Zanskar is undoutedly the best part of Ladakh - raw and unspoilt, till the Darcha - Padum road is done, maybe another year. Make it before they break it!

Overview
The Zanskar Valley photo tour is one of the most scenic tours in India but one of the less visited. The Suru Valley and Zanskar Valley is not as popular due to bad roads and poor infrastructure but one of the best tours in terms of photographic opportunities. If you are interested in shooting Landscapes (Mountains, Rivers, Milky Way), Beautiful Villages, and their People, Ladakhi festivals, this tour is for you. This is less popular compared to our Ladakh tour but no less in terms of beauty and photographic opportunities. And you will not find many tourists around.

Why Join Us? The tours are lead by Saurabh Chatterjee, who has been visiting these regions for almost a decade. He will take you to the right places at the right time and make sure that you come back with some great pictures. He will help you with the settings required for different kinds of pictures. We also do feedback/review sessions whenever possible, during the tour.You will be in the company of many experienced photographers and have fun.

Day 1 Arrive in Srinagar
We arrive in Srinagar by afternoon, take rest. If anyone wants to venture out, you can go to Jami Masjid and the markets around. It is a great place for photography. This is not a part of the tour though and can be done based on the current situation.

Day 2 Srinagar to Kargil 202 kms
We wake up by 4 am get ready and go to the morning floating vegetable market in the Dal Lake. It takes about 45 mins to go to the market place. It has great photographic opportunities. Its great to see how the villagers interact while buying vegetables from each other.
We come back, have our breakfast, and leave for Kargil. We cross Sonmarg meadows and stop at Drass for lunch. We also get a birds-eye view of the Amarnath Yatra camps which looks very interesting. Later, we also visit the Kargil War Memorial at Drass.
We reach Kargil by afternoon, take rest and great ready for the eventful evening. We walk down to the Kargil market. It’s a great place for street photography. The people are very friendly and it is easy to take portraits. These people have very distinct features and make some great pictures.
We come back to our hotel and go to our terrace to do long exposures. Its a great opportunity to get familiarised with settings and the equipment like tripod and the intervalometer that we are going to use during the trip.

Day 3 Kargil to Drang-Drung Glacier Campsite 150 km
This is one of the most scenic drives you will ever see. We pass by the beautiful Suru Valley. We shoot the people at Sankoo market.
After some time, we get to see the mighty Nun - Kun peaks and the Parkachik glacier. After having lunch at Panikhar, we hurry to reach Rangdum monastery. After a quick visit, we hit the roads again and cross the Penzi la pass (4400m), the highest pass on this route.
It's amazing how along with the landscapes, the culture also changes. The Buddhist population starts here, beyond the Pensi La.
We see the mighty Drang-Drung Glacier and then retire at our tents in this remote location. It is very cold here.
This is one of the best places to shoot the stars. Absolutely no light pollution, not a single light within kilometers!

Day 4 Drang-Drung Glacier to Padum 50kms
Today is a relatively easy day. We get ready and pass by the plains leading to Padum. We stop at Sani Gompa, one of the oldest in the region. We reach Padum have our lunch and go to the market in the evening. It is a nice stroll and a good opportunity to meet people and photograph them.

Day 5 Karsha; Bardhan Monastery, Zangla old Palace and fort, Zangla nunnery, Stongde Monastery
Today, we cover all the main monasteries of the region. We also cover any festival that is going to happen on this date.

Day 6 Padum to Rangdum to Kargil (230kms)
We start our journey back to Kargil. It is a long drive with bad roads. We reach Kargil by evening and relax.

Day 7 Darchik village
We visit the Darchik village which is inhabited by the Brokpa community people. We take some interesting portraits with them well dressed in their traditional attire.
They consider themselves the original Aryans. There are rumors that many Westerners some here to get pregnant from these people.

Day 8 Kargil to Leh via Lamayuru 217kms
This is a beautiful drive with amazing landscapes. Our first stop is the Mulbekh monastery with the gigantic statue of Chamba which is carved out of a single rock. We visit the small monastery and then proceed to Lamayuru. This is one of the most spectacular monasteries in the region. After lunch, we continue our journey to Leh

Day 9 Fly Out from Leh
Early in the morning, we fly out of Leh to our respective destinations.

Day 1 - This was the day when we all met at Srinagar at our house boat. Spent the evening relaxing and a boat ride in the Dal Lake.

Day 2- Srinagar to Kargil via Sonmarg

01Dawn at Dal Lake

We passed through beautiful landscapes and flowing streams.

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Sonmarg - the meadow of Gold

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After crossing Sonmarg, we could see the campsite of the Amarnath Yatra.

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The adventure had just begun as we approached the ZoZila pass

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We crossed many glaciers that melted on the roads.

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It was spectacular to see this herd of sheep walking across the glacier.

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We reach the Zojila Pass with an altitude of 11649ft.

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This glacier formed like a bridge across the river.

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We reached the Kargil War Memorial at Drass.

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The Group shot at Kargil.

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Fortunately, we got some great roads.

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We saw some mosques at some great locations.

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Evening we spent walking around in the Kargil market.

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Day 3 - Kargil to Rangdum - Trespone village Imambara, Suru Valley, Khartse Khar Village Maitreya, Shrine of Muslim scholar and saint Syed Mir Hashim - Karpokhar village, Parkachik Glacier, Shafat (Tea break) o/n Rangdum Nun Kun Camps
The Imambara at Trespone Village

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Trespone village houses.

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The meandering Suru valley

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Tallest rock cut statue of the Maitreya Buddha in Karste Khar at Sankoo

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People at Sankoo market.

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Shrine of Muslim scholar and saint Syed Mir Hashim at Karpokhar village

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JOIN ME FOR A PHOTO TOUR TO ZANSKAR

Kids at Karpokhar village

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Then comes the Parkachik Glacier covering the Nun - Kun peaks.

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The Nun Kun Peaks

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Some adventurous roads...

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Rangdum Nun Kun Camps - our place of stay for the night.

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Day 4 - Rangdum Monastery, Penzi La, Stat Tso and Lang Tso lakes, Drang Drung Glacier, Villages near Padum, Sana Village Monastery

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Some marmots on the way. These look a bit different in colour compared to the ones on the way to Pangong Tso.

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Rangdum village

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Some more interesting roads.

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The Drang-Drung Glacier is near the Pensi La the second largest glacier in Ladakh after Siachen with a length of 23kms. It looks like a super highway.

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We took a break at this spectacular location.

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On the way to Padum...

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It was overcast and we were a bit disappointed. Gradually, the skies opened up and we could see blue skies and sunshine.
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We decided to have a sun bath after the freezing night at Rangdum.

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These places are not very frequented by tourists. People are very warm and welcoming.

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Sani Village and Gompa

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Mustard harvest at Sani Village

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Approaching Padum

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View from our hotel - there was someting strange going on.

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Day 5 - Bardhan Monastery, Zangla Old Palace and fort, Zangla nunnery, Stongde Monastery, evening walk around Padum
Bardhan Gompa

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The Old Zangla Fort. Zangla was the capital of Zanskar at one time. This place was absolutely magical.

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Zangla Nunnery near Padum.

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On the way to Stongde Monastery, we found some amazing textures.

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Before entering the Stongde Monastery, we could not stop taking pictures of the landscapes below.

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The colorful fields of Stongde village and the confluence of the Tsarap and Stod Rivers forming the Zanskar River.

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Stongdey Monastery or Stongde Gompa - Founded in 1052, this monastery belongs to the Gelugpa sect of Buddhism and is the second largest monastery in Zanskar

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Day 6 - Karsha Gustor Festival Festival, Gyalwarina Rock Statue at Kishrak Village
Karsha Monastery or Karsha Gompa,Padum is the largest monastery of Zanskar The Doda River flows past the monastery from its source at the Drang Drung glacier of the Pensi La (14,500 feet (4,400 m)). This monastery is under the Gelugpa Order or the Yellow Hat Order.
We were there on the day of the festival.

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It was extremely hot and we left.
In the evening, we went to Gyalwarina Buddha Kishrak (Kisrak village), Padum

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Day 7 Padum to Kargil

Day 8 Kargil to Srinagar

Thus ends our trip to Zanskar.


This post is written by Saurabh Chatterjee. He is a travel photographer and a photography trainer.He strives to make every camera-owner a great photographer through his Photography workshops and Photo Tours and Photowalks.
All rights reserved. No copying without permission of the author Saurabh Chatterjee

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