Zanskar or Zangskar (Ladakhi: zangs dkar་) is a subdistrict or tehsil of the Kargil district, which lies in the eastern half of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. The administrative centre is Padum. Zanskar, together with the neighbouring region of Ladakh, was briefly a part of the kingdom of Guge in Western Tibet.
Much of Zanskar's vegetation is found in the irrigated villages, and on the upper slopes which receive more precipitation and where it consists of alpine and tundra species. Most impressive are the meadows covered with thousands of edelweiss. At the foot of the Gumburanjon mountain blue poppies can be found. Crops including barley, lentils, and potatoes are grown by farmers at the lower elevations. Domesticated animals such as the yak, dzo, sheep, horse, and dog are found in the region.
Among the wildlife that can be found in Zanskar are the marmot, bear, wolf, snow leopard, bharal, alpine ibex, wild sheep and goats, and the lammergeier
Zanskar is a high altitude semi-desert lying on the Northern flank of the Great Himalayan Range. This mountain range acts as a climatic barrier protecting Ladakh and Zanskar from most of the monsoon, resulting in a pleasantly warm and dry climate in the summer. Rain and snowfall during this period are scarce, although recent decades have shown a trend towards increasing precipitation. Several water-driven mills were built during ancient periods of drought at a great distance from the villages, but have been abandoned because running water is now available nearer to the settlements. Zanskari houses, though otherwise well built, are not adapted to the recently increasing rainfall, as their roofs leak, catching their surprised inhabitants unprepared. Most of the precipitation occurs as snowfall during the harsh and extremely long winter period. These winter snowfalls are of vital importance, since they feed the glaciers which melt in the summer and provide most of the irrigation water. Parts of Zanskar valley are considered some of the coldest continually inhabited places in the world.
Visitors must try out the local dishes which almost define the cuisine here such as Thukpa, noodle soup, Tsampa and Skyu which is a heavy pasta dish with plenty of veggies as well as the very popular and delicious Momos which are steamed dumplings stuffed with vegetables or meat.
The options for food are basic. Local preparations such as Thukpa, Momos, Skyu and Ladakhi Chai should be available as well as a popular bowl of maggi. Ladakhi Chai. Hotels and guesthouses provide popular items off Indian, Continental and European menus.
Summer days are pleasant at the Zanskar Valley, however nights can turn a bit chilly. April to August are considered to be the good months however the weather can be a bit unreliable during early summers, so July to August would be an ideal time to visit. Winters are too cold to travel in Zanskar.
Suru and Zanskar Valleys are best seen on a trip to Leh. Reach Zanskar valley and head to the Zanskar river for river rafting. One may also take to a trekking trail. Alternatively or if you have time visit Zongkhul for its cave monasteries and Stongdey for the second largest monastery in the Zanskar region. Towards a late afternoon, head to the Suru Valley or you can keep it for next day.
While at Zanskar one can visit Zongkhul for the elaborate cave monasteries it houses and Stongdey for a few more monasteries. One can trek to both these places. Also, Suru Valley is not to be missed while here.
Rafting in the Zanskar river is a favorite here. A number of trekking trails, trekkers don't miss the amazing experience.
Zanskar glorifies the Himalayan region with the panoramic view of the Trans-Himalayan region. Zanskar is a traveler’s ultimate destination that boasts of nature’s surrealness and formidability, extracts the best out of a traveler, and leaves him/her with an enchanting memory of a lifetime.
But walking across the unforgiving passes and traversing the difficult alleys at 7756 meters above sea level doesn’t come easy. One has to be physically and mentally sound to scale the passes and valleys of the region.
Padum to Pidmo: This circuit runs along the Zanskar river and through some of the plain areas. Ample homestay options can be found on this route.
Lugnak trail: It runs along the eastern banks of the Tsarap river. In comparison to the previous one, Lugnak trail runs along the rocky gorges and age-old routes between Zanskar and Lahaul valley in Himachal.
Zanskar to Sham: It is another 4-5 day trek that is moderate in nature. On this route, stays are available at Karsha, Zangla, Pidmo, and Pishu.
Padum to Darcha: One of the most daunting treks in the valley, it runs through the heart of Zanskar Valley to finally reach Lahaul Valley in Himachal. Time taken to complete this trek is mostly 9-10 days.
Zanskar Chadar trek: Another favorite of nomads who endure the freezing conditions of Ladakh and walk the frozen Zanskar river. The good news is that the Zanskar Chadar trek has already been covered for you.
Air: Leh domestic airport is the nearest airport from Zanskar. From the airport, taxis are available ,that charge Rs 1000 to commute to Zanskar Valley. One can also get to Zanskar from Srinagar. From the airport one can go for shared taxis or buses to get to Zanskar Valley.
Rail: The nearest railway station from Zanskar is Jammu. One can travel to the valley via shared buses from Jammu.
Road: There is a regular bus service from Jammu & Kashmir State Road Transport Corporation from Leh and Kargil for Padum with stops at various points in Suru and Zanskar Valley. The other option is by hiring a taxi or a motorcycle from Leh or Kargil for Zanskar Valley.