Ladakh, for most of us is a great place for an adventurous summer vacation, but Ladakh in winters is far more beautiful and adventurous amongst many of the travelers. Icy cold winds and snow covered mountains looks amazing like they are being covered under a lush white blanket. In winter, icy winds and heavy snowfall keeps temperature at the 0°C or below level for several months. Chadar trek a thrilling and adventurous trail on Zanskar River. Both Manali – Leh Highway and Srinagar – Leh Highway are closed during this period, but for those traveling by air, there is no reason not to visit Ladakh in winters. For those who wish to travel by roads, only opens from mid-June to September and rest are blocked by heavy snows.
Travel Ladakh in winters
During this period from October till May, both the connecting Highways are mostly blocked due to heavy snows on the passes. But if you are planning to travel Ladakh in winters for an adventurous Chadar Lake Trek or taking part in some of the famous Buddhist Festivals, you can easily reach Ladakh by Air. There are many flights to Leh from starting from Mumbai, Delhi, Chandigarh, Jammu and Srinagar. You can easily compare the prices of flights to Leh for different dates and from different providers here at SkyScanner. If you are looking for an economical way to travel Ladakh than I would suggest you to reach Delhi by either bus/train and then take a flight from Delhi to Leh which will be around 2900 INR approx. (please check for current prices).
Trekking in Ladakh: Chadar Trek – on Frozen Zanskar River
Zanskar (ཟངས་དཀར་) is cut off from the rest of the world almost eight months a year, when the passes are blocked by snow. However during these months one can leave or reach Zanskar during the period of Chadar, when the river freezes over and develops a crust of ice so thick that people can walk on it, it is possible to leave Zanskar on foot. “Chadar” in local language means layer- indicating the layer of ice that covers the river. The Chadar Trek or the Zanskar Gorge is a winter-trail in Zanskar region of Ladakh. In Zanskar River it happens from around January to February most of the years, when the temperature during the winters drops sometimes to -30 to -35 degrees which makes the Zanskar Lake look like a mesmerizing crystal lake.
Chadar Trek Itinerary
Here we got updates on Chadar Trek Itinerary from a few Travel Operators:
- 1st Day: Arrival at Leh
- 2nd Day: Drive from Leh to Chilling
- 3rd Day: Trek from Tilat Sumdo to Tsomo Paldar
- 4th Day: Trek from Tsomo Paldar to Dibb
- 5th Day: Trek from Dibb to Nyerak Pullu
- 6th Day: Trek from Nyerak to Dibb- Return journey
- 7th Day: Trek from Tibb to Shingra Koma.
- 8th Day: Trek from Shingra Koma to Chilling and drive to Leh. Overnight stay at Guest house.
During the summer this river doesn’t disappoint its enthusiastic tourist as it becomes a perfect location for river rafting expedition and during the winters it transforms into an ice sheet where the famous Chadar trek is performed. Travelers camp at night in little caves near the frozen river and fire is lit to keep the cave warm inside. These caves are there all the way up to Tilat Sumdo.
Festival in Ladakh in winters
During Ladakh’s long winters for most of the local people it is a time for lots of fun. Winters are when a few monasteries have their colorful annual festivals. Monks put of exotic masks and perform colorful & sacred Chham Dance. Winters are also a time to get indulged in drink and dine one’s fill of. Almost all of the festivals are spread over two days except Lamayuru’s Kangish and the Nakrang of Gia.
Chamday/Chemray Gompa fair:
The gompa is almost 40kms from Leh town. This is normally a two-day festival (called the Angchok) in November. Its Chham is related to Padma Sambhav, theseventh century AD Indian saint who founded Tibetan Buddhism and is also known variously as Guru Rinpoche and Lopon Padma Jungas.
It is the Ladakhi Buddhist festival equivalent to Diwali. This two day festival is held in December and celebrates the birth anniversary of Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Ge Lugs Pa (newest of the schools of Tibetan Buddhism), and his attainment of Buddhahood.
The two day festival is held in the month of January.
This is the Ladakhi Buddhist New Year.
Losar is celebrated on fifth dayduring the eleventh month of the Buddhist calendar. The celebrations begin with prayers during which offerings are made to god. The young similarly greet their elders with silk scarves (Khataks). The Buddhist consider the ibex auspicious, they believe it brings prosperity and fertility. On Losar the Buddhists make images of the ibex and place them on their doors and in the kitchen.
This gompa is in Nubra. The two-day festival held here in February (on the 28th and 29th days of the 12th Tibetan month). Nubra is cut off even from rest of Ladakh at that time of the year. Therefore, this is really a local festival.
(Also spelt Dosmoch(e) and Dosmachay.) This festival is celebrated near the Palace in Leh town and at the Likir and Deskit monasteries. The two day festival is held in February and is most popular with the local people. There is a procession of monks, led by Black Hat dancers. They get out of the town/village and burn ‘offerings’ for protection against evil spirits and the ravages of nature.
photo credit: WhyNotThisOne Zanskar-2014-312 via photopin (license)