LAMAYURU – PADUM – DARCHA
Zanskar the hidden kingdom is an apt assessment of a region that never figured on any of the major trade routes. Historical research indicates that few armies and traders visited this isolated kingdom, even though the gompas and villages were established by the 10th century. By the late 14th century, Buddhist monks and scholars ventures over the passes from the Indus valley to establish gompas at Karsha, Lingshed and Mune in the name of the gelukpa order. Two centuries later, monks from the Drukpa order founded the gompas at Bardan and Zangla. It was not until the early 19th century that Europeans travelers reached the Zanskar. One of the first was Hungarian scholar Cosode Koros who spent the best part of a year in 1826-27 translating the Buddhist texts from Ladakhi to English.
In the three week odyssey across the high arid mountains of Ladakh and adjoining Zanskar and Himachal, we cross snowy main range of the mighty Himalayas, many passes and walking through a wild tangle of stark, barren mountains. The trek is long but there is always the option of doing just one leg of this two stage trek, walking from Lamayuru in Ladakh to Padum in Zanskar or from Padum to Darcha in Himanchal.
Apart from breathtaking scenery the Zanskar trek offers great cultural tourism. Several major Buddhist monasteries Lingshed, Karsha, Bardan, Muney and Phugtal are on the way. The villages on the route particularly in isolated Zanskar seem untouched by modern civilization. People here live much like their forefathers did centuries ago, dressing in traditional cloths, ploughing their lands observing ancient rituals.
To do Zanskar trek, we first reach to Leh, the capital town of Ladakh and then after the few days sightseeing drive to Lamayuru (125 km west), the trekking starting point. Completing the trek, we exit through Manali. Some trekkers do the trek in the opposite direction, from Darcha to Lamayuru. To do from this side, we first reach in Manali from Delhi and exit from Leh.
Now, there is a small rough road all the way to Photoksar and more further which makes your trek short.
Day by day program
Duration: 25 days
Type of the Trek: Camping
Activities: Trekking, Culture Tours
Best Months: June to September
Maximum Altitude: 5045m (Shingo La)
*Visit ancient historical monasteries of Ladakh, Zanskar valley and old ancient Hindu temples in Manali, Himachal.
*Colorful landscapes of Ladakh and lash green valley at the end in Manali.
*Trek through the high remote villages and high passes.
*Magnificent views of many mountains.
Day 1: Arrive Delhi
Airport transfers are provided for all clients arriving on Delhi. In the afternoon, a city sightseeing tour is provided. Alternatively, you may choose to take it easy at the hotel.
Day 2: Fly to Leh
This morning, we will transfer to Delhi airport early in the morning for Leh flight. On arrival in Leh, transfer to hotel and rest for acclimatization. Orientation walks around town in the evening
Day 3: Half day sightseeing around Leh
Today we will visit Shey, Thiksey and Stakna monasteries which are very important monasteries of Leh. In the late afternoon, we will walk up to the Shanti (peace) Stupa to see view of whole Leh town and sun set view over Stok range.
Day 4: Drive to Lamayuru (125 km /3510m /4 hrs.), trek to Wanla (11 km /3150m /4 hrs)
After early breakfast, we drive to Lamayuru. We drive through several beautiful villages and small towns. The scenery along the way is wonderful. Lamayuru, from where the trek begins, is situated 125 km west of Leh on the Leh-Srinagar highway. It is surrounded by rugged cliffs and dominated by its historic monastery, Lamayuru is a spectacularly located village. There is a mythical story that the Lamayuru was once a great lake. Its fields and houses lie below the monastery, sprawling across the slopes and floor. The monastery stands on a cliff. The ancient chhortens and mud brick houses and higher up monk's quarters. The main attractions of Lamayuru are its oldest monastery and Moon land view. Lamayuru is one of the oldest monasteries in Ladakh. It was built in 11th century. According to legend the arhat Madhyantika, a disciple of Buddha offered torma (sacred food) and water to the spirits inhabiting the site to satisfy them. A handful of grain spilled on the soil which caused barley plants to sprout in the shape of Yung-drung (swastika), hence its name Yung-Drung. The great yogi Naropa meditated in a cave which today forms part of the monastery. Approximately 200 monks reside here, headed by the Chorje Rinpoche, a reincarnation of Chorje Togdon.
After visit the monastery, we start walking. The trail to Wanla leads off from end of the village, through middle of farming land and runs along the bed of a small stream for a while. The path then climbs small up the streams right bank, past some Chhortens to enter a broad table land with barley fields and a hut. The view of Moon land and the monastery are more impressive from here. The table land become narrow, the trail goes to the right side and enters a small gorge and gradually ascends. The path gets steeper and makes the final climb to the Prinkiti La (3710m / 1 hr-15-20 min). Here is a pilled of rocks and some prayer flags on the pass. The view from here is superb.
From pass, the trail descends steeply down to the dry stream. Here are many zigzags. From bottom, we follow small narrow valley and mostly walk by side wall. In the end of this gorge we joint with Shila valley, where is rough jeep able road (1 hr from Prinkiti La). From here we follow the road and walk through beautiful Shila village. The valley floor is very green and Shila khong river is flowing through the middle. We follow small dusty road to Wanla. There is a cement concrete bridge to cross Shila Khong River. Wanla is situated on the bank of Yapola river. The large camping ground here is on the yapola's right bank. The village and the monastery overlooking it is across on the left bank, reached by a bridge. Crossing it, the jeep road meets the metalled road that connects Wanla to the Leh-Srinagar highway. Here are several small hotels, shops and camping spots in Wanla. Some houses provide home stay facility. Wanla (3185m / 9.57 km and 2 hrs from prinkiti la) is a large village with extensive fields and tall poplar trees. Here is also a high school, a government clinic and woodcarvings.
Day 5: Drive to Hanupatta (2 and half-3 hrs / 3840m / 24 km / upper camp)
The way to Hanupatta first heads south towards Phanji la along the small metalled road. Now, the jeep able road continues Hanupatta, Photoksar, Sengge la and more further to Skyumpatta. It is very dusty and rough road. So, it is not good idea to walk along the dusty road and better to drive.
It is mostly level and some 2.25 km beyond Wanla is the village of Tarchit with a beautiful campsite across the river. Further up, we pass Buckbukza and reach in Phanji la. The valley begins to lose its greenery. There are apricot orchards, Poplars and Willow trees around the settlement of Phanji la. A tributary of the Yapola, the Ripchar branches out to the northeast from Phanji la and the path leading to Chilling. The Hanupatta road divides from this path at the end of Phanji la village. Cross the Ripchar over an iron bridge and continues up the east bank of the Yapola. The Yapola valley is wide beyond Phanji la and the rocky hillsides are standing in both side. About 4 km further, it crosses the river over an iron bridge. After bridge, we enter in very narrow gorge, very high sharp rocky peaks are standing in both side and Yapola river is running in the bottom. In Sumdo, here join 2 rivers and narrow canyons and here is a local tea shop and some old Stupas with small dry ground. Beyond Sumdo, the valley becomes wider and green. There is a tea tent and some Chhortens in the beginning of Hanupatta village (3760m /21km). Here are 1o-15 houses and some shops in Hanupatta. Several houses provide home stay service. Here we can see local traditional Ladakhi kitchen and test local butter tea and Champa.
The old camping ground is another 2 km further from village but now, there are not any more good ground for camp. It has been washed away by 2010's bad floods. So, we walk another 3 km further from village for camping. Little bit higher from the river, there is very good new spot for camp. It is near by the fields in the both side of the road and good location for views. It is surrounded by beautiful colorful hills.
Day 6: Trek to Photoksar (16 km / 4200m / 6-7 hrs village camp, 18 km / 4370m / 7-8 hrs last camp / 1 hr 30 min drive)
From Hanupatta upper camp, the path is gently ascends. Most of the time we walk along the rough road but there are also short cut old trail to avoid road. The walk up along the spang valley is wonderful, it is ascending gently high above the river. Yaks, sheep and goats from Hanupatta often graze here. We pass several cairns and a small pond on the way. Chelung and Photoksar peaks are peering over the hills on the right. About 2 and half hours later, we arrive in small side stream. The old trail is separate before this stream but now there is no bridge and all people use this new route and walk along the road to last corner. The route for Sniugutse la is separate from small stream and climb up. 25-30 minutes later from this stream, we cross Spang Nala by new cement bridge and climb up to the huge slope ground (40-50 min), where is a small hotel. We don't follow the road and use short cut small trail. It is a picturesque alpine slope. From here, it is wonderful views of surrounding colorful hills and snowy peaks. Around here we can see lots of Marmots, several birds and lots of alpine flowers. From this hotel it is very short walk to the Sirsir la (4725m / 25-30 min from hotel). The last part is steep, all the time we avoid road and use small trail. Here are some cairns and lots of prayer flags. It offers wonderful views of the snowy main range of the Zanskar Mountains to the south and many colorful land escapes. The Sengge La also can be seen from here. Chelung, Photoksar and Alam peaks are very close.
From the pass, descend is very steep and the narrow zigzagging trail to bottom (15 min). It is short but slippery. There is another new path to avoid slippery zigzagging steep down. For this, we follow the road for a while to last corner and descend gently down and it joins with old path at bottom. Here are blooming lots of nice alpine flowers and can see many marmots. Many Sheep, Yaks and goats bring here to graze from Photoksar village. From bottom the path is very good and continues through right side of the valley and gently descends down to Photoksar. About 1 hr later from bottom, we arrive in the gateway which is entrance of Photoksar village. Here are some old Chhortens, mane walls and a gate. The views of some snowy peaks, Photang river and the valley are beautiful. Leaving this gate way, the path gradually descends down to the river and arrives in small beautiful green ground. This is the first camping ground, here is a tent hotel and shop. Mostly trekkers don't make camp here and use second ground. The second ground is about 2 km. further from here.
Leaving this ground, we follow the small path and road for a while, walk through some houses and telephone booth and cross Photong river in the last corner. After bridge, the path is through wheat and barley fields pass some Chhortens and climb up to the camp (40- 50 min). Here is very nice huge green ground on the top of farming land just below the new constructing road. We cross small stream, which is jumpable just before this ground. This is very peaceful place and here are not any houses. It offers wonderful views of several snow capped peaks, glaciers and many colorful hills. The Photoksar village is in the front, other side of the valley.
Day 7: Trek to base of Sengge La (4485m / 11.7 km / 5-6 hrs)
Leaving the camp, cross small stream (jump able) and then gradually ascend to the Bhumitse La (4432m / 30 min). The path is very good, it is just below the rough road. It doesn't looks like pass, here are some prayer flags, cairns and Mani walls. It offers beautiful views of Chelung peak, Photoksar peak, Alam peak, Sengge la in the front, Sirsir la at back side and surrounding colorful mountains. From this pass, the path gently descends down to small stream (jump able, 15-20 min). The new road is under constructing little higher above the trail. After this stream there are several small ups and downs and small side streams on the way. The path is very good and passes some Mani walls. This is beautiful pasture area and lots of alpine flowers are blooming everywhere. We can see many Marmots and Vulture around here. About 2 hrs walk from Bhumitse la, we arrive in big stream. This is also jumpable if we arrive here in the good time before increase the water but it will be very difficult to cross in late afternoon. It is divided in some branches and spreading widely. Other side of the river there is a small ground, Stupa, Mani wall and tea shop. Leaving this ground, the path is small up for a while and then continues along the river bed of the next valley towards Sengge la. About 50-60 minutes later from river crossing point, we arrive in first camping ground of the base camp. Here is very nice green ground and clean spring water. One tea shop is in the other side of the small river, just few min walk, there is also a camping ground. Around here we can see lots of Marmots, wild flowers and many yaks. It is surrounded by many colorful rocky hills and snow capped peaks. The Alam peak is very close. The road is in the other side, not close.
The last camping ground of base camp is 25-30 min further from here. Now, it is not in use because it is totally watery and no good place for tent.
Day 8: Cross Sengge La (4965m), camp at Skyumpatta (4100m / 15 km / 6 hrs)
Today we cross the highest pass of the first part but it is not difficult climb unless there is snow and bad weather. Leaving the camp, the path gradually ascends to last ground and gently climbs up to the bottom of the pass (1 hr 15 min). Three are blooming lots of flowers and sceneries are wonderful. From bottom, it is zigzagging easy path to the top of Sengge la (4965m / 1 hr 30 min / 475m ascent from camp). Sengge La means" Lion's pass", it cross the main range of the Zanskar mountains. There is a Chhorten, cairn and many prayer flags. Now, there is constructing small room for prayer wheel. It offers very nice views of Alam peak (5698m) which is towering near by the pass, Photoksar peak (5685m), Sirsir La, several snowy peaks and the surrounding colorful mountains.
From the pass, it is very steep descend down to the small river (4465m / 50-60 min). Somewhere there are also gradual descend. All the time we avoid the road and use old trail. Around here we can see lots of flowers and the many nice rocky peaks. In the bottom, there is small dry ground other side of the river (4465m) which is use as base camp from other side to cross Sengge la. This is not scenic place and situated in deep place. The road is little higher above of this ground.
After this ground, gradually ascend and join with road (20 min) then walk along the new road to Stayang (4450m / 50-60 min). It is flat route and nice scenery. There is a Parachute tent hotel and small camping ground with clean spring water at Stayang. We can see some snowy peaks Yulchung village with nice terraces fields and colorful landscapes. Leaving the tea tent, we join with road and take old trail, which is above the road. The path is gentle ascend and descend through beautiful grassy slope and then gentle climb to Kiupa La (4478m / 30-40 min from Stayang). It is very enjoyable walk and can see lots of alpine flowers, Marmots and several birds. We don't walk on road. There is a old Stupa and some prayer flags on the top of Kiupa la. The views of Skiumpatta village and surrounding mountains are superb.
From the pass, the path steeply drops down to the canyon floor (425m descent / 40-50 min). The zigzagging path is narrow and through very scary slope. The road is under constructing just below the pass, last part but constructing further. There is a small wooden bridge in the bottom to cross river. The trail for upper Skiumpatta separate before bottom. Some trekkers make camp in upper village but the lower camp is better for next day. From river, the path gradually climbs to the lower Skiumpatta (25-30 min). We pass a Stupa in the beginning of village and walk little further for camp. The camping ground is in nearby small pond on top of the village. It is not green but good. The pond use to collect water for irrigation. The houses are just below the camping ground. It is surrounded by many colorful hills and some snowy peaks. The upper Skiumpatta is bigger than lower and local telephone is available.
Day 9: Trek to base of Hanuma La (4015m / 14 km / 6 hrs)
Leaving Skiumpatta, the path climb up to small top, pass some old Stupas (spur / 50 min) then gently ascend to the Margun La (4414m /30 min). The trail is very good through beautiful green slope. There are blooming lots of alpine flowers and is small spring water just before the pass. Margun la is marked by huge cairn and few prayer flags. The views of surrounding colorful mountains and countless ridges are wonderful.
From Margun la, is gradual descend through nice grassy rounded slopes. About 25-30 minutes later from the pass, we arrive in small top, where is a Chhorten. From here, we can see Lingshed village spread out below in a bowl surrounded by mountains, nice field terraces and monastery. From this top the path is steeply descend down to the Karsha village (45-50 min). The trail descends rapidly along the northern slope, deeps to a stream, climbs a spur then zigzagging down to a second chhortens. Lingshed is a large settlement, there is a helipad, school and a primary health centre. The monastery is on the top of the village dominating whole village. The camping ground is in the beginning of the village before monastery, here is a local shop, hotel which is belong to the monastery. The local telephone is available in this village. Several houses provide home stay facility is this village. If we have enough time it is better to make one camp here. We visit the monastery and continue further to Hanuma la base.
From the monastery, the trail continues along the irrigation channel for a while then descends down to the small stream which runs through middle of the village (15-20 min). After this stream it begins climbing up through cultivated fields to the top of a spur (25 min). There is a Stupa and some prayer flags, we get a grand view of the village and the monastery. Beyond the Stupa the trail gently descend and ascend to the small stream (25-30 min), here we cross this stream by Log Bridge and climb small up (15 min) to the small flat top. There is a wolf trap, many years ago the villagers use to trap wolf here. The path for Dibling and Zanskar is separate from here. We follow the left side trail, it is gradually ascend and then climb up through beautiful pasture ground to the Sabkang la (4230m /1 hr from trail junction). Lingshed's herdsmen bring their animals here to graze. From here, we can see the village and monastery down in the distance. It doesn't looks like la because there are not any cairns and prayer flags. From here, we walk down to the valley floor by zigzagging path (20-25 min/ somewhere little slippery) then gradually descend to camping ground of Hanuma la base (10 min). This is in deep place in the bottom of Hanuma La and not scenic. Here are several flat grounds for camp and one local hotel.
Day 10: Cross Hanuma La and camp at Snertse (3817m / 12.9 km / 6-7 hrs) or base of Perfi La / Jingchen (3478m / 15.9 km / 7-8 hrs)
Leaving the campsite, the trail crosses a stream and start climb up. It is a long zigzag through grassy slope. About 1 hr later the path turns to the left side, follow the small ridge ling for a while and then walk through the crest (rocky part / 30 min) to top of the slope ground. Here is flat nice green ground but no water. From here, the trail turns right and steeply ascends through grassy slope to top of the Hanumala. The trail is very good and several switch backs. Around here, we can see lots of flowers. Hanumala (4747m / 3 hrs / 732m ascent from base camp) is marked by some cairns, many prayer flags and is a new Stupa. Here is not flat ground on the top. It offers spectacular views of surrounding mountains, rugged Zanskar gorge, Lingshed monastery, Lingshed village and some snow capped peaks.
From the pass, the path is gently descend down the hill side to a stream (20-25 min) and continues along the stream for 20-25 min then we reach in nice grassy slope. After then descend down to the wide stream (river junction). This small river is called "Mimashisha Nala", the trail follows it all the time. We cross it several times (jumpable) and pass some small good grounds. This is beautiful walk along the small valley. About 1 hr 20-30 minutes walks from the river confluence, the valley become very narrow and starts rocky part. In one place, there is a old Ice bridge but now, it is almost finished (melt / 20-25 min. / narrow part). The path gently descends down, in some places there are steep down for a while. There are growing lots of Himalayan Roses and other plants in the last part. Some time we can see many mountain goats and Tibetan partridges around here. From the bottom of downhill, the trail gradually descends to Snertse through small Willow trees (15-20min). Snertse (3817m / 6 hrs from Hanumala base camp / 930m descent from Hanumala), there is a grassy plateau. The camping ground of Snertse is not green but flat, it is near by the Mimashisha Nala. Here is a Parachute tent hotel and growing lots of Willow trees around. It is in deep place. Mostly trekkers don't spend night here when they go towards Padum.
Below the camping ground, we cross the Mimashisha river (jumpable)and climb small up (10-15 min) then gradual ascend and flat to the small top (spur / 10-15 min). From this small top, it is very nice views of Perfi la, Oma chhu valley and the river. After this spur, we steeply descend down to Oma chhu valley through grassy hill slope (40-45 min). The path is very good but dusty. We cross Oma chhu by wooden bridge and reach in camping ground of Zinchen. This is base of Perfi la and situated in the bank of Oma chhu. It is in deep place, surrounded by high rocky peaks. There are several grounds for camp but other side of the river is the best. Here is a small local hotel and clean water. Here are growing lots of Willow and other trees in the river bed and around. Many Tibetan partridges come near by the camp. This is best idea to make camp here, it helps for next day to cross Perfi la.
Day 11: Cross Parfi la, camp at Hanumil (3428m / 11.8 km / 6 hrs)
15 min later from the camp, the path climb up to Parfi la. It is very steep zigzagging path. After a gain about 300m (50-60 min), the path enters a vegetated zone. There are growing lots of Himalayan roses and other plans. Here is a small ground with small spring water but sometime it gets dry. We can see many little birds, Vultures and mountain goats around here. From this ground it is another 1 hr steep climb to Perfi la. It is zigzagging path and can see lots of flowers around. Perfi la (3929m / 2 and half-3 hrs), a saddle between rocky cliffs, is marked by some cairns and prayer flags. It offers wonderful views of Zanskar river and the valley in front, Oma chhu valley in the back and many surrounding rocky peaks.
From the pass, the trail descends down above Zanskar river through hill slope. There is growing many Junipers trees and pass some cairns. After 50-60 minutes, it is gradual ascend and descend through very steep slope for 40- 50 minutes and then arrive in huge flat ground. Around here, we can find some good place for lunch. We walk through this ground for 30 minutes and descend down to the Zanskar river bank then follow the river. About 15-20 minutes later, we cross small side stream by small Cement Bridge. After stream, the path gets little higher from the river bank and climb small up (10 min) to small flat ground.
Leaving this ground, the path gently descends down near river and it is very easy 25 minutes walk to the Hanumil village. Hanumil (3428m / 3 hrs from Perfi la) is very small village. Here are just 4-5 houses but several beautiful green grounds for camping with some local hotels. It is very nice green village, surrounded by colorful hills located on a flat grassy stretch above the river.
Day 12: Trek to Pishu (3445m / 16.4 km / 5 and half- 6 hrs) or Zangla
From Hanumil, it is an easy level trail to Pidmo and Pishu. Behind Hanumil village, we cross small river by good wooden bridge and then walk along the Zanskar river side. The path is along the left side (bank) of the Zanskar River. It is pleasant and relaxing walk. It is wide valley and rocky colorful peaks are standing in both side. Some time, we can see mountain goats and Tibetan Partridges around here. We pass some Mani walls and some beautiful grounds on the way. About 2 and half-3 hrs later, we arrive in Pidmo village. Pidmo (3445m / 3 hrs) is beautiful large village, here are many old Stupas, Mani walls and a local health post and school. It is surrounded by nice colorful hills. The path to Zangla is separate from this village. The Zanskar river is cross by long suspension bridge and walk along the road for a while then walk along the river bank to camping ground of Zangla (2 hrs). There are beautiful green grounds in Zangla near Zaskar River before village.
Leaving the Pidmo village, we pass several old Stupas and Mani walls and cross small stream by bridge. All time, it is flat route. Gradually descend down to the river bank again and walk through nice small trees. Many goats and sheep graze around here. About 1 hr 15-20 min. later from the village, we leave river bank and gradually climb up to huge slope ground and gets higher from the river. Here is small climb for 25-30 min and then flat for 30-40 min. In the end of this slope ground, there is a huge cairn with many prayer flags. From here, we descend down to the river bank. The path is little higher above the river. We ascend little bit, leave the main trail and descend down to the camp before Pishu village (30 min from Cairn). There is a huge nice grassy ground for camp bellow Pishu village. Here is a Parachute tent hotel and clean spring water. This is the best ground.
Pishu is big village, connected with jeep able road with Padum. Here are electricity and local telephone facility. Some time the BSNL mobile works here. The Nunnery monastery is in on the top of the village. Here are also many old Stupas and Mani walls in this village. It is surrounded by nice colorful mountains. The village on the opposite bank is Zangla.
Day 13: Trek to Karsha (3670m / 6 hrs)
Leaving the camp, the path gently ascends to Pishu village and walk through the middle then along the huge flat ground. All the time we avoid road and take old path. We pass several old Stupas and Mani walls on the way. It is very easy flat route. About little bit more than 1 hr later, we arrive in the last part of huge flat ground. From here, we follow the road and walk little higher above of the Zanskar river. The road is under constructing but some vehicles run here. In several places we leave road and use old trail. After 1 hr 15-20 minutes from end of the huge ground, reach in small stream. There is a cement bridge to cross it and tree plantation around. 15 minutes later, we arrive in Rinam here is a local hotel and small camping ground. The Rinam village is 5-10 minutes down bellow from this hotel. The valley is very wide and the sceneries are wonderful. We can see many snowy peaks around.
After Rinam, it is very easy flat route to Karsha. Most of the time, we walk along the rough road. From Rinam to Karsha it takes 2 hrs. The views of snow capped peaks, colorful hills and the valley are wonderful.
Karsha is huge village, here are several shops, guesthouses and nice camping grounds. The Karsha monastery is biggest monastery of Zanskar valley. It is situated in hill slope on top of the village. All kinds of vehicles and telephone facility are available here. The government school and the local health post are also here. The Nunnery monastery is just above the camp other side of the main monastery. This is more civilized village. It is surrounded by many snowy peaks and colorful landscapes.
Note: If we want to avoid walking along the road or don't have enough time, we can drive to Padum or Ichar in same day from Pishu.
Day 14: Drive to Ichar via Padum (3740m / 40.5 km / 3 hrs)
Leaving the Karsha, we drive little down to bridge and cross Doda river then drive through beautiful villages to Padum (10 km / 25min). There is a beautiful village called "Pibting" on the way, here is a very popular and beautiful Chhorten shaped hilltop monastery. Some trekkers walk from Karsha to Padum and use old short cut trail which is also very interesting.
Padum (3595m) is administrative headquarter of Zanskar. Here are many modern concrete buildings. Here is a primary health centre, medicine shop, post office and all kinds of goods are available. The town's main street is lined with shops and hotels. Here are many good hotels and restaurants. The internet and telephone are also available. Here are also some good camping grounds. The taxi union of Padum provides all kinds of vehicles and vehicles from Kargil and other places are not allowed here. So we must use their vehicles (This is just for passengers and tourist). This is starting point of second part Zanskar trek.
After the Padum, it enters the canyon of the Tsarap river, winding down its right bank. After some distance, we see Shila village in opposite bank. After about 9 km, the Bardan Gompa suddenly comes into view. It is on top of small rocky hill above the river (3670m / 40-50 min from Padum). Here are very nice statues of Future Buddha, Avatavlokiteswara, Buddha, Guru Padmasambhawa and many other gods. In all monasteries of Zanskar, the tourists should entry their passport details because there are not any police check posts.
Beyond Bardan, there is a school and ground below the road which is also good place for camp. The Pibcha village is on the other side. After about 8.17 km drive from Bardan, we arrive in Mune village (3817m / 25 min from Bardan). The settlement is spread across a semi circular ledge a little below the road. The village Gompa is on the top and belonging to the Gelugpa sect. A little over 3 km beyond, there is a Raru village. Raru village (3787m) is on a hill surrounded by fields and colorful mountains. There is a nice green camping ground in the end of the village. After Raru, the road is very rough, we drive through very narrow gorge and cross the Tsarap river in the beginning of Ichar. Ichar village (3740m / 30.5 km from Padum) is little higher from the Tsarap river. The camping ground is below the village. It is very green and nice with clean spring water just above the river. There is a long suspension bridge below the camping ground. The road is under constructing higher above the camp. This is in deep gorge and not scenic, surrounded by very high rocky peaks.
Day 15: Trek to Gyalpoh (3839m / 16 km / 6 hrs)
From camping ground, descend down little bit and cross River by long suspension bridge then climb small up. We join with main path and then very nice flat route. 30-40 minutes later, we arrive near another suspension bridge. Here are 2 small houses with camping ground and Dorzong village on the opposite side. The new road is continues through this village but we keep in right side all the time and don't follow the road.
Leaving this place, we follow river bank for a while and cross small side stream (jumpable) and then climb small up for 10 min. After few minute easy walk, we arrive in small flat ground, there is a very old Stupa and Mani wall. From here, the trail is level, several ascend and descend to Pepula (3775m / 2 hrs from Ichar), there is a small local hotel and a camp site in the Tsarap bank.
Beyond Pepula, we cross another small side stream by wooden bridge and climb small up. The path is very good and there are several ups and downs. About 1 hr 10-15 minutes later from Pepula, we climb steep up for 10 minutes and arrive on small top of the slope hill. From here we can see the village of Surle far in the distance, nearer Tsetan and Enmu village in the other side. After top, the path steeply descends (5 min) and cross small river by good bridge. After bridge climb small through rocky cliff and very easy short walk to Tsetan. Tsetan (3858m / 3 hrs 40-50 min from Ichar) is small village below the main path. Here are just 3-4 houses, lots of farm land and a beautiful camping ground. Enmu village is in opposite site, the road has competed to this village but continually constructing further. We don't go down to Tsetan village and continues by higher path.
There are several ups and downs and walk through beautiful hill slope, much higher from the river. We pass some Chhortens and Mani stones on the way. The views are wonderful along the way. After 1 hr easy walk from Tsetan, the path descend down to the river bank and cross a side stream by nice small bridge. There are some very old Stupas and Mani walls near stream. From here, the path gently gets higher from the river bed (not any steep climb) and arrives at Gyalpoh (40-50min).
Gyalpoh (3839m / 16 km / 6 hrs from Ichar), there are just few houses, a beautiful green camp site with a small local hotel in the end. Here are lots of farm lands. On the opposite bank is a Nunnery resident. From here, we can see the plateau of Cha village carpeted by cultivated fields up on the opposite bank.
Day 16: Trek to Purne (3855m / 7.2 km / 3 hrs)
Leaving the Gyalpoh, the path is gently descends for a while, flat and then small ascend to the huge flat ground (3838m / 30 min). Here is a small tea shop, some farming lands, a camping ground, Chhortens and long Mani wall. The Cha village is in the opposite bank. There is long suspension bridge to go in Cha village.
From this ground, the path gently ascends, flat through nice hill slope and reaches in trail junction (20-25 min). We follow the lower path, it is gradually descends down to Tsarap river bank. It is very nice views of surrounding colorful landscapes and the Purne village. At the next band, we see the confluence of the Tsarap and the Kargiak River. In the left side grey-green is Tsarap and right side mud-brown is Kargiak. After few minutes, we reach in the bridge (40-50 minutes from trail junction). Crossing the bridge, we climb for a while and arrive in Purne village.
Purne has only 5-6 houses, restaurants, shops and very nice green camping grounds. This is very busy place, many trekkers spend 2 nights here making the side trip to Phugtal Gompa. Here are many Chhortens and Mani walls. Now, here is new camping ground called "Dolma camping site", in the beginning. It is very nice and quiet place. If we don't have extra day here, we can visit Phugtal monastery in same day.
Alternative route to Phugtal from Gyalpoh and back to Purne:
From Gyalpoh to Phugtal: 15 km / 4 hrs
From Gyalpoh, it is very easy walk to huge flat ground where is a small hotel, camping ground, some farming lands and long Mani wall and Chhortens (3838m / 1.47 km / 30 minutes). From here, we descend down to the bridge, cross the river and climb steep up to the Cha village. It is very good zigzagging path (25-30 minutes from the bridge). Cha is beautiful village (3927m / 2.34 km from Gyalpoh), here are many old Stupas and Mani walls. Here we can see real local village life. Several houses provide home stay service.
Leaving this village, the path gradually gets higher to small top of huge ground (4120m / 40-50 min from Cha). It is beautiful walk and very nice scenery. We can see Purne village and river confluence from here. Here is an old ruined house on the top. Beyond this top, the trail gently descends through grassy and rocky hill slope and steep cliff the drop down to river bed. The color of landscapes and rocky peaks are like painted, it is really wonderful view. In some places, there are rock fall points.
We cross small side stream which is jumpable, gradually gets little higher from the river and then join with Purne- Phugtal main trail in the beginning of Phugtal. It is very enjoyable walk and beautiful scenery along the way. After visit the monastery, we come back to Purne (6 km).
Day 17: Visit Phugtal and back to Purne (2950m / 12 km, up-down / 4-5 hrs)
From Purne, we gently ascend and arrive in Khangsar village, a tiny settlement with a camp site. Beyond this village, we pass strange mud formation on the river bank below the trail. They look like the remains of a ruined pagoda style castle. When w head further up to the Tsarap valley, the scenery is wonderful towering cupper- red mountains rising above the grey green river. The trail is mostly level, several small ups and downs and passes some Mani walls and Chhortens. After bend, beyond Chhorten is a bridge (1 hr 30-40 min). Phugtal monastery is less than 1 km from here.
After cross the Tsarap River, the trail climb small up (10 min) and reach in beginning of Phugtal. There are many old Mani walls and Chhortens, the Phugtal Gompa appears ahead a breathtaking sight, pilled on the hillside. The walk up to the monastery, we pass many Chhortens and Mani walls. There is a small school just before the main monastery. From here, we enter into the monastery area and climb many steps to reach on the top (cave).
Phugtal was founded in ancient times by Phagspa Shesrab, the translator of Zanskar. It is about 530 years old. Since the monastery is built inside a huge cave its name Phugtal (Through cave) is said to derive from this. There are many sacred relics and shrines to be seen within. About 60 monks are residence. Every year all the monks observe the custom of performing sacred dances in conjunction with the Gustor festival which takes place on the 18th and 19th days of the 12th Tibetan month.
After visit the monastery, we can go further towards right side ridge line to see more views. It is about 20 minutes walk. There is a Chhorten and many prayer flags. We can see wonderful views of colorful landscapes and the valley. In the afternoon, we come back down to Purne by same way.
Day 18: Trek to Shi / Khi (4062m / 20.78 km / 7-8 hrs)
Leaving Purne, we descend down for a while (10 min), cross the bridge and then climb up the main trail (30 min). From here, it is flat route for 20-25 minutes to Yal village (3950m). We pass several old Stupas and Mani walls on the way. Yal is very small village here are just 5-6 houses.
After this village, the trail gradually descends down near river bank and continues along the river side. About 25-30 minutes later, we cross small side river by wooden bridge and continues along the river bank. Few minutes later, leave the river bank and gradually climb up to the Testa village. There are many old Chhortens and Mani walls on the way before the village and can see lots of flowers. We walk through middle of the farm lands and arrive in Testa (40-50 minutes from stream). Testa (3980 / 3 hrs from Purne) is the largest settlement on the Padum Darcha route, with 25-26 houses, camping ground and small hotel. Some houses provide home stay service. This is the best place to see Zanskaries local lives. Leaving the village, we walk through many Stupas and Mani walls and cross a stream (30-40 min from Testa village) which is jumpable and then arrive in Kuru village (4000m). This is small village but sharing the flat terraces with Testa. Beyond the village, the trail descends down to small stream (jumpable) and then follows the right bank of Kargiak river to Tanze. The path is very good and flat. We cross Kargiak River in Tanze, here is very good iron bridge to cross. Tanze (3980m / 5hrs from Purne) is beautiful village situated on the bank of river Kargiak. Here are also many old Stupas, Mani walls and good camping ground with small shop and hotel. Some trekkers make camp here.
After Tanze, the trail climbs a spur and passes several Chhortens and Mani walls and then very easy flat route. About 30-40 minutes later, we arrive in Thabley (4030m / 16.98 km from Purne). There is a small river in the beginning of Thabley, we cross it by bridge. This is a small village, here are just 3-4 houses, lots of farm lands and very good green camping ground. It is very nice views of some snowy peaks, colorful hills and the valley.
Beyond Thabley, the trail descends down to river bank and follows it all the time to Shi. It is very scenic. There is junction of 2 rivers (Kargiak and Giambul) in the beginning of Shi village. Left side is Kargiak and right side is Giambul. In the top of left side valley is standing beautiful rocky peak "Gombaranjon" dominating whole valley. Towards right side valley, there are many snowy peaks. We follow the left side valley for a while and arrive in beautiful green ground (1 hr from Thabley). Here are blooms lots of flowers and looks like carpeting. This is the camping ground of Shi. The Shi / Khi village is in the other side of the river. Here are many old Stupas and Mani walls around. The Kargiak village is about 25-30 minutes further from here. This is wonderful place. The views of Gombaranjon and surrounding colorful mountains are superb.
Day 19: Trek to Lakhang (4705m / 21 km / 7 hrs)
After camp, we walk through many old Stupas and Mani walls. It is very easy and flat route to Kargiak village (4140m / 30 min). Kargiak is the last village before Shingo La, the next permanent settlement is Chika, 3 days away. There are about 10 -12 houses in Kargiak. Some houses provide home stay service also in this village, here is also local telephone available. Small shop and hotel is in the other side of small stream, end of the village. Here are not any good grounds for camping in this village. We cross small stream by wooden bridge. The views of the village and valley with colorful peaks in the background are wonderful.
From village, the trail gradually ascends and then flat through beautiful grassy ground. We pass some old Stupas and Mani walls on the way. About 1 hr 40-50 minutes later, we arrive in small stream, where beautiful green ground and many Yaks, sheep and goats are are graze around. The views of Gombaranjon, some snow capped peaks and surrounding mountains are beautiful. After 3 hrs easy and enjoyable walk from Kargiak, we arrive near bottom of Gombaranjon (4345m / 3 hrs from Kargiak village). Here is very nice huge green ground with clean spring water. This is the camping ground of Gombaranjon. It is just in front of Gombaranjon peak (5320m) and surrounded by nice hills. Around here, we can see lots of flowers and many little birds.
Beyond this ground, we cross one river. Normally, this is not jumpable. The river is divided in several branches (4-5), all branches are strong and some branches are in the last corner (10-15 min). Here is a small prayer room. The villagers of Kargiak village worship to Gombaranjon as protector god Mahakala. So, they use this room at prayer time. From the last corner (last river branch), the trail gradually ascend along the left bank of Kargiak river. Some parts are little rocky, we passes some Cairns and prayer flags. About 1 and half hrs walk from the river, we arrive in Lakhang Sumdo which is first base camp of Shingo la (4478m / 18 km / 5 and half - 6 hrs from Shi camp). 2 rivers and the valleys join here. Here is a small local hotel and camping ground but mostly trekkers don't stop here. On top of the left side valley, there are some beautiful snowy peaks / great Himalayan range and huge glaciers.
Few minutes later, we cross the River by good bridge and gently ascend to the bottom of the small climb, where is a small shelter. From here, we climb small up by zigzagging trail and reach on the top of spur (20 min). After this top, we gently climb, ascend and little descend to the camping ground of Lakhang (25-30 min). Here is beautiful small ground but some time, the trekkers leave garbage everywhere. This is good place surrounded by nice hills. It is very green, many Yaks and sheep graze here. We can see lots of beautiful flowers and Marmots around here.
Day 20: Cross Shingo la (5045m), camp at Chhumik Nakpo (4565m / 10 km / 5-6 hrs)
Today, we start little early than usual. Leaving the base camp, the path is flat for a while and then ascends to a small stream (30 min). Normally, we cross this stream by Ice bridge or can jump. After this stream, we climb steep up by making zigzag (25-30 min) then walk through rocky moraine, it is gently ascend. After 1 hr 30 min walk from stream, we arrive on the top of small ridge line (crest). From here the surrounding views with snow capped peaks are beautiful and can see Shingo la in the front. The trail is through more right side of huge moraine slope. It is about 20-30 min walk from here to Shingo la top. Shingo La (5045m / 3.84 km / about 3 hrs from camp) is marked by many cairns, Mani wall and prayer flags. The view across is breathtaking. There is a glacial lake in the basin below and many snow peaks around. Many people of Zanskar valley use this pass to come in Manali to take their children for study and supply daily necessary goods. This pass divided Jammu Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh of India.
Descending from the pass, we pass the lake, the trail staying to its left and cross the river before dropping down (end of the lake). In the morning it is jumpable but after 11-12 noon the water level increase. After cross the stream, the trail gently descends, ascend and drop down to the bottom (25-30 min).
From bottom, the trail gently descends along the right side of the river through small valley. About 20-25 minutes later, we cross one side stream, sometime it is jumpable. Here are some good grounds and shepherd's ruined shelter with clean water. After this stream, continually, we descend down and follow the river. The path is very good and start green hill slope. Around here, we can see lots of flowers and nice view of snowy peaks. 35-40 minutes later, we arrive in another ground where a side river joins with main river. The scenery is no more dramatic as we follow the stream down a widening gorge. After another 30-40 minutes later from second ground, we arrive in upper Chhumik Nakpo (4565m / 10 km / 5-6 hrs), here is a new small local hotel and camping ground with clean water. The camping spot is not green but very green hill slope around. Lower Chhumik Nakpo is about 50-60 minutes further from here but there is no water.
Note: Now there is rough road from the top and we follow it all the way to camp. It is higher from the river and very easy.
Day 21: Trek to Zanskar Sumdo (3940m / 11 km / 4-5 hrs)
Beyond Chhumik Nakpo, we crass small stream (jumpable), few minutes later we arrive in another small ground (20-25 min). Some trekkers use this ground as camp. This is good place for small group. This is more wider and growing lots of grass around. Leaving this ground, the trail heads down along the right bank of the river. Now, the valley become greener and can see lots of alpine flowers. We meet new constructing road from lower Chhumik Nakpo but most of the time we use old trail. After 30 minutes, there is a small side stream and another 30-40 minutes later, we cross side stream (most of the time jumpable / only in the morning). We pass several small good grounds but there is not clean water. There are several small ups and downs.
About 1 hr 30-40 min later from camp, we arrive in Ramjak (4372m). Here is good place for camping but the new constructing road is very close. It is in narrow place, here are growing lots of grass and many ruined shepherds huts. After 10-15 minutes, we cross a side stream (jump). There are several ups and downs and new rough road. Snow peaks peer out of gaps in the mountain range on the opposite side of the river. The river is called Zanskar Nala. 30-40 min later, there is a beautiful green ground. From this ground, we walk along the road for 25-30 minutes and leave the river. We continue towards right side hill slope, there are several bulldozers and the road is making wider.
From the last ridge, we steeply descend down to the Bassi river bank (Avoid the road / zigzagging path/ 30min). We cross Bassi river by new Iron bride and arrive in Zaskar Sumdo (3940m / 11 km / 4 hrs) from Chhumik Nakpo camp). Here is a very nice green ground for camp and a small local tea shop. Here are also some tents of road workers. It is great view of several snowy peaks. The Zanskar Nala meets the Bassi river just below Zanskar Sumdo. This place is connected by rough jeep able road. But small vehicle can't bring here because there is a big river before Sumdo and no bridge.
Day 22: Drive to Manali (2000m / 152 km / 7 hrs)
Leaving Zanskar Sumdo the road is little rough to Palamo and then good black topped. We follow very nice small valley and pass some beautiful villages. The road joins with Leh- Manali highway just before Darcha. In Darcha there is a police check post where we should entry tourists pass port details. From Darcha, we drive along the very good road, follow Bhaga River and pass some nice villages and small towns. It is wonderful drive and sceneries are very nice. After Zispa, the road is much higher from the river. The vegetation become more greenery and bigger
About 36 km drive, we arrive in Kelong which is a small town and district headquarters of Lahul and Spiti. After 8 km drive, reach in Tandi where we join with Chandra River (Lahul valley). After Tandi, we follow Chandra River along the Lahul valley and arrive in Koksar. The sceneries are really beautiful and it is very nice drive through many nice villages. We can see several snowy peaks, glaciers and waterfall on the way. We cross the Chandra River just before Koksar (37 km from Tandi). There is also a police check post where we should show our passport. This is the last check post of Leh-Manali road. Here are many local hotels to eat.
From here, we drive up to Rothang pass (3990m / 20 km), this is very popular place for Indian tourist. Lots of Indian tourists come here to play with snow. From here, we drive all the way down to Manali (52 km). It is very nice drive. Beyond Marhi, it starts very green forest. Manali is beautiful city here are lots of high standards hotels, restaurants, shops etc. This is touristic place.
Day 23: Explore around Manali
This morning, we visit Hadimba temple which is situated in middle of Pine forest on the top of Manali town, main local goddess of Kullu valley. We rest at hotel till lunch time and then visit Manu temple, situated on top of the old Manali. In late afternoon we visit Manali market area for shopping.
Day 24: Drive via the Kullu Valley to Chandigarh, Evening train to Delhi
It is full day of spectacular and scenic driving to reach Chandigarh where the Himalaya meets the Indian plain. Here we board the evening Shatabdi Express train to Delhi. Arriving in Delhi shortly before 10.00 pm, we transfer to a hotel close to the airport.
Day 25: Transfers to Delhi Airport
We will transfer you at the international airport for your international flight.