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Key question

What is an extreme environment or wilderness, why is tourism in these environments increasing and what are the impacts of this?

Aim: To produce a case study on the extreme environment or wilderness of Zanskar in the Himalayas, to include:

  • Location-specific information with annotated maps

  • An overview of what an extreme environment is

  • The attractions of this environment to people

  • The possible impacts of tourism in the area


Using the map sheet with three (different scale) maps of Zanskar and the surrounding area, study the maps and describe Zanskar’s location. You might want to use an atlas for this activity.

Think about:

  • Where is Zanskar? (Think about different scales - local and global)

  • What is around or near Zanskar?

  • What adjectives could you use to describe this location? (i.e. isolated, remote, inaccessible, secluded)

  • Describe what the different seasons might be like in this location

  • Working in pairs, draw a mind map showing what an extreme environment is.

Share your ideas with the class. Can you think of a definition for the word 'wilderness'?

Main Activity

Look at the images in Ice River – a journey to Zanskar in Winter. These images illustrate  the challenging environment Paul and Tanzin faced on their expedition to Zanskar down The Chadar – through a gorge deeper than the Grand Canyon in temperatures as low as -30°C. While you are looking at the images, listen to what Paul and Tanzin have to say about the area.

Before you start, get into groups of three. Each person in the group should be allocated a question from the list below, and should concentrate on answering this question while you look at the images and listen to the audio clips. After you have finished looking and listening, discuss and share your answers with the rest of your group, then the whole class.


  • What makes Zanskar an extreme environment or wilderness?

  • What natural, human and cultural attractions does Zanskar offer to potential adventure tourists?

  • What impact does tourism have on Zanskar and what will the new road mean for tourism in the area?

Important: Try to be as specific as possible in your notes.

Tip: You will have to listen to both of the clips fully to answer each question. Do not stop listening once you think yours has been covered or you might miss something.


Have a go at the card sort activity to summarise what you have learnt during this lesson.