Pensi La Pass – The Gateway to Zanskar Valley

by Vargis.Khan

Pensi La Pass

Pensi La is a high-altitude pass located in the Zanskar region, at a distance of about 150 kilometers from Kargil. At an altitude of 4,400 meters (14,400 ft), it connects the valleys of Suru and Zanskar and is also known as the gateway to Zanskar.

Also spelled as Penzi La, it is one of the easier passes of Ladakh. The climb to the summit is gradual and the road never gets too steep. If it wasn’t for the board at the top, you wouldn’t even realize that you were standing at the top of a high-altitude pass.

What makes the journey a little difficult though is the bad condition of the road. After Sankoo in Suru Valley, it is devoid of any tar at all. It is a dirt road all the way to Padum that is full of potholes and extremely bad at some stretches.

How to Reach Pensi La Pass

The easiest way to reach Pensi La Pass is from Kargil. You can also travel from the Manali side. For that, you will first have to cross Shinku La pass to reach Padum and then drive to Pensi La.

A third route can be taken from Lamayuru but for that as well, you will first have to get to Padum which is about 80 kilometers from Pensi La. The shortest and the quickest route is from Kargil, as mentioned below.

Kargil – Sankoo – Panikhar – Rangdum – Pensi La

The road between Kargil and Sankoo, for the first 40 kilometers of the journey, is a smooth and enjoyable drive. The remaining 110 kilometers however can be a bumpy ride.

Pensi La Pass

What to See

Pensi La is possibly best known for the breathtaking view of the Drang Drung glacier. It is more or less a river of ice and snow and is considered to be the largest glacier in Ladakh outside the Karakoram range, second only to Siachen Glacier.

You also get a view of the Doda peak which lies on the rear side of the glacier and is the source of the Doda (also known as Stod) river.

At the top of Pensi La are the twin lakes of Ta Tso and the Lang Tso. These are two small lakes located at a small distance from each other. If you were crossing the pass in late May or early June, chances are that you will find them both frozen.

On the way to the pass, you travel across the beautiful Suru Valley. You also get to see the Shafat glacier and Nun Kun Peaks. For more details on all these places, you can also take a look at Places to Visit in Zanskar Valley & Things to Do.

drang drung glacier

Bus Service to Pensi La Pass

There is no bus service from either Kargil or Padum to Pensi La Pass. The only way to travel is either by your own vehicle or by a private taxi. Shared cabs are available on the route but their frequency is way too less to rely on them.

Where to Stay

The nearest place to Pensi La where you can find accommodation is the small village of Rangdum. There are a few homestays and a JKTDC bungalow where tourists can stay overnight. The other place where you can stay is the town of Padum, on the other side of the pass in Zanskar Valley.

Pensi La Pass

Mobile Connectivity at Pensi La

There is no mobile reception at the top of Pensi La. On both sides though, Jio has good connectivity as long as you were carrying a postpaid connection. It is only when you climb at the top of the pass that you lose reception.


I hope the information above on Pensi La Pass in Zanskar Valley was of help. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments section below. You can also follow me on Instagram and chat with me live there or subscribe to my YouTube channel and ask a question there.

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Vinitha Belliappa March 7, 2024 - 7:50 am

Hi Vargis…thanks to your in depth info on Ladakh, and your recommendation of Kunal we, a group of 4 women, all 65 + , had a fabulous, seamless two week trip in Aug of 2022. We did a road trip from Chandigarh – Manali – Leh – Hundar, Turtuk- Pang tso and back to Leh covering most of the sights. This time we are planning Srinagar to Leh, then Siachen glacier and Hanle. We plan to break journey in Suru valley to see pensi la or wld a break in uleytokpo be better. We start with doing 2 nights in Srinagar, 1 night in Sonmarg. .. 2 nights in Suru valley, then a days rest in Leh and onto siachen glacier with a night halt and then Hanle for 2 nights and back to leh. We have about 13 days with a buffer day in leh. How do we go about this? Wld appreciate your advice. Thank you

Partha December 12, 2022 - 12:07 pm

Having exhaustiveky trekked around…because lost way to explore! ..your write up is excellent and helpful

Vargis.Khan December 13, 2022 - 6:48 am

Thank you !!!


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