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 travellers 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 kilometres. 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.
Detailed Itinerary for Chadar Trek:
Day 1: Arrival in Leh (3500 m)
Leh, which lies at an altitude of more than 3500 metres above sea level, is the second-largest district in the country. In winters, as most passes leading to Leh are closed, you will be flown to the 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. Enjoy an overnight stay in the hotel.
Day 2: Acclimatization Walk in Leh
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.
Stay hydrated as you spend your first day of the trek in Leh.
Day 3: Getting a health check-up at the Medical Centre
Due to the challenging nature of this particular trek, the government has made it mandatory for participants to acquire medical certification before they undertake Chadar trek. 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.
Your Chadar trek expedition starts here.
Day 4: Shingra Koma and Somo Paldar
Enjoy tea and 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 a point, you will have to deboard from the vehicle and trek towards Somo Paldar campsite.
Day 5: Trek to Dib Cave/Tibb
Today, you will set out to trek to Dib Cave/Tibb. 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 Dib, 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 6: Dib Cave/Tibb to Camp at Naerak
Today, you will trek the most scenic part of the region and get a chance to witness the largest frozen waterfall and prayer flags. 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. Stay overnight at the village camp comfortably.
Day 7: Naerak to Tibb
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 8: Tibb to Shingra Koma & Back To Leh
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.
In the evening, drive back to Leh and stay overnight at the hotel.
Day 9: Departure from Leh
Today, the mesmeric journey to one of the finest scenic destinations of 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 guesthouse and depart from the Leh airport.
1) What is the best time to go?
January to February is the best time to go on the Chadar trek because this is when the Zanskar River has frozen up and is considered safe for walking across it.
2) What are some of the best features of Chadar trek?
Marked as one of the most unique treks of country, Chadar trek exhibits a 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, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The supreme beauty that you will find on every step of the frozen Zanskar River Trek will make you wish the trek never ends.
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 degrees during the day and -20 to -30 degree 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, the Chadar formation and the trek itself is very important for the local people living in this region. But the climate change is real, glaciers melting, polar ice covers shrinking, if the region is not conserved and the trek is not done in an environmentally friendly way
These part of the world is very sensitive to pollutions 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) How long is Chadar Trek?
The drive to the start point of the trek from Leh city is around 80KMS which usually take about 3 to 3.5 Hrs. The trek from the start point to Narek waterfalls and back to the road head is about 55 KMS which one will be covered in 04 days.
8) Is Chadar trek for beginners?
Considering, the extreme conditions of Chadar, it is not an easy trek. Yes, even the beginners can complete this trek successfully if the preparation of the trek is strong and have proper gears. However, prior experience in high altitude trekking enhances the experience of Chadar Trekking.
9) How do I get to Chadar Trek?
Getting to Chadar Trek is a very simple - 4 steps;
Step 01 – Decide when to trek,
Step 02 – Book the trek through a reputed adventure company well in advance as the trek is operated only for a small window and it gets sold out very fast.
Step 03 – Fly into Leh, finish the pre-trek formalities and acclimatize well.
Step 04 – Drive to the trek start point and enjoy the wonderful trek over the frozen river.
10) What is the altitude of Chadar Trek?
The altitude of Leh city is 3500m above mean sea level. The Chadar trek is at a lower altitude which varies from 3100m to 3400m.
11) What should I pack for the trek?
12) Will bonfire be possible?
No, we do not recommend having a bonfire in 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 support the livelihood and extreme survival of the local people. We being responsible tourists and trekkers, utilizing such a precious resource just for our little comfort is being rude and not doing justice to the local people.
13) What about our phones or cameras during the trek, is it safe?
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.
14) 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.
15) How much money do we need to take along with us to Leh?
You need to carry very limited cash as Leh city have many ATM’s and most of the shops accepts credit and debit cards. You will need money for the permits, medical test and insurance which the operator you are booking with will guide you (Which should somewhere between Rs. 5000/- to Rs.6000/-). Above that, you can have some extra money for shopping in Leh, tips, and any other personal expenses you plan for. We do not recommend to carry more cash or precious items during the trek as everything will be taken care by us.
16) Do we need a pole stick during Chadar trek?
Yes, trekking pole is something you should have during your trek. It gives you good grip and stability and makes you feel comfortable and confident while trekking or walking on the slippery ice.
17) Can Chadar be my first Trek?
Yes, Chadar can be your first trek, but it is always preferable to have prior experience in high altitude multi-day treks. In case it is your first trek, then ensure you are well prepared for the extreme conditions mentally, physically and medically. The right gear and proper acclimatization is the success mantra for Chadar Trek. It is advisable to be in Leh a couple of days early before the actual start of the trekking program to get acclimatized properly also you get extra time to explore do some last-minute gear purchases.
18) How should I prepare for physical fitness?
A 30mins workout session which should gradually be built up to 1hr sessions, for a minimum of 45 days before the start of the trek 3 days a week, 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 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.
19) 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 using our sleeping bag, the best thing to carry is a good sleeping bag liner. Sleeping bags used in the Chadar trek must withstand a minimum temperature of -300 C and must have been personally tested in similar conditions before using it on the trek.
20) Are there any markets in Leh?
Yes, there are markets in Leh, some of which are 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.
21) How is the place Ladakh? What all I can when I visit?
Ladakh is a stunning destination. It should be on your bucket list for sure. It has so much to offer, that you might miss some of the places. In winter, the places look even more surreal as the temperature in Ladakh drops down severely and becomes even more picturesque. The frozen Pangong Lake, Ladakhi festivals and the beautiful monasteries along the way is what every traveller looks forward on visiting Ladakh.
22) 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.
We do have basic first aid kit, in our hotels and our guides carry during the trek. The First Aid kit 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 though the trek duration do not come in their cycle, sometimes menstrual cycle gets slightly changed due to extreme weather conditions.
23) 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.
24) Is the trek safe for girls?
Yes, our main priority is the safety of our trekkers, be it male or female. To make it better and safe for girls, we have segregated tent for male and female. We always create a friendly environment for our trekkers so that they are comfortable and feel secure during the trek expeditions. Our supporting staffs are carefully chosen for your trips keeping all safety measures in mind. However, we request you to take care of personal belongings.
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.