Overview of Zanskar Photography Tour
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.
These places are about to be hit by mass tourism, so visit these places before they become another Pangong Tso crowded by insensitive people. Zanskar is a part of Ladakh with no areas sharing the border with our neighbouring countries, hence no development. Hardly any Indian tourists. After travelling to these areas for more than a decade, this year (2021) was a shock. New roads have opened up with new photographic opportunities. The amount of development I saw this year is unprecedented. It's good in a way for the local people, but will also bring a lot of insensitive people as well and spoil it. You should visit these places before they become another Pangong.
If you are interested in Landscape Photography (Mountains, Rivers), Milky Way and Star Trails - Astrophotography, Beautiful Villages, and People Photography, 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 at least for a couple of years.
Why Join Us for the Photography Tour?
We will make your DREAM COME TRUE - your dream to witness the great play of light and shadows and the amazing night skies and MILKY WAY and to capture them. We will also take some great portraits of the locals.
We will be going the right places at the right time. I will suggest you the right settings for taking pictures and will personally assist you so that you go back with some great shots. We also do post-processing and feedback/review sessions whenever possible, during the tour.
Saurabh has been visiting these regions for almost a decade and has great knowledge about the place.
You will also be in the company of some great fellow travellers and will make friends for life.
A private 1:1 tour can be arranged on demand.
Itinerary and map of Zanskar Photography Tour 2021
Day 1 Arrive in Leh (3,524 metres / 11,562 ft), travel to Kargil (2,676 metres / 8,780 feet) (Distance 217 kms)
We arrive in Leh by the morning flight and leave for Kargil from the airport. We will cover the Lamayuru monastery and Mulbekh monastery on the way.
We reach Kargil by evening, relax and get familiarized with our gear to prepare for the eventful nights ahead.
We also try to do long exposures. It's a great opportunity to get familiarised with settings and the equipment like the tripod and the intervalometer that we are going to use during the trip.
Day 2 Kargil to Drang-Drung Glacier Campsite 150 km (3,657m /11,998 ft) (Distance 126 km)
This is a long and very eventful day.
We wake up early, have breakfast, and leave for Penzi La and Drang- Drung Glacier. This road is very scenic and untouched by commercialization.
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 drive past Rangdum monastery and cross the Penzi la pass (4400m / 14435ft), the highest pass on this route. We visit the Drung Drang Glacier on the way. It is the second-largest glacier in India after the Siachen Glacier.
This campsite is one of the best and presents you with one of the darkest skies.
Day 3 Drang-Drung Glacier to Padum 50kms (3,657 metres / 11,998 feet)
We get ready and pass by the plains leading to Padum. We stop at Sani Gompa, one of the oldest in the region. We also see the newly built statue of Padmasambhava.
We reach Padum, have our lunch and go to a nearby village in the evening. It is a nice stroll and a good opportunity to meet people and photograph them.
Day 4 Drive to Gonbo Rangjon via Bardhan, Kurgiak
Early morning drive towards Gonbo Rangjon. On the way visit Bardan monastery and Lungnak valley. We pass by Shilla, Reru, Changpa, Purne, Kargyak. Watching the Milky Way and doing Astrophotography at the majestic Gonbo Rangjon is an experience you will remember for your lifetime.
Our stay will be in camps.
Day 5 Phuktal / Phugtal Monastery Trek (3,669m / 12,037 ft), Back to Padum
Gonbo Rangjon to Padum via Phuktal Monastery. This is one of the most scenic and secluded monasteries you might have ever seen.
This trek is not for everybody. Only those who are physically fit and have good trekking shoes (no sneakers or sandals) for this. and will proceed to the Phuktal Monastery. The road is narrow at places.
Trek to Phuktal from Purne 2.5 hrs to go and 2hrs back to Purne.
We travel back to Padum and take a rest today.
Day 6 Padum to Lingshed o/n Lingshed (3800m / 12500ft)
We will travel to Lingshed and will stay there overnight in camps. Lingshed is a beautiful village with a 1000-year-old monastery. This village was accessible only by trek before. This is a new road that has opened up. Astrophotography at Lingshed
Our stay will be in camps.
Day 7 Lingshed to Leh
This is a beautiful drive with amazing landscapes. We cross the two passes Singe La (Height 16590 feet) and Sirsir la (height 15700 feet). This road is newly done and is challenging.
This was a very popular trek route from Lamayuru to Padum, but now there is a motorable road to these places.Aryan Village - Dha and Hanu. While returning, we will visit the village of Dha/Hanu for some portraits of the Aryan people.
We reach Leh by evening and relax.
You can go to the Leh market and do some shopping for your friends and family.
Day 8 Fly Out
Its time to say goodbye to all the participants who go back not just with some great pictures but an experience of a lifetime and some lifelong friends too.
This tour is for people who are okay to compromise with luxury to see something that not many have seen and be in places where not many have been. It is not for people who are looking for a relaxing and luxurious vacation. The roads are also bad, though getting better.
We are going to spend 3 nights in tents. If you are new to camping, this will be an experience. These are basic movable camps that will just accommodate you and your bags, not luxury camps that you see in Pangong with attach toilet and bath.
Toilet tents will be available for attending to nature's call. These tents are not permanent luxury tents like the ones you see in Pangong. These are basic movable and basic ones. There will be one toilet tent, which is basically an enclosure with a hole dug in the ground which is covered when we leave. We will have a toilet chair, so you can comfortably sit and finish your call. We try to do as little damage to the wilderness as possible. There is no facility for taking bath in camps.
We will have comfortable sleeping bags to survive in low temperatures. However, if you want to use yours, you can bring one for yourself.
There will not be any electricity, so having backup batteries is a must. However, we will be having AC charging facilities in our vehicle in each seat.
Our crew will prepare healthy food. Most places will not have any hotels/eateries. In those cases, we will have a packed lunch.
This year's (2021) pictures from Zanskar tour are HERE. You can see the camps as well here in some of the pictures.
Zanskar Photography Tour Review from Recent Participants
Zanskar has always been a part of the list of places I wanted to visit. It is a Shangri La of sorts, an elusive land of mystery, out of reach of the ordinary traveller. I had been to Spiti with Saurabh earlier and having enjoyed that particular trip I immediately joined in when I heard that Saurabh was leading a trip to Zangskar. The itinerary was hand-picked by him and there were experiences built in that one would find hard to replicate even on the most expensive, curated trips.
The colorful Suru valley with its array of wildflowers and the magnificent Suru made the perfect start to the trip. We had a magical time crossing Rangdum and Pensi La and camping under the stars next to Drang Drung glacier. Hopping ancient monasteries, after a brief halt in Padum, we landed up on the foot of the Holy Ganbo Rangjon. It is peak unlike any other and we camped in a site that can match the best camp-sites anywhere, by a free-running river, amidst blue poppies. We stayed the night in awe of the peak and dazzled by the brilliance of the stars and the milky way. An experience to savor for all our lives! The next day we trekked from Purne to Phugtal Monastery, walking next to the azure waters of Tsarap. Over the course of the next few days we crossed other uniquely lovely ruins and monasteries, traversed the Zangskar’s path, followed our way through newly opened paths past dizzying passes, meeting happy people, seeing new traditions, and culture.
Our group had people aged between 18 and 70 and we did not feel any age difference. The hosting was impeccable and the photography exquisite. We made friends and had life-enriching experiences. If I could recommend this, I would exhort all people who love what I have described to make this trip. It will change soon, and this experience will never come again!
Diptesh Ghosh, Traveller.
As always, it was wonderful travelling with you. And of course, Zanskar is an absolute delight. For the adventure seeker and the photographer like me there can be no better place to visit in India. The itinerary you had planned was amazing. I got the opportunity to shoot the night sky at a place where hardly anybody would have shot earlier. I also thank you for the excellent planning and logistics during the trip. I am sure that if and when I travel to Zanskar again, I'll travel with you. Thank you and all the best.
Santanu Majumder, ace Astrophotographer
I had always dreamt of visiting Zanskar, but was not sure how to go about it as it is quite off the beaten track. When I came across Saurabh Chatterjee's website - SIA photography - I found that he arranges photo tours in this region of Ladakh. Saurabh is a very well-known travel and portrait photographer. He arranges this tour in some of the least travelled and remote areas of Ladakh. It was a meticulously arranged tour. There were loads of photographic opportunities all along the route, be it landscapes, flowers, monasteries, people, Milky Way and star trails. I learned a lot from Saurabh. He is always ready to teach you and clear your doubts. I look forward to travelling with him to capture more such less travelled places in the future.
Neeta Taskar, Secretary, FOTO CIRCLE SOCIETY (FCS), Thane
There are no words to express my appreciation for your efforts to plan that wonderful trip to Ladakh.
The breathtaking landscapes, unpolluted crystal clear skies, the highest mountain passes and Buddhist Monasteries.
As I mentioned it earlier, two eyes are not enough to enjoy so much of BEAUTY.
I enjoyed the trip thoroughly in the company of stalwarts like Santanu and Diptesh who spent so many years capturing beautiful and extraordinary pictures. Singing session of Amit, Diptesh, Santanu and Smita was jolly good. Neeta and Aditi were good travel companions.
Regret could not join you on that trek to Phuktal. Great presentation by Smita.
Thank you from bottom of my heart and wish you many more such glorious tours.Regards,
Amarnath, Retired, full time traveller.
My photo trip to Zanskar with Saurabh was very beautiful. It was really well organised. Photo tour like this gives you lot of opportunity to learn and sharpen your photography skills. Entire region of Zanskar is most scenic with lot of diversity in culture, it was wonderful to experience all this with SIA Photography. Looking forward to many such photo trips. Amit Senegar, Financial Consultant
I had an amazing experience in Zanskar Photo-tour 2021. As this was my first trip I was a bit nervous but the moment trip started I was feeling good. I got to learn so much whether it be staying in a tent or settings for shooting Astrophotography. Now I'm looking forward to join more such tours and see the inner beauty of India. Thank you so much Saurabh Sir for this excursion trip.
Aditi Jha 18 years, youngest participant. Photography Student.
Only 7 participants on first come first serve basis.
Cost includesTwin sharing accommodation and All Meals. Inner Liner Permits, Monastery Fees And Taxes, Surface Transfers for the Entire Journey Leh to Leh.
Single rooms can be arranged on request.
Note: Females will share rooms only with females.Expert Photography Mentorship by Ssaurabh A Chatterjee.
Cost does not include1) Travel from your city to Leh and back. 2) Mineral water, any additional beverage ordered.
PICTURES FROM Photo tour to Ladakh - Zanskar Valley 2021
0. Why are we travelling on the same day from Leh? Isn't it advised to take a rest for a day before venturing out?
You are right, we should take rest for a day because of the sudden altitude gain. But, we are travelling to Kargil, so we are losing height from 11500ft to 8500ft. It will be very easy for the body to adapt.
1. Do I need to be physically fit to join this trip?
We will be traveling by SUVs with hardly any physically intensive activity except the Phugtal Monastery trek. If you think you are not fit for the trek, you can skip it. However, we will be traveling at high altitudes. Please consult your doctor first.
2. Is this trip only for Photographers?
No, anyone can join. We will spend a lot of time taking some great pictures though. I'm sure everyone loves doing that. We have had non-photographers on our previous trips and they enjoy as much.
3. I have no knowledge of Photography. Will I get some help? Yes, absolutely. Saurabh will be assisting you all the time. He will help you with how to take some great pictures. So, you will learn while having fun on the go.
4. I don't have a camera. Can I get a camera or lenses for rent? Yes, Cameras / Lenses can be arranged. Subject to availability.
5. Why is the tour so expensive?
Zanskar is a very remote part of Ladakh with very less facilities. The roads are bad and hence the maintainance of the vehicles are more
Also, we are staying in moving camps for many nights. We will have a separate vehicle for carrying our cooks and camps so that they go ahead and keep the camps and our food ready when we reach after taking pictures on the way.
Exclusivity - Zanskar is still a place not many have been to. Be a part of the tour to enjoy the exclusivity that not have experienced.
PLEASE READ Travelling to Ladakh - Tips and Tricks.
This year's (2021) pictures from Zanskar tour are HERE.