Zanskar is profoundly remote - in the winter for months it can be snowed out of the normal access routes, and the only way to get to it, and around it, is over the treacherous but beautiful frozen river. Zanskar is known for its spectacular gorges, which in the summer enable brilliant rafting. It is a wonderfully complete, actually insular until recently, mountain culture, combining Tibetan influences with those from the rest of Kashmir, and highland Pakistan. The landscape here is like a Tibet in intense miniature, with bluer skies and lakes, starker cliffs, sharper-edged mountains, and lusher oases. The prayer flags keep fluttering, and the mani walls, chhorten, monasteries and prayer wheels add a sense of calm and composure to even the most jaded traveller. The Indus river has delineated the landscape for centuries, and continues to slowly do so. The monasteries are some of the best preserved, with their statuary, murals, engravings and wood carvings having suffered from little more than time, in stark contrast to those in neighboruing Tibet. The occasional herders with their yak, or field on a cliffside seem of a piece with the land. This trek offers real isolation and a great opportunity to get a taste of high mountain spaces.
Day 1: Arrival at New Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport and transfer to domestic to fly out to Leh (3,500 m). Take it easy, getting acclimatised, look around this fascinating town with its echoes of Lhasa.
Day 2: Today take a look around this historic old trading town that is replete with excellently preserved old-style buildings and monasteries, an old mosque, as well as the first real polo ground in the world. There's a brilliant palace here, as also a stunning Old Town, and fantastic views. Drive on up to Padum, to being your trek in Zanskar.
Day 3: The trek begins as you make your way to first the Karsha monastery, a 12th century monastery that is set among wonderful fields and houses and boasts well-preserved murals and engravings. Proceed to the camp at Zangla (3,370 m).
Day 4: It's a short but rather challenging walk up to the Base Camp of the Charcha La (pass). The rest of the day is good for basking in the sun under the wonderful sky with the craggy, icy mountains looking down on you, or exploring the side valleys.
Day 5: It's a scramble at times to make your way up to the pass over rocky and scree-laden slopes, but once on Charcha La (4,950 m), the panoramic view of the massive mountains dotting the shimmering air makes the hard work worth every minute.
Day 6: Today is a day of descents and many fords of the river along which you walk to reach the caves at Tilat Sumdo (3,750 m).
Day 7: To cross into the area favoured by nomads, Rupshu, make the tough walk up to the Base Camp (4,350 m) of the next high pass you will cross.
Day 8: At the top of the Rubrang La the views are again out of this world, all contrast between colours and light and dark. It's a long descent down to Markha (3,850 m) through the Changlang gorge, where you might catch sight of an wild ass, blue sheep, or the ubiquituous little marmot.
Day 9: It's not short, but it is a pleasant and none-too-hard walk over to Thinlespa (3,700 m), a classic Ladakhi village. As always on such treks, the contrasts are stunning, as light and shadow, blue and green, granite and ochre, silver and black all constantly play with each other.
Day 10: A rest day allows you to explore Thinlespa and its surroundings. There are lovely willow and birch trees, as well as a spring with curative waters in the vicinity. It's soothing to just walk around this typical village and observe the rhythm of daily life playing out in the fields, monastery, courtyards and in the narrow alleyways.
Day 11: Today has a pleasant walk along the river and through wooded valleys, past fields and flowers, and traditional houses until you arrive at Shingo (4,150 m).
Day 12: The view today is the best of Ladakh and Zanskar. When you ascend the last pass, Ganda La (4,920 m), you see the interplay of the major mountain ranges of the region, the Ladakh, the Zanskar, and the Stok. Descend to the traditional village of Yurutse (4,140 m)
Day 13: This is a day of ups and downs -first down till Rumbak, the up to a 4,100 m pass, Namlung La.
Day 14: On your last day trekking cross the 4,750 m Namlung La and then make the relieving descent down to Stok, an old monastery village near Leh. From here you're driven down to Leh to unwind and spend the night.
Day 15: Fly out early to Delhi, where you'll spend some time sightseeing before transfering to the international airport for your flight out.
Cost on your request
1. Accommodation in Leh in B category hotel on full board basis (breakfast, lunch, dinner)
2. Arrival and Departure transfer by non-a/c jeep/ car in Leh
3. Full board during the trek section of the tour
4. English-speaking Ladakhi mountain guide for trekking
5. Cook, ponies (where needed), and porters
6. Complete kitchen gear and all supplies including gasoline
7. All tents for camping
8. Accommodation in Delhi in budget hotel with AC rooms
Cost does not include:
1. Lunch and dinner in Delhi ($ 5-10 per day per person)
2. Rescue in case of emergency
3. Medical and personal insurance
4. Tips, laundry, all drinks, telephone calls if any
5. Sleeping bags/ ropes/ crampon/ ice-axe/ other gear
6. Inner-line permit fee (US$12 per person)
7. Delhi-Leh-Delhi airfare (Current fare is US$164 one way)