Zanskar Itinerary, Route Details and Road Map

by Vargis.Khan

Continuing from the previous article where I provided details on how you can incorporate Zanskar valley in your trip to Ladakh; in this post I will talk about how to plan this journey when you intend to visit Zanskar only. And by that, I mean that you leave home, visit Zanskar and return without going to Ladakh. Mostly Zanskar becomes a part or an extension of a Ladakh trip and if you too were planning on similar lines, I suggest that you read the previous part of this post. If however only Zanskar is on your mind then mentioned below is a Zanskar Valley itinerary which will give you an idea on details like how you can travel here, where to stay and places that you must visit.

For a complete road map of Zanskar valley that you can refer to while going through the itinerary below, please take a look at Kargil to Padum Route Guide and Road Map

Image: Wiki

Your final travel plan will of course depend on several factors like how you were traveling, for how many days and if there was any budget constraint. However, even if you were not able to follow the itinerary below to the last detail, it will at least give you enough information to form one of your own. If, after reading the post below, you need any further clarification about any part of the journey, please feel free to comment and ask towards the bottom of this page.

Zanskar Valley Itinerary

When planning a trip to only Zanskar, it makes sense to approach the valley from Srinagar side for two reasons primarily. First and foremost is that it is the shorter of the two routes. From Srinagar, you can reach Zanskar within two days but if you went from Manali, it will take you at least 4 days before you get to Padum. Then there is also the fact that from Manali, you will travel through Leh City; which will then beat the purpose of visiting Zanskar only and keeping Ladakh out.

Second and more reason however if of acute mountain sickness and more applicable towards people planning to catch a flight. In order to get to Zanskar, you can either board a flight to Leh or Srinagar, and then reach Padum from there by road. If you however planned from Srinagar, you will first land at comparatively lower altitude and then drive up to Zanskar. Since the gain in altitude in this case is a bit gradual, your chance of suffering from altitude sickness are almost next to none. If on the other hand you landed in Leh city, you are bound to suffer from AMS at least on your first day because you are then landing at almost the same altitude as that of Zanskar Valley.

If we talk numbers, then Srinagar is at an altitude of 1,585 meters, Kargil at 2,676 meters and Padum 3,669 meters. So you can see that you are actually gaining height slowly in 2 to 3 days depending upon your itinerary. Leh however is at a height of 3,500 meters so if you landed there directly, it is almost the same thing as catching a flight directly to Padum which is bound to trigger symptoms of mountain sickness.

Also Read: Mobile Phone Connectivity in Zanskar Valley

Zanskar Valley Route

So starting from Srinagar, you will first reach Kargil via Sonamarg, Zojila and Drass. From Kargil, you will then take the only road that will take you to Padum and first enter the beautiful Suru Valley. As opposed to the barren landscape of neighboring Ladakh and Zanskar, Suru valley is all lush green and majorly Muslim in terms of culture. You will travel through the towns of Sankoo, Panikhar, Parkachik and reach Rangdum where Suru valley ends. After Rangdum, you will then drive up to the top of Pensi La (also known as Penzi La Pass) and drive down into Zanskar valley. You will reach Padum and stay there for the night.

What to See in Zanskar

A trip to Zanskar is truly a non-stop affair of sightseeing. Right from the moment you reach Srinagar, you will start running through an endless list of tourist attractions. If you have some time on hand, then spend a day in Srinagar and visit some local places in the city. I have provided a detailed list of must visit places in Srinagar at Tourist Attractions in Srinagar and its Vicinity that you can take a look at. Once you leave Srinagar, you will be traveling on the beautiful Srinagar Leh highway until Kargil. Zojila, Kargil War memorial, Sonamarg, Drass are some of the places you will see on this route. After Kargil, as you start traveling on Kargil – Padum road; Drang Drung Glacier, Pensi La, Sta Tso, Lang Tso Lakes and Nun-Kun Massif are some of the must see place en route.

Please take a look at Tourist Attractions in Zanskar Valley for a  complete and detailed list of must visit places in Zanskar. I will provide the itinerary below and then you can refer to this article for places that you should cover while traveling.

Zanskar Itinerary

Below is an example of an itinerary for Zanskar Valley. I will first detail an itinerary that I recommend provide by a few other alternate versions of it. For the sake of this article, I will assume that you are starting your trip from Delhi. If you were however coming from a different city, then only the journey to and from Srinagar will be different. Rest of the details for rest of the days will still apply.

  • Delhi to Jammu – Day 1
  • Jammu to Srinagar – Day 2
  • Srinagar – Day 3
  • Srinagar to Kargil – Day 4
  • Kargil to Padum – Day 5
  • Padum – Day 6
  • Padum – Day 7
  • Padum to Rangdum – Day 8
  • Rangdum to Drass – Day 9
  • Drass to Srinagar – Day 10
  • Srinagar to Jammu – Day 11
  • Jammu to Delhi – Day 12

The journey above is in a very relaxed manner while ensuring that you cover and see all there is to see. Depending on your own preference, you can modify it accordingly. Like for example, if you were flying in and out of Srinagar then the first two and last two days will get changed to 1 day each. If you were short on time, then you can remove the rest days in Srinagar and Padum as well.

Also Read: Zanskar Valley Taxi Union Rates : Leh, Kargil & Local

Delhi to Jammu
  • About 600 kilometers of journey depending on where you were starting from in Delhi
  • Travel time of 12 to 13 hours
  • Road Conditions are mostly good all the way till Jammu with a few bad patches in between
  • Overnight stay at Jammu
  • Jammu to Srinagar
  • About 270 kilometers of total journey
  • 11 to 12 hours of travel time
  • Even though the distance is not too great, it can still take you about 12 hours to reach Srinagar because of frequent road-blocks and traffic jams on the highway.
  • Overnight stay at Srinagar
Srinagar to Kargil
  • About 200 kilometers of distance
  • Will take 9 to 10 hours to complete depending upon your speed and breaks
  • See Kargil War Memorial, Tiger Hill and Zoji La en route
  • Road Conditions are good with a very bad stretch around Zoji La
Kargil to Padum
  • 230 Kilometers of total distance
  • Will still take you about 10 to 11 hours
  • Road is good until Sankoo but after that until Padum, it gets really bad.
  • Get an early start from Kargil so you also have some time for sightseeing on the way
  • See Suru Valley, Pensi La, Drang Drung Glacier, Sta Tso, Lang Tso Lakes and Nun-Kun Massif on the way
  • Overnight stay at Padum
  • Rest Day at Padum
  • You can remove this day if you are short on time
  • You can visit some of the local places near Padum today
  • For a list of must visit places, please read Tourist Attractions in Padum
  • Overnight Stay in Padum
  • Another day of local sightseeing in and around Padum
  • You can remove this day if you were short on time
  • DZongkhul,  Sani, Stongde and Karsha monasteries, Zang La fort are some of the more popular places to see. Karsha Monastery is better for an evening view of Padum while Stongdey monastery provides some great morning views.
  • Overnight Stay in Padum
Padum to Rangdum
  • Only about 100 kilometers of travel today
  • It will take you 4 hours at most so you can also start a bit late in the day
  • Spend some time at top of Pensi La
  • See and click pictures of Magnificent Drang Drung Glacier
  • Trek to nearby Sta Tso, Lang Tso Lakes
  • Overnight stay at Rangdum
  • Once you have checked into a hotel, pay a visit to Rangdum Gompa
Rangdum to Drass
  • Take a different route for journey back home.
  • You will travel through the Umba La Pass that only a very few people even know about.
  • The road towards Umba La bifurcates a little after Sankoo. Ask around the locals to be sure.
  • Please note though that the road is a bit steep with a lot of hairpin bends.
  • See Nun-Kun Massif from Purikutchey
  • See 7-meter rock carved statue of the Maitreya Buddhha in the village of Kartse Khar (also Karche Khar or Karshe Khar Karche Khar). The village is near Sankoo.
  • Will take about 10-11 hours depending upon your speed and breaks and places you visited.

Also Read: Tourist Places in Zanskar Valley and its Vicinity

Drass to Srinagar
  • Journey back to Srinagar via the same route that you took to arrive at Kargil
  • About 5-6 hours of journey
  • Enjoy sunset view in Srinagar from either Dal Lake or Pari Mahal
Srinagar to Jammu
  • For your journey back to Jammu, you will take a different route this time.
  • You will travel on the historic Mughal road via Shopian, Peer ki Gali Pass and Rajouri.
  • It is the more scenic and lesser crowded of the two routes connecting Jammu with Srinagar.
  • For more details, please read How to Plan a Trip on Mughal Road

And that is it. That is your 12 days trip to Zanskar Valley covering majority of the must visit places. You can add or remove days from here depending on the time you have in hand. The journey can be of course done in multiple other ways so if this one did not fit your plan, let me suggest a few other options as well.

Also Read: Accommodation in Zanskar Valley : Hotels, Guest Houses & Camp Sites

Itinerary for Zanskar Valley

In case you were flying in and out of Srinagar, then the journey can be as mentioned below.

  • Delhi to Srinagar – Day 1
  • Srinagar – Day 2
  • Srinagar to Kargil – Day 3
  • Kargil to Padum – Day 4
  • Padum – Day 5
  • Padum – Day 6
  • Padum to Rangdum – Day 7
  • Rangdum to Drass – Day 8
  • Drass to Srinagar – Day 9
  • Srinagar to Delhi – Day 10

Or like this

  • Delhi to Srinagar – Day 1
  • Srinagar – Day 2
  • Srinagar to Kargil – Day 3
  • Kargil to Padum – Day 4
  • Padum – Day 5
  • Padum – Day 6
  • Padum to Rangdum – Day 7
  • Rangdum to Drass – Day 8
  • Drass to Leh – Day 9
  • Leh to Delhi – Day 10

A third option of the itinerary can be like below.

  • Delhi to Jammu – Day 1
  • Jammu to Srinagar – Day 2
  • Srinagar – Day 3
  • Srinagar to Kargil – Day 4
  • Kargil to Padum – Day 5
  • Padum – Day 6
  • Padum – Day 7
  • Padum to Rangdum – Day 8
  • Rangdum to Drass – Day 9
  • Drass to Leh – Day 10
  • Leh to Sarchu – Day 11
  • Sarchu to Manali – Day 12
  • Manali to Delhi – Day 13

I hope the information above on Zanskar valley itinerary was of help. If you have any other questions; or need any further details about any part of the journey above; please feel free to ask in the comments section below; or at our Community Forum; and I will be glad to answer.

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1 comment

ANINDYA MAJUMDAR January 16, 2019 - 5:36 am

hi vargis,
your blog is a gem of information! Can you please post the latest car tariff chart for kargil/ padum taxi union?


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