Informative

HIGHLIGHTS OF WARWAN VALLEY

Ashwin Muralidharan

Last updated: 14-07-2022

Warwan Valley, home to versatile landscapes and exotic experiences, is the pinnacle of Himalayan beauty. Imagine all the unique features of the Himalayas from different regions offered to you in a single trek. THAT'S Warwan Valley! This destination can delight any trekker with its endless surprises. At the end of this marvelous journey, WOW is the only expression that's likely to be running in loops deep within your mind's recesses. Some of the fascinating elements of this trek are its delta river basins, glacier crossings, crevasses, ice fields, lush green meadows, grasslands, rare flora & fauna, confluence points, larger-than-life valleys, quaint villages, crossing over a thrilling pass, glacial lakes with small icebergs – to name a few! In the nine days of this memorable journey, there's something new and fresh to encounter every day.

What makes Warwan Valley trek so special, you ask?

Besides its high beauty quotient, this trek is yet unheard of, unexplored, and unexperienced by the masses. It's only been seen by a few trekkers. It is so unexplored that in certain sections, we make a fresh trail as we go along. Walking this trail is literally like owning the landscape because there is no one else there to see it. Secluded from the usual commercial crowd, we get personal attention from the Himalayas. If that's got your attention, let's go through the highlights of the Warwan Valley trek in detail.

 

Highlight 1: Drive from Leh to Panikhar

Prepare your playlist, put on your casuals and get ready to experience a unique road trip. The drive from Leh to Panikhar is a pleasant one with incredible milestones. The journey begins with a dramatic touch from Leh, with the snow-capped mountains of the Stok range welcoming us on one side and tall popular trees waving their leaves on the other. The first set of wonders that unveil on the heavenly roadways are the iconic Spituk Gompa, Magnetic Hills, and Sangam point. Feel the winds of spirituality and the holy chants of Buddhists as we cross the elegant Spituk monastery. The black and brown mountains of the Magnetic Hills pull our attention for a click or two. If you have a signature pose, the road next to the Magnetic Hills holds a perfect setting to be captured. Now, take a moment or two to soak in the magnificent Sangam point. It is the confluence of the blue-toned Indus and the mild green Zanskar river, producing a steely blue stream. It is a sight to be savoured with all your senses.

 

HIGHLIGHTS OF WARWAN VALLEY

 

Our next stop is the Moon. Yes, the roads from Leh take us through a celestial paradise on earth. Witness the sacred Lamayuru monastery nestled in the mountains with a moon-crest-like surface. This place is known as the Moon Land of Leh. Check out the tourists and nature enthusiasts trying to spot small craters that resemble the surface of the Moon. Sounds like an affordable way to venture into space, right?

 

HIGHLIGHTS OF WARWAN VALLEY

 

The next set of wonders that appear on the way are the high-altitude passes and an invisible village carved on a single ridge. Fatola and Namika are the famous high-altitude passes in Ladakh that attract bikers from all over. Here, you can see some fancy bikes parked outside small eateries with exotic flags and designs. The invisible village is a rare sight that looks like an image from a puzzle. Try to identify the structure. The village looks like a barren ridge from a distance. As you go closer, the structure line and the quaint facade are absolutely stunning with their symmetry.

The journey takes a patriotic twist and an artistic transformation after the invisible village. Just like a complex modern art piece transforming itself into a vintage portrait, the naked topography of Ladakh transforms with layers of lush green textures as we enter Kargil. Think about it, in our normal lifestyle; we see army men in action either in movies or in documentaries. But, when we drive through Kargil, we get a live opportunity to see them practicing inside army camps and grounds.

 

HIGHLIGHTS OF WARWAN VALLEY

 

The ultimate milestone of the journey is the twin peaks, Mt. Nun and Mt. Kun, the prominent Himalayan giants that emerges when we enter the pristine borders of Suru valley. These ice giants separate the vast mountain ranges of Suru and Zanskar. Though both the ice twins are prominent in the world of mountaineering, both come with different features. Nestled at the height of 7,135 M, Mt. Nun is the taller of the two, with vast snow plains. Nestled at the height of 7,077 M, Mt. Kun is the shorter one dipping its toes inside the frigid zone of the Zanskar region. If you are a fan of the Marvel universe, you can immediately connect to the frigid and fearsome ice giants of the Thor series. The twin peaks stay with us until we reach our last stop, Panikhar– the base village of the Warwan Valley trek. Locals believe it's the entry point to the Zanskar region and an abode for ancient Himalayan birds and rivers. When we settle down for the day in a cosy homestay, you are treated to the sweet melodies of Himalayan sparrows and crickets which serve as a natural lullaby to help get your weary self some sleep.

 

HIGHLIGHTS OF WARWAN VALLEY

 

Highlight 2: The river delta basin & the red velvet mountain

It's common to come across minor river streams on the Himalayas fed by glacial waters and alpine springs. But, can you imagine a colossal spectacle filled with several streams of crystal clear water? Yes, it exists. That's the river-delta-basin near Denora.

Torrents of icy streams flaunt their glimmering texture under sunrays competing with each other to flow forward like a natural colosseum. Not one, not two, but more than 8 streams of water flow gracefully with elegant twists and turns. It's on Day 5 of the trek that you meet this colossal spectacle. If we have to recall a movie synonymous with this place, that could be the Gladiator.

If you are one of those who face the unnerving question each day before taking a bath, shower, or river? The river delta basin will make it easier for you to get to the answer.

Roll up your pants; we are dipping our feet and crossing through these bone-chilling streams more than twice. The trails in the basin extend like a roller coaster ride, dipping into the shallow waters and meadows. Feel the electrifying chill underwater; it offers a jolt of freshness, making us dance to come back to our senses. A massive confluence point appears at the end of the basin, where the actual distribution of streams begins. 

The base of the confluence point paves the way to a massive red mountain covered with velvet shrubs and crops. Let's rewind through our history and mythological tales. You will be amazed to know that there is not a single mountain in red. Imagine a huge red velvet cake placed between snow-capped mountains. This mountain offers a scintillating setup for selfies. The trails from the mountain incline with more crops with a natural red carpet. Feel the soft texture and flaunt your signature walk.

 

HIGHLIGHTS OF WARWAN VALLEY

 

Highlight 3: Kalapari & the Na-Mithung Cave

We are walking into the realm of the stone age at the end of the fifth day. Look around and Freddy Flintstone or The Croods family might come to mind. The campsite at Kalapari is set inside a small shepherd's structure – 4 compound walls made of stacked flat stones connecting each other to retain cattle and warmth. Enter the compound wall and look up to the Kalapari range, a vast space with glacial ranges on one side, boulder sections in the middle, and barren hills on the other side. If you are a photographer, you will realize that the place is a natural and most fitting real-time example of the "Rule of the Third."

Most of the mountains and glaciers here are covered with black sand and huge rocks giving it the name black rock, which translates to Kalapari in local Ladakhi. An ancient ruin introduces itself near the campsite. It is an ancient old cave called Na-Mithung. Na-Mithung means – no sky! Legends and the native villagers believe that 100s of years ago, shepherds from Kargil and Kashmir used to travel for several kilometres and take shelter in this vast cave. They say that the cave was much deeper, broader, and warmer in the olden days, blocking even sunlight and blizzards. Suppose you have a thing for a wild experience like the Man Vs. Wild, this is the place to get a feel for it. 

 

HIGHLIGHTS OF WARWAN VALLEY

HIGHLIGHTS OF WARWAN VALLEY

 

Highlight 4: The glacial lake and ice walk

Muster some strength and willpower like the Wolly Mammoth because the stone world transforms into a frozen dimension of ice terrains ahead of Kalapari campsite. A magical glacial lake with unparalleled beauty emerges on Day 6. If there is space for romance in your life, check out the small icebergs on the olive green surface, it's Titanic in real life. Sit down for a while and observe the torrents of clouds on the surface; the serenity seeps in.

Now, think about the reality shows or any award ceremony; a classic performance or a celebrity is introduced after a short intro gig. The glacial lake was just an opening gig to introduce you to another marvel. A stunning ice plain of the glacier appears at the end of the lake. This is where you get to call yourself a White Walker. You will walk on flat and hard ice for 3 km without special gear and equipment. It's not just a treat to the eyes, it's a treat to the ears. Listen to the sweet sound of the crackle; the crunchy ice breaks that create a concert of sound effects.

 

HIGHLIGHTS OF WARWAN VALLEY

HIGHLIGHTS OF WARWAN VALLEY

 

Highlight 5: The Ghansla Pass & glacial lake 2

Remember the thrilling moment when Captain Jack Sparrow swings from one ship to another and stands on a ridge? Yes, we are going to experience the same feeling. But, instead of standing, we are traversing through a ridge. Put on your pirate cap; the breath-taking ridge to Ghansla Pass is as exciting as a plank walk. Just 2-3 meters in width, the pass is narrow and steep. The height of the ridge may be daunting, but baby steps and subtle movements make it thrilling. At the end of the ridge lies the border of Kargil, Ghansla Pass. It stretches for more than a kilometre, and locals believed that it was the entry gate for Kashmir in the olden days.

Get ready to be struck by nature's raw splendour again. A second glacial lake appears with unfathomable beauty. It is bigger, better, and more enormous than the first glacier lake. Photographers, a standard lens cannot capture the highlight of this colossal lake, and it would help if you had a super-wide lens to fit it in your frame. A spell of pure enchantment affects our sight when the sun lights up the surface. A glimpse of the Arctic and the life of Eskimos comes to mind on witnessing the mild green surface of this lake. Just let your eyes play with the shadows of the small ice structures as the sun unleashes its charm.

 

HIGHLIGHTS OF WARWAN VALLEY

HIGHLIGHTS OF WARWAN VALLEY

 

Highlight 6: Kaintal Glacier

All the highlights until now were just a trailer to launch the actual beauty of the Warwan Valley trek. The Kaintal Glacier is a natural wonder that one can experience once in a lifetime. The massive glacier is alive! A sight like this is either seen on the Discovery channel or on calendars. The trails from Ghansla Pass hold a massive podium to this glacier, where you can hear the sheer flow of water beneath a thick layer of ice and solid rocks. It's a glacier in the making. The bracken surface is just an indication of growth; the sound of frigid streams are the true whispers of nature. Close your eyes and feel the scale of grandness entering your senses. It's larger than life. Getting overwhelmed and emotional is a common symptom here. So, just go with the flow. Inner peace is the end result.

 

HIGHLIGHTS OF WARWAN VALLEY

 

Highlight 7: The massive campsite of Humpet & the marmots

The search for space in life ends at Humpet. Forget the multiverse and string theory; all we need is some privacy and extra room to be ourselves. What if we find it inside the valleys of Kashmir? Humpet is an enormous expanse with space to fit ten golf courses together. The small dot you see from a distance is our campsite.

The landscape of Humpet is composed of snow-capped mountains on one side, meadows on the other, and a larger-than-life space with glacial streams in the middle. The exciting part about this place is that the first tree line of the trek appears on the meadows next to Humpet. If you wish to loiter near the tents, you need more than a day to cover the space here.

Well, you might wonder now, when do we get into the Warwan Valley? The meadows next to Humpet hold the trails to enter into the mystic regions of Warwan Valley. A special bunch of hosts welcome us here. Those are the golden rodents of Kashmir, the Marmots. At any point in time, you’ll see at least a 100 marmots running wild and signalling each other. They live together in packs under massive rocks or boulders by burrowing in deep holes. They are extremely curious but shy in nature. They will observe you from a distance and run into their den under the boulders if you get too close.

 

HIGHLIGHTS OF WARWAN VALLEY

HIGHLIGHTS OF WARWAN VALLEY

 

Highlight 8: The confluence point

The Warwan Valley is not just surprising with its vast landscapes, it also treats us with its versatility and beauty quotient. On the 8th day of the trek, we land on a second confluence point that startles us with its splendour. Crystal blue river stream from the Sheshnag region mixed with the pale white Kaintal glacier stream forming a partial blue colored stream. Locals call the river Sain Nallah and believe that this river has spiritual properties to cleanse and heal. The blend of two rivers melts the pain and offers a fresh supply of energy that dwells through our senses.

 

HIGHLIGHTS OF WARWAN VALLEY

 

Highlight 9: A walk-in Sukhnai

Ever imagined getting into the shoes of Ruskin Bond or RK Narayanan. Sukhnai, a small little hamlet, is a quaint village undisturbed by modernization. It provides the simplicity and authenticity of how an actual village should be. A walk through this village is the most captivating highlight of the entire trek. The old-fashioned lanes of the village accompanied by golden crops and hardworking people reveal the importance of agriculture and farming. As soon as we step into the antique lanes of this village, it takes us through the ancient lifestyle of Kashmiris. Serenity is a common thing here. Stop and spot the architectural genius when you find the old bridge outside the city. It's a landmark structure that defines the borders of the village. Even if we sift through our memories, we won't be able to find a fictitious land with this precision. Every element of this village highlights these people's simplicity and hardworking nature.

 

HIGHLIGHTS OF WARWAN VALLEY

 

Name the most desired scene you want to experience in the Himalayas; you will get that in the Warwan Valley trek. It has everything beautiful you can desire on a mountain. We hope you liked the above highlights, and we hope you get to experience them for yourself soon. In case of any queries, feel free to reach us. 

 

Ashwin Muralidharan

Dreamer, listener, and a curious soul. I indulge influence and leave my impressions behind. If y Read more

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