I remember the first time I was in the Zanskar valley and it completely changed my definition of “in the middle of nowhere”. If you thought of Ladakh as a remote place, try Zanskar. The small towns and villages here will make even Leh town look like a crowded city. It is one of the remotest and least visited areas not just in Ladakh or J&K but in our entire country which makes it completely necessary that you prepare yourself well in advance before visiting Zanskar. There are no petrol pumps here except for one which is hardly operational, no fancy hotels or guest houses, phones will not work and for most part of the journey you will pretty much be on your own. In this series of articles, I will be covering some basic information about travelling to Zanskar valley like a map of the region, a route guide detailing the journey from Kargil to Padum, the best time to visit, modes of transport, hotels and guest houses, and a sample itinerary you can follow.
To begin with, below is a Suru and Zanskar valley road map with names of the towns & villages and distances in between. Please click on the map to view it in full size.
The valley is named so after the Zanskar mountain range that seperates Zanskar from Ladakh. Total distance between Kargil and Padum is approximately 250 kilometers. There is one high altitude pass on the route which is in fact considered relatively easier to other passes in Ladakh and on Srinagar Leh highway. Average height of the valley is about 6,000 m (19,700 ft).
A few kilometers after Kargil, you will first enter the Suru Valley which will surprise you by the amount of greenery you will see here, thanks to the Suru valley. From Suru you will continue the journey towards Pensi La, the only high altitude pass on the route. After Pensi La, you will descend into Zanskar Valley and the landscape will once again change to a cold desert. For the initial part of the journey (just for initial 50-70 kilometers), road conditions will be OK but will deteriorate soon after. A more detailed description of the rout is mentioned in the next article.
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.