Kargil to Padum Travel Guide

by Vargis.Khan

In continuation with the previous article, this article is a more detailed explanation of the route to Zanskar Valley from Srinagar Leh highway. The first and foremost thing that you really need to keep in mind here is that Zanskar is one of the remotest areas of Ladakh. Padum is the headquarters of Zanskar valley and is at a distance of approximately 250 kms from Kargil. Add to that the fact that the roads for most part of the journey will be in a bad state resulting in a slow progress. Even with an SUV, this 250 kms long journey of Kargil to Padum can take anywhere between 8 to 10 hours, depending on the amount of breaks you take. If the intent is to reach Padum with sun still in the sky, an early start from Kargil is advised, and by early I mean by first light of the day.

kargil to padum

Kargil to Padum

This road is open only for about 5 months in a year, from June to October.  In winters the only way in and out of Zanskar is a hazardous walk along the frozen Zanskar River to the town of Nimmu.

Route of the journey will be as below.

  • Kargil to Sankoo: 42 Kms
  • Sankoo to Panikhar: 25 Kms
  • Panikhar to Parkachik: 31 Kms
  • Parkachik to Rangdum: 32 Kms
  • Rangdum to Pensi La: 25 Kms
  • Pensi La to Tungri: 73 Kms
  • Tungri to Padum: 42 Kms

Below is a map of the route from Kargil to Zanskar valley. Please click on the map to view it in full size.

kargil to padum

Kargil to Padum

Travel time from Kargil to Padum: A round trip from Kargil to Padum will anywhere be between 500 to 600 kilometers. There is a petrol pump in Padum but whether or not it will be operational when you are there is a big question so do not rely on it. Please pay close attention to your vehicle’s mileage and carry spare fuel if required. There are only a few small towns on the way and quite a distance apart so ensure that you are carrying a puncture repair kit and some basic tools for your vehicle. For most part of the journey you will in middle of nowhere where even a flat tire can turn into a catastrophe if you do not have a repair kit.

Kargil to Sankoo: Please ensure that you start early from your hotel so that you have ample time to enjoy the beautiful vistas and still reach your destination well in time. Soon after Kargil, you will enter the beautiful Suru Valley which is really a sight for sore eyes. Suru river runs right through this valley and keeps it surprisingly green and fertile even at an altitude of above 3000 meters. People here are mostly Shia Muslims. Roads are mostly good until Panikhar with a few bad patches in between. You will continue traveling right next to the Suru river and soon will reach the small town of Sankoo, some 40 odd kilometers from Kargil. If you haven’t already eaten at Kargil, you can have your breakfast here.

Sankoo to Panikhar: A few kilometers after Sankoo, you will cross the Suru River over to its right side and if the weather is clear, you will also get your first glimpse of Nun and Kun peaks. Vistas too will improve tremendously and you will be greeted with greenery all around, midst the mighty snow capped mountains. It is one of the most scenic places in all of Suru and Zanskar valleys. A few kilometers before Panikhar, near Purkitche, the road will be running right along the banks of Suru while Nun and Kun peaks towering in the background, presenting a breathtaking view. Together, these two beautifuly mysterious mountains are one of the biggest attractions of Suru valley. Nun is forever covered in snow, a white peak whereas its next door neighbor, Kun is barren black. These two mountains are right next to each other, a perfect beautiful combination of black & white that never changes.

Panikhar to Parkachik: The moment you exit Panikhar, road conditions will turn from good to bad and eventually to ugly. From here until Padum, it will be just an unmetalled dirt road all the way. Road will turn towards Western side of Nun Kun Massif and will continue east towards fort of Rangdum.  40 kilometers from Panikhar is the small town of Parkachik, another very scenic spot in Suru valley. Parkachik La is another tourist attraction in the village of Parkachik but you can only trek to the pass.

Parkachik to Rangdum: From Parkachik you will continue your journey to Rangdum. A couple of kilometers after the village, you will get views of Parkachik glacier, another tourist attraction in Suru valley. From here, you will exit the fertile lower Suru valley and enter the upper suru valley which is a high altitude desert with its own absolute beauty. The valley here is quite flat but the bad roads will still keep your speed severely limited. There will hardly be any greenery around and Suru river will run slow with no rapid or waterfalls anywhere.

You will continue traveling right next to Suru river until Rangdum, which is another small village on the way, just a few houses to be precise but it is the midway point of the journey. If you are planning to reach Padum the next day, then you can spend the night here or else have you lunch and be on your way towards Padum which even though is just another 100 odd kilometers but will take some time to reach.

Rangdum to Pensi La:  5 Kilometers from Rangdum is the Rangdum Gompa. Located on a small hill, this monastery looks like a fortress and in fact was used as one by Dogra armies of General Zorawar Singh.  It is an ancient monastery from 18th century and a visit is recommended.

Rangdum is also the last inhabited place in Suru valley and the road here will take a 90 degree turn before it starts moving south towards Pensi la, on the other side of which the Zanskar valley is located. Pensi La is considered as one of the “easy passes” as the ascent is not really that difficult and people who did not know that it was there tend to even miss the fact that they just crossed a high altitude pass. The valley now will become quite wide and the river that has been running close to the road will now flow far away.A long shallow drive, gentle ascent, and few zig zags will take you to the top of the pass before you even realize it. You will notice a small body of water near the road atop Pensi La. These in fact are two small lakes called Ta Tso and the Lang Tso lakes. Beyond these lakes, you will see the massive Drang Drung glacier. There will be a noticeable chill in the wind owing to the vast reserves of snow at the glacier. The glacier lies much below the road and the view in itself is quite dramatic.

Pensi La to Tungri to Padum: From Pensi La, you will start on your final stretch of the journey to Padum and descend into Zanskar valley, one of the remotest valleys in India; connected by a single motorable road or I shall say a single dirt trail to rest of the country. Road will continue to be a gravel path until a few kilometers before Padum when you will once again see Tar on the road. Chibra is the first village in Zanskar valley after Pensi La and post that, it will be a series of small villages. At Tungri village, you will cross over to right side of the river and from there; it is a straight run to Padum. Sani Gompa, which is also known as possibly the oldest Gompa in Zanskar valley, is a place worth visiting in Padum.

kargil to padum

Kargil to Padum

If you asked me, Zanskar is definitely a place worth spending a couple of days. There is not much to see here except for the natural beauty of barren cold desert. If time permits, spend a day here and visit the nearby areas. There is a road that goes towards Hanumil, another towards Dzonkhul and a third under construction road that goes towards Shinku La, a high altitude pass which when completed will connect the Zanskar valley to Lahaul valley. This road will link the towns of Padum and Darcha. Let us take a look at some of these other roads.

Padum to Hanumil: This is an under construction road which has been completed until the village of Hanumil and a little after that as well I believed. Once completed, this road will run direct from Padum to all the way till the town of Nimmu, drastically cutting down the distance between Ladakh and Zanskar valley. Road till Hanumil is in near perfect condition and this 50-60 kilometers long journey should not take you more than a couple of hours to complete. You will be travelling along the Zanskar River all the way. Just as you leave Padum, the road will cross over to the right side of the river and will stay on the right side. Apart from stunning landscapes, a few other places to see on this route are Pibiting, Karsha, Stongde gompas and the Zanla fort. Once you reach Hanumil, and if time allows, you can continue driving as far as the road goes. As I mentioned, this stretch is still under construction and at some point you will reach the end from where you will have to turn back for Padum.

Padum to Reru: As I mentioned above in the article, this road when completed will run all the way till Darcha in Lahaul valley, across Shinku La, also known as Shingo La. For now you can only drive up to the small village of Reru and visit Bardan gompai on the route. This goma is located on a huge rock right next to the river and is worth a visit.

Another way to reach Padum from Sringar Leh highway is to take the road from Drass to just after Sankoo, via Umba La. This road is however not at all recommended, no matter which vehicle you are travelling in. A 4×4 vehicle is a must to travel on this road and even then this is one hell of a treacherous drive. Even I have never travelled on this road so cannot really comment but as far as I have heard, it is best avoided.

If you are not traveling in your own vehicle, you can chose to either catch a Bus or hire a taxi to Padum. There is a regular bus service by J&K SRTC to Padum from Leh and Kargil. This bus will stop at several places for sightseeing and is a good budget option to travel. If you are planning to hire a taxi, please keep in mind that the taxi you hired from either Srinagar or Leh will not be allowed to travel to Zanskar valley. For this, you must hire a local cab from Kargil itself. If you are planning to rent a motorcycle though, there isn’t much of a choice in Kargil for this (not sure if this has changed lately, last I checked there wasn’t any such option in Kargil). You will have to rent a motorcycle from either Leh or Srinagar.

In terms of accommodation, Sankoo, Panikhar and Parkachik has only a government run tourist bungalow. At Rangdum, there is both a PWD guest house and a tourist bungalow. At Padum however, there are multiple options in form of guest houses, government tourist bungalow and camping sites as well.

Nothing fancy but you can find small restaurants/dhabas at most of the major villages on the route. A puncture repair shop is available at Sankoo and Panikhar. At Padum, you can find a phone booth, several restaurants, a petrol pump (mostly in a non-working condition though), mechanic and surprisingly an internet café as well.

A few other useful tips,

  • The bus service from Leh to Padum is on weekly basis. This bus starts from Leh, halts at Kargil and then continues to Padum the next day. Availability of seats in this bus too is an uncertainty.
  • There is a bus service from Kargil to Sankoo and Panikhar every morning.
  • Another bus from Kargil leaves for Parkachik daily, though I am not sure if this is the same bus that goes to Sankoo and continues to Parkachik or a different bus.
  • Once you get to Parkachik, you can hire a cab from there to reach Padum. Do not count on this though as the number of cabs in Parkachik is severely limited and if there is no cab available on the day of your arrival, you will have no other choice but to break your journey there and continue the next day when there is a cab available.
  • The fastest, most convenient way to get to Padum from Kargil is to hire a private cab but this is of course also the most expensive one.

I hope this information was helpful. If you have any further questions, please feel free to ask in the comments section below and I will be glad to answer. If you have travelled to Zanskar valley and have a more recent information to add here that can be of help to others, please do so in the comments section and I will add it to the article.

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Nilakkhya Dutta August 2, 2020 - 6:05 pm

Hi Vargis…A great post with all the required details…If you can help me with a small query-

I plan to spend 2 nights in Suru. One night near Panikhar and another night at Rangdum. Then move ahead to Padum. Will the taxi driver take Rs. 10000 for three days of travel or will it be more? Can I get a cab on daily rent basis?

Vargis.Khan August 3, 2020 - 7:52 pm

Hi Nilakkhya – It could be more since the number of days increased. Finding a private cab in Panikhar or Rangdum would be tough. You will have to rely on shared taxis that locals use. It would be best and easier. If not, then just hitchhike. I have done it.

ANUP April 20, 2020 - 1:58 pm

Hi Vargis !

Can Kargil – Rangdum – Kargil be done in a single day ? We wanted to see the beauty of Suru Valley Nun Kun peaks on the way till PensiLa (uptill DrungDrung Glacier) and back to Kargil. If can be covered in a day how time management to be done ?

Thank You.

Sunil Dhir February 21, 2020 - 7:29 pm

Hi Vargis,

Can you please help me with the current status of the Kargil – Padum and Padum – Darcha road?
Is it the same as 2017 or is there some improvement?
Thanks in advance…..

Vargis.Khan February 24, 2020 - 10:22 pm

Hi Sunil – Condition of the road is quite same still

pankaj chapra March 14, 2019 - 1:52 am

Hi Vargis,

Would it be possible to make a round trip from Kargil to Padum the same day. Is it recommended. If yes, what will be a good time to start from Kargil.

We also dont want to miss the scenic drive from Kargil to Padum.

Vargis.Khan March 14, 2019 - 12:01 pm

Hi Pankaj – You can’t make a round trip to Padum in a day. The farthest you can plan to go and be back is Rangdum.

pankaj chapra March 14, 2019 - 1:50 am

Hi Vargis,

Would it be possible to return back the same day from Padum, when starting from Kargil. Is it recommended.
If so what will be a suitable time to start from Kargil, so that we don’t also miss the scenic drive from Kargil to PAdun.

Vargis.Khan March 14, 2019 - 12:01 pm

Hi Pankaj – You can’t make a round trip to Padum in a day. The farthest you can plan to go and be back is Rangdum.

Travel to the mountains – VasekTravels October 15, 2018 - 5:14 am

[…] The back seats are less comfortable, you cannot open the windows for air not to take photos, we will know better next time. The road goes over a pass called Pensi La. There are very nice views on disappearing glacier, mountains Kun & Nun and much more. (You can read about this road much more details here https://vargiskhan.com/log/kargil-to-padum-travel-guide/) […]

Ling Gesar September 4, 2018 - 11:36 am

Hi Vargis, Can i take an alto to Padum. I have been to Pang Gong and Nubra Valley in my 2007 model Maruti Alto. Please advise !

Vargis.Khan September 5, 2018 - 12:32 am

Hi Ling, If you have driven your Alto to Pangong and Nubra then yes, you can easily bring it to Padum as well.

Soura Kumar Basu August 28, 2018 - 5:50 am

Dear Sir

We are visiting Suru and Zanskar valley in second and third week of October 18. I am afraid whether snowfall
will take place at that time and block the road. I will start my journey from Leh.by cab. May i have to take a separate cab from Kargil

Vargis.Khan August 28, 2018 - 12:14 pm

Chances of a road block in October are rare and even if it happens, it will be cleared in a few hours or a day at most. Keep a day as buffer in your plan for a just in case situation.

Soura October 4, 2018 - 4:05 am

Many thanks, Sir. We will procede then.

Soura October 4, 2018 - 4:12 am

Many thanks. We will proceed then

Vargis.Khan October 4, 2018 - 12:21 pm

you are welcome

Vargis.Khan October 4, 2018 - 12:21 pm

you are welcome

Zam April 8, 2021 - 9:10 am

Hi, Can I do Kargil- Padum in Chevy Cruze?

Vargis.Khan April 9, 2021 - 7:43 am

I will not recommend it because of the low GC

ZAM April 9, 2021 - 4:06 pm

Thanks man

Vargis.Khan April 10, 2021 - 7:37 am

You are welcome, brother !!!

Sobhan Mohanty June 18, 2018 - 5:15 am

Hi Varghis, a great blog indeed. Any idea on the private cabs rate from Kargil to Padum?

Vargis.Khan June 18, 2018 - 1:56 pm

Thanks Sobhan. A drop from Kargil to Padum will be approx Rs. 10,000; both way will cost about Rs. 15,000

Arnab May 14, 2018 - 3:19 am

Hello Sir, very nice blog, a detailed information with the name of places that will come on the way and what to visit..I want to know whether any Inner Line Permits are required to visit Padum and Hanumil? Also, if any inner line permit is required then from where we will get it?

Vargis.Khan May 15, 2018 - 5:44 pm

Hello Arnab, No permit is needed to visit Padum and Hanumil.

Simranpreet Singh Gill April 18, 2018 - 7:53 am

Salam Kabool Karo Vargis Bhai
You have written a great article providing such a detailed information. I have some questions, hope you help me out:
1. Can I put up tent of my own en route Padum for night stay? Is there any concern like wild life, weather or security?
2. Is it possible to book the guest house/home stay etc. in advance.
3. Is it advisable to travel by my own Maruti Brezza to Padum and back to Kargil?
4. I am planning to travel in June, 2018 for 5-6 days. Do you think there will be rush of tourist and can be a problem in getting accommodation?
5. How to book the Govt/PWD rest/guest houses?

Vargis.Khan April 18, 2018 - 5:06 pm

Walaikum As-Salam Simanpreet Bhai,

Thank you so much for your kind words.

1. Yes you can pitch your tent but I will recommend doing so near to a dhaba or a local house. Do not pitch it in the middle of nowhere.
2. Yes you can book but I would not recommend doing so. Just reach your destination and negotiate an on the spot deal.
3. Yes you can bring Brezza.
4. There is never much tourist rush towards Zanskar.
5. I do not have knowledge about the J&K PWD guest houses, sorry.

Aman February 25, 2018 - 5:42 am

Salam… Vargis Bhai.
I am planning to travel from kargil to padum by bicycle in may. Tell me the weather conditions and how can make it done safely.

Vargis.Khan February 26, 2018 - 3:55 pm

Walaikum as-salam Aman Bhai – Weather will be cold and sun will be harsh during day so please prepare accordingly. Rest will depend on how your cycling experience is and how many days you have in hand.

AALAP SAHA February 1, 2018 - 1:24 pm

Hello Mr. Khan,
I have a question for which I am very confused. Can you please help me out?

I am planning for a ladkah tour in this August. We will reach Leh from Srinagar by JKSRTC MCV bus which have a night halt at Kargil. Now, in our whole programme we have 2 buffer days. We want to reserve one for Leh itself. So, we were thinking of a short detour for a Day excursion to Suru Valley during the night halt at Kargil. Now, the confusions-
1) Is it possible to visit Suru Valley upto Penji La from Kargil & return on the same day if we stats early, say around 6AM? If yes, then by what time will we return to Kargil?
2) If at all this is possible then how much a private can may cost?

Looking for your help.

Thanks again for your valuable info here.

Vargis.Khan February 2, 2018 - 1:34 am

Hello Mr. Saha,

A day trip to Penzi La and back is possible but you will have to keep your breaks limited. Taxi will cost you about 4 to 5000 depending upon your negotiation skills.

AALAP SAHA February 2, 2018 - 4:13 pm

Thank you very much Mr. Khan.

Vargis.Khan February 5, 2018 - 3:02 pm

You are welcome Mr. Saha

Abhijit Mukhopadhyay December 21, 2017 - 9:16 am

Hi Vargis, nice one..containing almost all informations about Zanskar. I intended to visit on early June, 2018. Out of this I have something to know. Could you please help me?
1. What would be the approx car cost from kargil to padum with one day halt ?
2. Is the journey safe for children( 6 – 8 years)?
3. What would be the approx accomodation tariff throughout the trip?
4. How many persons are allowed in a car?
If you have any contact for car at Kargil, will you be kind enough to give me the number?


Vargis.Khan December 22, 2017 - 3:57 pm

Hello Abhijit,

1. Approximately 15 to 17000.
2. You can take your kids but ensure AMS can be a little bit of problem. See the article below for more details.


3. Accommodation is not that costly. Average it out about Rs 1000 to Rs. 1200 per day for a double bed room.
4. 5-6 people in SUV depending on the luggage.

deepak sharma August 14, 2017 - 10:36 am

hello vargis bhai,
i need ur help planing my trip to Zanskar. i will reach kargil on 25th aug 2017 and stay at kargil. i need to reach back to kargil on 30th before sunset. can you help me making a itenary?

Vargis.Khan August 15, 2017 - 5:38 am

Hello Deepak – You have plenty of time brother. 26th you can go to Rangdum, stay there for the night. On 27th, go to Padum. Spend 28th in Padum itself and visit the nearby areas of Karsha, Zangla, Hanumil (may have to rent a private cab for this). Find out about the local cabs going to Kargil while you are in Padum. Based on the timings and if there is a direct cab to Kargil that can get you there then spend 29th as well in Padum. If not, then on 29th, go back to Rangdum and then to Kargil on 30th.

Nicha August 5, 2017 - 1:03 pm

Hi vargis.

I would like to asking about which date in the week that have the bus from Leh to Padum
and for coming back from Padum to Kargil (or to Leh)

Vargis.Khan August 5, 2017 - 10:30 pm

Hello Richa – For visiting Padum, I would strongly recommend that you do not rely on the Padum Bus; rather travel by shared taxis that you can board from Leh bus stand. Board any taxi going towards Srinagar or Kargil, stay there for the night and the next day, you will easily find a shared cab from Kargil going towards Padum.

Ole Hansen July 28, 2017 - 5:44 pm

Hi Vargis, thanks for Your good site.
I like to make a trek trough the Suru valley, supportet of a horseman who can cook, and perhaps an extra horse with saddle an stirups.
Can it be arranger from Kargil?
I like homestays for some nights, but plan to stay in tent.
I guess that a trail exsist still, dont like to walk on paved road?
Plan is to trek until the other side of Pensi La and then find some transport to Padum.
What do you say? Can it be arranged. Time is summer 2018
Regards Ole

Vargis.Khan August 1, 2017 - 5:28 pm

Hello Ole, Yes this arrangement can be made in either Leh or Kargil. There are several trails that you can take across Suru Valley avoiding the paved road.

Sanjeeb Mishra June 12, 2017 - 11:15 pm

Hi Vargis, Could you please answer to my below questions?
1. Can I rent a bike from Kargil?
2. Can I start in the morning, visit Padum and return the same day by night? May be by Bike or by Taxi, which ever is available.
3. If you say bikes are available. Do you have some contacts for pre-booking? And whats the cost approx?

Vargis.Khan June 13, 2017 - 2:23 pm

Hi Sanjeeb,

1. Yes you can
2. No you cannot. It is not the distance but the road conditions. Starting early from Kargil, keeping breaks limited, rushed journey will still not see you at Padum any earlier than 2 PM.
3. I am sorry but I do not have any at Srinagar. I have a contact in Srinagar that I can guide you to. You can speak to him and see if he is able to help you with bikes in Kargil. Let me know.

Kaushik Kumar Das June 10, 2017 - 6:35 am

Thanks for detailed information. We four will be reaching Leh on 30/09/2017 & after acclimatization we will start for Padum on 3rd or 4th Oct.2017. Can you please inform about the probable climatic condition during that time & staying arrangement at Rangdum and Padum. We also propose to go to Phuktal monstry. We need your advice.

Vargis.Khan June 12, 2017 - 6:54 pm

Hi Kaushik – It will be start of winter at that time here and will be very cold, but to the level that it cannot be managed. Just carry proper clothes to keep you warm and you will be Ok. Phugtal Monastery is a trek, let me know what help you need.

Kartik June 5, 2017 - 5:33 pm

Hey vargis

I plan to cover rangdum only on BIKE. Just confirm the road conditions and also confirm the actual time( not going as per Google map )

Vargis.Khan June 6, 2017 - 4:14 am

Hey Kartik – Kargil to Rangdum is about 5-6 hours. Road until Sankoo is good but after that it is a dirt trail all the way till Rangdum.

Abhijit das March 27, 2017 - 5:13 pm

Can we get taxi from kargil to padam with all sightseeing and back to kargil. We will stay two night in padam one night rungdm and back to kargil. What will be expected cost? Whether you can provide contact no of driver.

Vargis.Khan March 28, 2017 - 2:11 am

Yes you can. Kargil to Padum taxi fare is approximately Rs. 10,000 per taxi for one way (drop to Padum) and Rs. 15,000 for two-way journey (Kargil to Padum to Kargil) but this is for 2 days. If you are also planning to prolong your stay, then this taxi won’t work. Best that you take a cab from Kargil for drop to Padum, then hire another cab there for local sightseeing and your return journey.

Michelle March 6, 2017 - 6:39 pm

What is the cost estimate for hiring a cab to go from Kargil to Padum? How do you find reliable transport (or even another cab) to leave Padum?

Vargis.Khan March 6, 2017 - 10:00 pm

Kargil to Padum taxi fare is approximately Rs. 10,000 per taxi for one way (drop to Padum) and Rs. 15,000 for two-way journey (Kargil to Padum to Kargil).

I am sorry but are you asking for taxi in Padum for local sightseeing in areas around in your second question? Or for return journey to Kargil? There are several taxi operators in Padum that you can talk to. There rates are standard so you will end up paying pretty much the same, no matter who you book with. If you are interested, I can speak with my contact in Leh and see if he can provide a taxi driver’s name in Kargil, let me know.

Surya November 28, 2016 - 12:46 pm

Great article … such detailed information .. thank you so much. it definitely helped me plan my zanskar trip to next year better. One question though … Is there a place to stay for the night in Hanumil?

Vargis.Khan November 28, 2016 - 12:48 pm

Thanks Surya. No place to stay in Hanumil, you will have to return to Padum.


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