Zanskar Valley – A Complete Travel Guide & Itinerary

by Vargis.Khan

The very name of Zanskar Valley creates in mind an image of a mysterious land far away; a place hidden somewhere up in the hills where not many have been; an enchanting land where time stands still and everything is beautiful beyond imagination. Is the image correct? Yes it indeed is. Zanskar is one of those very few places of our country that are not yet affected by the tourist mania. It indeed is a mystical land beautiful enough to sweep you off your feet; and still manages to retain its offbeat tag. Lush green of the hills of Suru, barren brown of a cold desert, gracious white of mighty glaciers, deep blue of the lakes, noisy flow of the rivers, majestic peaks all around; and warm hospitality of its people; this is what Zanskar has to offer.

Also Read: How to Plan your Trip to Ladakh – A Complete Travel Guide

Zanskar covers an area of some 7,000 square kilometers (2,700 sq mi), at an elevation of 3,500-7,000 meters. It is connected to rest of the country by only one single motorable road via Kargil. Another route is under construction across Shinku La. Once completed, this will connected Jispa in Lahaul Valley to Padum in Zanskar. For now however, this road is partially completed and can only be covered on foot.

zanskar valleyImage: Wiki

Some of the topics I will cover in the article below are on how to reach Zanskar valley, best time to visit, where to stay, what to see, how to commute and availability of basic amenities. I will also suggest an example of an itinerary detailing how you can plan a trip to Zanskar Valley. If, after reading the article, you have any other questions; you may comment and ask towards the bottom of this page.

Why Visit Zanskar Valley?

Let me begin by first talking about why you would want to visit Zanskar Valley and not some place else. Natural beauty of the place as I mentioned above is beyond comparison; and will definitely leave you wanting to come back for more. But it is not just the scenery and charming vistas but rather everything about Zanskar that is an experience in itself.

The simplicity and hospitality of its people will leave you touched and humbled. Zanskar has a little bit to offer for everyone. It is a historical place and there are several ancient monuments here like Phugtal Monastery and Zangla Fort; that will keep the history buffs happy. The drive from Kargil to Padum will well sate your desire of going off the road. The entire journey is a non-stop series of places to visit; and will see you taking breaks way too often. Once you reach Padum, you will truly have reached a place that stands still in time. You would have reached an offbeat destination without risking to go far too remote.

Please read Kargil to Padum: A Heavenly Drive for details on how can you plan this journey; and what are some of the must visit places en route.

Is Zanskar Valley Safe?

And the answer is a definite yes. It is a place of very simple minded people and a trip here is very safe. With that being said, no one can really guarantee your safety if you yourself start to behave carelessly. You have to keep in mind that you are driving through a remote region where even the roads aren’t properly built. There is also wildlife around here. Just drive sensibly, do not go wandering around away from villages; stay on the main road, plan your night stay in main towns; ask the locals if you weren’t sure about something and you will be fine. Search on the web and you will find several travelogues by couples and solo lady travelers who went to Zanskar and did not face any problem at all.

Where is Zanskar Valley

Zanskar (also spelled and pronounced as Zangskar or Ladakhi Zangs Dkar) is a sub-district or tehsil of the Kargil district, and lies in the eastern half of Jammu and Kashmir. The administrative center is Padum. Zanskar, together with the neighboring region of Ladakh, was briefly a part of the kingdom of Guge in Western Tibet. (Source Wiki)

In order to reach Zanskar, you will have to first reach Kargil and start driving towards Padum via the towns of Sankoo and Rangdum. As of now, the road will finally end at Padum and for your return journey as well, you will have to drive back to Kargil. In future, once the road across Shinku La is completed, you will also be able to reach here via Keylong and Jispa.

How to reach Zanskar Valley?

In order to reach Zanskar Valley, you will first have to reach Kargil. You can either first travel to Srinagar or Leh City, and then drive to Zanskar Valley from there via Kargil. Once the third route via Shinku La gets completed, you will also be able to travel to Zanskar via Manali.

For a better understanding of the roads leading to Zanskar Valley, I will recommend that you take a look the Road map of entire Ladakh Region including Zanskar.

How to reach Zanskar from Delhi?

In order to explain the route with the help of an example, I will assume Delhi as the starting point. Even if you were however coming from a different city, you will still get the idea of the route after going through the information below. Starting from Delhi, the route to reach Zanskar will be as mentioned below.

Delhi – Ludhiana – Pathankot – Jammu – Patnitop – Anantnag – Srinagar – Sonamarg – Drass – Kargil – Rangdum – Padum

Traveling as per the route above, your journey will be a total of approximately 1300 kilometers; spread over a minimum of 4 days. This is the easiest and fastest way to get to Zanskar.

How to reach Zanskar from Leh?

The second way to reach Zanskar Valley is to travel via Manali Leh highway and through Ladakh. The route will then be as mentioned below.

Delhi – Chandigarh – Manali – Keylong – Jispa – Sarchu – Pang – Leh

Traveling on the route above, you will drive a total of 1100 kilometers from Delhi and arrive at Leh City. You will then continue driving to Padum via the route below.

Leh – Lamayuru – Mulbekh – Kargil – Sankoo – Panikhar – Rangdum – Padum

The second one as you can see is the longer of the two routes and will take you at least 5 days to complete if rushed; and traveled for long hours.

How far is Zanskar Valley from Leh

The journey from Leh to Padum is approximately 500 kilometers and will take you two days to completely with a night halt at Kargil. This will make the entire drive from Delhi to Padum via Leh a total of about 1600 kilometers.

How to reach Zanskar Valley via Jispa / Darcha and Shinku La

This is a future state information because this road is still under construction. Once completed, you will be able to reach Padum from Manali via Rohtang Pass, Keylong, Jispa, Darcha and Shinku La Pass. As of now, the road from Darcha to Shinku La has been completed; but the remaining distance from Shinku La to Padum is still a trek route. However, once this route is operational, you will be able to drive down from Delhi to Padum in a total of 2 days only (Delhi to Manali on Day 1 and Manali to Padum on Day 2).

Another route that is still in plan is via Nimmu, running along the Chadar trek. Once this road gets completed, you will be able to reach Zanskar from Leh via Nimmu in a single day without having to go to Kargil first.

Nearest Airport to Zanskar Valley

The city of Leh has the nearest airport to Zanskar Valley. There are regular daily flights that you can board to Leh but most of these as of now are from Delhi. So if you were coming from a different city, you will first have to catch a flight to Delhi, then to Leh; and then drive down to Zanskar from there.

Nearest Railway Station to Zanskar Valley

The train stations at Srinagar and Jammu are the nearest railroads to Zanskar Valley.

Zanskar Valley by Car

All  of the information above was in terms of geographical location of the place. Now let me talk about how to reach Zanskar Valley in terms of mode of commute. Bringing your own car or motorcycle will definitely be the best way to go about it; because it will give you the flexibility of planning your itinerary as per your own convenience and exploring the most. Zanskar Valley is still a remote area where the frequency of public transport is not too great. Hence, if you arrived by your own vehicle, it will save you a great deal of hassle and money.

An SUV with good ground clearance will be the best car for Zanskar Valley. It does not necessarily have to be a 4×4 but good ground clearance is must. The road from Kargil to Padum starts to deteriorate after Sankoo and then turns into a completely dirt trail a few kilometers later. While it never turns into a nightmarish drive, the condition of the road can get quite bad at some stretches.

With that being said, I have a lot of people travel by Sedans and Hatchbacks as well. A lot of local drivers use Maruti Hatchbacks as taxi on the route. You too can do the same but just mentally be ready that the underbelly of your car will end up kissing the ground at a few places. You will also be risking getting stuck in a water crossing or slush along the route and; will need good driving skills to manage.

Zanskar Valley on Bike

If you were traveling by motorcycle, then the first thing to consider is the duration of the trip. A ride to Zanskar Valley will easily last about 9 to 10 days at least; which means that you will be carrying plenty of luggage along. So if you were thinking about riding with a pillion, then ensure that you are doing so on a motorcycle with larger engine; like Royal Enfield 350  or 500 CC ones. The additional power will come in very handy when you have two people on the same motorcycle with all their luggage. The overall design of RE too makes it slightly easier to rope around the luggage; and convenient for long trips for both the rider and pillion.

It doesn’t mean though that you cannot ride on a smaller engine motorcycle. You can in fact do this trip on a 125 CC bike as well; but just make sure that you are riding solo and as light as possible.

Prepare your Vehicle and Carry a Toolkit

Whether you travel by your car or motorcycle, please ensure that you get it ready for the tough journey ahead. The availability of mechanics on the route is mostly limited to Kargil, Srinagar and Leh. There are mechanics available at other places too but only for some minor fixes. If it was something major, then you would have to get your vehicle back to either Kargil, Leh or Srinagar. Along the route too, you will be driving through highly remote areas and will be in the middle of nowhere so even the smallest breakdown can be catastrophic. In order to remove any chance of that happening, please ensure that you get your vehicle service well in advanced. Repair or replace anything that seems dicey.

You do not really need to carry spare fuel for Zanskar valley. A tankful at Kargil will be sufficient to get you to Padum and back. Even in Padum, you will easily be able to buy both Petrol and Diesel. You should however definitely carry some basic spare parts and a toolkit for your vehicle.

Please read How to Prepare your Car for Zanskar Valley and How to Prepare your Motorcycle for Zanskar Valley; where I have explained how explained how you can get your vehicles prepared for a trip like this; and what are some of the must bring spares.

How to reach Zanskar valley by Private Taxi

In order to get to Zanskar by a private cab you can either fly into Srinagar or Leh; and rent a cab from there to get to Padum. Thing however is that a taxi in these areas is a very costly affair and a complicated one. The local taxi unions in these areas have turned it into a complete headache for the tourists. For example, if you were in Leh and want to visit Zanskar Valley; you will first have to rent a private taxi for your journey from Leh to Kargil. This cab will only drop you to Kargil and will not be allowed to go any further. Same thing actually apply from Kashmir side as well. Instead of Leh, if you were in Srinagar, even then the cab you hire from Srinagar will only bring you till Kargil and no further.

Once you have arrived in Kargil, you will then have to rent a Kargil registered cab for your journey till Padum. Now this cab will be allowed to get you to Padum but cannot get involved in any local sightseeing. For moving around in Padum and visiting nearby places, you will then have to rent another local cab which can also be used to drop you back to Kargil. From Kargil then, you will rent a 4th cab for your journey back to either Leh or Srinagar.

Cost of Private Taxi to Zanskar Valley

This whole episode of renting multiple cabs is not only a hassle for tourists but also burns a hole in their wallets. A private taxi will cost you Rs. 10,000 from Leh to Kargil; and then about Rs. 13000 for Kargil to Padum. You will then rent a local cab fir sightseeing which will cost about Rs. 5000. And then you will spend another Rs. 23000 on cabs for traveling back to Leh. About the same cost will apply for traveling from Srinagar side as well. So in short, renting a private cab from either Leh or Srinagar for Padum and the journeying back will cost you about Rs. 50,000 at least.

Shared Taxi to Zanskar Valley

Now since the private taxis cost so much hassle and money, an even better way to travel then would be by shared taxis. I am not saying that it would be less troublesome but would at least save you some money. There is really no set timings of these shared cabs; and you will have to just arrive at the bus stand to board one.

Depending on whether you were traveling from Leh or Srinagar, you will first have to find a shared cab for Kargil. This will cost you about Rs. 500 to Rs. 600 per person. From Kargil, if you were lucky enough, you may find a shared cab for all the way to Padum which will cost you another Rs. 500 to Rs. 600. If not, then you will have to break the journey in several parts. Good news is that it not too hard to do but can be a bit time consuming. From Kargil, you can first board a cab for any of the places in between like Sankoo, Panikar, Parkachik or Rangdum. From that town than, you will have to find a cab for your journey onward. There are no shared cab for sightseeing in and around Padum; and you will have to hire a private cab for that.

I know this is not the easiest way to travel but can save you tons of money. From either Leh or Srinagar you will make it to Padum in about Rs. 1000 to Rs. 1500; as compared to about Rs. 22,000 to 25,000 that you would have paid for a private cab. Quite a bit of save of money there, isn’t it?

How to Reach Zanskar Valley by Bus

Yes you can complete this journey by Bus as well which will cost you about the same as a shared cab. Problem however is that the frequency of the bus is not that great. You can easily find a bus from either Srinagar or Leh for Kargil. These ply on daily buses and you can board one from either Srinagar Bus stand or Leh Bus stand. Problem however arises between Kargil or Padum. There is just one weekly Bus on this route which comes from Leh and goes all the way to Padum. So when you are in Kargil, check at the Bus stand for availability of a Bus for Padum. If there is one indeed than you can board it. Otherwise you will have to complete the journey by shared cabs as I explained above.

For more information on buses on this route, please read Public Transport Services in Zanskar Valley.

Zanskar in Winter

Reaching Zanskar Valley during the peak months of winter is not really an option. You can travel to the valley only as long as the road remains open. From Srinagar, you can make this journey between the months of May till October while the Srinagar Leh highway remains open. Once Zojila gets snowed out, you cannot even reach Kargil from Srinagar and can only travel as far as Sonamarg.

From Leh, the window widens a little bit and the journey can be made in late April and November as well. The road between Leh and Kargil remains open throughout the year; but in winter, the Kargil Padum route gets blocked and can only be traveled upon from late April till early November.

Weather in Zanskar Valley

Cold and unpredictable are the two words that describe the weather of Zanskar Valley the most. The place remains buried under snow from January till March; completely inaccessible by road. The snow starts to melt in April and the road from Kargil to Padum gets declared open by either late April or early May. From May till September, weather mostly remains on a pleasant side of cold during day and freezing cold by night. Winter arrives in October and by November, it can snow here anytime.

The weather of Zanskar will also change on where you are and which part of the day. The sun at this altitude is quite harsh and will give you some serious sunburns if you weren’t careful despite the cold climate. Days will be slightly warm in summer but temperature at night will drop drastically.

Temperature in Zanskar Valley

Below is a month by month of how the weather and temperature trends in Zanskar Valley.

Zanskar Valley in January:

Average temperature of -10 degrees Celsius. Heavy snowfall all across the region and the road remains closed. The only way to reach Zanskar Valley at this time is by Chadar trek.

Zanskar Valley in February:

Average temperature of -10 degrees Celsius. Heavy snowfall all across the region and you cannot reach Zanskar at this time by road. Amount of snow on the ground increases even more in February.

Zanskar Valley in March:

Average temperature of -5 degrees Celsius. Roads continue to remain blocked.

Zanskar Valley in April:

Average temperature rises to 0 degrees Celsius. BRO starts to work on clearing the road from Kargil to Padum. Connectivity is usually restored towards end of April.

Zanskar Valley in May:

A great time to visit Zanskar. Average temperature rises to 10 degrees Celsius but nights will still remain close to zero. Pleasant weather and you will still get to see some snow at high altitudes.

Zanskar Valley in June:

Tourist season is at its full swing. Average temperature rises to 15 degrees Celsius.

Zanskar Valley in July:

Temperature will remain between 15 to 25 degrees Celsius at average. Another great time for planning a trip to Zanskar.

Zanskar Valley in August:

July and August are the time of Monsoon which makes people wonder whether it will be a good time to visit Zanskar or not. This entire region, including Ladakh and Zanskar both, fall under rain shadow area which means that it does not rain here much. You will however encounter monsoon and plenty of rainfall around Srinagar, Sonamarg and Drass if you were coming from that direction.

Zanskar Valley in September:

September is considered to be one of the best times to visit Zanskar. Average temperature will remain close to 10 degrees Celsius. Monsoon will be long gone but there will still be plenty of green in the valleys of Kashmir and Suru. Numbers of tourists too at this time is not as high as it is in preceding months.

Zanskar Valley in October:

Winter stats to settle in and average temperature falls down close to 5 degrees Celsius. The high altitude areas start to witness snowfall during late September and October.

Zanskar Valley in November:

Winter has arrived and the weather would turn freezing cold. Average temperature will drop to 0 degrees Celsius, and even further below during nights. You can visit here in early part of the month but it is not considered among best of the times for a trip.

Zanskar Valley in December:

The road from Kargil to Padum gets closed at this time. Average temperature drops down to -10 Degrees Celsius, and around -20 Degrees at night. It can snow anytime and life in Zanskar Valley takes a turn on the difficult side.

Best time to visit Zanskar Valley

I have actually covered this topic in detail in another article, When is the Best time to visit Zanskar Valley.  Considering the fact that you can actually only travel to Zanskar by road from May till October; anytime during these months will be good enough. But the best time to visit Zanskar Valley will also depend on what do you want to see; and there are a few things that you will have to consider. If you want to see some snow on the ground, then try traveling early in the month of May. If you want to avoid monsoon on the way then do not plan in late July or August.

October is generally considered a bad month to visit due to the cold weather and the fact that it can snow anytime and block the road. But this is a good time if you want to catch a live snowfall.

On an overall basis, September is usually considered the best time to visit Zanskar Valley. Weather will be pleasant and there will also not be many tourists around. Monsoon would have passed but the scenery on the way around Sonamarg, Drass will be green still. The desert of Zanskar will be thriving with colors all around and you will fall in love with the place. If you were lucky, then you may even catch a light spell of snow towards the end of the month.

Clothes for Zanskar Valley

Like best time to visit, this too will be different for everyone depending on what time you arrived here. From November till March, you cannot reach Zanskar Valley so I will leave these months out. October and April is still the time of winter so a trip in these months means that you have to bring woolens, gloves, woolen socks, muffler, thermals and a good quality heavy and windproof jacket.

From May till September, your regular cottons, some light woolens and a heavy jacket will do. The trick is to bring clothes that you can wear on top of one another and in layers. Weather of Zanskar really fluctuates depending on time of the day and place you are at. During day, it will be quite warm and you can easily walk around in regular cottons. At night however, it will turn freezing cold again. Standing in the sun will make you feel warm but you will feel the chill the moment you step in the shade.

So while you are packing clothes, do not bring all heavy woolens. Just bring clothes a bit lose enough and comfortable to be worn in layers. If you feel cold, then you can add another layer. If you feel warm, you can remove a layer until you are comfortable.

For more information on clothes to pack, please read Clothes for Ladakh Trip – What to Pack. It says Ladakh in the name but the details are the same for both Ladakh and Zanskar.

What to see in Zanskar

Zanskar Valley has a long list of tourist attractions that can keep you busy for days. Right from the town of Kargil till Padum, you will continue coming across both natural and man-made wonders. The natural beauty of the region is beyond comparison and every turn of the road will present you with a sight to behold. I have covered the topic of all these tourist places in in detail in another article that you can read at Tourist Attractions in Zanskar Valley and its Vicinity. In this post I will provide a list of all these places; but if you want to know more in details, please read the other article.

Places to see in Zanskar
  • Suru Valley
  • Shafat Glacier
  • Parkachik Glacier
  • Drang Drung Glacier
  • Parkachik La
  • Pensi La
  • Umasi La
  • Shingo La
  • Nun-Kun Massif
  • Ta Tso and the Lang Tso lakes
  • Fort of Rangdum
  • Zangla Fort or Palace
  • Doda River
  • Zanskar River
  • Suru River
  • Sani Monastery
  • Bardan Monastery
  • Dzongkhul Monastery
  • Rangdum Gompa
  • Karsha Monastery
  • Pibiting Monastery
  • Stongdey Monastery
  • Phuktal Monastery

Mentioned above are the names of all the places that are worth a visit. How many can you cover will entirely depend on the number of days you have in hand. Please read Tourist Attractions in Zanskar Valley and its Vicinity to know exactly where these places are located and how you can visit these.

Things to do in Zanskar Valley

Apart from visiting all of the above mentioned places, there is not really much to do in Zanskar. If you arrived here in winter, you can try the famous Chadar trek. I completed this trek in January this year and must admit that it is indeed a thrilling experience. I will cover the details on how to complete the Chadar trek in a later article.

In summer months, you can go rafting, bookings for which can be made in either Leh or Padum. If you are up for a bit of walking, then you can trek to the beautiful Phugtal Monastery, also known as Cave Gompa. Please read Phugtal Monastery – A Complete Travel Guide for details on how to complete this trek.

Even if you weren’t up for either of the above mentioned activities, then just spending a couple of days doing nothing; but enjoying the complete peace and tranquility of mighty Himalayas is something that you can never go wrong with. Arrive in Zanskar, spend some time away from the rushed lives of cities and trust me, you would want to stay here forever.

Where to Stay in Zanskar

Hotels and guest houses in Zanskar Valley are available and not a costly affair at all. Padum is the largest town in the valley and has the best choices available but you can easily find accommodation at other places as well. Please take a look at Accommodation in Zanskar Valley : Hotels, Guest Houses & Camp Sites.  In this article, I have covered in details where you can stay in Zanskar and along the route with information on some recommended hotels. Finding a budget hotel will not be a problem and you can easily cap your lodging charges to a maximum of Rs. 700 to Rs. 800 per day.

Acute Mountain Sickness in Zanskar Valley

Acute Mountain Sickness will not really be a problem during a Zanskar trip unless you landed in Leh; and then drove non-stop to Padum which I doubt anyone will do. If you reached Ladakh by flight then yes, you will definitely be suffering from altitude sickness at least on Day 1. My advice in this case will be that you rest in Leh on Day 1 and allow your body to acclimatize better. The next day, if you feel better, you can travel to Kargil and spend the second night there. This way, you will arrive in Padum on Day 3 and the affects of AMS would be long gone by then.

If you were driving from Srinagar side, then chances of getting hit by mountain sickness are next to none. Your gain in altitude will be gradual; and you would already have acclimatized by the time you reach Zanskar.

For more information on what AMS is and what its symptoms are, please read How to Deal With Acute Mountain Sickness.

Banks and ATMs in Zanskar Valley

Finding an ATM will not really be a concern during this trip. There is an ATM in Padum itself where you can withdraw cash. The next available ATM then is near Sankoo and then in Kargil. Traveling from Srinagar, you will find ATMs at almost all the towns en route. From Leh side as well, you can withdraw cash in Leh City and then Kargil. My advice would be to not rely on the ATM in Padum or Sankoo because these are remote areas and cash sometimes may not be available. Withdraw enough cash from either Leh, Srinagar or Kargil that can last you for your stay in Zanskar Valley.

Petrol Pumps in Zanskar Valley

There is a petrol pump in Padum but like the ATM, its functionality remains doubtful. There may not be any fuel available sometime and the gas station will be closed. The next petrol pump is at Kargil which will definitely be functional. After Kargil, next fuel station would then be either in Leh or on the route towards Srinagar. Kargil to Padum is about 230 kilometers so a tankful in Kargil should actually be enough for a return journey; unless your car is really low on mileage or you want to spend days driving around in Zanskar valley. If that is the case then my advice would be to bring a Jerry can along and carry about 20 liters spare from Kargil itself.

In terms of a motorcycle, you will have to think about carrying fuel depending on the fuel tank capacity of your bike. Either bring one of those 10 liters Jerry cans; or 4 – 5 empty bottles of Pepsi or Coke, the 2 liters one. Fill these bottles up, stuff them with your luggage carefully and keep emptying them one by one as you go along.

Mechanics in Zanskar Valley

There are mechanics available in Padum but only for some minor fixes or flat tires only. For anything major, you would have to bring your vehicle back to either Kargil, Leh or Srinagar.

Hospitals and Medical Assistance in Zanskar Valley

There is a hospital in both Kargil and Padum. The one in Kargil is better equipped but the one in Padum too is quite impressive considering the fact that it is located in such a remote area. For anything serious however, you would have to be rushed back to either Kargil, Leh or Srinagar. Except for the hospital in Padum, I did not notice any other medical assistance elsewhere in Zanskar. To be on a safer side, please carry some basic medicines along like for fever, headache, common cold, stomach ache etc.

Mobile Phone Connectivity in Zanskar Valley

First thing to know is that only postpaid phones work in the entire state of J&K. So if you were carrying a prepaid cell, it will be dead the moment you enter the state. BSNL has the widest coverage in this area and in fact is the only network that works in Zanskar. With a BSNL / MTNL postpaid, you will have full connectivity in Kargil and around Sankoo. After that, your phone will be as good as a paperweight and will not be back on the network again until Padum. Even in Padum, connectivity will be intermittent and severely limited. Voice clarity will be bad and internet will definitely not work. The only upside is that you will at least be able to send text messages out.

For complete details on cell phone network in Zanskar, please read Mobile Phone and Data Connectivity in Zanskar Valley.

Zanskar Valley Road Condition

Starting from Srinagar, the road is mostly good all the way till Kargil with a few bad stretches, mostly around Zoji La. From Leh, the road is in excellent condition till Kargil. Between Kargil and Padum, it is in good condition till Sankoo but then turns into a dirt trail entirely. There will be no tar on the road till Padum and condition of the road continues to deteriorate as your journey progresses. And that is why the 200 kilometers from Kargil to Padum can take you an entire day to complete.

Zanskar Valley Altitude

The average elevation of Zanskar Valley is 7,756 meters.

What to Buy in Zanskar Valley

To be honest, there is nothing special to buy in Zanskar Valley. If you were looking forward to some shopping, it would have to be done either in Kargil, Leh or Srinagar; and that too would mostly be handicraft items only. You can try buying some Tibetan Handicrafts & Wares; Silver and Stone Jewellery; Kashmiri handicrafts, decorative linens, brass, silverware, Pashmina Shawls, Carpets and Carved Furniture, freshly plucked tea leaves and dry fruit.

What to Eat in Zanskar Valley

Your food will be divided in two parts; Kashmiri and Tibetan. From Srinagar till Kargil and Sankoo, it is mostly Kashmiri food that dominates. Zanskar and Ladakh are a mix of both Kashmiri and Tibetan items. Below are some of delicious dishes you can try.

Non Vegetarian Kashmiri Dishes
  • Mutton Roghan Josh
  • Gushtaba (soft meat balls cooked in natural yoghurt, white curry)
  • Rishta (Soft Meat Balls in delicious Gravy, Red Curry),
  • Tabak maaz (Deep fried ribs of a lamb)
  • Kanti(small chunks of meat cooked with a lot of onions).
  • Seekh-Tuji – Marinated and freshly barbecued meat pieces eaten with chutney
  • Grilled Mutton called Tilli or Tekh
  • Marzunga Korma
  • Shami Kabab
  • Meeth Maaz
  • Yakhni
Vegetarian Kashmiri Dishes
  • Veg Dum Aaloo
  • Tamatar Zaman (Paneer)
  • Nundur Yakhin (Lotus Stem prepared in Yogurt)
  • Haak (Kashmiri Saag)
  • Ladakhi Pulao
Tibetan Dishes
  • Momos
  • Tingmo
  • Chhurpi (Yak Milk cheese)
  • Thukpa
  • Thenktuk
  • Mokthuk
  • Skyu or Skieu
  • Chhang
  • Cholak
  • Tangdur
  • Paba
  • Holkur
  • Butter Tea
  • Qahwa / Kahwa
  • Kashmiri Tea
Distance Chart
Leh to Zanskar Valley Distance

Padum, the largest town in Zanskar Valley is located at a distance of about 450 kilometers from Leh; a journey that will take 2 days to complete.

Srinagar to Zanskar Valley Distance

Total distance between Srinagar and Zanskar (Padum) is a total of 430 kilometers doable in 2 days.

Zanskar Valley Itinerary

A trip to Zanskar Valley can either be planned covering only Zanskar; or while incorporating it with Ladakh. An example of itinerary in both these manners are as mentioned below.

Leh to Zanskar Itinerary
  • Arrival in Leh – Day 1
  • Leh to Kargil via Lamayuru – Day 2
  • Kargil to Padum – Day 3
  • Sightseeing in Padum – Day 4
  • Sightseeing in Padum – Day 5
  • Padum to Kargil – Day 6
  • Kargil to Leh – Day 7
Srinagar to Zanskar Itinerary
  • Arrive in Srinagar – Day 1
  • Srinagar to Kargil – Day 2
  • Kargil to Padum – Day 3
  • Sightseeing in Padum – Day 4
  • Padum to Kargil – Day 5
  • Kargil to Srinagar – Day 6

I have explained both these itineraries in details in another articles; links of which I have provided below. Adding this information here would just have resulted in an even longer and heavier page. Please take a look at both these posts and you will know how you can plan the trip from either Ladakh or Srinagar side.

Also Read:

Zanskar Valley Itinerary – An Ideal Travel Plan

Leh to Zanskar Itinerary – How to Plan your Journey ?


And that pretty much covers all that there is to know in terms of planning a trip to Zanskar Valley. I hope the information provided above was of help. In case you have any further questions; or need any more details; 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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Dr. Somenath Mardanya January 31, 2023 - 5:46 am

Sinku La route will be open in June this year? By car it is accessible?

Vargis.Khan February 1, 2023 - 7:18 am

Yes to both your questions

Nilesh June 2, 2023 - 12:34 pm

By when the new route is schedule to open for cars in june’23 ?

Vargis.Khan June 3, 2023 - 9:50 am

It is open already but only 4×4 vehicles right now

Saibal Mondal June 24, 2022 - 3:47 am

I have read many blog about Zanskar, but you are the best IMO. My only question is what is the elevation of Zanskar road? As me and my wife is above 55 years. We covered Pangi as well. If the road elevation within 3000-3500 mtr we must try this road. Thanks in advance Mr.Vargis

Narinder Pal Singh Boparai April 8, 2022 - 2:07 pm

Thank you very much for sharing this valuable information. I plan to visit Zanskar Velley this summer. I have Innova Crysta vehicle with me. Will this vehicle be able to cover this journey comfortably?

Vargis.Khan April 10, 2022 - 4:10 am

I will advise against it Narinder Bhai. The ground clearance of Innova is a little low. Even the local cab drivers do not bring their Innovas on this route

naresh December 16, 2020 - 11:08 am

i am planning for 14 days to cover zanskar and ladakh. I will fly to srinagar or leh and fly back from leh or srinagar. Could you please suggest best itenary to cover zanskar and ladakh in 14 days. I appreciate your help.

Sunil khairnar June 16, 2020 - 5:37 pm

Hello Vargis Sir,

This is sunil, we are planning to do zanskar valley in october 2020 (hope so, pandemic ll be over by then), we want to go via manali- jispa-darcha-sumdo-Shinku la pass-lakhang-kargyak-purne-fugtal monastery.. Is it possible to go by this route? One of the youtuber (Rohan thakur) have did this and also made a series on it.. please suggest

Thank you

Ashish June 3, 2020 - 8:53 pm

Pls advise if we can go to zanskar via shinkula pass in October 2020

Vargis.Khan June 5, 2020 - 2:49 pm

No you cannot as of now.

Somnath Nandy March 16, 2020 - 11:40 am

May 15 Jammu to Kargil.
16th Kargil to Padam.
17th Padam sightseeing.
18th Padam to Kargil.
May 19th Kargil to Kellong..
20th Kellong to Manali.
Is this schedule possible in 2020 ?
Will Rotang pass open up by the time?
Can we go to Manali via Sinkhu La directly from Padam by that time?

Ayushi March 10, 2020 - 10:59 pm

Great information. How to commute by public transport?

Nilavra Ghosh November 1, 2019 - 1:47 pm

Hi Vargis ,
Is Kargil to Padum road still open now or it’s closed ? If closed, then when did it close this year ?

Vargis.Khan November 2, 2019 - 4:23 am

Hi Nilavra – It is open but it will close any day now.

Krishna murthy October 11, 2019 - 12:49 am

Super information

Vargis.Khan October 11, 2019 - 6:10 pm

Thanks Krishna

Himadri September 5, 2019 - 5:48 pm

Can zanskar be done during last week of October?

Vargis.Khan September 7, 2019 - 3:15 am


Rupali N July 31, 2019 - 9:47 am

Hi, just want to check, we are planning a trip to Zanskar Valley in month of Oct – Nov (30th Oct to 8th Nov)…. would it be a good time to travel along with kids ( 5 yrs & 2 yrs). or should we plan for ladakh region?

Vargis.Khan July 31, 2019 - 1:09 pm

How are you traveling? That is a bit late in the season and I would recommend against traveling with such young kids at that time. Weather will be terribly cold and roads can close anytime. Better to plan it next year.

Navneet June 25, 2019 - 2:37 pm

Information is just awesome. In the lat few days I have read most of the articles you have published.

Doing a great work

Vargis.Khan June 25, 2019 - 5:50 pm

Thank you Navneet.

Unit April 23, 2019 - 11:01 am

Thanks for information, it is really good . Would update the status of opening pensi la pass

Vargis.Khan April 23, 2019 - 2:17 pm

Thank you for taking the time to drop a note.


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