Ladakh, Zanskar and Kashmir
Ladakh, the Land of High Passes, lies to the north of the Great Himalaya Range and like Mustang and Dolpo in Nepal, it is a region where traditional Tibetan culture remains largely untouched. Two millennia of trade and intermingling with the peoples of the main range and Tibet has created an amazingly culturally diverse region that is celebrated as an example of multicultural tolerance and understanding.
Spend two or three days based in Ladakh’s capital, Leh, to give your body time to acclimatise. It’s best if you do some exploring around town and further afield, and make sure you walk as much as possible. Fortunately, there are heaps of things to see including climbing to Tsemo Gompa & Leh Palace (best views early morning), which dominate the skyline above Leh. Also make time to visit the Shanti Stupa (best views in late afternoon) and near to the airport is Spituk Gompa. Easily included in a two day program are Gompas at Thikse, Phyang, Stok, Hemis, and Alchi. If you have a few more days then consider overnight trips to the stunningly beautiful high altitude lakes of Tso Moriri and/or Pangong Tso. For those wanting to experience the deeper spiritual side of Ladakh visit the Sabu-Lamu oracle in Sabu village for her weekly seance at 9am each Sunday.
An already extensive road network is expanding at a rapid pace across all of Jammu and Kashmir and the effects will profoundly affect some of Ladakh’s best trekking routes. For now, the Hemis National Park is unaffected but a road is slated within the next three years. The linking trek from Lamayuru is partially affected by road but only on 1 day of the route.
Temperatures can get very warm to hot by late morning (after 11am), so your route is best completed by early afternoon. This will give you enough time to wash off dust and sweat and avoid the hot afternoon wind that blows through most valleys.
Homestays are available in virtually every village in central Ladakh and especially along the Lamayuru – Markha Valley – Hemis route. However, those outside the Hemis National Park are unlikely to have received any hygiene, cooking or general training so expect standards to vary enormously. In 2011, a fixed price of Rs350 per person is rarely negotiable and homestay rota system is popular and adhered to almost everywhere. Some homestays are large enough to offer “Paying Guest” rooms with en suite facilities. These are often much more expensive, but more private and sometimes more comfortable.
The Jammu and Kashmir State Government (http://www.jktourism.org/) has an attractive website but little usefull information about Ladakh – this is a good example of the complaints many Ladakhis have that they are treated as second class citizens by the majority-Muslim government. Virtually all other online information sources about Ladakh are run by commercial interests.
Buses to Lamayuru (5 hours) leave early and mid-morning from Leh. A twice weekly (Sunday and Thursday) bus service between Leh and Chilling takes about 3 hours. From Shang Sumdo, Hemis is a 30 minute drive, or 12km walk. Alternatively, Leh is a 1 hour 15 minute drive away but there is no regular bus service so you should pre-book any transport, or walk from Shang Sumdo to Martselang (10km) and then catch a bus to Leh.
Bivi by Tsho Moriri in Ladakh
Treks in Ladakh, Zanskar and Kashmir
- Lamayuru to Chiling
- Markha Valley to Hemis
- Ghas Gali (Boktol La)
- Kolahoi Base Camp
The stunning Rangdom Valley in Zanskar
- To help make you research treks I have put extensive trail information on these pages but please remember that conditions and trails often change.
- If you would like to add content and/or recommendations please email me thru the site and please add any independent references.
- Place names in India can be confusing as some are used as regional or district identifiers and other places may have two or three different names. I have used local names as much as possible but please don’t be surprised if you hear alternatives.
- Always consider the safety of your crew equally to that of yourself, protect and look after them and they’ll do the same for you.
- Weather constantly changes conditions in the field. If the trail is badly affected by landslides, deep snow, washouts, etc you may have to turn back.
- It is illegal to possess a satellite phone in India. This makes communication extremely difficult and you may want to reduce the level of difficulty of a trek to reduce your overall risk exposure.
- Herder’s Huts or Dharamsalas are made of stone and have a roof. Herder’s Shelters do not have a roof and normally only one wall, which acts as a windbreak.
Good to Know
For most areas there are no permits required, however, anywhere near the Chinese or Pakistan borders require Inner Line Permits
Hindi, some people speak a little English or Tibetan (Ladakh and Zanskar)
India Rupee (1US$ = IRs70)
Nun Kun (7,135m), Stok Kangri (6,154m),
GHT India Trekking Destinations
There are some excellent main trail treks as well as some amazing exploratory routes to discover!