Zanskar, a sub-district of Kargil, has gained popularity with adventure travelers for its seclusion and extreme isolation. Nestled in a remote corner in Ladakh, Zanskar Valley is one of the most enchanting places to visit there.
Famous for its stunning vistas and some beautiful Tibetan-style monasteries, Zanskar has a bunch of camping areas splattered around in the valley.
Truly, you can make the most of your journey by calling nature your home. Zanskar offers you all your heart could desire – trekking, hiking, river rafting – to name a few things. Take your trusty tent, or rent out the entire equipment, and head on out to Zanskar to enjoy the region in the earnest.
To make the most of your camping adventures through Zanskar Valley in the Himalayas – here’s a handy list of all the tips and tricks.
Let's quickly dive into the details:
Best time to Visit Zanskar
The highest valley in Ladakh, Zanskar can get especially freezing. Thus, in order to enjoy your camping adventures fully, I suggest you plan your travels to Zanskar Valley in the summer months of June – September. Also, as an added bonus – the valley has full blooming flowers covering the landscape – which makes for a stunning change from the rest of the arid Ladakhi regions.
With the Zanskar river flowing freely, you’ll be reminded of the spark of life no matter how difficult the terrain might get. It is a therapeutic place to be in!
If you are a novice camper, trying your hand at The Great Outdoors, and do not yet possess camping equipment – fret not! You have suddenly made your life quite simple. Once you reach Ladakh, go about finding a campsite that seems suitable for your needs.
There are some basic campsites available along with some fairly “lavish” ones as well. Just ensure that you pay attention to a few things – including water availability and location – otherwise, the nights can be tough to get through. Also if you are thinking about phone signals on your camping trip to Zanskar Valley, then you may not be in much luck.
Alternatively, if you have your own camping gear; do proper research on where you can set up your camps in Zanskar Valley. Of course, this will come in handy and help you avoid any kind of trouble up there in the trans-Himalayas.
Bring a Proper Sleeping Bag
Now, that we have spoken about tents – let’s spend some time discussing your sleeping bag. The temperatures in Zanskar valley, no matter what time of the year you visit – will mostly be cold in most sightseeing places up there in this remote desert. Nights are especially freezing, especially if you’re sleeping in the open. In terms of your gear, the single most important thing becomes your sleeping bag.
Ensure that the sleeping bag is able to handle at the very least -10 degrees Celsius. Otherwise, you won’t be able to stay warm and your experience can be potentially ruined. Add to the cold the inability to get proper oxygen for your lungs. Trust me, you don’t want to be cold, period.
Carry Essential Items while camping in Zanskar
Some of the necessary items that you must bring along are a first aid kit, regular medicines, a torch, a camping knife, mosquito repellent, snacks, dry fruits, and a flask. These will be quite helpful in remote places like the Phugtal monastery.
Bring Appropriate Clothes
You won’t be able to sleep in your sleeping bag if you’re wearing heavy fluffy jackets. At the same time, you also will not be comfortable if you’re in a cotton T-Shirt and shorts, obviously. You would want to pack something that is light, yet keeps your body heat up. A great example of such clothes would be good quality thermals. Wear socks if you feel comfortable – though make sure that they are not too snug.
Do your business before turning in
When you’re about to sleep – the weather will still be warmer than in the middle of the night. And, since you’ve anyways been awake – your body is still active. Hence, it is a great idea to pee before you sleep. An empty bladder will keep you comfortable and warmer throughout the night.
Also, having to wake up in the middle of the night is the worst. Add to that, you will have to leave the comfort of your warm, snuggly sleeping bag – it would not be a pleasant event. You will curse yourself (while freezing) that you didn’t heed this advice.
If you are confused about how much it will cost you to plan a camping Zanskar Valley trip, then don’t forget to check my article on the cost analysis of Zanskar valley trip.
Don’t camp in open spaces
Given the extreme altitude, you’ll be residing in, it is integral that you do one camp in any open spaces, including a hilltop or adjacent to the river bed. There is a legitimate threat of fast, fierce, winds from all directions, which can make it unbearably cold or even make your tent less sturdy. Do check your tent and ensure all hooks and ropes are secure. If you can, do study the direction of the wind and try camping in the shadow of a hill to protect you from any untoward incidences.
Do check out my most recommended itinerary day by day trip to Zanskar Valley.
Do not Camp close to Military Establishments
Apart from avoiding open spaces, and looking for some form of shelter – remember to avoid setting up your tents near military posts. I can imagine the only reason to do this is to seek some safety. But, if you are at all planning on doing this – go up to the post – and seek permission. If the request is denied – you can ask for how much further you need to be – and head to at least that much distance before pitching up.
Bring Plenty of Drinking Water
Do keep plenty of water for your requirements for the duration. Water from nearby streams can’t be your option – they might be frozen at times! Warming up water takes time and effort and if you’re thirsty during the night – it will be a Herculean effort. As an added tip, you can keep your water bottles within the camp under sheets; so that the water remains moderately warm to drink.
Travel Tip: You can easily plan to travel to Zanskar by public transport and save some money.
Bring a Tarpaulin Sheet
A Tarpaulin sheet or “Tirpaal” as we Indians know it, is a lifesaver when out camping in the wilderness. Just lay it down before setting up your tent and go about your business of setting up the insides with your sleeping bags etc. for some added comfort.
It is doubly beneficial as it provides insulation from the changing temperature of the soil and keeping moisture/hard surfaces at bay. While you are buying the tarpaulin, make sure it is at least a foot larger on all sides than the size of your tent and is made of thick material.
Travel Tip: Want to plan a budget Zanskar trip? Here are 5 tips that will help you save some money on the Zanskar Valley camping trip.
Trust me when I say this – don’t drink/smoke when you’re living outside! Avoid it as much as humanly possible. If you do want to share a moment with your friends and relax in the environment – remember that if you drink too much – your body might not be able to digest it properly.
Also, your body is physically adjusting and dealing with a lot of things at that altitude in general – why give it another thing to worry about! You might even get sick in the middle of the night and truly have nowhere to go. Smoking is an absolute no-no – as it might trigger symptoms of AMS.
This can easily turn into something very serious – just for a moment or two of enjoyment. Not worth it, you guys! My honest advice would be to not booze at all but if you must, then just take a little to enjoy.
Put off any fire completely
With the Great Outdoors and starry skies above, it is only logical you’ll want to maximize your time star-gazing. To do this, of course, you might want to set up a bonfire. However, when you’re done – ensure you put out the fire properly. Try splashing it with water, in case you’re uncertain that it is completely extinguished.
You can also check out this 9-day plan for your upcoming camping trip to Zanskar Valley.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Where can I go camping in Zanskar?
DO NOT camp in Ladakh at restricted sites or wetlands or lakes. Choose a site where the water stream is nearby and the wind pressure is less. Ensure that your camp is fastened properly & the weather is clear in night.
- Can I suffer from AMS in Zanskar?
Acclimatization again is a key factor, stay warm and well hydrated. Climb no more than 1000 ft. every day and rest for 24 hours at that height. AMS is real and the lack of oxygen can make your judgment hazy, apart from having a lot of physical impacts. If you’re feeling nauseated, dizzy, and having difficulty breathing – it is essential that you drop your altitude by at least 1000 ft. If that is not possible, search for the nearest military base/ village/ monastery where they may be able to provide you with some oxygen.
- Is there any wildlife in Zanskar?
Yes, you might come across some wildlife when camping in Zanskar. Hence, it is imperative that you ensure you do not leave any food open.
Zanskar is truly best enjoyed when you’re as close to nature as possible. Camping in the valley will be an experience you won’t forget. The charm of Zanskar is uncanny and doesn’t resemble anything else in the Ladakh region.
You have to experience it on your own to understand the magic. However, some precautions and preparedness are necessary in one of the harshest climates and terrains. So be prepared to be able to enjoy fully the joy of Zanskar. Leave nothing but footprints in Ladakh and make the most of your journeys.