If you are embarking on a journey to Leh, the capital city of Ladakh, India, do so via the magnificent Zanskar Valley—one of the most pristine and undisturbed valleys in the region. Take a friend along for company if you get lonely. Bonus, if you have a bike, otherwise this trip is manageable via a sturdy SUV.


Zanskar Valley: The Beginning

A lot of adventurers undertake an attempt to explore the Zanskar Valley. After departing from Srinagar, Kashmir, and riding through the challenging Pangi Valley—one of the most difficult off-roading tracks in the Indian Himalayas—you would exit at Darcha in Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh. At Darcha, the Manali-Leh route splits, with one road leading to Shinku La, the high mountain pass required to enter the Zanskar Valley. Make sure your vehicle or motorcycle is properly fixed before reaching Shinku La. Excessive acceleration for driving in mountainous terrains can often cause hassles.


Packing Essentials & Route

If you are packing for motorcycling, mountaineering or hiking, make sure to carry all essentials. Your gear must include food for the campsites, sleeping bags, tents, ice axes, ropes, and snow boots. You can depart from Manali at midday on the first day and arrive in Darcha, in a few hours. Around 3 p.m., you can resume your motorcycle journey and make your way to the top of the formidable Shinku La, the gateway to the Zanskar Valley. It will take you about four hours to ride from 2,000 metres to 5,000 meters, and although camping at the top isn't ideal, you should do it for the thrill of it. The night would be uncomfortable if you haven't acclimatized well. 


Terrain Conditions & Gonbo Rangjon

For the next ten kilometres or so, the roads are atrocious—a treacherous mix of slush, mud, dirt, and countless water crossings. As you will descend from Shinku La, you will encounter hundreds of construction workers on this route. They would often be tirelessly working in these harsh conditions to construct the new roads that will link Ladakh with the rest of India. As you move ahead in your journey, prepare to be amazed by the views of the formidable Gonbo Rangjon. The people of the area refer to this solitary, lofty rocky precipice as "God's Mountain" and regard it as sacred. Every time you look up at this magnificent mountain, you are in awe of it. We decided to camp at the site beneath the massive mountain's shadow.


Capturing Views

As night falls, you must get your cameras to capture the Gonbo Rangjon sunset. Despite the bitter cold, you can get perfect shots. However, none will do this amazing mountain justice. The Milky Way chose to make an appearance as the sun was setting, directly above the mountain's peak, adding even more drama to the scene. Although a few lights from other campsites might prevent you from shooting in total darkness, you would be able to capture nearly perfect shots under the perfect night sky. The locals share stories about this peak, one of which was that people had seen the mountain lit up at night in various places, almost as if lanterns were being set atop it. 


Traversing Unpaved Roads

You can wake up early the next morning and set up your cameras to capture the sunrise over the mountain. After that, relax and enjoy your coffee while watching the sun rise over this majestic peak. Even though it is only a few days of travel, the unpaved road journey to Zanskar is relatively tough. However, viewing 'God's Peak' along the way and camping on the site makes for one memorable experience for truly outdoor adventurers!