will come across some of the oldest and most famous monasteries in Ladakh. The monasteries in Lamayuru, Likir and Alchi are truly worth visiting for their age and history. After reaching Phanjila we will camp overnight.

  • day 2:

    Phanjila- Hanupatta (5- 6 hrs) Today we will start the first day of our adventure. After a short walk from Phanjila the valley becomes more and more narrow, leading into a spectacular gorge with rock walls rising several hundred meters above the river. The Zanskar River makes its way deep down in the gorge, and in this barren, harsh landscape, beautiful rosebushes flower. We will camp close to the river just after the village of Hanupatta (3860m), from where we have a great view down the valley.

  • day 3:

    Hanupatta - Photoksar via Sir Sir la (6- 7 hrs) We follow the wide Spong Valley up for some time before we cross the river and start on the long and gradual ascent to Sir Sir la (4850m). From the top of the pass there are great views of the main Zanskar range as well as our next pass, Singge la (5090m). It is another 2 ½ hours walk down to the village of Photoksar (4200m), enclosed in green fields and situated among mountain cliffs. The trail towards Sumdo disappears in the deep gorge down to the right of the village. We make our comfortable camp for the night close to the village and enjoy a well-deserved rest.

  • day 4:

    Photoksar – Base of Singe la (5- 6 hrs) After crossing the small pass of Bumiktse la (4200), we enter into the broad and lush Photang valley. A gentle trail leads us through this enjoyable landscape, where the villagers keep their yaks and horses grazing. One of the most fascinating things about the Zanskar trek is the ever-changing landscape. Every time you turn a corner or cross a pass, a new world will appear in front of you: the deepest gorges, the greenest fields, the majestic Zanskar River giving formations and life. Slowly we ascend towards our camp at the base of Singe la (4600 m).

  • day 5:

    Base of Singe la – Gongma via Singe la (6-7 hrs) A steep ascend will lead us to Singge la (5090m), meaning the "Lion Pass." The last few hundred meters are steep, but the top of the pass presents a rewarding view. From the pass a steep descend for few hundred meters. We follow the trail high above the Zanskar River, the mountains having taken a greener and gentler formation, before ascending gradually to Kiupa la (4400 m). From the pass the trail down is steep zigzag to the village of Gongma (3840m).

  • day 6:

    Gongma- Lanang via Lingshed (6- 7 hrs) From Gongma, we climb up the gentle trail to the Margum la (4400m) from where we can see Lingshed an hour or so away. The monastery is founded by the Gelugpa order and gives home to around 60 monks. The village itself is spread out over a big area, enclosed in green fields of barley. After visiting monastery of Lingshed we will continue towards Lanang.

  • day 7:

    Lanang- Zingchen via Hanumur la (6-7 hrs) A steep and long ascent will take us to the pass of Hanumur la (4950m). Once there, the views of north to Singe la and the snowcapped peaks of the Ladakh range are spectacular. From the pass it is an easy descend for an hour before a steep descend down to Snertse. Just above Snertse, there is a herders' camp, and sometimes fresh cheese, milk and curd are available here. Down in the riverbed it's possible to go hunting for fossils, and the locals sometimes show a nice collection of what they have found. When the Indian plate slammed into the stationary mass of Asia some 50 millions years ago, the Great Himalayas were formed. The Zanskar range consists of layers of sediments from the ocean floor while the Ladakh range consists of granite, born in the immense heat generated by the friction between the two plates. After resting for a while at Snertse we will continue towards Zingchen, where we can take a bath in Oma Chhu river.

  • day 8:

    Zingchen- Hanamur via Parfi la (4- 5 hrs) In the early morning we head for our last pass before Padum, Parfi la (3950m), juniper covered trail zigzagging up to the pass. This area is also home to the Himalayan brown bear, as well as blue sheep. From the pass we descend down to the banks of the Zanskar River and to the village of Hanamur (3380m), which will be our camp for the night.

  • Day 9:

    Hanamur- Pishu (4-5 hrs) This is a relatively level stage along the Zanskar River. On the way we will pass Pidmo (3420m), a small village with a few families. It is another 2-3 hours journey to Pishu, (3470m) which is a scenic village located on the west side of the Zanskar River. Hanamur, Pishu and Pidmo together with Tsazar and Honia on the other side of the river, constituted the former kingdom of Zangla. The entrance to Pidmo is marked by a long mani wall and chortens, from where we find our way to a grassy campsite.

  • Day 10:

    Pishu – Padum (6-7 hrs) We have another quite easy day ahead of us along a dry, dusty jeep road. From Pishu the trail leads to Rinam (3550 m), following the banks of the Zanskar River. Arriving at Karsha (3600m) we can visit the famous monastery. After visiting the monastery we continue towards Padum (3531m), the capital of Zanskar and a major trade center in the valley.

  • Day 11:

    Padum - Kargil (234 kms) We begin our safari toward Kargil, passing Sani monastery (6 kms) turning west, crossing the Doda River at Dhungri, we will drive along the right bank of River. Further ride will lead us to the beautiful valley covered with comprehensive green patches. Between Padum to Aksho, we will come across few small villages of Dhungri, Phay and Hamuling. Here we can see slowly leaving Zanskar valley and Drang Drung Glacier beside the Penzila. In the middle of the valley, next we can see Rangdum monastery situated on a rock hill. Then come the villages of Shakar, Parkachik and Panikhar. Before reaching the Panikhar about 12 kms at Thangbu village, we can have an incredible photographic view of Nun (7135 m) and Kun (7080) mountains before reaching Kargil.

  • Day 12:

    Kargil - Leh via Sham valley (230 kms) Today will be our last day to travel before coming back to Leh, passing some of the most beautiful monasteries and villages of Sham.


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