Best Time to Visit Zanskar Valley

by Vargis.Khan

When you on going on a vacation or a trip, the first question that pops up is whether or not it is the right time to go. To get an answer to this question, several things must be taken into consideration, like weather, what is it that you seek on vacation, how long your travel itinerary is and how do you plan to commute. If the destination is a place like Ladakh, all these questions must be paid close attention to. In Ladakh too, if Zanskar valley is on your itinerary, then the aspect of the ” best time to visit Zanskar valley ” becomes even more important.

best time to visit zanskar valley

Why do I say that? There are several reasons behind this but mostly it boils down to the fact that Zanskar is one of the remotest and least visited regions of our country. It literally defines terms like “A land far far away” or “in the middle of nowhere”. Road remains non-existent for most part of the journey, cell phone will be nothing but dead paperweight, accommodation choices are limited, and chances of getting stranded will be high. If you are there at the wrong time, you will have trouble finding a place to stay and may have to return halfway if the roads are snowed out. Friend of mine tried to visit Zanskar in May last year and had to return from Rangdum because the road ahead was closed. If you are not prepared well, even something as simple as a flat tire will be enough to ruin the day,

So when is the best time to visit Zanskar valley? Few things that you should while planning your journey are,

  • There is just a single road running through Suru and Zanskar Valleys, from Kargil to Padum. Two alternate routes are currently under work connecting Zanskar to Lahaul valley (Padum to Darcha) and to Ladakh (Padum to Nimmu) but it will be a while before these are completed. For now, the choice only remains to reach Padum from Kargil and return via the same route.
  • The road remains open from late May or early June till October. Rest of the year, the only way to reach Zanskar is a long and treacherous walk from Nimmu alongside the frozen Zanskar river.
  • The nearest functional petrol pump is in Kargil. When I say functional, I mean there is a petrol pump in Padum but chances of it being operational remain under question.
  • Road conditions will differ from bad to worse and most of the time you will be travelling on a dirt trail. For the initial part of the journey …..
  • Chances of finding a mechanic are almost next to none after you leave Kargil.

Keeping all the above in mind, the only time you can visit Zanskar is between the months of August and October unless Chadar trek is on your mind which is a topic I will be covering in a later article. Let us break it down month by month.




January & February: If you are planning to walk along the Zanskar river, then the best time would be early in the year, in the months of January and February. Keep in mind though that it is a hazardous trek which requires that you an experienced guide, porters and camping gear with you. I will providing details on how to plan a chadar trek in a later article.

March, April & May: Roads will be closed, no transport available, no hotels or guest houses open, weather will be extremely cold with very less snow so these months are not at all the time to plan Zanskar.

June, July, August & September: These are the months to include Zanskar valley in your Ladakh itinerary. Snow will be mostly gone and Suru valley would be lush green all around. If you go early in June, the sight of frozen massive Drang Drung glacier is bound to leave you breathless. The best time however would be to plan your journey either in the month of July or August. Weather at this time is very pleasant and you will be able to enjoy your journey to fullest. In September too, the road remains open but weather would start getting cold which may not suit some people.

October, November & December: Road to Padum closes sometime in October so it is best advised that you do not plan your journey at this time. If the road gets snowed out, you will be stuck until help arrives and you are able to make it out. November & December are of course the months  when the valley is cut off from rest of the country so there is no way to get in or out. I doubt there is any tour guide available in these months for Chadar trek too as the river is not completely frozen.

So in my opinion, best time to visit Zanskar valley would be in the months of July and August. If time allows, plan your trip during this time but if these two months are not an option, you may plan for June or September as well.

I hope this information was helpful. If you have any further question, please feel freee to ask in the comments section below and I would be glad to answer. You may also like to check out the next article in the series covering the accommodation choices in Zanskar valley.

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22 comments

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Nilesh March 1, 2020 - 7:55 pm

Ur information is really helpful sir. Can u please let me weather I can travel manali padum on my mountain bike(bicycle) solo in month of aug2020. What r stay and food options after darcha.

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Vargis.Khan March 2, 2020 - 1:47 am

Not right now you cannot. That road is still not completely operational.

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Asesh Singha Roy February 25, 2020 - 12:41 pm

Hi Vargis.Khan want to visit Zanskar valley from 21st October,2020 with wife aged 56 yrs,son 32 yrs daughter 27yrs and myself 64 yrs. my programme is Srinagar to Kargil-to Padum and back to Kargil.Then Kargil to Leh,Pangong lake,Nubra valley. back via Leh Manali road.Please let us know wheather it is possible or not.

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Pooja November 30, 2018 - 2:09 pm

Hi, very useful information. Just want to ask you that we are planning to visit leh ladakh in june. We want to go by srinagar route and come by manali route. Please answer my questions given below.

1 i am travelling with my 3 kids age 8, 9 and 2 years . My mother age 59 also accompany us. Wanted to ask you about the health issue if they can encounter with or is this fine to travel with them

2 which route we should take first to see snow on both sides of the road

3 how many days are required to compelte the trip peacefully

Thanks

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Vargis.Khan November 30, 2018 - 10:32 pm

Hello Pooja,

1. They should be fine as long as there is no previous medical history. I will still advise you to consult a doctor as well before going on the trip.
2. It depends really on how much it will snow this winter. Hard to tell right now but Manali Leh route will be a better bet.
3. I will say 2 weeks.

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PARTHA SARATHI BISWAS August 24, 2018 - 7:17 pm

Dear Mr. Vargis,

We want to travel from Kargil to Leh and then entire Ladakh by a rented Toyota Innova.

Can you please name any Car Owner either at Kargil or at Leh who is providing his car for extensive travelling on rental basis ?

Thanking you,

Sincerely Yours,

PARTHA SARATHI BISWAS

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SUVHARUP SAHA August 21, 2018 - 9:24 pm

Hi Vargis Bhai,

Information sheared by you are really useful, I am planning a trip to zanskar valley in October 2018, below is my visit plan, can you please suggest the following.

1. Can we make this trip during this time 13 to 17 October 2018
2. Can you please suggest some contacts who can provide good quality rented car for this trip.
3. Can you please provide contacts numbers for accommodation in rangdum

My Visit plan
13th October 2018 Travel to Kargil from Srinagar and stay at Kargil
14th October 2018 Travel to Rangdum and sight scene stay at Rangdum
15th October 2018 Travel to Padum and sight scene stay at Padum
16th October 2018 Travel to Zangla and sight scene stay at Zangla/Padum
17th October 2018 Travel to Kargil and stay at Kargil
18th October 2018 Travel to Srinagar

With regards,
Suvharup Saha

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Maroof Khan August 20, 2018 - 9:52 am

Hi Vargis, We are arriving in leh via flight in the morning of 24th Sep and will be staying there for 5 days, For our return we are planning to rent bikes from leh to manali for one way, we have spoken to many and struggling in finding one way rental bikes, can you or any one help us finding bikes? Any help would be appreciated.

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Prasoon Awasthi July 15, 2018 - 5:51 am

Hi Vargis bhai,

We are 5 peoples planning for Zanskar Valley from Leh to Leh this August i.e. 24th August to 31st August, please tell me is this the good time to visit Zanskar ? We are on a bike trip from Leh, will hire bike from Leh to Zanskar Valley and back.

Thanks

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Vargis.Khan July 15, 2018 - 6:03 am

Prasoon Bhai timing is OK but the problem will be the bikes. The Kargil union will not let you take the Leh rented bikes to Zanskar. They ask that you rent their bikes from Kargil. So please talk and clarify this first before you take delivery of motorcycles in Leh city. Only pay if the rental agency can guarantee that you will not face any problem. If they are apprehensive, then reach Kargil by Bus or shared cab and rent bikes from there for Zanskar.

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Vijay April 23, 2018 - 11:19 am

Hi Vargis, This is very useful information. Thanks

We are 4 friends planning to Zanskar vally in July 3rd week (8days trip). Do we get accommodations near Zanskar valley. Can we use our own tent for the night stay? can we with stand the cold in the nights if we plan to use our own tents? Is the River rafting open during that time?

Please suggest..

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Vargis.Khan April 23, 2018 - 3:06 pm

Hi Vijay,

1. Yes you will get accommodation in Zanskar at thsi time
2. Yes you can pitch your own ten as well but do not do it in the middle of nowhere
3. Whether or not the tents will stand the cold really depends on the quality of the tent.
4. Yes river rafting is open at this time.

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Mhp March 28, 2018 - 9:20 am

Sir, your posts are worth to go through.. It helps the tourists to plan their tour.. thanks you for sharing the latest information..

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Vargis.Khan March 28, 2018 - 5:10 pm

Hi Mhp, Thank you for your kind words. I am glad that the information was of help.

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Tony January 30, 2018 - 12:10 pm

Hi Khan..love your articles and tips for travelling in Zanskar and Ladakh it’s difficult to get upto date information on these places. I am planning on visiting Zanskar this coming June hopefully on a rented Enfield. However after reading your article it seems I will have to hire a bike in Kargil so I was wondering if you know of any places there where this is possible as I can’t seem to find anything on the net.Keep up the good work…cheers Tony

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Vargis.Khan January 31, 2018 - 5:06 pm

Hi Tony – There are several mechanics and rental agencies in Kargil offering motorcycles. Do not book anything in advance. Just reach Kargil, ask around, find a motorcycle that is in good condition and can survive the trip with no trouble, negotiate a deal and rent it.

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KPM Basheer May 14, 2017 - 12:18 pm

Hi Vargis, this is really informative and useful article. Thank you. I am thinking of visiting Zanskar in teh first week of June. I plan to go there from Leh by taxi with my wife. I am 58, please advise me how to plan the trip.
Cheers. KPM Basheer.

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Vargis.Khan May 14, 2017 - 3:04 pm

Hello Mr. Basheer – For visiting Zanskar from Leh, you will have to first rent a taxi from Leh to Kargil and then another for Kargil to Zanskar. The local taxi union does not allow Leh taxis to ply between Kargil and Padum. I can give you the number of the driver I know in Ladakh. You can talk to him and see if he is ready to take you. Please let me know.

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kpm basheer May 25, 2017 - 6:23 am

Dear Khan: Please tell me how can I get the permit to visit Siachen. I am thinking of visiting Siachen on June 8-9 (two persons). Btw, I want to congratulate you on your language and writing skills. Your post on preparations for Ladakh visit is extremely useful. Cheers. Basheer

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Vargis.Khan May 25, 2017 - 2:16 pm

Hello Mr. Basheer, Thank you very much for your kind words Sir. I really appreciate it.

Coming to your question, the only way you can get a permit for Siachen is that either you have very high end contacts in Indian Army or you are a professional mountaineer. If you have contacts, then ask them to pull some strings and see if that works.

I heard that Indian Army was allowing civilian mountaineers to Siachen camp but a limited number only, that too on first come and first serve basis. This quota too usually gets occupied already by organizations working with defense services or people who have contacts. Most important thing, to qualify for this quota, your age should not be over 45 years.

So in a nutshell Sir, common man like us cannot go to Siachen Base camp unless someone from the family is a high end Army officer. You will only be allowed up to Warshi, not beyond that.

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kpm basheer May 25, 2017 - 2:31 pm

Thanks a lot Khan. I am told they dont let in journalists..(I am a journo, btw)! cheers for your blog.

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Vargis.Khan May 25, 2017 - 2:48 pm

Oh yes, if you are a journalist than no way you are going to Siachen 🙂

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