Being one of the remotest and least visited regions of our country, to travel to Zanskar valley and local sight seeing there is not a walk in the park. This is a part of India that is connected to rest of the country by just a single motorable but terribly maintained road. A part that remains out of reach by road for more than half of the year. Before visiting, one first must carefully consider all available modes of transport in Zanskar (to get there and for local sight seeing) and then decide which one would be best depending on budget and time in hand. In this article, I will provide some information on public transport services in Zanskar valley.
Distance between Kargil to Padum
Total distance from Kargil to Padum is approximately 230 kms however this journey can eat up your entire day. Up until Panikhar, road conditions are mostly good but from Panikhar to Padum, you will mostly be driving on a dirt trail which will terribly limit your speed. If to reach Padum on the same day is on your mind, you must leave Kargil early in the morning to make it to your destination before dark. Alternatively, you can also chose to break your journey in Rangdum on Day 1 and continue to Padum on Day 2.
Best way to travel to Zanskar Valley
Answer to this question depends on several factors like budget, time in hand etc but I think it is safe to assume that the best way to travel to Zanskar is a self owned vehicle. Public transport services here are severely limited and fare of the taxis here is enough to burn a hole in your pocket. If you have your own vehicle, you are free to travel anyway you want, anytime you want, take breaks as per your convenience and travel at your own convenience.
Traveling to Zanskar in a private Taxi
This of course is the fastest way to travel to Zanskar valley if you do not have your own vehicle however it is complicated and way too expensive. Due to the entire restrictions imposed by the local taxi unions here, hiring and moving around in a taxi is become a hectic and costly affair. You can only hire a cab for Zanskar valley that has a Kargil registration number. A cab from Leh or Srinagar cannot take you there. The taxi system in Kargil works on token basis. So if you want to hire a cab in Kargil for Padum, you can only take a taxi that has a token for your day of travel. This taxi will only be good enough to drop you to Padum but cannot be used for local sight seeing or your drop back to Kargil. For both these purposes, you will have to rent another cab from Padum. Sounds complicated? Trust me I agree.
Kargil to Padum Taxi Fare: A private cab from Kargil to Padum will cost you anywhere between Rs. 13000 to Rs. 15000. From Padum, you will hire another cab to bring you back to Kargil which will again cost you about the same. For local sightseeing around Padum, depending how many days you hire the cab for and the places you chose to visit, it will cost you approximately Rs. 4000 to Rs. 5000. So the entire affair of visiting the Zanskar valley in a shared cab will cost you close enough to Rs. 50,000.
Taxi rates from Padum for local sight seeing.
- To Pishu – One way Rs. 1800 , both ways, Rs 2400
- To Rangdum – Rs. 4000 & 6000
- To Reru – Rs. 1300 & 2500
- To Zangla – Rs. 2000 & 3000
- To Karsha – Rs. 520 & 690
Traveling to Zanskar Valley in a shared Taxi:
Though cheap, it is probably the most inconvenient way. It is the mode of transport that the locals here use. You can get a shared cab from Kargil to Padum for approximately Rs. 1500 per person however be advised that it is a 12 hrs drive straight with few breaks in between. Same way, you can get a cab from Padum to Kargil as well.
Traveling to Zanskar Valley in a Bus:
This is the cheapest mode of travel to Zanskar Valley.
Leh to Padum (Zanskar Valley) Bus Service – 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.
Kargil to Sankoo and Panikhar Bus Service – There is a bus service from Kargil to Sankoo and Panikhar every morning.
Kargil to Parkachik Bus Service – 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.
Parkachik to Padum Bus Service – 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.
Kargil to Padum Bus Service – It is the same bus that comes from Leh and than continues to Padum. There is no bus that starts from Kargil for Padum. Buses from Kargil go until Sankoo, Panikhar and Parkachik only.
I hope this information was helpful. If you have any further questions, please feel free to ask in the comments section below and I would be glad to answer.