Politically sensitive and environmentally mind-blowing Kargil is home to this enchanting valley town of Zanskar. The place lies in the eastern region of Ladakh. If you are passionate about the Himalayas and are keen to explore its every nook and corner of beauty, then Zanskar should be one of your priorities.
Venturing out to this extremely high-altitude and challenging tourist destination requires a lot of preparations and arrangements. You can’t just pack your bags and go all of a sudden just like you would do in the rest of the trips. A lot of monasteries devoted to lord Buddha are a common sight of Zanskar.
This town is also known as Zahar, especially among the locals. However, the geography of the town is what makes it sought by masses of tourists around the year. Mountain tops embraced with caps of snow are such a magical visual you can enjoy on your trip to Zanskar.
Since most of the rivers in the area have their source from snow and glaciers, the water in them is mostly crystal clear and the purest. If you would like to indulge in high-risk adventures, especially in a snowy landscape, Zanskar will steal a room in your heart. Here are some of the places you would love to visit on your Zanskar trip.
Table of Contents
A gigantic glacier in the Northeastern ranges of the Himalayas. Nun and Kun are the two mountain peaks that take their origin from the Shafat Glacier. The glacier also serves as a base for the climbers aiming for the Kun and Nun peaks. During the summer months, the glacier melts and flows to the nearby waterbodies.
Suru river is the major waterbody that is favoured by the melting of the Shafat glacier. It is the tributary of the major Indian river, the Indus. Every year scientists report an increasing snow melting rate in the Shafat glacier and this is considered consequential and caused due to environmental pollution and global warming. The Shafat Glacier has got listed in the top 10 glaciers in India with the 7th position in size with a length of 14km.
To get immersed in the snowy magnificence of the glacier, you would better visit the glacier during the months from October to February. Just enjoy the matchless views, co-exist with the chilling naughty nature and feel the Himalayas in proximity by visiting the glacier.
This is yet another glacier of the Himalayas often talked about in association with the Shafat glacier. The snow of the glacier is usually seen in a downward movement gradually reaching the slopes of the mountain ranges of Nun and Kun. Sometimes huge chunks of ice are seen falling into the Suru River from the glacier.
Periodical peeling of ice from the glacier even from an altitude of 300 feet is a mesmerising yet dangerous marvel to watch. Some adventure-seeking mountaineers are often seen visiting the glacier to climb the mountain range of Nun through one of the most difficult routes of North Face.
Arrangements are done for camping in the areas surrounding the Parkachik glacier. If you are a normal tourist and are visiting the place, not with an intention of scaling the Himalayas, you can consider visiting Panikhar, a favourite tourist hangout spot nearby.
Drang Drung Glacier
Drang Drung glacier occupies the list of the top two largest glaciers situated in the Ladakh region. The glacier is 23km in length. Tourist accessibility is possible in the glacier with certain risks involved. You can get a spellbinding view of the Drang Drung glacier from Pensi La. It is said that when you watch the glacier from Pensi la it takes the form of an enchanting ice river flowing through the mountains.
The picturesque landscapes of the surroundings of the glacier are spectacular and satisfy all human senses to the core. You must have a total of three days to spare if you wish to reach the zenith of the glacier and enjoy it inclusively. The trekking usually begins from Padum. The Drang Drung glacier feeds the rivers of Doda and Stod with its melting ice. Since the path is highly adventurous, you should have proper preparation and training to set out for the trek.
However, if adventure stands on top of all your priorities, don’t doubt yourself. This can be the most remarkable adventure expedition of your life. Nature will treat you with delicious fresh fruits grown in its natural orchards. You can also explore small glaciers and exotic biodiversity throughout the expedition.
Umasi La is another trekking destination for adventure-loving tourists visiting Zanskar. This is geographically a pass connecting Kashmir and Zanskar. Conifer and Oak forests are the peculiarities of the Umasi La pass. You will also pass through several quaint and captivating villages overwhelmed with that rustic beauty and charm.
A 6000meter journey underneath the Kishtwar Shivling Peak would give you a strikingly great experience. You would also have to climb boulders and rocks and take out that daring spirit inside you to reach the actual destination. Glacier camping is another stunning experience you would have to try on your journey to the pass. Finally, a huge wall of rock will pave your way to Umasi La.
Remember to follow the advice of your trekking guide and keep the tools like an ice axe, crampons and ropes on your journey. Summers are the only accessible months to the location owing to its deadly pathways. You can also get a chance to view the legendary mountain ranges of Pir-Panjal from the top of the pass.
Nun Kun is a massif bordering Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. This mountain massif comprises two major peaks namely Nun and Kun. A plateau of snow exists as a demarcation between the peaks. There is also another peak in the mountain massif known as the peak of Pinnacle. This peak occupies the eastern side of the massif. Nun geographically belongs to the territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
Meanwhile, the peak of Kun is a natural asset of Ladakh. The Nun peak has got acclaimed as being the tallest in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The valley of Suru and the Zanskar mountain ranges lies at the northern end of this mountain massif. To the east of the massif, there lies the Pensi La. The tourist attraction, Kishtwar National Park is situated in the south of the peaks. The river of Krash Nai also flows in this direction.
The rocks found in the peaks have got a composition of shale and sandstone. The presence of granite stones makes this place possible for revenue generation. The soil of the massif is mineral-rich in most of the areas, also making it an object of study. Nun Kun Massif is often chosen by professional mountaineers to prep themselves before they climb Mount Everest.
Zangla Fort Or Palace
Zangla fort or palace is a ruined marvel to visit and look back into the golden glory of history. The fort is located in a typical rustic set-up in the Zanskar region. This region is said to have held the title of the capital city of Zanskar in ancient times. The monastery, palace and fort of Zangla are some of the inevitable locations if you set out for Zanskar.
Tarmac roads that are quite rare in Zanskar are not that rare in this Zangla fort region, arranging a comfortable trip for you. The nearby town to the fort is Padum. Zangla is often regarded as the royal village of the city of Zanskar. Even now the locals we find in the village belong to the royal hereditary.
Life in the village still follows the royal norms and values we would have heard only in tales and fables. Butter tea in the village is quite delicious and the families would invite the travellers to their households to have a cup of the same.
This is one of the major sources of water in the territory of Zanskar. The river also serves as a tributary for the Indus river. The river is spread throughout the region of Ladakh. The northern sides of the river are quite apt for tourism. A bunch of tourists are found in the location every year, especially during the months of summer. There are also services in the river offering various water sports like rafting.
During the months of winter, you can only reach Zanskar through the river which will be in a frozen state then. This will take a duration of more than one day. This tricky journey has eventually become an engaging adventure activity in the area with the name, “ice sheet trek”. But now tourists prefer a newly-opened road offering much safety and comfort.
Just like the Zanskar river, Suru is also a tributary to the great Indian river of the Indus. The river has a length of 185km. The originating point of the river is the Panzella glacier. The bank of the river is home to the city of Kargil and which is the largest one among the cities situated on the river shore. The Silk Road connecting Kargil with Skardu is also located near the Suru river. The river valley is also an ideal location to engage in activities like rafting.
Adventure lovers also come to the valleys of the Suru river with the intention to climb the mountain massif of Nun and Kun. If you are looking forward to enjoying the rafting and other water sports available in the river, try planning your trip for the summer months of the year. The floral blooms near the Suru river valley are an enchanting view that will steal your heart and incite all the innocent emotions.
The valleys of the river have a dense Islamic population which is characteristic of this region. The Muslims of this region are said to be “Tibetan-Dard Muslims”, a converted community. The conversion is believed to have happened during the 15th century. If you are interested to explore such religious and political facts and truths of the Himalayan region, the Suru river valley is an apt location.
Stands second in size among the monasteries of Zanskar. This monastery is connected with Marpa, a Tibetan saint. Gelukpa monks are the inhabitants of the monastery. The monastery is structurally complex being home to a couple of temples speaking out of the legacy of the monastery.
A foot journey of 4 hours is required to reach the location of Stongdey Monastery. The walk is quite tiresome so old-age pilgrims would not be able to access the location with much ease. But if you are physically able to take the adventure, the picturesque views from the top of the monastery are absolutely mind-blowing.
Geographically, Sani Monastery locates in the western region of Padum. The “Drukpa Kagyupa School of Tibetan Buddhism” is closely related to it. The monastery is a southern branch of the school. The monastery is a marvel that took centuries to complete its construction. The construction format was also quite interesting that it was not built as a whole but in parts.
Thus its various parts like the assembly hall and chorten have got different construction dates and are obviously differently old. The resemblance of the Sani Gompa to a magnificent palace is often remarked on by tourists as well as architectural scholars. Statues and sculptures of the deities hold a magnetic charisma within. The fresco designs of the monastery are also celebrated and admired by visitors.
Mural art depicting the life events of Padmasambhava is yet another attractive element inside the monastery. The rock carvings seen on the cremation ground of the monastery tell us how much the constructors have given importance to art and its significance in the lives of humans to delight and inspire.
Things To Do In Zanskar Valley
Zanskar river provides facilities for river rafting adventures on your trip. The wilderness of the river gives you the perfect exotic experience. The excitement and challenges involved in rafting through the river make it the favourite spot for adventure enthusiasts and young spirited. There are two route options available in the Zanskar river for rafting.
You can choose any one among them according to your interests and convenience. However, the Chilling to Nimmu route is usually preferred by tourists and is the most famous. The hilarious and active waves in the river can gift you an overwhelmingly playful time. You can also enjoy the calming beauty of the valley of Zanskar while having a fun time on the raft boats.
There are several service providers making the water sport of river rafting accessible for tourists of all budgets. There are also provisions for you to take their accommodation, food and transport facilities. However, there will be slight variations according to the seasons you choose to visit the river and do rafting.
Chadar trek in the Zanskar region is a natural wonder you can experience and have a cuddling experience with the chilling cold landscape of the place. You need to be trained properly in order to trek to the location. You should have learnt ways of survival in case of danger and threats. Challenging terrains and absolutely hostile weather are the specialities of the Chadar trek. You should also learn to interact with the local population of the trekking paths in order to seek help in case of emergency.
Moreover, this skill to interact would also be an added advantage if you would like to experience the unique lifestyle of the local people residing in such exquisite regions of nature. You will certainly come across some dramatic experiences on this trek saving as souvenirs of your Zanskar trip. You will also get the opportunity to sleep in caves and experience the lives of the stone Age.
How to reach Zanskar?
Nearest airport: Leh Airport
Nearest railway station: Jammu Tawi (JAT)
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