The Great Ladakh, Zanskar + Kashmir Bicycle Journey - Indian Himalaya

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 One of the Indian Himalaya's most spectacular, diverse and challenging bicycle trips!

Our Great Ladakh, Zanaskar + Kashmir cycling trip passes through remote, sublimely beautiful regions or northern India - the Indus and Sham valleys, Dha Hanu, Buddhist central Zanskar, alpine Kashmir with its green pastures and Gajur nomads - ending this epic cycling trip in the vale of Kashmir. In the floating world of Srinagar, we stay on a houseboat, paddle Dal Lake in a shikara and tour the Mughal Gardens, the perfect end to an amazing bicycle adventure!

The scenery throughout our cycling trip is breathtakingly beautiful, the campsites idyllic. We bike along quiet mountain roads (with just a few sections along the Leh Srinagar road) and see few tourists as we explore some of northwestern India’s most remote and culturally interesting regions. Plenty of time for chai in small villages, shopping at local fruit markets and cold beers in the evenings at our secluded campsites.

Starting our bicycle journey in Leh, we cycle on rough roads into beautiful Sham Valley, camping near historic monasteries and lively Ladakhi villages. A highlight is few days of cycling into the 'Brokpa' region of Dha Hanu, a beautiful region of walnut, cherry and apricot trees, grape vines and granite boulders which follows the Indus River. The Dha Hanu valleys are crowded with willow-lined villages, and the road varies from high above the Indus to right along the river; as the altitude is lower, the climate is balmy Cycling through the scenic, Muslim Suru Valley, we pass by the Nun and Kun peaks and glaciers, camp at remote Rangdum Gompa and cross the Pensi La pass to reach fabled Zanskar, where we've scheduled several days for exploring this sublimely beautiful region of Buddhist monasteries and traditional villages by bicycle.

The Vale of Kashmir is one of the most prized jewels of the Indian Himalaya, described by Kashmiris as 'heaven on earth', famed for its floating gardens and markets on Dal & Nageen Lakes, the fascinating historic Srinagar, the pashmina weaving and other Kashmiri crafts, its heavenly Mughal Gardens, the Shankaracharya Temple and its wonderful houseboat stays. To reach Srinagar, we cycling over the fabled Zoji La, an incredible feat of engineering. En route, we cycle past glaciers snaking their way though green valleys, Gajjar and Bakarwal nomads herding their large flocks of sheep, goats and horses in the verdant valleys. Around Srinagar there are some of the most beautiful valleys and villages in the Indian Himalaya, as well as some of the world's most idyllic alpine scenery. Highlights are Dacigram National Park, Manasbal & Wular Lake (the largest lake in Asia), Yousmarg, Naranag Temple (the oldest in Kashmir), Sonmarg and Pahalgam.

Kamzang Journeys has put together several options to tour Srinagar, Kashmir, the famous lakes with their colorful floating markets and shikaras (long-tail boats), either flying in and out of Srinagar or opting for a stunningly beautiful jeep safari over the renown Koji La pass to Leh and Ladakh for a tour of the Indus Valley and its many Buddhist monasteries. We base our tours in Srinagar, where you stay in style on traditional houseboats on the lake, visit the floating market, old Srinagar and its many mosques and markets and the famous Mughal gardens.

Summers in the Indian Himalaya are wonderful. Campsites are green and breathtakingly beautiful, cycling days are long and sunny, traditional villages are bustling with activity, glacial rivers sparkle and Himalayan panoramas from the passes are spectacular. The nomadic settlements we encounter along the way are timeless, vignettes Ladakh and Zanskar from centuries past. There is always plenty of extra time built in for exploration on our cycling trips, a photographer's dream!

Join us for one of the Himalaya's greatest, most unique cycling trips, run in our signature Kamzang style.
Fun, adventure + a real challenge!

Trip

Day 1 - Saturday, 9 June 2018 - Meet in Leh
Day 2 - Leh | Cycling Tour Leh
Day 3 - Leh | Bike Down Kardung La 5340m
Extra Day - Leh | Cycling Tour Indus Valley Monasteries
Day 4 - Bike Basgo + Likir 3520m
Day 5 - Bike Sham Valley to Nurla | Cycle Lalung La 3560m + Tsarmangchan La/Yangthang La 3730m + Hemis Shukpachan La 3905m
Day 6 - Bike Achina Yokma | Cycle Dha Hanu Valley
Day 7 - Bike Dha + Aryan Camp | Cycle Dha Hanu Valley
Day 8 - Bike Mulbek | Cycle Namika La 3780m
Day 9 - Bike Kargil + Sankoo + Damsana | Cycle Suru Valley
Day 10 - Bike Nun Kun Base Camp | Cycle Suru Valley
Day 11 - Bike Rangdum Gompa + Tashi Tongdze | Cycle Suru Valley
Day 12 - Bike Baltipulu Camp | Cycle Pensi La 4495m
Day 13 - Bike Sani Lake Camp
Day 14 - Bike Padum + Stongde Gompa + Zangla Spring Camp
Day 15 - Drive Pipiting. Bike Karsha Gompa + Tungri. Drive Baltipulu
Day 16 - Drive Pensi La to Parkachik + Bike Damsana
Day 17 - Bike to Kargil + Hardas Camp
Day 18 - Bike Dras + Matayan Camp
Day 19 - Bike Sonmarg + Tajhmajh Camp | Cross Zoji La 3528m
Day 20 - Extra Cycling Day
Day 21 - Drive Srinagar
Day 22 - Srinagar | Shikara Tour Dal Lake + Old City Tour
Day 23 - Sunday, 1 July 2018 - Trip Ends

NOTE
Our Ladakh bicycling trip starts and finishes in Leh, Ladakh. There are daily flights Delhi - Leh - Delhi. If you have successive international flights that are not all part of the same ticket or following domestic flights we suggest planning more cautiously and leaving an extra day in Leh after the trip. We'd love to help arrange excursions to Pangong Lake or sightseeing in the Indus Valley if you have extra time!

Photos
The Great Ladakh, Zanskar + Kashmir Bicycle Journey
Nubra + Indus Bicycle Trip

GoPro + Ladakh Cycling Videos
These great YouTube videos were put together by friend and cyclist David Koelle. Although they're not exactly our routes, they give you an idea of the roads, the beauty and the challenges of cycling in the Indian Himalaya!
Nubra - Wari La Cycle | David Koelle
Lamayuru, Leh, Nubra + Khardung La Cycle - | David Koelle
Pangong Lake + Chang La Cycle | David Koelle
Srinagar - Lamayuru Cycle | David Koell
Leh - Manali Cycle | David Koelle

Watch a Kamzang Journeys Ladakh Trek!
Kamzang Journeys | Changthang Nomads | MrMennoBen
(We cycle through this stunningly beautiful nomadic region; check out our Kamzang style camping!)

Itinerary

Day 1 - Meet in Leh 3500mWelcome to Leh, the capital of predominantly Buddhist Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir, tucked away amidst mountainous Ladakh, part of the great Trans Himalayan range. If arriving by air, you will feel the jump in altitude and it will take your body a few days to adjust. If arriving by road from Manali or Srinagar, you will have had some extra acclimatization en route but still need time to adjust to the 3500 meter altitude. Hydrate with plenty of water, stay away from alcohol for a few days, rest and don't over-exert yourself! Even walking up the stairs of the guesthouse, or the steep steps leading to Leh Fort, will make you breathless for the first few days. We recommend starting the day before you fly up to Leh, and consider taking Diamox before you fly to Leh.

We stay at the family run Shaynam Hotel, a lovely guest house with a beautiful garden courtyard, located just below the Main Bazaar in Leh, with options to stay at Omasila in Changspa, north of Leh. Kim will take you on a short tour of old Leh once you've settled into your room. Central Asian Leh is packed with Muslim bakeries, modern cafes, Western and tandoori restaurants, old, winding alleyways, antique and pashmina shops, Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, picturesque mosques, Hindu and Sikh temples and wonderful, atmospheric fruit and vegetable markets along the Main Bazaar.

We will meet for dinner in the evening at the Ibex, Chopsticks, Penguin or Summer Harvest, a few of our favorite restaurants.

Start putting your bike together if you've brought it with you, or Kim will take you into Leh to get fitted for your rental bicycle. We can spend the next few days sightseeing on by bike!

Day 2 - Leh | Cycling Tour Leh (Shanti Stupa, Gompa Village, Leh Fort) (20-25 km)
We have two more full days in Leh to acclimatize, do some cycling, and enjoy the peaceful, willow-lined streets and bustling bazaar life of Singge Namgyal's 17th century capital of Ladakh, once an integral part of Western Tibet and a major trading post along the southern Silk Route. There is lots to explore in this wonderful Central Asian town; the newly-restored ruins of the 17th century Leh Palace, the ancient 15th century Leh Fort and the attached Namgyal Tsemo Gompa, other historic Tibetan Buddhist gompas, the Sunni Muslim mosques, narrow back alleys with steaming Muslim bread, tiny antique shops tucked away amidst the many ancient stupas and architectural remnants, the exotic Main Bazaar (c. 1840s) which once accommodated trade caravans, and even a polo field. Today, the Main Bazaar is a colorful street, the sidewalks crammed mornings and afternoons with Ladakhi women selling their fresh fruits and vegetables, and locals at the far end vending their dried nuts, apricots and apples.

Caravans of merchants from far flung destinations such as Yarkand, Tibet, Kashgar and North India passed through Leh during ancient trade missions, trading salt, wool, Pashmina, tea and semi-precious stones, lending to the city its exotic allure. Pilgrims flocked to the monasteries of Leh and the Indus valley, explorers of old stopped in Leh to re-stock and weather out the harsh Himalayan winter and soldiers en route to plunder and conquer desirous destinations passed through Leh, all leaving their mark on this unique capital.

Kim will take you for a walk (or cycle) up the bustling Fort Road, lined with shops owned by Kashmiri, Tibetan and Kashmiri shop-keepers, to the crumbling but majestic Leh Fort (3680 meters) and the red, Maitreiya Tsemo Gompa, perched high on a craggy and crumbling hilltop overlooking the bazaars of old Leh. You can stop at 16th century nine-story Leh Palace, of a similar architectural design to the Tibetan Potala Palace, on the way down if you have the energy. Visit the museum, a worthwhile endeavor, as well as the nearby gompas (Tibetan Buddhist monasteries) - Soma Gompa, Chamba Lakhang and Chensrig Lakhang.

Cycle through the willow-lines streets of Changspa to reach the many steps leading to the Japanese-built Shanti Stupa for a view over the green fields and white-washed Ladakhi houses of the villages surrounding Leh. The precariously perched Leh Fort guards the eastern edges of the fertile valley. Sankar Gompa (17th - 18th century), reached through shady lanes to the east of Changspa, lies in the midst of Chubi's groves of poplar and willow and is another wonderful morning or afternoon walk. The back route to Leh Fort starts in Chubi and passes through a desert-like Buddhist cremation ground before climbing to the fortress.

Our favorite bike ride starts at Shaynam Hotel, follows traditional, willow-lined roads to Shanti Stupa, a bit of off-road to Gompa village (and monastery at the top of this traditional village), along the high road overlooking Leh to Leh Fort, and then either down via Leh gate or through the Muslim sections of Leh back to Shaynam, from 20 - 25 kilometers depending on which route we take.

Leh | Cycling Tour Indus Valley (Eastern Monasteries - Thiksey, Shey + Stock Palace) (60 km)
If you've come a day early and feel acclimatized enough, head on a bicycle ride down to the Indus (8 km downhill to Spitok, 10 km downhill to the other end of Choglamsar) for a tour of the Indus' eastern monasteries by bike. From Choglamsar, cycle east to the ancient palace of Shey, one of Ladakh's old capitals, followed by 5 more scenic kilometers to Thiksey Gompa. After a look around this bustling monastic community, continue to cycle east along the Indus, crossing the river 6 kilometers later and cycling to hilltop Stakna Gompa. Heading back towards Leh, you'll cycle about another 15 kilometers to the road up to Stok Palace and green Stok village, with its living palace, wonderful prayer room and museum (this is a 7+ kilometer climb, perhaps better saved for another day). From Stok, it's just over 13 kilometers back to Leh, re-crossing the Indus at the Tibetan community of Choglamsar from where you'll backtrack east 1 km and then take the more scenic road back up to Leh.

NOTE: Because of the altitude of Leh (3500 meters), it may be safer to do a sightseeing trip along the Indus, wander through Leh's endlessly fascinating old town or relax and make sure your bike is tuned up. We will discuss once in Leh.



Day 3 - Leh | Bike Kardung La (5340m) to Leh (39 km downhill)
One of the Himalaya's great downhill rides, put your bicycle on a jeep up to the Kardung La along the Ladakh Range, the gateway to the Shyok and Nubra Valleys, and part way to the infamous Siachen Glacier. This epic road was built in 1976, and openned to public vehicles in 1988. We get to cycle down this switchbacking road, stopping on the way down to slowly cycle through some of Leh's leafy northern suburbs.

From Wikipedia "Khardong La is historically important as it lies on the major caravan route from Leh to Kashgar in Central Asia. About 10,000 horses and camels used to take the route annually, and a small population of Bactrian camels can still be seen at Hunder, in the area north of the pass. During World War II there was an attempt to transfer war material to China through this route."

Note that although all signs proclaim the Kardung La to be 5602 meters (or somewhere in this vicinity), it's actually nearly 300 meters lower, so actually not at all the highest motorable pass in the world! Times of India Article | Kardung La

Extra Days in Leh
Always great to have extra days in Leh to acclimatize and to enjoy the peaceful, willow-lined streets and bustling bazaar life of Singge Namgyal's 17th century capital of Ladakh, once an integral part of Western Tibet and a major trading post along the southern Silk Route. There is lots to explore in this wonderful Central Asian town; the newly-restored ruins of the 17th century Leh Palace, the ancient 15th century Leh Fort and the attached Namgyal Tsemo Gompa, other historic Tibetan Buddhist gompas, the Sunni Muslim mosques, narrow back alleys with steaming Muslim bread, tiny antique shops tucked away amidst the many ancient stupas and architectural remnants, the exotic Main Bazaar (c. 1840s) which once accommodated trade caravans, and even a polo field. Today, the Main Bazaar is a colorful street, the sidewalks crammed mornings and afternoons with Ladakhi women selling their fresh fruits and vegetables, and locals at the far end vending their dried nuts, apricots and apples.

Caravans of merchants from far-flung destinations such as Yarkand, Tibet, Kashgar and North India passed through Leh during ancient trade missions, trading salt, wool, Pashmina, tea and semi-precious stones, lending to the city its exotic allure. Pilgrims flocked to the monasteries of Leh and the Indus valley, explorers of old stopped in Leh to re-stock and weather out the harsh Himalayan winter and soldiers en route to plunder and conquer desirous destinations passed through Leh, all leaving their mark on this unique capital.

Walk or cycle up the bustling Fort Road, lined with shops owned by Kashmiri, Tibetan and Kashmiri shop-keepers, to the crumbling but majestic Leh Fort (3680 meters) and the red, Maitreiya Tsemo Gompa, perched high on a craggy and crumbling hilltop overlooking the bazaars of old Leh. You can stop at 16th century nine-story Leh Palace, of a similar architectural design to the Tibetan Potala Palace, on the way down if you have the energy. Visit the museum, a worthwhile endeavor, as well as the nearby gompas (Tibetan Buddhist monasteries) - Soma Gompa, Chamba Lakhang and Chensrig Lakhang.

Wander or cycle along the willow-lines streets of Changspa to reach the many steps leading to the Japanese-built Shanti Stupa for a view over the green fields and white-washed Ladakhi houses of the villages surrounding Leh. The precariously perched Leh Fort guards the eastern edges of the fertile valley. Sankar Gompa (17th - 18th century), reached through shady lanes to the east of Changspa, lies in the midst of Chubi's groves of poplar and willow and is another wonderful morning or afternoon walk. The back route to Leh Fort starts in Chubi and passes through a desert-like Buddhist cremation ground before climbing to the fortress.

OPTIONAL INDUS + MONASTERY JEEP TRIP
Arrange (through Kim, our Tibetan jeep-driver Wang Chuk or the Shaynam Hotel) a 'jeep safari' through the fertile Indus Valley to visit a few of the living Tibetan Buddhist gompas, the crumbling ruins of ancient fortresses and palaces and the traditional villages that dot the banks of the region, the 'cradle of civilization' of much of the ancient world. Kim can help arrange jeeps and/or a guide for a day's excursion.

To the East: Shey, Thikse, Hemis, Chemde, Thagthok, Stakna, Matho & Stok.
To the West: Spiyok, Phyang, Basgo, Likir, Alchi, Rizdong & Lamayuru.

OPTIONAL RAFTING TRIP
You can arrange a day rafting trip on the Indus (easier) or the Zanskar River, approximately $40.

Day 4 - Bike Basgo + Likir 3520m (60 km, 7 hrs)
Our private jeep and back up truck await for the start of our great bicycle trip through Ladakh, Zanskar and Kashmir. Leaving Leh, we cycle downhill for 8 km past the turnoff to Spikok Gompa and then another 20+ kilometers along the Leh-Srinagar highway, past the Phyang valley which leads to Nurbra, past the ‘Zero Gravity Point’ to the green-brown confluence of the Indus and Zanskar rivers. We’ll continue to along this leafy road, past ancient chortens and mani walls, to Nimu where we’ll stop for chai and their famous samosas. Ascending gradually on the bikes, we reach historic Basgo Fort and monastery half way up the switchbacks, and turn right along a small, rural road for a few kilometers to reach the monastery complex. After lunch, we continue to ascend for several kilometers until we reach the turnoff to Likir Gompa. From here we cycle just over 1 kilometers up a small road to our campsite in this scenic valley. Although relatively isolated and sleepy today, Likir was once part of a major Central Asial trade route between Tingmosgang and Hemis to Leh.

At camp we'll introduce you to our Kamzang style trekking system, get you set up in your own 2 or 3-person tent and start the afternoon with a cup of steaming, spicy chai. Afterwards we'll stroll to Likir Gompa to see the golden Maitreya Buddha, and perhaps catch an afternoon puja, or prayer ceremony, with Buddhist monks chanting, cymbals chiming and drums beating. Likir is a Gelugpa monastery with a monastic school and community of 120 monks, and approximately 30 students. The monastery was established in the 11th century by Lama Duwang Chosje, commissioned by Lhachen Gyalpo, Ladakh's fifth king. Likir Gompa is the seat of the Ngari Rinpoche, whos present emanation is HH the Dalai Lama's younger brother. He visits occasionally for pujas and ceremonies, but doesn't reside at the gompa. The Central Institute of Buddhist Studies runs the monastery, teaching Buddhist courses in three languages: Hindi, Sanskrit and English.

From Wikipedia: "The name Likir means ‘The Naga - Encircled’, representing the bodies of the two great serpent spirits, the Naga-rajas, Nanda and Taksako. It originally belonged to the early Kadampa order of Tibetan Buddhism.

When Francke visited the monastery in 1909 he was shown a long inscription written in black ink on a wall which outlined the history of the monastery. Francke had it copied and interprets it as follows:

"King Lha-chen-rgyal-po founded the monastery in the 11th century. In the 15th century, Lama Lha-dbang-chos-rje (a famous pupil of Tsongkhapa) converted the lamas to the reformed doctrines of the Ge-lug-pa order, and thus founded the monastery afresh as a Ge-lug-pa establishment. Then it is stated that seven generations after Lha-chen-rgyal-po, King Lha-chen-dngos-grub (1290-1320) arose, and that he introduced the custom of sending all the novices to Lhasa. This statement is found in exactly the same words as we find in the rGyal-rabs"

Eighteen generations later King bDe-legs-rnam-rgyal reigned, but his name has been erased from the inscription because he was forced to embrace Islam after the battle of Basgo in 1646-1647. The inscription itself is dated to the reign of King Tsewang Namgyal II (1760-1780), who repaired the monastery after a conflagration.

Below the monastery was a large chorten with frescoes inside representing Tsongkapa and other lamas of his time. "Painted above the door, a very strange figure is found which looks much like one of the ordinary representations of Srong-btsan-sgam-po (Songtsän Gampo). I was told by the lamas that it represents a lama of Srong-btsan-sgam-po's times. The figure wears a three-pointed hat of white colour and carries two leopard skins under his arms." The lower part of the chorten is a square room which a lama said was the earliest temple at Likir, and was already there when King Lha-chenrgyal-po built the monastery."

Day 5 - Bike Sham Valley + Nurla 3040 (cross Lalung La 3560m + Tsarmangchan La (or Yangthang La) (3730m) + Hemis Shukpachan La (3905m) (47 km, 6 hrs)
Cycling along an incredibly scenic village road through the Sham valley, without a car in sight, we crest our first small pass, the Lalung La Likir (3560m), only about 50 meters above our campsite. We look down on green, terraced villages with whitewashed Ladakhi houses, small monasteries, and the Himalayan range as a backdrop, cycling past fragrant pink Zanskari rose bushes. We drop slightly to a small intersecting river below Saspotse to begin the climb to the next pass, the Yangthang La (3730m), really just a stopping point on route to the third pass, the Hemis Shukpachan La (3905m). Between the second and third passes we descend a bit, the road passing just below the village of Yangthang.

We'll stop for a scenic lunch at Hemis Shukpachan, at about 3570m, before another great bike descent through a wooded gorge of over 5 km to reach Hemis Chu (3045m), where we’ll stop for a chai and pick up a few beers at the dhaba just above the intersection. This will be our last beer stop for many days as we head for Muslim regions! Leaving the lovely Sham valley, we cycle above the Indus for about 7 km to our green campsite in Nurla.

Day 6 - Bike Achina Yokma (Dah Hanu Valley) (54 km, 6 hrs)
Leaving Nurla, we cycle for a few more kilometers along the Indus River (called the Singge Khababs, or the mouth of the lion, named after where it flows from sacred Mount Kailash in Tibet). We continue to head north, passing the beautiful village of Achinathang before finally reaching Hanu Trang village, one of the only non-restricted villages in the restricted Dha Hanu valley. It's an incredibly scenic and beautiful bike ride as we pass through a world of shady villages, with traditional architecture, a timeless ride.

The Dah Hanu valley is a beautiful region of walnut, cherry and apricot trees, grape vines and marbled granite boulders, which follows the Indus River, thus a lower altitude region. The local inhabitants are Indo-European Dards, whos women favor flowers adorning their long braided hair. Although these Brokpa follow Tibetan Buddhism, their ancient religion animistic. Interestingly, some of the Dard inhabitants still practice polyandry, with a woman marrying several brothers.

We set up camp in the lovely schoolgrounds of Achina Yokma, a small Drokpa village amongst the willows and populars, a climb above the main road. Have a wander through this leafy, welcoming village in the afternoon, pick some mulburries from the trees, and enjoy the company of curious young children!

Day 7 - Bike Dha + Lashting Camp (Dha Hanu Valley) (km, 4 hrs)
A short day, with a ride to the remote, 'Brokpa' village of Dha where the inhabitants speak a language they call ‘Aryan’ (related to ?) and practice Buddhism. The dusty village climbs up the hillside, with an ancient mulberry tree in the lower reaches, fields of barley and wheat, and numerous fruit and nut trees.

We cycle along a lovely paved road past mani walls and chortens, often above the Indus, and soon reach Hanu Thang, the ride up to Hanu Yokma and Hanu Gongma a project for another year. Continuing to bike past the intersection to the Chitkan valley at a marked bridge, we cycle past the flooded village of Bema and then past the turnoff to our campsite. First, though, we’ll cycle about 5 more km to Dha and hike up to the village for a visit with the local Brokpas.

Turning sharply left at the sign for the Aryan Camp, we switchback steeply for about 1 km to reach our beautiful, cliff side camp amongst the poplars and apricot trees and enjoy a hot afternoon. The small road leads another 1 or 2 km up to a new monastery and school.

Day 8 - Bike Mulbek 3300m (cross Namika La 3780m) (57 km, 6 hrs)
Cycling south for just over 5 km back to the junction at Sanjak, we ascend for several hundred meters following the shady river valley with a steeper switchback before reaching the more populated hamlets. Cycling along this beautiful, rural road, we’ll meet many curious Muslim villagers as we pass Chortenchan, the larger Chiktan and several other small hamlets, with a chai stop en route. Climbing very gradually, we the intersection of the highway at Kangral (3410m). From here we have 10 km along the highway, a lovely section, to reach the Namika La (3820m), a 400 meter climb.

We’ll stop for lunch just off the pass, and begin our  12 km descent to the bazaars of Wakha, continuing 2 km afterwards to idyllic Mulbek. Mulbek is known for its massive, stone Maitreya Buddha (Future Buddha) which sits inside the monastery complex, the statue approximately 1400 years old. We camp at a shady campsite about 1 km past Mulbek, spending the rest of the afternoon relaxing at this lovely, warm camp.

Day 9 - Bike Kargil + Sankoo + Damsana 3185m (Suru Valley) (95 km, 7 hrs)
Cycling northwest following the Wakha Chu, we have a 37 km downhill along the highway – although beautiful landscape, we competed with trucks for the road in 2016, when we encountered road building which made the ride slower than it would have been. There will soon be new tarmac on this stretch, so it will be a great downhill. We reach the road leading to Zanskar just before Kargil, at the Indian Oil intersection, from where we cycle for several hours (approx 58 kilometers on a quiet and beautiful country road, passing many Muslim villages, children in scarves and uniforms leaving school for lunch, and then the end of the day, listening to the call to prayer from the many mosques. The largest village we pass through is Sankoo, a bustling road side bazaar chock-a-block with fruit and vegetable stalls and small shops.

We head south, cycling through the beautiful Suru Valley, continuing as far as we can during the day, passing Saliskote and Farona, stopping to have a wander through the bazaars at Sangkoo. En route we'll meet many school kids, mosques and have the opportunity to see life in the quiet, Muslim villages of the scenic Suru valley. Sangkoo is the largest of the villages we cycle through, worth getting off the bikes and wandering through the bustling bazaar which stretches along the road. Pick up a kg of delicious, yellow mangoes for camp if you'd like, or a cold drink in one of the shops.

About 13 km after Sangkoo, along a beautifully paved road, we finally reach our wonderful, green campsite along the river at Damsana, set under shady trees, the perfect stop to a long day of cycling. You'll start to feel the altitude from here on, so stay hydrated and we will discuss Diamox this evening at camp.

Day 10 – Bike Nun Kun Base Camp (Gulmatongao) 3924m (49 km)
A rough ride for much of the day but an incredibly scenic road! Leaving our wooded camp at Damsana, we cycle on a small, rural road for the first 15 or so kilometers, passing more traditional villages, a patchwork of green fields of barley, small vegetable gardens and stone enclosures for the livestock.

We pass the large village of Panikar,  as we cycle through the mostly Muslim Suru Valley, always strikingly scenic, with lovely villages, people ambling along the roadways with their cows, sheep and goats. We'll spot the 7000 meter Himalayan 'twin peaks of Nun (7135m) and Kun (7077m) as we cycle, an impressive sight.

Day 11  - Bike Rangdum Gompa + Tashi Tongdze 4030m (28 km)
EDIT COMING
A half day’s biking to put us in a good position for tomorrow’s pass, and to have time to visit Randgum Gompa.

We cycle another 6 km on the new-ish road or 3 km on the ‘shortcut’ road (river crossings)  up to Rangdum Gompa, a 450 year old Gelugpa monastery at 4056 meters.

Bike Rangdum 4030m (Suru The road makes a sweeping S turn to the south at Tongul, heads north again and just as it begins to head east we spot the fantastic Nun and Kun glaciers, tongues of snow extending almost to the road. Finally we reach the Buddhist hamlet of Julidok and the Gelugpa Rangdum Gompa, set in the middle of a broad, Tibetan plateau with massive black, yellow and white chortens surrounding it. We'll enter the monastery for a visit before cycling to camp in the small village, enjoying a beautiful sunset. (3 ½ hrs)

Day 12 - Bike Baltipulu Camp 4030m (cross Pensi La 4495m) (41 km)
An incredibly beautiful day of cycling, slightly more challenging as we ascend gradually to the higher Himalayan plateaus, crossing the Pensi La (4495m), the gateway to Zanskar.

We begin the morning with 6-7 kilometers of easy cycling along the green river banks, with marmot whistling as we cycling by, rushing for their holes. We start to ascend slowly towards the pass, the switchbacks becoming longer as we near the double pass. The first pass is marked by a white-washed chorten and prayer flags, while the second ‘official pass is nearly 2 km past the first pass, approximately 22 km from our campsite.

Views from the pass are awesome, with snow-capped peaks to the right and in front of us. The descent is equally awe inspiring, quite bumpy, sometimes exposed and throughout breathtakingly beautiful. One of the Himalaya’s best rides, ever. We’ll stop for lunch a few kilometers from the pass, where we have a full view of the incredible Darung Drung Glacier  with a white peak in back and broad plateaus to the south. The road is rough, rocky, a somewhat challenging mountain biking trail and a fun ride. Near the bottom of the descent we pass a single white chorten, below which sits a small turquoise lake. We cross a bridge and then cycle, often through water run-offs, on a built-up road, almost straight until it makes a large turn and a gradual ascent as we cycle through, high, green summer grazing pastures to reach our lovely, green campsite at Balitpulu, a local doksa. Views both up and down the valley are spectacular, again. (6 ½ hrs)

About Nun + Kun:
From Wikipedia: "Early exploration of the massif included a visit in 1898 and three visits by Arthur Neve, in 1902, 1904, and 1910. In 1903, Dutch mountaineer Dr. H. Sillem investigated the massif and discovered the high plateau between the peaks; he reached an altitude of 6,400 m (21,000 ft) on Nun. In 1906, noted explorer couple Fanny Bullock Workman and her husband William Hunter Workman, claimed an ascent of Pinnacle Peak. They also toured extensively through the massif and produced a map; however, controversy surrounded the Workmans' claims, and few trigonometrical points were given for the region, so that the map they produced was not usable.

After unsuccessful attempts to climb the mountain in 1934, 1937, and 1946 the first ascent of Nun was in 1953 by a French-Swiss-Indian-Sherpateam led by Bernard Pierre and Pierre Vittoz, via the west ridge. The summit pair comprised Vittoz, a Moravian missionary to the Tibetans and an experienced alpinist, and Claude Kogan, a pioneering female mountaineer. Since then, other routes have been pioneered.[4][6] The north-west face was first ascended on October 27. and 28., 1976 by seven climbers from a Czech expedition, led by F. Čejka. The first British ascent was made by Steve Berry and friends via the east ridge in 1981 (his father had attempted Nun in 1946).

Italian mountaineer Mario Piacenza made the first ascent of Kun in 1913, via the north-east ridge. Fifty-eight years passed before the second recorded attempt on the peak, which resulted in a successful ascent by an expedition from the Indian Army."

Day 13 - Bike Sani Lake Camp 3555m (55km)
An incredibly scenic mountain morning as we cruise through green grazing pastures high above the Pensi Chu, with glacial valleys spilling out from the west, and Himalayan peaks showing their snow-capped summits. The road is still rough, but there is plenty of chance to cycle through these flat, green plateaus or on ‘off-road’ shortcuts and marmots waddling around watching our progress. Son after crossing a small bridge over a deep chasm, we round a long corner and come to the glacial valley leading to the Agsho La, a remote trail along 20+ km of glacier which leads to Himachel Pradesh. To the east are the remains of a small ‘dzong’, about which nothing is written. The villages in this region are Buddhist Zanskari villages, looking much like Tibetan traditional villages and practicing Tibetan Buddhism. The valley is often deep sided as we cycling past many intersecting river valleys, eventually reaching Agcho village, at around 3850 meters. From Agcho the Stod Chu (river) increases considerably in size, and becomes much more populated with Zanskari villages.

South of this valley we begin to see our first Zanskari villages, beginning with Agcho across a bridge over the now Stod River, and continuing in a chain of traditional hamlets. Zanskari women wearing hats adorned with Zanskari roses lead their dzobkios, their noses attached by rough ropes, to graze. School children run out onto the road during lunch breaks, and small cars, motorcycles and the occasional truck share the road. A Y-shaped intersection gives us a chance to cycle on paved road for about 3 km, cyclin by Abrang village.

We pass by Skagyam nunnery (chomo gompa), soon afterwards stopping for lunch by a whitewashed chorten over looking the alpine-looking villages. Between Phey and Mandra Ling is a trail leading northeast towards Zingchan in Zanskar, and just south of Phey a trail leads over the Omasi La to Udaipur.

The road remains rough until the bridge about 3 km below Phey where we cross a new bridge across the Stod River to Ating village and continue for 8 km on a paved road through a chain of green, scenic villages bordered by stone walls and Zanskar roses. We pass a second bridge over the Stod at Tungri which we don’t take (we can also cross at this bridge but the road remains unpaved although the villages are equally beautiful and interesting) from where we have 5 more kilometers of often paved road to Sani.

We’ll set up camp in Sani in an idyllic green site at a sacred lake, next to the new statue of Guru Rimpoche, and cycle to the monastery to take a look. Sani is a Drukpa Kargyu gompa with several resident nuns living in the monastery. The monastery is renown for its unique Kanika Chorten, presumed to date back to the time of the famous Kushan emperor, Kanishka (Kanika is the English transliteration of the emperor's name) who lived around 127 CE. Kanishka is well known in Buddhist literature as the promoter of Buddhism in this region, sponsoring a significant Buddhist conference in Kashmir.

From Wikipedia: “Padmasambhava, or Guru Rinpoche, is said to have dwelt for five years in the small 'Gamshot Lhakang' squeezed between the main building and the corridor, to the right of the Kanika chorten. Inside may be seen a figure of Guru Rinpoche and historical scenes in half relief on both sides of the statue.[6] Apparently, one can just see the white opening to a cave in a cliff across the river from the monastery where Padmasambhava is also said to have meditated for several years and it is still used as a meditation cell. The monastery is also claimed to be connected with the famous Indian Yogi Naropa (956-1041 CE). There is now small room next to the Kanika chorten where it is thought that Naropa meditated in which there is a veiled bronze statue of the yogi. A group of Kargyu nuns established a small retreat centre at "Starkhugnza" in the 1990s. It is a site above Sani which was founded by Ngawang Tsering (1657-1732), a famous Zanskar meditator. All of the nunneries in Zanskar are under the spiritual authority of the monks and few have much in the way of endowments.” (6 hrs)

 Day 14 - Bike Padum + Stongde Gompa 3815m + Zangla Spring Camp (47 km)
Another 9 flat kilometers of cycling brings us to bustling Padum, the capital of Zanskar, where our staff has set up camp somewhere at the fringes of town. Enjoy the afternoon exploring this ancient village, half Muslim and half Buddhist, a real melting pot from the old trading days. Padum has a very Central Asian feel, and is a transit point for goods coming and going from Leh to Kargil, with colorful Kashmiri fruit markets. There are some thousand year old pre-Tibetan (Mon) Buddhist Buddha carvings just below Padum, worth a look. Pick up a plate of Padum's famous mutton momos at Kailash Restaurant on the main strip, washed down with a (semi) cold beer ...

Continuing, we cycle about 3 kilometers to Pipiting, and drop to the bridge just below Pipiting Gompa a beautiful Zanskar day of easy cycling and exploring central Zanskar's fascinating and beautifully-set monasteries by bicycle. From Padum, we cycle past the timeless Pipiting Gompa and village to the small (pink) bridge crossing the Zanspo River. From here the views widen as we reach the Zanskar plateau with snow-capped Himalayan peaks as a backdrop to the south and a patchwork of village fields to the north. After about 15 kilometers we reach Stongde village, a large village of many Indian officers, and turn to the right to cycle up to Stongde Gompa, a 300 meter climb from the village.

Stongde Gompa, one of the oldest in Zanskar, was built in 1052 by Naropa's disciple, the famous translator Lama Marpa, and taken over by the Gelugpa in the 15th century, with Je Tsongkhapa as its present head. Stongde is the second largest monastery in Zanskar, with approximately 60 monks and many students, renown for its Gustor Festival during the summer.

After the climb to the gompa, climb to the monastery roof for wonderful views of the patchwork of Stongde village and the Zanskar valley. It's one of the most lively and colorful monasteries, perched precariously up on a craggy rock ledge, and surrounded by lovely birch woods. We has many friends there, including Geshe Lobsang who lectures and travels around the world, and founded the monastic school. Geshe Stenzin and his brother, are also good friends; they might invite us for tea and give us a tour of the gompa, including its room of treasures in back of the oldest 'lhakhang', or prayer hall. We might be able to catch the evening puja in the butter-lamp lit prayer room, a surreal experience with resonating, deep chanting, cymbals, Tibetan drums, a step back hundreds of years ...

Once back on the 'main' road, we cycle another 16 kilometers along the wide Zanskar plain, past the scenic Chyilingskyid and Tzazar village, to a bridge and winding road leading up to the once-Kingdom of Zangla.

One really gets a sense of why this remained a hidden kingdom for so many centuries. To the right, the hilltop fortress of Zangla, and past that several watch tours along the Jumlam route. Past Zangla, the Himalayan barrier, and the Umasi La to Kashmir; the wooden beams that are the center of most Zanskari houses came from there, laboriously carried by porters. Below the Zanskar curves away into the Muslim Suru valley and the Pensi La, closed for all but three months of every year and in front, behind the villages of Pidmo and Pishu, the Zanskar range cuts off approach for all but those like us, a well-equipped caravan.

Once through the village, we have an easy off-road descent to our lovely riverside camp that we call Zangla Doksa River camp. Doksa means seasonal nomadic settlement in Ladakhi, and the locals from Honya Doksa will pass by in the evenings with their large herds of sheep, goats and donkeys, making for some classic photos of traditional life in Zanskar. The grass is green and the stream warm, so go for a wash and settle in for the evening. Sunsets and sunrises are amazing from camp, enjoy the evening!

ZANGLA VILLAGE + FORT TOUR
Climbing gradually out of our campsite, hike along the plateau past a weathered rock carved with thousand-year old Mon chortens, soon reaching Zangla Chomo Gompa (nunnery) to the northern side of the village. Follow the village road past the King of Zangla's house, where our Kamzang Journeys group had tea one summer with the royal residents, including the Queen Mother. The King of Zangla, Gyalthes Nima Norboo Namgial Ldey, of the Sonsten Gampo lineage, is the same age as the Dalai Lama (early 80s). Songsten Gampo was the great 7th century Tibetan king who unified much of Tibet, encouraged the spread of Tibetan Buddhism and was the patron of the creation of the Tibetan script. He had two wives, one Chinese and the other Nepali. The king's family is also of the Nyimagon lineage, a Tibetan king from the 11th century whose youngest of three sons, Ldey Tsugon, ruled Zanskar, Lahoul and Spiti. The other two sons ruled areas of western Tibet (Guge, Purang) near Mount Kailash.

We sometimes meet the king in the village, and rode into and back from Padum with him in 2015. The King's house now has a new horse stable in frong, and the new house right next to the somewhat dilapidated royal residence is the house of the village carpenter.

The piece de resistance of Zangla, however, is its fortress, presently being restored by an organization called 'Cosmos Room'. The ruins of the 900 year-old Zangla Fort, the old dzong (palace fortress) of the ancient Kings of Zangla, are a breathtaking site, built precariously on top of a ledge of rock at the intersection of the Zanskar River and the small river leading out to the Jumlam, or middle route. This route was an autumn trading route to avoid the high passes of Ladakh, and must have been open to invasions, thus the fort and series of lookout towers down the Jumlam valley. The dzong houses a wonderful prayer room, which we happened upon a few years ago. In 2005, over two straight weeks of continuous rain and wind literally 'melted' the dzong, and it is now quite as safe as it was previously. The famous Hungarian scholar Alexander Csoma de Koros spent a winter in the 19th century studying Tibetan in order to make a dictionary in a room in the fort, now commemorated as his room. The fort is guarded over by a giant, new stupa built in 2009, while more ancient chortens with tsatsas in the niches line the trail as we descend back to the village and eventually to camp.

ZANSKAR VALLEY MONASTERIES JEEP TOUR | Sani Gompa, Karsha Gompa + Pipiting Gompa
Get a group together to hire a jeep to visit the fascinating, old gompas of Zanskar from Padum (3585m). You will have time to visit the 1000 year old Sani Gompa on the Stod River, the route out to Rangdum and the Suru Valley. Sani is a Drukpa Kargyu gompa with several resident nuns living in the monastery. The monastery is renown for its unique Kanika Chorten, presumed to date back to the time of the famous Kushan emperor, Kanishka (Kanika is the English transliteration of the emperor's name) who lived around 127 CE. Kanishka is well known in Buddhist literature as the promoter of Buddhism in this region, sponsoring a significant Buddhist conference in Kashmir.

From Wikipedia: “Padmasambhava, or Guru Rinpoche, is said to have dwelt for five years in the small 'Gamshot Lhakang' squeezed between the main building and the corridor, to the right of the Kanika chorten. Inside may be seen a figure of Guru Rinpoche and historical scenes in half relief on both sides of the statue.  Apparently, one can just see the white opening to a cave in a cliff across the river from the monastery where Padmasambhava is also said to have meditated for several years and it is still used as a meditation cell.

The monastery is also claimed to be connected with the famous Indian Yogi Naropa (956-1041 CE). There is now small room next to the Kanika chorten where it is thought that Naropa meditated in which there is a veiled bronze statue of the yogi.

A group of Kargyu nuns established a small retreat centre at 'Starkhugnza' in the 1990s. It is a site above Sani which was founded by Ngawang Tsering (1657-1732), a famous Zanskar meditator. All of the nunneries in Zanskar are under the spiritual authority of the monks and few have much in the way of endowments.”

From Sani, take the back roads to the Gelugpa Karsha Gompa, the largest, most important, and possibly the most scenic monastery in Zanskar, built high up into the cliffs above the village of Karsha. The monastery is said to be founded by Guru Rimpoche, or Padmasambhava, and is under the control of the Ngari Rimpoche. A fire recently burned down the kitchen, but a new, larger kitchen was rebuilt. The inside of the main assembly hall is purely Tibetan Buddhist, with ancient murals on the walls, priceless statues and the usual Buddhist offerings.

To return, you will pass back through Padum where you can do some email or pick up supplies at the many shops. Padum is a very Central Asian feeling village, a transit point for goods coming and going from Leh to Kargil, with a large Muslim population. There are some thousand year old pre-Tibetan Buddhist Buddha carvings just below Padum, the Gyalba Rigsinga, worth a look if you're stopping in town. And pick up a plate of momos on the main drag! En route back to Stongde, make a quick stop at Pipiting Gompa on a small hill just past Padum.

Day 15 – Drive Pipiting. Bike Karsha Gompa + Tungri. Drive Baltipulu (22 km biking, 32 km + 48 km driving)
As the road is being widened between Padum and Zangla, we’ll drive back to Pipiting and then cycle 9 kilometers to Karsha, the last few uphill switchbacks, all paved.

Karsha Monatsery is gelugpa, the largest, most important, and possibly the most scenic monastery in Zanskar, built high up into the cliffs above the village of Karsha. The monastery is said to be founded by Guru Rimpoche, or Padmasambhava, and is under the control of the Ngari Rimpoche. A fire recently burned down the kitchen, but a new, larger kitchen was rebuilt. The inside of the main assembly hall is purely Tibetan Buddhist, with ancient murals on the walls, priceless statues and the usual Buddhist offerings.

From Padum Gompa, we descend on steps to the village, cycle to the bridge and back through Pipiting to Padum (or perhaps further to Sani) where the staff has set up camp.

Alternative Route:
We'll cycle along the new(ish) road to the bridge at Pidmo, an interesting, traditional village on the Chadar route, surrounded by extensive barley fields, with a prayer wheel in the center of town. We cycle south along the newer road to Pishu, where we often used to camp on the green fields before the road was built, and on a few more kilometers to the small hamlet of Rinam and then to Karsha

Day 16 – Drive Pensi La + Rangdum + Parkachik + intersection. Cycle to Damsana (20 km, 1.15 hrs biking)
A bumpy day of driving, heading back over the Pensi La pass and back down to beautiful Rangdum
Checkpost before camp under trees.

Day 17 – Bike to Kargil + Hardas Camp (2652m)?
EDIT COMING
A beautiful day of cycling down paved road, almost 50 km to the intersection below Kargil which we took on the way up, and then another 5 km ...

Day 18 - Bike Dras 3280m + Matayan Camp  (75 km)
Off to the Dras district, known as the 'Gateway to Ladakh' if coming from Kashmir, and which claims to be 'the second coldest inhabited place in the world' (see sign in Dras). The Dras Valley continues until the base of the Zoji La pass (tomorrow's crossing), and follows the Dras River until Dras, from where it becomes the Gamru River. From Wikipedia: "For centuries, its inhabitants have been known to have negotiated this formidable pass even during the riskiest period (in late autumn or early spring, when the whole sector remains snow-bound and is subject to frequent snow storms) to transport trading merchandise and to help stranded travelers traverse the pass. They thereby established a monopoly over porterage during the heyday of the pan-Asian trade. A hardy people enduring with fortitude the harshness of the valley's winter, the inhabitants of Dras can well be described as the guardians of Ladakh's gateway."

The skies are deep blue, the fields green, and the roads crowded with Muslim shepherds (Gajar nomads) as we cycling along this beautiful, relatively traffic-free strech of road. The roadsides are surrounded by meadows dotted with colorful flowers, backed by snow-peaks, and easy to understand why Kashmir has drawn tourists for so many centuries.

We'll cycle another 18 kilometers along the river to reach the green campsite just past Matayan, a lovely campsite along the river with many chilly springs.

Day 19 - Bike Sonmarg (Tajhmajh Camp) 2755m (cross Zoji La 3528m) (41 km)
Continuing through green landscapes of glaciers, springs, grazing pasture, Gajjer and Bakarwal nomads, their colorful tarp tents and their large flocks of sheep, horses and cows, we cycle to alpine Sonmarg, called the 'Meadow of Gold’. We have a relatively easy crossing of the Zoji La, once seized by Pakistani fighters (1948) in their campaign to capture Ladakh. This isn't a high or dramatic pass, and cresting the pass from the Ladakh side is a lovely ride on paved roads, past snow bridges, cycling above the Gamru River. Once at the pass (only intelligible by the sign and about 15 km from camp), we have another 3 or 4 km of bricked road to a fork where the trucks and cars take the higher, longer, dustier road on the right, and the cyclists take the slightly shorter, newly bricked road down to Baltal, where hundreds of thousands of Hindu pilgrims stay in tents awaiting their pilgrimage to the sacred cave at Amarnath. From the top, views down to more green pastures, glacial rivers, lush valleys with steep-sided walls; the valley narrows, becoming a deep gorge, the river becomes the Sind River. These roads are not for those who have fears of exposure! Take the car if you’re unsure.

Amarnath is a cave situated at 3888m, reached via Pahalgam and Baltal. The cave is renown for an ice stalagmite which formed inside the cave, considered to be a Shiva lingam. Wikipedia: "According to a Hindu legend, this is the cave where Shiva explained the secret of life and eternity to his divine consort, Parvati. Two other ice formations represent Parvati and Shiva's son, Ganesha."

Once down the precipitous pass, we have another 10 km of flatter road, which we now share with the Indian Army convoys, cargo trucks and numerous cars and 4WD vehicles, to reach the outskirts of Sonmarg. Ignore the crowds, traffic, Indian tourists, horses tethered to poles read for rides, while cycling through a few km of sprawling Sonmarg. We turn left as we reach the end of the town, cycling about 3 km towardsThajiwas Glacier where snow remains year-round, a very popular tourist vacation site.

We'll set up camp in this great setting, again ignoring the Indian tourists being led by on horseback, enjoying the cooler air and mountain views.

It’s our last cycling day as getting into Srinagar is hot, with lots of heavy traffic, so we’ll give out tips to the staff in the evening tonight and put away the padded bike pants!

Day 20 – Extra Biking Day
Just in case ...

Day 21 - Drive Srinagar 1585m (80 km)
Finally we reach to Srinagar, a place which local Kashmiris call 'Heaven on Earth', along one of the most beautiful roads in Kashmir. We cycle through the heart of rural Kashmir, biking past traditional villages with plentiful fields, fruit and nut trees, wooden houses and mountain views. We continue to cycle along the Sind River, which widens as makes a large S turn nearing Srinagar.

Camping is finished, and we’ll enjoy a unique stay on the Shangloo's deluxe houseboats on Dal Lake (the Mahjong Group of houseboats). After lunch, the afternoon is free. We recommend just sitting on the deck of the houseboat and watching the local life go by, extremely colorful, a look into the floating life of the villagers living on Dal Lake. Or take one of the houseboat's private shikaras out for a trail paddle.

The fridges are stocked with beers, and dinner will be prepared by the cooks, local Kashmiri fare.

Day 22 - Srinagar (Shikara Tour Dal Lake + Cycle Old City)
A free day in Srinagar with many options.. We've included a morning or evening shikara ride on Dal and Nageen Lakes, often compared to Venice. The shikara rides are good ways to see the hidden 'water-worlds' of Kashmir, where local men and women paddle their shikaras to and from the markets, to collect water lilies as fodder for their animals, to fish or just for transport. You can extend your ride to include the more remote water-ways for a small extra price to your shikara driver.

Enjoy an afternoon of leisurely cycling through the old city of Srinagar., visiting the mosques and bazaars, many of them on the lakeside. Stop at some of Srinagar’s world renown Mughul gardens en route, and savor the history. Shopping abounds in the newer parts of Srinagar, so take the chance to look through piles of Kashmiri silk carpets or locally produces pashminas. Other options and tours below.

OLD SRINAGAR, MOSQUES + MUGHAL GARDENS TOUR
A half day (or full day) tour of the world famous Mughal Gardens, visiting the Nishat Bagh (Garden of Pleasure) and Shalimar Bagh (Abode of Love), returning to the houseboat for a hot lunch of fresh, local fare, often including fish from the lake. You will also visit the bustling and fascinating streets of Old Srinagar, and enter into some of the many famous mosques of Srinagar.

BACKWATER SHIKARA TOUR
The longer 'backwaters shikara tour' through the small back canals of the lake, finally passing by the Hindu temple which is still taken care of by Kashmiri 'pandits', Brahmin priests who have lived in Kashmir for centuries. Watch the timeless life on the lake, a photographer's dream ...

SHANKARACHARYA TEMPLE
In the afternoon head out for a hike up to Shankaracharya Temple, a Shiva temple which commands a magnificent view of Srinagar and the lakes.

Day 23 - Trip Ends
Our wonderful Himalayan journey ends today. You're free to spend extra days in Srinagar, continue by land via Jammu to Delhi, or fly to Delhi or elsewhere. We're happy to assist if you need help with arrangements.

See 'Extensions' tab for trips to beautiful Pangong Lake on the border of India and China (Tibet) as well as many wonderful day trips (or cycles) out of Srinagar.

Highlights+Reviews

Trip Advisor Reviews

Client's Highlights
Outstanding trekking adventure, first class guides and personal attention - this is why Kamzang has so many repeat clients! We trekked with Kim Bannister and Lhakpa Dorje Sherpa for 22 days through remote Zanskar in Aug 2014. It was the adventure of a lifetime. Kim has many years experience and a loyal team of support staff and horsemen. Food and camping were very well organized; Kim and Lhakpa lead us through stunning scenery into remote Zanskari villages. Their detailed local knowledge and ability to speak with villagers made for a memorable rich experience. Over high passes and crossing rivers we always were in good hands. Thoroughly recommended if you really want to trek off the map.
- David R & Kathy F (Canada), Wild Ladakh & Zanskar Trek 2014

This was the third time I've trekked with Kamzang Journeys and Kim and her crew it was lovely to be back amongst friends. Ladakh is a fabulous destination and a real step back in time to 'real' travelling. Trekking with Kim and her crew is authentic but also luxurious; a single tent as standard, the 'Festival Tent' for relaxation and meals, hot water for tea/coffee on 'tap', and great standards of cooking! No fears of food poisoning as hygiene is excellent. If you're stuck with June - September for your long Himalayan trekking Ladakh is the place to go and Kim and Kamzang Journeys are the people to go with!
- Sally L (UK), Nomads, Lakes & High Passes Trek, Wild Ladakh & Zanskar Trek + more

A bucket list must, and an expeditionary style adventure in a pristine environment. All at the good hands of Kim Bannister, the organizational wizard, and her extraordinary staff. Kim and her guide partner Lhakpa Dorji led us on an idyllic route through the remote and beautiful Ladakh & Zanskar region of northern India. My initial apprehensions, as a first time trekker, were quickly extinguished by the friendly and professional manner of the competent staff. It was the experience of a life time, certainly one that I will never forget. This trekking company deserves a "5 star rating"! You need only bring a good set of lungs, a strong pair of legs, a zest for adventure and a sense of humor. I will return!
- Tom B (USA), Ladakh & Zanskar Kora Trek 2013

Magnificent treks and highly professional! I have trekked with Kim four times, three in Ladakh in Northern India and one in Nepal. On all four occasions the treks were very well organised and run in a very professional manner. Kim's crew are all enthusiastic and are very happy to provide assistance where necessary. As trekkers you are very well looked after with individual tents and a large tent for socializing and dining. Kim and Lhakpa plan their treks so they are interesting and that they go off the beaten track and you are not walking in procession with other trekking groups, Kim is aware of the different needs and capabilities of her trekkers and her daily itineraries cater for all. On the more challenging parts of her treks Kim and her crew are always there to support. I hope to do more trekking with Kim and Kamzang Journeys and highly recommend them.
- Dennis B (Australia), Nomads, Lakes & High Passes Trek 2015, Wild Ladakh & Zanskar Trek 2013 + more

Thank you very much for a wonderful trek. I felt so very well looked after, from great food to river crossings to much needed breaks and always someone to see that we did not feel lost or alone. Your attention to detail, from the shopping expeditions both in Leh and along the way, from the variety and quality of food to making sure that everything we needed was provided and easy to access, is amazing. Also your energy and generosity of time and spirit in those extra expeditions to nomad tents, the fort etc. when many leaders would have signed off for the day.
- Leslie S (Australia), Nomads, Lakes & High Passes Trek 2012

I have done a number of treks with a variety of companies. One of these treks was to Ladakh, India with Kamzang. I found the trek’s organization and quality of food to be excellent. Equally important was Kim’s knowledge of the cultures that we trekked through, so that we, as relative outsiders, could gain some insight into their lives. However, two things stand out. Kim’s infectious enthusiasm: not just for the landscapes and cultures we passed through but for dad-to-day life on the trek. Secondly, the shared ‘mess-tent’, a haven of comfort and conversation. Very highly recommended.
- Roger E (UK), Nomads, Lakes & High Passes Trek 2011

What a trip! Thanks for all your hard work and imagination. Truly a spectacular journey and the clientele you attracted was a magnificent bonus.
- Chris R (USA), Wild Ladakh & Rupshu Trek

Wow! What an unforgettable experience you have given me. I was constantly amazed at your patience with the individual needs and concerns of the group and of the heartfelt care and connection you have with your staff and horses. You are a great leadership team and a joy to wake up to each morning! The landscape, the interactions with the villagers, nuns and monks along the way, the exhileration of the more risky bits of the trip and your smiling faces will not be forgotten. Thank you & Jullay!
- Annie K, Wild Zanskar 2010

I think about you and Lhakpa and everybody a lot; and I miss the trek, the beautiful mountains, the amazing sceneries and rich culture there. Every time when I go through my trekking photos, the memories of those great moments come back to me, speaking to me and asking me why I haven't packed my gears and signed up for my next Himalaya trip?!
 - Summer T (China), Wild Ladakh Zanskar Traverse

I have been on treks with Kim four times. All her trips are superbly well organized and smoothly run. Everything is take care of. The food is great and accommodation good. The only thing you have to do is the walking. It's a five star service and great value!
- Peter H (UK), Ladakh & Zanskar Treks + more

Client Highlights
Trekkers' Comments

Trek Highlights

  • About 900 km of cycling, 12,000+ meters altitude gained!
  • Exotic Leh + historic Indus Valley 
  • Buddhist Ladakh + Zanskar
  • Cycle down from the world's second highest motorable pass, the Kardung La
  • Dha Hanu Region
  • Sham Valley
  • Central Zanskar monasteries (Karsha, Stongde, Zangla)
  • Zangla Fort
  • Nun + Kun glaciers + peaks
  • Muslim Suru Valley
  • Buddhist Rangdum monastery
  • Traditional Ladakhi + Zanskari villages
  • Srinagar, the old city + water world of Dal Lake
  • Shikara Ride through the back canals of Dal Lake
  • Alpine villages of Sonmarg + Gulmarg
  • Nomadic life, pashmina goats
  • Yaks, pashmina goats & 'gurs' Trans-Himalayan snow-peaks & high passes 
  • Idyllic campsites
  • Central Asian wildlife 
  • Challenging cycling, both on and off-road

Photos
The Great Ladakh, Zanskar + Kashmir Bicycle Journey
Nubra + Indus Bicycle Trip

Photo Gallery | Trip + Trek Photos
Kim Bannister Photography

Kashmir + Srinagar Photos
Kim Bannister Photography

Himalayan Photos
Wildlife
Himalayan Wildlife Photos

Birds
Himalayan Bird Photos

Flowers
Himalayan Flowers Photos

Travel Reading
Travel Books

Articles + Videos | Ladakh + Zanskar, Indian Himalaya

Kamzang Journeys | Kharnak Nomads | MrMennoBen

Kamzang Journeys | Markha Valley | MrMennoBen YouTube

Kamzang Journeys | Changthang Nomads | MrMennoBen YouTube

Kamzang Journeys | Rupshu Nomads | MrMennoBen YouTube

Leh + Indus Valley | MrMennoBen YouTube

Ladakh Diaries: Postcard from Paradise | India Today - Features Kamzang Journeys

On Snow Leopard Mountain | BBC Planet Earth

Child Monks of the Himalayas | BBC - In Pictures

Chang Tang Pa | Cat Vinton Photo Essay

Silent Roar, The Snow Leopard | National Geographic Documentary

Shepherdess of the Glaciers | Trailer YouTube

Ladakh, Mountains & Men | Le Figaro

Blog Article | Za Rahula Local Nomadic God

Street Food in India | India Mike Blog

Ladakh, the Last Shangri La | National Geographic

A Journey to Little Tibet | National Geographic

Legends of Dha Hanu

India: Extreme Biking in Beautiful Ladakh | The Telegraph UK

The Grey Ghosts of the Mountains | Vimeo

Kashmir, the Inheritance of Loss | New York Times

 

Gandhi | BBC Documentary (3 Parts)
The Making of the Mahatma - Part 1

The Rise to Fame - Part 2
The Road to Freedom - Part 3

 

In Search of Gandhi | BBC Documentary

GoPro + Ladakh Cycling Videos
These great YouTube videos were put together by friend and cyclist David Koelle. Although they're not exactly our routes, they give you an idea of the roads, the beauty and the challenges of cycling in the Indian Himalaya!

Nubra - Wari La Cycle | David Koelle

Lamayuru, Leh, Nubra + Khardung La Cycle - | David Koelle

Pangong Lake + Chang La Cycle | David Koelle

Srinagar - Lamayuru Cycle | David Koelle

Leh - Manali Cycle | David Koelle

Date+Price

2018 Dates
9 June - 1 July
23 days

2018 Trip Price
$4280 (4+ cyclists)

+ $4580 (2+3 cyclists)
+ $5280 (1+2 cyclists or Private Trip)

+ Hotel Single Supplement - $300
+ NO Single Supplement for camping
+ Flights NOT included (meet in Leh + depart from Srinagar)

Includes

  • NO single supplement for camping
  • Hotels in Leh (breakfast)
  • Hotels + houseboats in Srinagar (breakfast + dinner)
  • Airport transfers
  • Private jeep + back-up truck
  • Bike mechanic (for groups of 5+)
  • Restricted area permits
  • Leh + Indus sightseeing by bicycle
  • Kardung La bicycle trip
  • Kamzang Journeys Bicycling
    Northface tents (3 person tents for singles + doubles), plentiful 'gourmet' food with seasonal, fresh produce, French-press coffee, chai, Kashmiri + herbal teas, Katadyn filtered drinking water, warm washing water, library, 'lounge' with colorful Indian rugs, camp chairs, blankets, occasional tent music in evenings, oxygen & PAC bag (when needed), full medical kit, horses, yaks or porters, Western, Sherpa & local guides (when needed), our 5-star Kamzang staff + the signature yellow Kamzang dining tent. NO single supplement for single tents on trek!

Safety & Health Precautions

  • Thuraya satellite phone (when allowed)
  • InReach satellite messaging system (when allowed)
  • Updated route published on InReach site (when allowed)
  • Helicopter evacuation services (when allowed)
  • Oxygen saturation monitoring system
  • PAC bag (portable oxygen chamber)
  • Full medical kit & stretcher
  • Kayadyn filtered water
  • Safe, sanitary, delicious & plentiful food and drinks

Excludes

  • Domestic & international flights
  • Indian visa
  • Meals in Leh (while not on trek)
  • Travel or travel health insurance
  • Equipment rental
  • Alcohol & bottled drinks
  • Gompa (monastery) donations
  • Laundry
  • Tipping + other items of a personal nature

Tips & Extra Cash
Allow approx $300 for meals (while not on trek), drinks (on trek) and tips. We recommend $250 per trekker thrown into the tips pool for the crew.

Contact+Details

Trekker's Comments
Travel Books

Kamzang Journeys
Kim Bannister
kim@kamzang.com
Kim Mobile: +(91) 9419 981715
Lhakpa Mobile: +(91) 9419 977569

Delhi Airport Transfers & Sightseeing | Dhruv Travels
Contacts: Prince & Rajesh
travelorganiserindia@yahoo.co.in
Office: +(91 11) 6536 8764
Prince mobile: +(91) 98104 85897
Rajesh mobile: +(91) 98993 73886

Srinagar & Kashmir Contact
Shangaloo Travels
Mehraj Deen (GM & Ladakh Operations)
mehraj@shanglootravels.com
Mehraj Mobile: +(91) 9419013874, 9858986512
Office: +(91) 0194 2502083
Shangaloo Travels Tel : +(91) 0194 2502082|2502083|2502084|2502085|2502086|2502087|2502088|2502089|2502090,
+(91) 9596 787001 -20

Kathmandu Contact
Khumbu Adventures
hiking.guide@gmail.com
Office: +(977) 01 4488352
Lhakpa Dorji Sherpa Mobile: +(977) 9841 235461, 9813 371542
Doma Sherpa Mobile: +(977) 9841 510833, 9803 675361

On-Trek Contact
We are not able to access SMS or phone calls to our satellite phone in Jammu & Kashmir state because of security restrictions. In case of emergency, a few numbers are listed below, or contact Doma Sherpa of Khumbu Adventures (above)

Ang Chuk (driver) +(91) 9419 344641
Rinchin (Shaynam Hotel manager) +(91) 9906 990444

InReach Explorer
NOTE: We are probably not able to use this satellite messaging system in 2016 either, but in case of restriction changes, info below:
We have a MapShare page that works for sending emails to our InReach messaging device. Give this link to people who want to follow us and have them send us a message so we have their email in the system. We can email them back directly Please tell people not to expect updates every day. There is a ‘message’ button on the top left, and the message sender needs to put their EMAIL address instead of phone number to get a response. Messages are free, enjoy.

Follow Us on Facebook
Kamzang Journeys Facebook
(Posts before and after treks, from Leh)

Bicycle
Will you rent or bring your own? Many airlines allow a bicycle packed in a bike box for no extra charge. Emirates is on that list. Rentals are from bicycle shops in Leh, relatively good quality mountain bikes.

+ NOTE: You can bring a mountain bike or a touring bike on most roads in the Indian Himalaya, and use fat tires or touring tires.  There are advantages to both types of tires, and no bike will be perfect for all terrain. Most roads are paved, often very badly, although we will be cycling on some unpaved roads and jeep tracks.
+ See Gear tab

Bicycle Maintenance
You are responsible for knowing something about the maintenance of a bicycle although we have cyclists with us who are adept at fixing bike issues, and Lhakpa is a pretty good bike mechanic. If you don’t know anything, we recommend having a quick session at your local bike shop to know how to repair punctures and learn a few basics.

Arrival Hotels Leh
Hotel Shaynam
Padma Guest House
Hotel Omasila

Hotels in Leh
We use one of the three hotels below as our 'arrival hotels' depending on availability and your preference. Our standard hotel is the Hotel Shaynam where Kim and the staff stay, a lovely family-run guest house with a blooming garden, deck chairs & umbrellas. We don't charge a single supplement here. There is a single supplement or small upgrade charge for Hotel Omasila &  Padma Guest House. We book all hotels for you regardless of where you stay. Please specify your preference when booking a trek. If staying at Shaynam or Padma we recommend 'Open Hand' down the road for a delicious meal or coffee & great atmosphere.

Hotel Shaynam
Breakfast - Included
Extra Nights - Single $30, Double $35

Padma Guest House
Single Supplement - $75
Breakfast - Included
Extra Nights - Single $45, Double $55

Hotel Omasila
Single Supplement - $175
Extra Nights - Single $65, Double $75, Suite $115
Breakfast - Included

Alternative Hotels
We're happy to book other hotels of your choice for you. Some recommended hotels below.

Dragon Hotel
Single Supplement - $185
Extra Nights - Single $70, Double $80, Suite $120
Breakfast - Included

Luxury Hotels in Leh
We offer options to upgrade to one of Leh’s wonderful luxury hotels, which include breakfast in the tarriff. Indulge yourself! We’ll make the bookings for you, just let us know the dates …

The Grande Dragon Ladakh
Inquire for price
Breakfast - Included

Health Information
India Health Information
CDC

We also recommend bringing probiotics with you to help prevent infections while on trek. Doctor's recommendation!

Travel Medical Insurance
Required for your own safely. We carry a copy of your insurance with all contact, personal and policy information with us on the trek and our office in Kathmandu keeps a copy. Note that we almost always trek over 4000 meters (13,000+ feet) and that we don't do any technical climbing with ropes, ice axes or crampons.

Note that private helicopter insurance generally not available in India!

Global Rescue
We recommend that our trekkers also sign up for Global Rescue, which is rescue services only, as a supplement to your travel medical insurance.
Book package through Wicis-Sports via Carlota Fenes (carlota@wicis-media.com)

Wicis-Sports Wearable Tech | Sports Package
Live personal heath stats via a wearable chest strap heart rate monitor.
Track your vitals (heart rate, temperature, oxygen saturation), the weather, GPS locations, altitude, speed, bearing and stream LIVE via a Thuraya satellite hot spot. Partners: OCENS (weather), Global Rescue, Aspect Solar.

"Thuraya Telecom + WiCis Sports offer connectivity to Himalayan treks + expeditions"

"Founded in 2011 by Harvard and Stanford anesthesiologist Dr. Leo Montejo and located in the Lake Tahoe area, the company’s goal is to promote the use of mHealth and tracking devices to make adventure sports safer and engage their followers with real time data that is either private or also available to social medial platforms."

Book package through Wicis-Sports via Carlota Fenes (carlota@wicis-media.com)

Medical
We have a full medical kit with us including Diamox (for acclimatizing), antibiotics, inhalers, bandages, re-hydration, painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs etc. but please bring a supply of all prescription and personal medications. Kim has First Aid, CPR and Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certifications as well as many years of experience with altitude in the Himalaya but is NOT a qualified medic or doctor, so please have a check-up before leaving home, and inform us of any medical issues. This is for YOUR OWN safety.

DO bring all prescription medications and good rehydration/electrolytes. We advise bringing your own Diamox, Ciprofloxin, Azithromyacin & Augmentin. We have all of these with us but the Western versions are always better than the Indian equivalents.

PAC Bag + Oxygen
We carry a Portable Oxygen Chamber, or Gammow Bag, with us on many treks. There is no charge for use of the PAC bag but oxygen is $300 per canister (cost price, pass on to insurance company).

Travel Books
Travel Books

Arrival India

Arrival in India
NOTE: Flights to/from Leh are NOT included in the price or itinerary. Everyone will need to arrange their own flight or overland trip to Leh. You can book your international flights all the way to Leh, Ladakh (IXL) which will ensure that your flight provider is responsible for hotels if your flight is delayed or cancelled. You might also want to come overland from Manali, breath-taking jeep safari, or from Srinagar, both some of the planet's most spectacular drives.

Email us your flight arrival details and have our contact details with you when you arrive in Delhi in case you need assistance. Kim will have her mobile with her, as will our agents from Dhruv Travels, so don't hesitate to call. We can help with hotels, flights, airport pick-ups and drops, sightseeing in Delhi or travels further to Rajasthan or Agra & the Taj Mahal (see Dhruv Travels).

Indian Visa
Be sure to have your Indian Visa before arrival in India. Most countries qualify for the new visa-on-arrival system, which is valid for 30 days. Information about the new visa-on-arrival for citizens of many countries (excluding the UK). NOTE that you need to apply and pay for the visa BEFORE arriving in India. You get the actual visa with your paid application once in India.
Indian Visa

Reference for Indian Visa:
Hotel in Leh: Shaynam Hotel, 20 Old Leh Road, Leh 194101
Travel Agent in Delhi: Dhruv Travels, 2464, Nalwa St, Chuna Mandi, Paharganj, New Delhi, 110055, India, +91 11 2358 2715
Hotel in Delhi: Jyoti Mahal Guest House, 2488-90 Nalwa Street, Chuna Mandi, Pahar Ganj, New Delhi,110055, +91 1123580523/24/25/26

You can print out + fill out your Visa on Arrival form before arriving in India, but you need to apply for the visa before leaving for India!

Delhi Airport Hotels
Delhi Airport Hotel

Delhi Restaurants + Bars
Zomato

Notes on Itinerary
Although we try to follow the itinerary below, it is ONLY a guideline based on years of experience trekking in the Himalaya. At times local trail, river or weather conditions may make a deviation necessary; rivers may be impassible, snow blocks passes, and landslides wipe out trails. The trekking itinerary and campsites may also vary slightly depending on the group's acclimatization rate or sickness.

The Himalaya are our passion, and we take trekking seriously. Although everyone is here on vacation, please come with a dollop of patience and compassion added to your sense of adventure ...

Temperatures + Clothing
Dress conservatively in Leh and on the trail as a rule. Shorts are okay if they aren't too short, mini skirts aren’t recommended. Sleeveless t-shirts are absolutely fine, but perhaps avoid tank-tops on the trail. Super tight doesn't go over so well with the village elders. Many of the younger generation in Nepal wear modern Indian or Western-influenced clothes, but remember that you haven't signed up for a beach or surf vacation. Use your good judgment, be an ambassador for western tourists! Please ask Kim or your guide if unsure about appropriate clothing.

Leh is generally very hot during the day (t-shirt weather) and cool at night (long sleeve shirt, fleece or synthetic jacket weather depending on month in the summer). A sun hat is essential during the day, sandals like Keens perfect for both a wander around town and trekking. Ladakh is very casual, a pair of jeans and shirt fine for evenings.

Trekking temperatures vary considerably, and you will need a wide range of trekking gear during the trek. Gear will range from sandals to boots, from t-shirts to down jackets. We suggest packing a warm sleeping bag, and bring layers. A full discussion of gear on 'Gear' tab.

Cultural Issues
Ladakhis are very open and welcoming, but there are a few issues you should be aware of to make your stay in Ladakh more fulfilling. Use your right hand to pass things, shake hands or do most anything. Left hands are somewhat taboo. Best not to pat kids on heads, or point feet ahead of you at monasteries. Don't walk over someone's legs or feet, but put your hand down in front of you to signal them to pull their legs to the side. Take off shoes and hats when going into Buddhist monasteries and Hindu temples, don't use flashes inside monasteries or temples in general, be respectful of a puja (prayer ceremony) if attending one. You can talk, all religious are very tolerant, but be aware of your level of voice.

Ladakhis don't anger quickly, so try not to raise your voice if exasperated or angry as it only will make a situation worse. Do bargain at shops, with taxis and rickshaws, but don't fleece them. They are poor and making a living, generally.

Give small donations on the streets if you choose, but try not to encourage begging too much. Be aware of who you are giving money to, and please only give small amounts. If you do want to donate to a cause, ask about our Kamzang Fund or other responsible organizations.

Note that Leh and Ladakh are melting pots of different religions: Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim, as well as a few Christians. Tolerance and acceptance of all religions tolerated!

Pampering Yourself in Leh
Inquire if you're interested in staying in one of Leh's high end hotels ...

Tips for Staff
We recommend at least $200 per person to go into the tip pool for the staff. Please bring IC with you on the trek for the tips. It’s nice to buy the staff drinks on the last night. Or any other night that you feel like getting them a bottle of run!

Tips in General
Tips are always appreciated but they don’t need to be extravagant. 50 IC to carry bags to/from your room is fine. 100 IC for drivers to/from the airport. Round up taxi fares. A larger tip would be expected for a day trip in a car, perhaps 500 IC. 10% is included in some restaurant and hotel bills in India, and if it’s not included it’s still expected. Check your bills, and still round up at restaurants. Feel free to give out small change to the beggars in the streets (5, 10, 20 IC).

Cash + ATMs
You’ll want some cash with you on the trek for drinks, snacks, beer, sodas, etc. There are often  chances to during the trek, and usually local crafts to buy en route. (You’ll want your tip money IC as well). There are ATMs in Leh but they don’t dispense large amounts of cash so you’ll be best with currency to change. Traveler's checks not recommended in India.

Extra Days in India | Customize Your Journey
We are happy to book extra nights at the hotel, or a hotel of your choice, if you want to stay in Leh for a few extra days to explore our favorite Central Asian capital, or just to relax and soak in the mountain scenery. We are also happy to book trips to Nubra, sightseeing jeep safaris along the Indus Valley, rafting, bicycling down the Kardung La or any other activity you would like.

See our Extensions Tab for trip ideas!

Gear

Bicycle
Will you rent or bring your own? Many airlines allow a bicycle packed in a bike box for no extra charge. Emirates is on that list. Rentals are from bicycle shops in Leh, relatively good quality mountain bikes.

+ NOTE: You can bring a mountain bike or a touring bike on most roads in the Indian Himalaya, and use fat tires or touring tires.  There are advantages to both types of tires, and no bike will be perfect for all terrain. Most roads are paved, often very badly, although we will be cycling on some unpaved roads and jeep tracks.
+ See Gear tab

Bicycle Maintenance
You are responsible for knowing something about the maintenance of a bicycle although we have cyclists with us who are adept at fixing bike issues, and Lhakpa is a pretty good bike mechanic. If you don’t know anything, we recommend having a quick session at your local bike shop to know how to repair punctures and learn a few basics.

Duffel Bags
We have Kamzang Journeys L orange duffel bags, a bargain at $40! Please inquire early as we need to bring from Kathmandu.

Rentals
We have Western down jackets to rent for $1.50 per day.  We also have good super-down sleeping bags to rent (0 to -10 F) for $2.50 per day.

Packing + Storage
It’s easiest to pack and unpack from a duffel bag, especially when the temperature drops. Best to invest in a strong, waterproof duffel such as a North Face. You can store extra gear in Leh at the hotel.

Shopping
You can get some trekking gear in Leh, such as trekking poles, sleeping bags (about 0F), light down jackets, Chinese-made gear which is often quite wearable. Top up your gear in Leh if you need to, but best not to rely on purchasing too much there.

Travel Photography Gear Guide
The Complete Guide to Gear for the Landscape Photographer

On Your Bike
You will need to carry certain things with you while riding, and the extras you can store in our back-up vehicle. In your daypack (or panniers) you will need:

  • Helmet & warm hat
  • Warm, windproof jacket & tights
  • Warm, windproof cycling gloves
  • Wind &/or rain jacket
  • Lightweight synthetic or down jacket
  • Camera
  • Water
  • Small bike-repair kit (extra tube, puncture repair kit, multi-tool, lube | chain oil)
  • Headlamp
  • Small medical kit
  • SPF lip balm & sunscreen
  • Polarized sunglasses
  • Snacks

Other Gear (Optional)

  • Pedals
  • Saddle
  • Bike shoes
  • Panniers
  • Bike tubes (specifically sized for your bike tires)
  • Spare tire
  • Spare wheel set
  • Spare RD hanger
  • Brake pads (extra pair if you still use pads)

Gear List
This is a guideline, not a bible, for the gear you will need on the trek. Ask if you have questions! One 15 kg (33 lbs) maximum weight limit for the duffel bag for flights. 20 kg (50 lbs) weight limit for treks.

  • Small daypack | Biking pack
  • Sleeping bag (-20F/-30C recommended)
  • Thermarest (Air mattress)
  • Sneakers, Keens or light shoes (city, evenings)
  • Crocs (camp + washing) 

  • Cycling tights
  • Cycling T-shirts
  • Cycling L/S shirts
  • Cycling windproof jacket
  • Cycling gloves
  • Cycling socks
  • Cycling beenie (hat)
  • Down jacket
  • T-shirts (city)
  • Pants or skirt (city)
  • Fleece or thermal jacket (evenings, city)
  • Fleece or thermal top (evenings)
  • Fleece or thermal bottoms (evenings)
  • Lightweight Gortex jacket & pants (wind & rainproof)
  • Lightweight long underwear (to sleep in or layer under clothes)
  • Socks (evening, city)
  • Gloves (evening)
  • Thermal hat
  • Down booties (optional, recommended)
  • Sunglasses (2, bring extra pair)
  • Water bottles
  • Bladder (optional)
  • Toiletries, sunscreen with SPF, lipbalm with SPF & personal medical supplies
  • Watch (or small clock with alarm)
  • Extra batteries & battery chargers
  • Headlamp 
(2, bring extra)
  • Laundry Detergent (Lhasa) or Bio-degradable Soap
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Books
  • Zip-lock bags
  • SOFT toilet paper or tissues (we supply Chinese toilet paper but you’ll want something softer for blowing your nose)
  • Baby-Wipes | Wet-Wipes OR Chux (for washing)
  • Rehydration | Electrolytes
  • Snacks!

NOTE: We have a 'dress code' for the evenings in the tent, which essentially means you'll be changing out of your trekking clothes and into clean, dry evening clothes!

Medical Supplies
We strongly suggest bringing Western meds with you as there are a lot of Indian fakes on the market!

Suggested: Diamox, Azithromyacin, Ciprofloxacin, Tinidazole or Flagyl & Augmentin. Bring COMPEED for covering blisters & good tasting electrolytes &/or rehydration salts (Emergen-C is a good American brand). The local versions aren’t very appealing.

We also recommend bringing strong knee & ankle supports & braces, ACE bandages for sprains & strains, Tegaderm &/or other would coverings. Duct tape is always useful. We're happy to take excess medical supplies off your hands when you leave if you won't need them and pass them on to others. We use lots of the large amount we have with us to treat locals as well as our own trekkers ...

Comments on Gear
On our biking trips in Tibet we either stay in hotels or camp. When we stay in hotels you'll want something comfortable, casual and warm for the evenings. For Lhasa and sightseeing you will want good walking shoes (or Keens), and comfortable clothes for visiting monasteries, hiking around fortresses, basic comfortable street wear. Mornings and evenings are always chilly in Tibet, even in the summer, while days can be scorching.

Nights are chilly to cold, so a down jacket and a WARM sleeping bag are essentials. We recommend a DOWN sleeping bag of 0 to -20 F (-18 to -28 C). Campsites near passes can get COLD. Rentals are available although they are only about 0 to -10F. The dining tent is a Tibetan style ‘yurt’, with blankets and camp chairs on the ground. It warms up in the evenings with everyone inside and hot tea but it is still important to have warm clothes for the evenings. Down booties are great when it’s cold, a down jacket is essential, and down or synthetic pants are also nice to have.

Crocs for washing and the evenings are also very useful. Wear a pair of warm socks under them for going in and out of the dining tent which is a 'shoes off' zone. Tevas take a long time to dry, not recommended.

Good, polarized sunglasses are essential; please bring an extra pair if you tend to lose them! Don’t forget a sun hat &/or baseball cap and have plenty of sunscreen and lip balm with SPF!

Tents
Everyone gets their own 2-person dome tent without a single supplement. Singles have a 2-person tent and couples share a larger, 3-person version.

Water
We bring KATADYN expedition-sized water filters along on the trek for fresh drinking water, ecologically the best way to get water in the Himalaya’s fragile trekking regions. Bring your own filter pump, Steripen/UV purifier or iodine/chlorine tablets for fresh water while trekking. NOTE: To be extra safe with your drinking water, you can drop one purifying tablet into your water bottle after filling with our filtered water. Make sure you wait the required amount of time before drinking, and don’t add anything with Vitamin C as this negates the iodine.

Please bring at least TWO (and better three) Nalgene, Sigg or other unbreakable plastic/metal water bottles. Camelbacks and other bladder systems are good for trekking but can leak, so as a back-up it’s best to also bring a Nalgene or other water bottle.

NOTE: We do not provide boiled water for drinking on either our tea-house/lodge or our camping treks although there is endless hot water for herbal, black or green teas, hot chocolate, hot lemon as well as Indian chai and Kashmiri tea.

Snacks
You will NEED snacks hiking at altitude, even if you’re not a snacker. People crave unusual foods at altitude!  Energy bars, ‘GU’ gels, chocolate bars, dried fruit & nuts, beef jerky (or whatever) are important to have along for long days, pre-lunch bonks and passes. Lemonade mix, Emergen-C or similar drink mixes are great to have for hot days in your water bottles, and it is ESSENTIAL to bring electrolytes with you every day.  

Bring something to share in the tent in the evenings if you want. Cheese is great as a treat on a cheese-board before dinner (Blue, Stilton, Yarlsburg, good Cheddar, Brie, etc). If you would like, bring a bit of your favorite and we’ll throw it on a cheese board for appetizers one night.

NOTE: Nothing besides your personal snack food is required, but it’s fun to see what everyone comes up with!  Almost all basics available in Kathmandu, so no need to over-load.

Extensions

Srinagar & the Jewels of Kashmir
Kashmir, Srinagar & Indus Jeep Safari

A great extension to any of our Kamzang Journeys treks in Ladakh & Zanskar, or a wonderful trip on its own. Kashmir and Srinagar are some of the jewels of the Indian Himalaya, often described by local Kashmiris as 'heaven on earth' ....

We are offering a wonderful nine-day itinerary, flying from Delhi to Srinagar and finishing in Leh via the overland route.
There are many ways to customize this trip, please get in touch to make this trip exactly what you are looking for!

Some of the highlights: old historic Srinagar & the Mughal Gardens, touring Dal & Nageen Lakes by shikara (local boat), the atmospheric morning floating market, a visit to Dacigram National Park, an excursion Manasbal & Wular Lake, the largest lake in Asia, a tour of
Yousmarg  and a visit to Naranag Temple, the oldest in Kashmir.

En route to Leh you'll have the option to drive the stunningly beautiful Indus highway via the Koji La, with a chance to visit idyllic Sonmarg and stop at several Tibetan Buddhist monasteries along the road to Leh. Or you can take a one-hour flight directly to Leh.

Enjoy the world renown beauty and hospitality of Kashmir!


Leh, the Indus Valley & High Lakes
Leh, Indus Valley Monasteries & Salt Lakes

We also have a nearly perfect extension, again also a trip on its own, of Leh, the Indus Valley monasteries (gompas, in Tibetan or Ladakhi) and a jeep safari to the breathtakingly beautiful and culturally interesting Tso Moriri and Pangong Lakes, the later partly in Tibet. Visit the nomadic communities at Tso Moriri, the traditional villages at Pangong Lake and explore the bustling Tibetan Buddhist monasteries en route to these lakes.

There is lots to explore in historic Leh and tucked away amongst the shady villages and intriguing alleyways of this Central Asian capital.

Srinagar

The Vale of Kashmir is one of the most prized jewels of the Indian Himalaya, described by Kashmiris as 'heaven on earth', famed for its floating gardens and markets on Dal & Nageen Lakes, the fascinating historic Srinagar, the pashmina weaving and other Kashmiri crafts, its heavenly Mughal Gardens, the Shankaracharya Temple and its wonderful houseboat stays.

Around Srinagar there are some of the most beautiful valleys and villages in the Indian Himalaya, as well as some of the world's most idyllic alpine scenery. Highlights are Dacigram National Park, Manasbal & Wular Lake (the largest lake in Asia), Yousmarg, Naranag Temple (the oldest in Kashmir), Sonmarg and Pahalgam.

We've put together several options to tour Srinagar, Kashmir, the famous lakes with their colorful floating markets and shikaras (long-tail boats), either flying in and out of Srinagar or opting for a stunningly beautiful jeep safari over the renown Koji La pass to Leh and Ladakh for a tour of the Indus Valley and its many Buddhist monasteries. We base our tours in Srinagar, where you stay in style on traditional houseboats on the lake, visit the floating market, old Srinagar and its many mosques and markets and the famous Mughal gardens.

See our Travel Books list for recommendations of books to read on this idyllic, but politically complicated, region of Muslims and Hindu Pandits, a region which wants to be free to choose its own destiny.

Jullay!

 © Kim Bannister

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