Jamie McGuinness, Project Himalaya owner-guide
Leader Jamie McGuinness
Lobsang Chomphel, star organizer
Organizer Lobsang Chomphel


Subscribe to our
occasional newsletter

Kanji village - Jamie McGuinness

The incredible Kanji La, the top is on the left - Jamie McGuinness

Saving data; use your phone in landscape to see the detailed itinerary and more photos.


The Zanskar Canyons trek can be seen as a combination of two previous treks, here are some photos from my Flickr photos to inspire. First up, our 2012 Kanji Canyons:

2012 Kanji Canyons


And our 2013 Zanskar Traverse (the short photo version here):

2013 Best Zanskar

Click the photo to go to Flickr or use the arrow keys to see them here within this page.

Here is my Flickr collection of Ladakh-Zanskar albums.

Detailed itinerary

Early arrival

We spend three nights at around 3500m/11,500ft so reasonable acclimatization but if you are new to altitude or to Leh, perhaps plan to arrive one day early and we will arrange transfers and hotel and show you around.

Included in all our Ladakh trips is a sightseeing trip, with or without a cultural guide (your choice) and it is your choice of where to go; many people joining are previous trekkers so have seen some places previously.

If you are more ambitious we can also help you arrange a day or overnight trip to Alchi and Basgo Gompas, a day rafting trip on the Zanskar River or even a mountain bike descent of the Khardung La (best a few days into your Leh sojourn). If you have been working flat out you are welcome to just relax, kick back and de-stress too.

Day 1 - meet Leh 3480m

Phew, after a long series of flights, you are here - welcome to Leh! Look for a sign with your name on it at the airport, and our wonderful drivers Ang Chuk or Pasang will pick you up.

Jamie meets you at the hotel on your arrival and we discuss altitude over tea/coffee or breakfast and perhaps introduce Leh and show you the better places to eat. Most people crash out for a few hours and spend the day relaxing; do drink plenty of fluids which helps the acclimatization process. We normally go out to dinner together, let's meet in the hotel lobby at 6:30pm.

2 - Leh

This is a day for sightseeing but with some flexiblity to cope with people who have previously visited Leh and already seen some of the sights. For today perhaps the best plan is to visit some of the world's most revered gompas and monasteries a short distance from Leh. We will help plan and arrange a jeep, and a local cultural guide if you like (included). Usually we arrange as a morning sightseeing trip with lunch at the good restaurant at Thikse or a late lunch back at Leh then you can relax in the afternoon although we can easily arrange a full day trip.

Choosing where to go is the biggest challenge, there are so many special places to visit. To the east is Shey, Thikse, Hemis, Chemde, Thagthok, Stakna, Matho and Stok, although don't plan on visiting all of them in one day.

Heading west out of Leh are Spituk, Phyang, Nyemo where the Indus meets the Zanskar River, and further afield are Basgo, Likir and Alchi.

Prayer time at Matho Gompa

Prayer time at Matho Gompa - Jamie

3 - drive Lamayuru 3550m

We drive to timeless Lamayuru Gompa, exploring it. Spectacularly set atop a hill, this much photographed gompa on the main Srinagar-Leh road has been an inspiration to travellers.

The sublime Lamayuru monastery - Jamie

4 - trek Shilla Orchard 3250m

Trekking! We stretch the legs crossing the baby Prinkti La at 3750m and camp a little above Shilla in an orchard. It is here that we meet our crew with a fully set up camp. We introduce them and our style of camping.

It is likely that the crew and horse team meet you at Shilla (probably the orchard) rather than start with you on the first day since the horses would have come a long way from the end of their last trek to this start point. Your kitbags are driven around from Lamayuru to the camp, on a longer road, not the trekking route.

A luxury trekking lunch - Jamie

5 - trek Shillakong 4150m

The steep-sided gorge here is legendary, and still an adventure as the tame morning stream starts to rage in the afternoon. You are warned!

6 - trek Kanji 3850m via Yongma La 4720m

The reward for the relentless climb is a glorious new vista, delightfully colourful crinkled mountains. One time we stayed at a delightful camp near Dumbur but this trek we will aim for Kanji to experience one of the most picturesque villages in the region.

Ornella admires the view from the Yongma La - Jamie

7 - trek Kanji La Base Camp 4345m

Today we move smartly, despite the short trekking distance as we should beat a stream that sometimes rages in the afternoon.

8 - trek Kanji Sumdo 4300m via Kanji La 5250m

Glorious! Lunch on top of the pass? It is this pass crossing that we have been building up to, with our gradual acclimatization.

We continue down through a delightful canyon and again, if we can cross the river, we continue to good camping. If we can't cross then it is interesting camping on a tight but scenic campsite.

9 - trek 1st Camp 4550m via Pitung La 5020m

Our aim today is to cross the pass, and then at the first possible comfortable place, camp on the other side.

Descending the Pitung La - Jamie

10 - trek Dibling 3850m

This is a lunch camp, we will reach the remote village of Dibling in time for lunch with the camp set up. Time to wash some clothes or relax and explore the village.

11 - rest Dibling 3850m

Rest days are important, however with the distance of yesterday and tomorrow being short, only half day's treks, there are options to slightly alter the itinerary to gain a day or to catch a day up, if behind at this stage.

in Dibling village - Jamie

12 - trek Lingshed Sumdo or further

We follow the regular trek route to Lingshed Sumdo, and while all other groups turn left up a few passes to head to Lingshed, we instead continue down the main valley now on the thin trail, for the direct remote route to Zingchan.

13 - trek remote camp

There are only a few suitable camping places in this spectacular valley, luckily we have been there previously and know them.

14 - trek Zingchan

This is a glorious day with expansive views, and on a trail rarely trekked. We stay at the one house village of Zingchan.

15 - rest Zingchan / trek Hanumil/Pidmo/Zangla

Today, whether you have a rest day or not, is partly dependent on a new bridge (under construction in 2017) and how you are feeling.

Relaxing at the little-used camp at Zingchan - Jamie

16 - trek Zangla

Assuming a rest day at Zingchan yesterday, we have a morning's walk to the big new bridge across the Zanskar River at Pidmo. Then we should be able to get a jeep to go sightseeing to Karsha Gompa while the crew pick up fresh vegetables in Padum. Meanwhile, the horsemen have set up camp below Zangla.

Another alternative is on day 15 to trek (perhaps with a short jeep ride) to Zangla then rest and sightsee, today, day 16.

One of the camps at Zangla

17 - trek Zangla Sumdo / higher

Canyon trekking adventures with plenty of river crossings! We may camp at the usual Sumdo camp, but if there is more time we will trek higher along the valley so as to shorten tomorrow's long walk.

The striking steep-sided gorge

18 - trek best camp via Pangdang La 5150m

We start the morning with a few more perhaps quite chilly crossings of the stream, now considerably smaller, and perhaps by morning tea time, we leave it behind and ascend ever higher to cross the Pangang La. Today will be a longer trek day, perhaps 8-10 hours, so be prepared.

A colourful remote camp

19 - trek Ningri

Descending from the Pandang La

20 - Shade via Rotang La 5000m

Curious ibex in one of the gorges of the previous days

21 - rest Shade / trek Trangtag

Although a rest day is possible, it is probably best we trek in the afternoon to the semi-abandoned village of Trangtag, which will shorten tomorrow.

Near Trantag

The alternative option starts here

Which option will we take, Jamie will decide based on roads in 2019.

22 - trek Phuktal Gompa

What impresses me with this area is the variety, and today, after following smaller streams, we meet the Tsarap Chu, a larger river. At the end of the day, we trek though the tight passages of Phuktal Gompa while our horse team detours high above and around the gompa to the camp site.

Phuktal Gompa set in a cave high above the Tsarap Chu

23 - trek Trangtse

We visit the gompa after breakfast while the morning features a real challenge for the crew. There is an incredible bridge just a little downstream of Phuktal (the photo below the short form itinerary) however the horses cannot cross this (unless it has been rebuilt, which has been promised). Instead, the crew will take the loads to the bridge and hand carry them across meanwhile the horses are brought upriver to swim across the formidable river. The river will almost certainly be lower and less dangerous than when we did this in 2016.

The usual camping place is delightful Purne. We are likely to continue on though, for a couple more hours to put us in a good position for tomorrow.

The road might have now reached Purne, and so lets see how this plays out. It could be we follow the under construction road, however more likely, is we trek on the other side of the river on the old trail.

The trail from Phuktal Gompa

24 - trek Phirtse La BC

This is a typical Upper Zanskar scene, Shing Village

25 - trek Sumdo via Phirtse La 5600m

26 - trek Sarchu

27 - drive Leh 3480m

We drive back to Leh with Ang Chuk and friends. It is also possible to finish in Manali instead, talk with us.

Leh from Shanti Stupa

Leh from Shanti Stupa - Jamie

Day 28 - depart (/Leh 3480m)

Ang Chuk or our other drivers take you to the airport for your morning flight.

You are free to fly out today to Delhi - or to stay in Leh for longer... The Leh-Delhi flight should get you to Delhi before midday, but do note that on rare occasions it can be delayed a day by bad weather.

Ang Chuk with his Scorpio jeep

Ang Chuk, one of our regular drivers, with his turbo Scorpio jeep - Jamie

Chandra Tal-Manali extension

34/35 day alternative

I haven't written a detailed itinerary for this but will sometime.