Trek in Zanskar


A fabulous itinerary that avoids the new road

Zanskar is where the word "trekking" carries all its meaning. Long hiking days, loneliness, amazing landscapes, and also unforgetable encounters with the local community, exceptional fauna and flora, and everything else that is expected while trekking the Himalayas : Glaciers, high peaks, raging rivers, canyons and so on.

You will cross 8 passes during the trek and will have to cross many wild rivers in the bottom of the valleys. You will surely meet herds of yaks, these mythical animals who share their lives with the locals.

Your guide will help you identifying the flora and surely observe some wild mammals like the Ibex, the Blue Sheep, the Tibetan Wild Ass, and perhaps some endangered species like the Snow Leopard.

Zanskar trek features

Duration of your trek  

Day-min : The minimum number of days required for the trek (from Leh to Leh)
Day-max : The maximum number of days you can spend on this trek. Prolonged itinerary can be discussed with our team.
AWTD : Average walking time per day (<3 : easy, 3 to 5 : moderate, >5 : strenuous)

Altitudes of your trek  

Min : Minimum altitude of your trek.
Max : Maximum altitude of your trek.
Ascent : The total ascending difference of altitude on the trek.
Descent : The total descending difference of altitude on the trek.

Difficulty of your trek  

Stamina : The physical effort involved during your trek. Rated from 0 (easiest) to 100 (most strenuous). If you have an average fitness you can consider all the treks up to 50. See here for more details
Technical : Difficulty of your trek in terms of exposure to danger and required experience.
  0 to 20 : No difficulties,
  20 to 40 : Walking on good mountain trails,
  40 to 60 : Some walking on difficult mountain trails (steep slopes, rocks, etc.),
  60 to 80: You are exposed to some dangers (void, snow, falling rocks, etc.),
  80 to 100 : Experience required (please inquire).
Overall : Average between Stamina and Technical rating.


5 hours


3400 m
5110 m
7200 m
7600 m



Zanskar trek map

map of the zanskar trek

Trek itinerary in short

The trek starts from an unusual village : Kanji. This is to avoid the more classic start of the Zanskar trek which suffers now from new road constructions. This involve to go through a quite challenging pass, the Nyugutse La. Then, we reach again the classic itinerary, visiting some of the most beautiful villages of Ladakh : Photoksar, Lingshed and Hanumil. Please note that a road connects now the Spangtang campsite to Lingshed.

Zanskar trek, best time to go

Best time to trek in Zanskar is from May to September.
You can also consider January and February for the famous Chadar trek on the frozen Zanskar river or for observation of the Snow Leopard.
  • Jan

  • Feb

  • Mar

  • Apr

  • May

  • Jun

  • Jul

  • Aug

  • Sep

  • Oct

  • Nov

  • Dec

Our Zanskar trek itinerary

Features Description
  No walk

  under tents or in a homestay

Our taxi takes you in the morning from your hotel or guesthouse. We drive towards Lamayuru.
On the way we can visit the monasteries of Likir and Alchi.
After crossing Lamayuru we turn left into the Kong valley where lies Kanji.
We reach our today destination after crossing an impressive gorge.
Night under tent or in a homestay.

Features Description
  4 to 5 hours

  +880m / -600m

  under tents

The trek starts !
We will follow the river flowing from the Yokma La. The Zanskar atmosphere moves you from the beginning.
Be happy, for this first day of trek you will cross the first pass. Yokma La (4700 m) offers a great view of the Zanskar range.
After the pass we have a steep descent to the meadows of Shilakong where we have our second night (camping).

Features Description
  6 hours

  +900m / -450m

  under tents

A quite strenuous day today !
The Nyugutse La (5000m) is not known from most of the trekkers because it is not an usual route.
The way to the pass is a direct climb through the full gradient of the slope which is quite steep on the last stretch.
After the pass we have a soft descent going through amazing mountain formations rich in red color.
Arrival and camp at Spangtang Chen.

Features Description
  4 to 5 hours

  +400m / -650m

  in a homestay

The day starts with a short descent to the river Yapo La where we meet the new road (that looks more like a passable track) coming from Wangla.
Then we have again a relatively steep climb towards the Sirsir La at 4800 m.
After the pass, we have a comfortable descent to the awesome village of Photoksar.
Enjoy the village life in this unique environment. The sunsets at Photoksar are just stunning.
Night under in a homestay.

Features Description
  4 to 5 hours

  +450m / -130m

  under tents

We start with the small pass Boumitse La (4400m) that we reach in 90 minutes.
The crossing of the pass is followed by a gentle descent which leads us to the river coming from the Singge La pass.
We follow the river up to the base camp at about 4570m. Camp.

Features Description
  6 hours

  +850m / -1050m

  under tents

We continue climbing to the Singge La (4973m), the pass of the Lion, on a gentle slope. The pass offers us again a memorable time with its amazing view of the surrounding peaks.
The flowery grasses add even more colors to the colorful stratum of the Zanskar.
Then we go down to the village Skyumpata (also called Gongma).
Night under tent.

Features Description
  6 hours

  +810m / -930m

  in a homestay

We start the day with a climb to Margum La (4420 m).
Then we go down to the village of Lingshed and its monastery(gompa).
After the visit of the monastery, we meet our hosts at the homestay. Enjoy again the warmth of the villagers who live in such harsh mountain conditions.
Night at the homestay.

Features Description
  4 hours

  +560m / -340m

  under tents

Today, no more roads, we need to reach the campsite (4017 m) located just below the Hanuma La that we will cross on the next day.
We leave the Lingshed village in the morning.
It starts with a short climb followed by the crossing of a small valley.
Descent to the camp.
Night under tent.

Features Description
  5-6 hours

  +840m / -1180m

  under tents

A longer day today, so we start early.
There is a steady climb to reach Hanuma La (4750 m). Stunning view from the pass.
We descent via a valley that becomes a gorge until we reach the hamlet of Snertse.
Night under tent.

Features Description
  5 hours

  +730m / -845m

  under tents

Shortly after Snertse, there is an amazing view of the Parfi pass and the entire valley of the Oma Chu that flows into the Zanskar river.
Going down to the river and crossing it on a locally made bridge.
We have a steep climb to the pass. Be alert, you have good chances to spot wildlife on this stretch.
We descent to the village Hanumil where we spend the night.
Night under tent.

Features Description
  5 hours

  +540m / -480m

  in a guesthouse

On the last day of the trek we will follow the Zanskar river up to Padum.
On the way you will enjoy many awesome rock formations and you will see the life of the locals when crossing their tiny villages.
Their traditional agriculture is the same since centuries.
We stop walking at the village Pidmo from where we will continue to Padum in a taxi.
Night in a guesthouse.

Zanskar trek photos

Spangtang Chen, Zanskar

Spangtang Chen

The valley next to the Nyugutse La.

Sirsir La, Zanskar

Towards Sirsir La

Via the beautiful valley of the Yapo La.

Singe La, Zanskar

Singe La

The Singe La seen from Sirsir La with Photoksar in between.

Photoksar Gompa, Zanskar

Photoksar Gompa

Himalayan Ecotourism helps in the restoration of the Gompa.

Homestay in Zanskar

Homestay in Zanskar

Enjoy the incredible warmth of the Ladakhi, Himalayan people.

Photoksar village, Zanskar


At 4200 m height and located in an unbelievable mountain environment.

Irrigated fields, Zanskar

Irrigated fields

The people of Zanskar can only grow wheat, barley and a few vegetables.

Stargazing in Zanskar

Stargazing in Zanskar

Are you astronomy enthusiasts ? Let's know, we will plan the trip accordingly.

Child, Zanskar

Children of Zanskar

At Himalayan Ecotourism we are reinventing the village life in Zanskar for a sustainable future.

Other treks in Ladakh

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One of the most beautiful valley of Ladakh. Several options at a moderate difficulty.

Max alt
5330 m
Read More
Changthang trek

Trek the Changthang

Meet the Drukpa nomads in the little Tibet

Max alt
5000 m
Read More



Photoksar location

Photoksar, at 4,200m, is one of Ladakh's highest settlements. It is located in the Wanla district of Sham, lower Ladakh, and is on the traditional summer road that connects the main Indus valley with the trans-Sengge La group of settlements through Lamayuru.

Villagers on the opposite side of the Sengge La pass, and monks at Lingshed, the tiny Gelukpa monastery in the vicinity, still travel via Photoksar on their journey to Leh. A passable track goes now to Photoksar and Lingshed from Wangla.

The homes are distributed around an area of reasonably level terrain split into farms irrigated by water channelled from the river, like in other Ladakhi settlements. This is sustained by snow sheets and melting glaciers.

The bulk of the cottages are crowded on the brink of a steep ravine above the main river, wherein the women must carry their household's water up perilous slopes in the winter. There is a distinct collection of houses at Machu, 45 minutes walk down the valley, although these are recognised as part of the hamlet for all intents and purposes.

Livelihood of the villagers in Photoksar

Barley is the sole crop that thrives at this elevation. Peas are used as winter fodder for cattle and are dried and processed into coarse flour, which is combined with barley flour to make paba, the locals' heavy but healthy main diet. In the winter, this is typically served with preserved radishes and turnips or dried lettuce, whereas in the summer, it is served with yoghurt or fresh vegetables. This diet is complemented with stews cooked from wheat flour brought from Wanla at the end of the route, as well as meat from their sheep, goats, and yaks.

Photoksar is fortunate to have access to extensive tracts of fine pasture high in the mountains, where yaks are managed during the summer by herdsmen living in small stone huts who come to the town with butter and cheese on a regular basis. These yaks, coupled with the village's flocks of sheep and goats, offer butter and milk, as well as wool and meat, which is made into jackets, blankets, mats, ropes, and saddle bags.

The nutrition is quite poor, and the locals recall severe food crises in the past due to late snows or strong rains that ruined their crops. Food handouts distributed by the Indian government have significantly increased food security. A third of the barley harvest may now be saved for the production of chang, the native barley beer that is enjoyed in great amounts on all social occasions.

Most households still rely on their land and cattle for sustenance and paid labour options are limited. Some young men join the army and may send money home. There still is one carpenter in the hamlet, and some of the young folks are finishing school and looking for positions in Leh as teachers, medical assistants, or in business endeavours. Otherwise, the major source of revenue is the selling of livestock. Villagers come to Wanla on a regular basis to receive their rations of wheat, rice, and kerosene, or to Leh to purchase household items.

Social life in Photoksar

Social activities are a common part of everyday life, when the temperatures drop in the winter -30C or lower and remain below freezing all day. When the sky is clear, the sun still gives warmth, and residents can congregate on their rooftops to celebrate marriages, births, the new year, or one of the numerous religious festivals that occur throughout the year.

Their social connections, on the other hand, are concentrated in neighbouring villages in the Wanla region, both along the road and across the Sengge La, where nuptials are performed and familial relationships give an excuse for social trips. The hamlet comprises little over 200 people, organized into twenty-two major families, khangba, and a lot of small khangu.

In around half of the households, all generations reside in the khangba, while in others, the elder generation or two has moved into a smaller, dependent home, the khangu, with younger kids, leaving the eldest son, his wife, and children in the khangba. This practice is widespread in Ladakh and differentiates it from the rest of the Tibetan plateau (Phylactou 1989; Dollfus 1989).

Recognition of Himalayan Ecotourism

Himalayan Ecotourism Awards

Our awards

Himalayan Ecotourism is the winner of the To Do award 2022 in the field of "Socially Responsible Tourism".
We are also the Overall Winner of the Indian Responsible Tourism Award 2019 and the Gold winner in the Best Adventure Operator category.
We have been declared winner of the Sustainable Tourism Award 2019 by Skal International and Biosphere.
Our cooperative-based model of social enterprise and our efforts to conserve the Himalayas are the main reasons for winning these awards.
Thank you to all our cooperative members, our customers, our friends and well-wishers !