In the high elevation Ladakh region of India, during the winter months, heavy snow fall sealed off many roads and mountain passes. Villages nestled in the Zanskar Valley are snow-bound and inaccessible, the only way to the outside world is trekking through the surface of the frozen Zanskar River, the route is named Chadar trek. Chadar means “blanket” in local language, aptly describing the Zanskar River turns into a sheet of ice blanket in winter. This route rewards trekkers with amazing landscapes, including imposing gorge, unique ice formations, and romantic moon-lit and starry nights. The Chadar Trek is known as one of the world’s wildest and most adventurous trekking routes, it has been used for centuries for trade and transportation during the coldest months. It is a trekking journey like no other!
Late afternoon, board a flight to Indian capital city New Delhi, arrival at night, transfer to hotel nearby to the airport. Retire early to bed, in preparation for the next day dawn flight to Leh.
Board an early morning flight to Leh, once the imperial capital of Ladakh Kingdom. During the flight journey, admire spectacular view of snow-covered Himalayan ranges. Upon arrival, transfer to guesthouse. Rest and relax to acclimatize to high altitude, Leh is located at 3524m.
Local government rules that all trekkers must have at least 3 days of acclimatization in Leh prior to trekking. Enjoy a relaxing day sightseeing around Leh, sites of interest include Thiksey monastery, one of the world’s highest ice hockey ring, and ice stupa built for irrigation during the dry months in summer. Afternoon could take a stroll in city center to buy trekking supplies if needed.
Go for medical check-up at Leh hospital, and show proof of travel insurance, in order to get clearance for Chadar trek permission. Late afternoon, short hike to Shati Stupa or from Old Leh to Namgyal Tsemo, this could be a warm-up exercise in preparation for Chadar trek.
Take a scenic drive to Shingra Gongma, enjoy a roller-coaster ride through numerous hairpin turns surrounded by towering snow mountains. En-route visit Chilling, admire view of the confluence of Indus River and Zanskar River, the earlier is fast flowing while the latter is frozen. The drive continues down to the river valley until the road ends. Overnight at Shingra Kongma campsite, the trail head of the Chadar trek. Dinner prepared on open fire.
After breakfast, start trekking on the ice river sandwiched by ravines. At times, the ice-river surface is smooth and slippery, at times dusted with snow, some part the ice is thick and solid, while some parts thin and fragile. Trekking on ice river could sometimes feel like half-walking and half-gliding, must follow the local guide’s instructions closely to ensure safety. En-route visit frozen waterfall, view the amazing sight of flowing water solidified in the cold and clinging to cliffs. Upon arrival at Tib Baoo, set up tents for overnight stay.
After breakfast, resume trekking in the deep gorges until reaching a juniper tree covered with prayer flags, locals pray here for good luck and safe journey. Nearby, there’s a giant frozen waterfall, an amazing ice sculpture shaped by nature. Not far above the waterfall, there’s a hanging wooden bridge, that’s the footpath in summer to Leh. Further up from the bridge is Nerak, a village isolated in winter as roads are sealed by snow, the ice-river becomes the only access way to the outside world. Camping at the foothill of the village by the river.
Today remain at the same campsite, and have a day-excursion to Nerak village, which lies some 500m above the riverbank. It takes an hour plus of vigorous hike to reach the village, tucked deep in the lap of Himalaya ranges. Admire the beauty of nature surrounding the village and learn about Zanskaris lifestyle. Late afternoon, trek downhill back to the campsite for overnight stay.
Retrace your footstep and head back in the direction of Leh. But the route may not appear the same as before, as the ice river transforms constantly as weather changes, you may be walking through similar yet very different landscape. Along the way, you might bump into Zanskar villagers or monks heading to nearby towns. Upon arrival in Tib Baoo, set up tents for overnight stay, cook meal on open fire.
Continue trekking on the ice-river surrounded by towering mountain cliffs. At times, you may notice the footprints of wild animals on the snow-covered ground, such as that of snow fox, ibex, or even snow-leopard. Upon arrival at Shingra Gongma, end of the trek, transfer by car back to Leh.
Sightseeing in Leh, a town populated by people of different faiths; Buddhists, Muslims, and Hindus live harmoniously side by side. Visit Chokang Monastery and Leh Palace, the former mansion of Ladakh royal family, fashioned after the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. Visit also Tibetan refugee camp to learn how these stateless people adapted to foreign land for three generations.
Morning transfer to airport, take a domestic flight to Indian capital city New Delhi. Later connect to an evening international flight bound for Kuala Lumpur.
Early morning arrival in Kuala Lumpur, end of tour.
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