Encapsulated within the range of the Great Himalayan Mountains –with peaks as high as 7,000m – India’s Zanskar valley aka Chadar Trek has stayed isolated for centuries. But with boosted tourism in recent years in Leh and Ladakh, the Zanskar valley has garnered immense attraction from people all around the globe. After footage of school children walking 100 km to the study goes viral, now as many as hundreds of visitors go to Zanskar for Chadar trek every year.
The journey embarks at the mountain town of Leh. The best way to reach Leh is by a flight, and honestly, a glimpse of snow-drenched mountains looks so surreal from the plane. The trek is over the frozen river of Zanskar, and it is a huge favourite among Indians and travelers from abroad. At just 11,078 feet, the walk on the frozen river feels like a small expedition to the North Pole. The ration is carried through sledges, tents and extra stuff by the porters and the kitchen wealth by the cooks. Due to its remoteness to the modern world, Chadar Trek is one of the most uninhabitable regions in the world, and also one of the World’s most beautiful place to see once-in-a-lifetime.
The best time to take Chadar Trek is in January or February as the ice sheet is sturdy and solid to walk for long kilometers. The temperature, in general, is twenty degrees below the freezing point and sometimes goes even below. Due to the harsh circumstances on the trek, one finds refuge in the caves, life works on instincts, and camping on the river banks, make the destination ‘do before you die” trip.
Whether you are a seasoned professional or a novice in trekking, Chadar Trek can be experienced by all. The extreme challenge of this trek is not the terrain but the extreme cold weather that tends to challenge people of all age. Proper clothing, trekking shoes, hydration and food is enough for your body to endure the challenging lifestyle of Zanskar that thrives in sub-zero temperature.
The most rewarding sight of the trek is the spectacle of a frozen cascading waterfall called Naerak from a height. The formations of frozen water will give your eyesight a new perspective to visualize a waterfall. Most of the people get overwhelmed to see nature’s finest creations on the trek. The landscapes and overall experience will leave their imprints on your hearts forever.
And if all this information piqued your interest, let us give you an insight into how the Zanskari people survive in these arduous conditions. Did you know Zanskari people can walk to and fro from their village in just 24-35 hours? They spend the nights in the caves, camp at the river banks and walk miles and miles without proper trekking shoes. They are so used to the climate, that even without the proper attire, the locals can endure the harsh weather conditions.
Lastly, the Chadar frozen river the trek is an experience for the brave-hearted that seek thrill through responsible eco-tourism. The weather and terrain might shake your confidence a bit but if you can surpass that then the journey to the marvellous and exhilarating frozen river trek will be the most enriching experience of your life.
Know more about Trekking in Leh Ladakh.
Day 01: Arrive in Leh (3500m)
Team Briefing, Day at Leisure
Leh, which lies at an altitude of 3500 metres above sea level, is one of the largest districts in the country. In winters, as most passes leading to Leh are closed, you can only reach the city by taking a flight to Leh airport which has the distinction of being the highest airport in the world.
As soon you land at the airport, you will be greeted by dry and cold air, but what will take all your attention is the lofty, snow-capped mountains all around; a sight that will remain with you forever. After completing the arrival formalities and picking up your bags from the baggage counter, take a taxi and proceed towards the pre-arranged hotel. Get acquainted with your co trekkers and the Adventure Nation team members and rest in the hotel. Stay overnight.
Day 02: Acclimatization Walk in Leh
Acclimatization Walk, Leh Exploration
Get up early in the morning and begin the process of acclimatization at high altitude. Proceed to walk towards Shanti Stupa, a sacred Buddhist stupa, from where you will get an opportunity to witness a beautiful view of the sunrise and a panoramic sight of the town of Leh.
Staying hydrated is extremely important so make sure you drink at least 3-4 litres of water everyday.
Day 03: A Visit to the Hospital
Due to the challenging nature of this particular trek, the government has made it mandatory for participants to acquire medical certification before they undertake this Himalayan Expedition. A clearance certificate upon a health check-up is mandatory and will be issued by the positioned medical centre. One will get a certificate only when adequately fit and acclimatized for the trek. The basic medical examination is done at the SNM Hospital.
Day 04: Leh - Shingra Koma - Tsomo Paldar (3200m)
Distance/Duration: 70km Drive (4 Hours), 3km Trek (2 Hours)
This is the day you’re going to start the extraordinary journey, known as the Chadar Trek. Enjoy breakfast in the morning and start your journey by driving to Shingra Koma. This ride is not for the faint-hearted as bumpy roads and hairpin bends are quite common on this route. The sight of the surrounding high mountains will give you a sense of awe. After reaching, you will have to deboard from the vehicle and prepare to start the trek. Initially, you may find it a bit difficult to walk on the ice but after a few minutes (and a few falls ;-)) you will get comfortable. Reach the first campsite after trekking for a couple of hours. Have some fresh cooked food and stay overnight.
Day 05: Tsomo Paldar to Tibb Cave (3300m)
Distance/Duration: 14km / 6-7 Hours
Today, you will set out to trek to Tibb Cave/. You need to cover a rather long distance so starting early is very important. During the day, you will behold the breathtaking beauty of the region including ravines and gorges. You might not see sunshine properly as the cliffs in this area obstruct them. Once you reach Tibb, you will see a large cave. This is the place where you will halt for the night and rest. Butter tea would be offered and we recommend you to try it. Enjoy overnight stay at the campsite.
Day 06: Tibb Cave to Naerak (3400m)
Distance/Duration: 13km / 7 Hours
Today, you will trek the most scenic part of the expedition and get a chance to witness the largest frozen waterfall in the valley. The bridge built next to the site of the waterfall is used in summers to reach Zanskar from Leh. Thereafter, you can proceed towards the village of Naerak to mingle with the locals and understand their way of living. The temperature in Naerak can get as low as negative 30 degree celsius during the night so you will need to take extra precaution in regards to the clothing. Stay overnight at the village camp comfortably.
Day 07: Naerak to Tibb (3300m)
Distance/Duration: 13km / 7 Hours
On this particular day, start your return trip and proceed towards Tibb. The return trail would not be easy and the river quickly reacts to any change in the temperature. By now the frozen river might have taken an entirely new form. On the way back, admire the beauty of the region, click pictures and meet locals, who can be seen wearing traditional woollen Gonchas (robes). Upon Dib Cave, relax and stay overnight at the campsite.
Day 08: Tibb - Shingra Koma - Leh (3500m)
Distance/Duration: 14km / 7 Hours
In the morning, get ready to leave Tibb and proceed towards Shingra Koma, crossing Gyalpo. The trail today will give you a chance to witness high mountains and pugmarks of wild animals like snow leopards, ibex and foxes. If lucky, you just might spot a leopard; even if you do not, then at least be sure, you would be watched by them. After trekking through the day, make your way to Shingra Koma which is technically the finishing point of the trek. Take some rest after arrival and manage your luggage accordingly for the ride to Leh.
Later, drive back to Leh and stay overnight at the hotel.
Day 09: Departure from Leh
Today, the mesmeric journey to one of the most scenic destinations in India will ultimately come to an end. The entire experience, we are sure, would give you an unmatchable feeling of achievement and satisfaction. In the morning, check-out from the hotel and depart for Leh airport.
FAQs for Chadar Frozen River Trek
1) What is the best time to go?
January to February is the best and the only time to go for the Chadar trek because this is when the Zanskar River is frozen and is considered safe for walking across it.
2) What is so unique about the Chadar trek?
Marked as one of the most unique treks of the country, Chadar trek exhibits beauty nowhere to be found. The extreme climate, the ever-changing weather, sledges, walking on ice with water underneath it, the frozen waterfall view, and camping near the frozen river will give you the experience of a lifetime.
3) How are the weather conditions on Chadar Trek?
Dealing with low temperatures is what makes this trek challenging. Temperatures vary between +5 to -5 degree celsius during the day and -20 to -30 degree celsius during the night. The oxygen level is really thin, as the onset of winter brings harsh weather that causes temperatures to go below freezing point.
4) What kind of shoes should I buy?
We recommend that you have trekking shoes which are waterproof and have high-ankles, as your shoes might get drenched while walking on the frozen river. You can also buy gumboots from the local market in Leh, which would be helpful when crossing stretches of the river that is not frozen.
5) Is chadar Trek dangerous?
Every trek has its difficulties, challenges and dangers, Chadar is no exception. This trek happens in one of the remotest gorges of mighty frozen River Zanskar, in Leh. The important and unique challenges and its solutions are as below:
Temperature : -15o to -30o
Using proper gear and clothing
Altitude: above 3400m
Acclimatization in Leh
Walking on slippery solid ice
Slow flat foot walking, following the guide’s instructions and using walking poles
Falling in gushing cold water
Using ropes in tricky areas, the experienced guide having thrown bag and rescue knowledge
6) Is Chadar Trek closing?
Nobody wants the Chadar trek to get closed, obviously. The Chadar formation and the trek itself is very important for the local people living in this region. But climate change is real: glaciers melting, polar ice covers shrinking, are some of the factors which are to be looked at to assert the future of this trek.
This part of the world is very sensitive to pollutants and disturbance, it is in our hand that we conserve our nature and sustainably do the trek so that the trek is open for the upcoming years too.
7) Is Chadar trek suitable for beginners?
Considering the extreme conditions of Chadar, it is definitely not an easy place to go trekking. Yes, even the beginners can complete this trek successfully if the preparation of the trek is strong. However, prior experience in high altitude trekking enhances the experience of Chadar Trekking.
8) What should I pack for the trek?
You can see the detailed packing list here. You can also watch our Chadar trek packing video here.
9) Will bonfires be possible on the trek?
No, we do not recommend having a bonfire on a trek like Chadar. Leh and the Zanskar region where the trek happens is a high altitude cold desert. You will rarely see any trees throughout your trek. The sparsely available wood supports the livelihood and extreme survival of the local people. Being a socially responsible organisation, we prefer to not disturb the local lives by doing something for our creature comforts.
10) What about the cell reception and the electricity, on the trek?
There is no mobile network availability or the possibility of charging batteries during the trek. Yes, you can use your phones as a camera to click the wonderful moments. In this extreme high altitude and low temperatures, the batteries tend to drain very fast. So ensure you keep your gadgets inside your warm jackets and sleeping bag when not clicking photos.
11) Is hot & safe water available during trekking?
Yes, hot and safe drinking water will be provided during the trek every morning and evening. Please bring insulated water bottles to fill and use it while on the trek and during sleep.
12) How should I prepare physically?
A 30 min workout session which should gradually be built up to a 1hr session, for a minimum of 45 days and four days a week, before the start of the trek, is what we recommend. The work out sessions should majorly consist of cardio like swimming, jogging, cycling, etc. Closer to the trek, if you can jog for 4KMS continuously without taking any major breaks, you are good. Remember, “A Fit Body Means a Fit Mind”, to complete this trek in extreme conditions it is mandatory to have both mind and body to be extremely fit.
13) What kind of sleeping bags are required?
We recommend not to bring sleeping bags as we provide you with a very good quality sleeping bag. If you are concerned about hygiene, the best thing to carry is a good sleeping bag liner. Sleeping bags used in the Chadar trek must withstand a minimum temperature of -30 C and must have been personally tested in similar conditions before using it on the trek.
14) Are there any markets open in Leh during the winters?
Yes, some of the markets remain open throughout the year. Big ventures close in winters, however, small eating shops are open. You can easily get gumboots, trekking equipment, shawls, carpets, masks, etc. in the market. Simple Indian and Tibetan foods are available for the trekkers even in winters.
15) Can I visit Nubra Valley/Pangong Tso during the time in Leh?
No, traveling to any of these places is absolutely not recommended in peak winters. There are great chances of avalanches and road blocks due to heavy snowfall.
16) Can I bring my medicines for the trek?
Yes, you must bring all your prescribed medicines enough to last the number of days you will be in and around Leh and maybe for a couple of more days just in case of any delays. Leh is a small town and in winters very few medical shops open, sometimes it may not be easy to find your medicines or the desired brands in Leh.
Although we carry a basic first aid kit during the trek and even in Leh, it does not have any prescribed or over the counter medicines. It will only have the first aid materials which are supposed to be used in case of any emergencies.
Women must bring their menstrual-related materials and medications even if the trek duration does not fall in their cycle as sometimes the menstrual cycle gets slightly changed due to extreme weather conditions.
17) How hygienic are the sanitary facilities?
Dry pit hygienic toilets will be available in all our campsites which can be used for sanitary purposes. We also follow a ‘leave no trace on the trail’ policy, so make sure you are not littering sanitary napkins or wet wipes.
18) Is the trek safe for solo female travelers?
Yes, our main priority is the safety of our trekkers, be it male or female. To make it better and safe for girls, we even have segregated tents for males and females. We always create a friendly environment for our trekkers so that they are comfortable and feel secure during the trek expeditions.
Approx Trekking Km:
Best Time to go to Chadar Trek:
January to February
In case the Chadar is not formed your local operator shall offer you the alternate trek for same duration. If a trip must be delayed or the itinerary changed due to the following events, then the cost of delays and/or other changes are normally the responsibility of the participant.
If Minimum group strength is not met, we have the right to cancel the departure.
Should you wish to customise the trip as per your preferred date, separate charges will apply.
Itineraries are based on information available at the time of planning and are subject to change. Tour operator reserves the right to change expedition dates or itineraries as conditions warrant.
You need to bring the Medical certificate from your respective city
Chadar Trek is surely going to be one of your most thrilling experiences of a lifetime. So, get ready for this exhilarating adventure and bring back home some embraceable memories. Cherish each and every moment of this trek and also share your amazing stories with the world
Wildlife Department Fee Structure:
1. Wildlife Department permit @ Rs. 2,200/- for foreigners
2. Wildlife Department permit @ Rs. 2,000/- for Indians
3. NO fee will be levied for Guides/ Cooks / Porter - Wildlife Dept issued a circular in this regard.
4. ALTOA will provide Adventure Insurance and Medical Check-up at Leh @ Rs. 3,000/- per person
It was amazing. Your management was very good. The best thing I liked about the trek was the people there. The guide, porters, their work as at the top, without them we couldn't trek.
Being an adventure enthusiast, Chadar trek had always been on my bucket list. But it wasn't until February 2018 that I ticked this off my list, and I am extremely proud of myself for completing it. The trek was challenging because of the below freezing temperatures, but kudos to the trek leaders, porters, cooks and organisers, who kept the camp running like a well-oiled machine. The trek leader especially kept me motivated throughout the entire trek. I couldn't thank them enough for their sheer efforts. A hearty thanks to Adventure Nation for fulfilling my dreams. I had the time of my life!
I saw the pictures of the frozen Zanskar river on a Facebook post by Adventure Nation, and I was awestruck by its beauty. I have always wanted to have an experience of this kind, so I enquired about the Chadar trek. I booked through Adventure Nation itself-which was an incredibly smooth process, and then started packing to leave for my epic adventure. The trek leaders were quite knowledgeable about the do's and don'ts and guided everyone cheerfully and patiently through the challenging terrain. All my tiredness was over when I saw Zanskar River with my own eyes. I was mesmerized by the beauty of the frozen river with the high mountains in the back drop. I had a phenomenal experience on this trek, and would recommend Adventure Nation to everyone!
The Famous Chadar Trek-what a paradise on Earth! Whether it's the trail, the high mountains surrounding you, or the frozen river, the entire trek keeps you on your toes with excitement. Walking on the frozen river and viewing the frozen waterfall were the best highlights of my trek. Whenever we camped, I was really pleased with the arrangements that had been made. And to put a cherry on the top, the hot food made by the cooks was a blessing. The trek guides were very responsible with the team, giving us time to acclimatise. The trek was amazing, and I am happy to have booked with Adventure Nation.
What a trek!!!! The best winter experience one can have is on Chadar Trek. From walking on the ice to camping at the riverbank, Chadar Trek holds nature?s one of best creation in its true form. Though it seemed difficult at the beginning but with constant support from the Adventure Nation?s team, I completed the entire 52 km walk. Also, I salute to the sturdiness of Zanskari people, they were a great inspiration.
It took me a while to convince my friend to book Chadar Trek. We had been on many treks but since Chadar is a little tough due to cold temperature and extreme climate, it took me time to convince him. After a lot of discussions, we decided to call Adventure Nation. We did not regret at all. To be fair trek was tough and little scary at some parts, but it was totally worth it. The team of Adventure Nation was phenomenal. The trek leader was inspirational, and the way he took care of the entire team was commendable. Thanks!
Almost a dream that turned into reality, the journey of Chadar Trek gave us moments that will stay fresh in our memories. Almost 5 of us were there. Thanks for the amazing service. The tents were in great shape and the food and other arrangement were also taken care of in the best way possible. Will choose Adventure Nation for another trek as well.
2019 was like a dream come true. I did Chadar trek in Jan which was way too cold for a trek. It was nothing I had ever seen. The still and frozen waves of the Zanskar River seemed like a race against time. I had great fun with other companions as well and made new friends. The service and the on-ground operation was great. Kudos to team Adventure Nation.
Chadar trek aka frozen Zanskar River is an amazing escape into nature if you are looking for a unique and out-of-the-box experience. Frozen in time, Chadar give people a dozen of memories that stays fresh for a lifetime. I would recommend this place to each and every trekker. Our group had great fun while walking - many of us slipped and spending time in the tent talking about travel. Also, I am grateful to Adventure Nation for giving us such amazing trek leaders for whom we were the first priority. Thanks a lot for this.