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Western Himalaya Travel
The high-altitude wilderness of Ladakh and Zanskar is India’s most popular trekking destination, with good reason. The region which lies beyond the Great Himalayan rain shadow is a mesmerising, windswept moonscape. The people here are devout Tibetan Buddhists, and a string of spectacular fortress-like monasteries perch on the cliffsides along the Indus and Zanskar river valleys. Leh, the capital of Ladakh, is one of the few trekking centres in India accessible by air (book months ahead for the peak summer season). Once there, the 8-10 day Markha Valley trek is particularly popular because it begins and ends near Leh and is suitable for novice trekkers.
To the south of Ladakh and the upper Indus valley is the remote region of Zanskar, a vast 300km long valley carved out by the Zanskar River. The principal trekking route in Zanskar begins at Lamayuru on the Indus River. It takes 18- 20 days to reach Darcha on the LehManali road, and can be broken in half at the ton of Padum, on the road to Leh.
Four years ago the sensitive border areas of Spiti and Kinnaur were also opened to foreigners. Pin Valley National Park, an important refuge for ibex, contains a week-long loop through high pastures and stunning mountain scenery.
The hill resort of Manali, at the head of the verdant Kulu Valley on the monsoonal south side of the Himalaya, is an excellent base for one- to four-day treks into Kulu’s well-forested side valleys. These treks are moderate, easy to organise, and as such, provide an excellent introduction to trekking in India.