Zanskar Valley – Most Common Itinerary

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Zanskar Valley, nestled in a remote corner of Ladakh, is hot topic this season among the adventure lovers who embark on the adrenaline rushing journeys in trans-Himalayas every year. Since, I am getting loads of queries related to Zanskar Valley this year and of course we had our DoW Mega Meet 2015 in Zanskar Valley only, I thought why not share the most common itinerary for Zanskar Valley and help everyone make an amazing journey filled with full of adventure to this wonderland. The alternate itinerary also covers Srinagar – Leh Highway and if you have more time on hand, feel free to leave a comment below so that I can help you with a plan to exit Ladakh over Manali – Leh Highway.

Reflections to die for… Twin lakes of Penzi La Pass
Reflections to die for... Twin lakes of Penzi La Pass

I have started from Srinagar side because it gives at least two benefits, if not more. Firstly, the body acclimatize better due to gradual ascent by the time you reach Padum in Zanskar Valley. Hence, less chances of getting stuck with Acute Mountain Sickness (more info on AMS here). Secondly, you can travel back to Leh and further over Manali – Leh Highway through Tso Moriri in case you have missed Tso Moriri in your last trip to Ladakh, which most commonly is the case 🙂 🙂 … For now, these two reasons are good enough to start your journey from Srinagar side 🙂 …

Most Common 8 Days Itinerary for Zanskar Valley

The road to Zanskar Valley runs through Suru Valley and hence, you will be able to cover the Suru Valley too while following this itinerary. In case you have visited Ladakh, I will strongly advice that you do not distract yourself and focus just on Suru Valley and Zanskar Valley over these 9 days. Zanskar is one of the most enchanting and scenic valley with landscape and culture identical to rest of Ladakh, at times more beautiful than Changthang region. The fall or autumn colors are just majestic to witness as those beautiful orangish colors makes it no less than a wonderland. Besides regular sightseeing of SrinagarKargil Highway, you will be witnessing a breathtaking glacier in touch distance, named Drang Drung Glacier while passing over the Penzi La Pass that connects Suru Valley with Zanskar Valley. Apart from that, you will be visiting the Rangdum Gompa, Zongkhul Monastery and Zang La Fort near Padum. However, the most amazing thing that you can do apart from these 8 days is to explore the unexplored trek of Phugtal Monastery (read more on Phugtal Monastery – Zanskar Valley) which is uniquely located into the cliffside like a honeycomb and considered as one of the remarkable sites in whole Zanskar Valley. I will write a separate article on Phugtal Monastery (also called Phuktal Monastery) trek with all the required details but as of now you can keep it like if you are beginner it will take about 5 days of trek at easy pace else you can do it in 4 days if you are intermediate trekker. In the last, you may give a shot at a road less travelled in Ladakh, the Umba La Pass route that directly connects Sankoo to Drass and will finally end the trip at Srinagar from where you can fly back home after spending a relaxing night in Shikara over Dal Lake :)… Sounds Interesting??? So, now here is the plan:

Welcome to Zanskar Valley
Welcome to Zanskar Valley
Day 1 | Delhi – Srinagar and then Srinagar – Sonamarg (79 KMs) – Zozi La (107 KMs) – Drass (144 KMs) – Kargil (202 KMs)
  • Early morning flight to Srinagar (reach 7 AM) and then by road to Kargil via Zozi La pass
  • Kargil War Memorial at Drass
  • Tiger Hill view from a road side Dhabha while having lunch
  • Arrange permits/bookings for PWD Rest Houses at Rangdum/Parkachik (if possible else be on your own)
  • Will take about 8-9 Hrs
  • Overnight stay at Kargil
Day 2 | Kargil – Sankoo (42 KMs) – Panikhar (67 KMs) – Parkachik (98 KMs) – Rangdum (138 KMs) – Penzi La (165 KMs) – Padum (255 KMs)
  • Have breakfast either at Kargil, preferably packed breakfast from hotel
  • It is going to be a long day, hence, leave for sure by 7 AM
  • Have lunch at Rangdum, specifically not letting you stay at Rangdum as it a much harsh place than Padum with least facilities. So, better break journey while coming back
  • Beautiful Stod River join you after descend from Penzi La
  • Will take about 9-11 Hrs
  • Overnight stay at Padum
Day 3 | Rest day at Padum and Zongkhul Monastery
  • Rest at Padum and enjoy the stay to acclimatize better
  • After lunch you can do Padum – Tungri (17 KMs) – Zongkhul (37 KMs)
  • Will take about 2-3 Hrs
  • Overnight stay at Padum
Day 4 | Padum – Stongde (15 KMs) – Zang La Fort (32 KMs) – Karsha (62 KMs) – Padum (74 KMs)
  • Explore local sightseeing in Padum including Sani, Stongdey and Karsha monasteries, Zang La Fort
  • An old monastery situated in the nearby village of Tsa-zar, midway between Stongde and Zangla
  • Sheela Village Waterfall: You can spend sometime at waterfall at Sheela village while coming back to Padum from Stongde
  • Karsha monastery: Evening visit for nice view of Padum village
  • Stonge monastery: Morning visit for better views
  • Zang La Fort: Ahead of Stongde and offers some scenic wide views
  • Will take about 3-4 Hrs
  • Overnight stay at Padum
Day 5 | Padum – Penzi La Pass (90 KMs) – Rangdum (117 KMs)
  • On the way see and click some lovely pictures of Drang Drung Glacier
  • Spot some wildlife including Marmots as well on the way to Penzi La
  • Stop by at Statso – Langtso Twin Lakes on the way to Penzi La
  • Some time at Penzi La with pictures
  • Rangdum Gompa is a MUST DO which is about 2-3 KMs from Rangdum
  • Enjoy any left overs while going towards Padum earlier
  • Will take about 5 Hrs
  • Overnight stay at Rangdum, avoid JKTDC Rest House at Rangdum and prefer a homestay
Day 6 | Rangdum – Parkachik (40 KMs) – Sankoo (96 KMs) – Umba La – Drass (160 KMs)
  • Spend some time at beautiful Panikhar village and enjoy the scenic beauty around
  • Excellent views of Nun – Kun from Purikutchey
  • Trek down to river and relax for a while on the way
  • The rock carved Maitrey at Kartse Khar
  • Have lunch at Sankoo
  • Give a shot at the unexplored Umba La route on the way back
  • Will take about 7-8 Hrs
  • Overnight stay at Drass
Day 7 | Drass – Zozi La (37 KMs) – Sonamarg (65 KMs) – Srinagar (144 KMs)
  • Enjoy the ride in Dal Lake and sleep over in Shikara
  • Will take about 5-6 Hrs
  • Overnight stay at Srinagar
Day 8 | Srinagar – Delhi By Morning Flight
  • Back to Sweet Home
And it meets into Zanskar river
And it meets into Zanskar river
Alternate plan to Leh from Drass and fly out from Leh

In case you want to go to Leh to complete the journey of Srinagar – Leh Highway, you follow the below plan:

Day 7 | Drass – Kargil – Lamayuru – Leh
  • Cover Mulbekh Maitrey, Lamayuru Moanstery, Lunar Landscapes
  • On the way you can also see Gurudwara Pather Sahib, Magnetic Hills, Confluence at Nimmu
  • Overnight at Leh
  • About 9-10 Hrs drive, depending upon the breaks you take in between
Day 8 | Leh – Delhi By Morning Flight
  • Back to Sweet Home
Alternate plan to Leh – Tso Moriri – Manali – Leh Highway

And in case if you have luxury of more days in hand and want to cover Manali – Leh Highway and Tso Moriri lake too, in that case follow as below:

Day 7 | Drass – Kargil – Lamayuru – Leh
  • Cover Mulbekh Maitrey, Lamayuru Moanstery, Lunar Landscapes
  • On the way you can also see Gurudwara Pather Sahib, Magnetic Hills, Confluence at Nimmu
  • Overnight at Leh
  • About 9-10 Hrs drive, , depending upon the breaks you take in between
Day 8 | Rest day at Leh to enjoy local culture and some shopping or move to Chumathang
  • Overnight at Leh/Chumathang
Day 9 | Leh/Chumathang – Tso Moriri via Chumathang
  • There are chances of AMS, hence it is better that you stay previous night at Chumathang
  • Cover Karzok Monastery
  • Overnight at Karzok or Tso Moriri
  • About 7-8 Hrs drive, depending upon the breaks you take in between
Day 10 | Tso Moriri – Tso Kar – Debring (Manali – Leh Highway starts) – Moore Plains – Pang / Sarchu
  • Try to start early in the day so that you reach Sarchu where the accommodation options are better than Pang
  • Overnight at Sarchu or Pang
  • About 9-10 Hrs drive, depending upon the breaks you take in between
Day 11 | Pang / Sarchu – Baralacha La – Keylong – Rohtang Pass – Manali
  • On the way cover Suraj Tal, Deepak Tal which are on the road sides only
  • Overnight at Manali
  • About 11-12 Hrs drive, depending upon the breaks you take in between and of course the mess at Rohtang Pass
Day 12 | Manali – Delhi
  • Return Home
  • About 13-14 Hrs drive, depending upon the breaks you take in between
Magical Rangdum Village
Magical Rangdum Village
Request everyone that instead of putting up the queries on travel plan below, please start an itinerary advice thread in the forums so that it can be replied in more structured manner as well as more people can get benefit from the replies by reading existing threads.

Here is the link: DoW – Himalayan Travel Community | Ladakh & Zanskar Valley Itinerary Advice

Conclusion

I hope this common of itinerary for Zanskar Valley will be useful for travelers planning their journey at least for the first time to this hidden wonderland. I will look forward for any queries or doubts or valuable suggestions and inputs you have and would love to discuss about your custom plan as well in comments section.

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24 Comments

  1. Dear Dheeraj,
    If I have to go by Srinagar -Zanskar- Leh route , do you mean I will need 3 different taxi for the entire trip.
    I have been to kashmir and ladakh separately , now Zanskar is on my cards.
    Do you have any recommended taxi driver for srinagar to zanskar and zanskar site seeing and drop to leh?

    • Hello Himadri,

      From this year onward the taxi union rules in Zanskar have been relaxed and you no longer need to take individual taxis for it. If you want to do just Zanskar, any Kargil based taxi should be able to take your through Zanskar and now even Ladakh based taxis are also allowed. A Kargil based taxi is more preferable because of the region they are frequent to that route from the past and Ladakh/Srinagar guys will be starting their trips most likely from next season as earlier they were not allowed. You can refer the list: List of Taxi Drivers for Ladakh – Srinagar – Leh – Manali

      • That is a great piece of information , thanks a lot Dheeraj.
        I have a few other questions-
        What is the best way to travel from Srinagar to Kargil on budget or do I will need to hire a taxi for dropping?
        Can it be done in public transport ? How much time will it take?

        • Yes, you can travel from daily buses from Srinagar to Kargil. However, from Kargil to Padum the buses are not that frequent. You either need a private taxi or you need to travel with local shared taxi that works by per seat basis of around Rs 1500

  2. Hi Dheeraj,

    Thanks for the details.
    I finished my trip to Zankar valley. (Shared taxi).
    including trek to Phutkal monastery.

    I just felt, a day stay in Phuktal is really required to enjoy the remoteness of the place 🙂
    And Padum was really awesome, such a big valley.

    Thanks again.

    My return journey from Padum to Kargil was night journey, and it was different experience though.
    (Because of some time constraints, I had).

    – Rohith

  3. Ashutosh Kumar on

    Hi dheeraj
    Is it possible to visit zanskar valley in mid nov, with a fwd high gc car.

  4. HI Dheeraj,

    Last time I asked about Spiti, which I have put on hold and instead want to plan Zanskar in July.
    The quotes I have received for the taxi are exorbitant. Rs 36,000 fro a four day trip from Kargil to Padum and back to kargil. the overall itinerary is as follows. Since I shall be travelling with wife and kinds, the program is relaxed.
    01 Arrival Srinagar Pickup to house boat, Afternoon visit Shalimar, Shankar Achariya,
    02 Srinagar to Kargil over night hotel,
    03 Kargil to Ragdum to overnight camp,
    04 Radum to Padum over night guest house,
    05 Padum Karsha, Stungday monastery visit back to Padum over night guest house,
    06 Padum to Rangdum overnight camp,
    07 Rangdum to Lamayuru over night hotel,
    08 Lamayuru to Leh over night guest house,

    Well the camps too are expensive at Rangdum. Any suggestions? Are the Taxi fares Okay?

    • I will say go directly to Padum instead of staying at Rangdum because it is a harsh place. Taxi fare is OK. At rangdum you can stay at a home stay instead of camps which are very costly

  5. hii Dheeraj

    we are planning for trip from srinagar to leh . But people are saying that road condition from srinagar to leh is not good for bike and also there will be lot of dust. so what should we prefer bike or public transport ?
    we will prefer bike if road are smooth .

  6. Daniel Djukic on

    Hello Dheeraj,

    our Ladakh trip is coming closer and one question is in my head: How about electricity in certain places? – Just need to charge my camera battery (cannot use solar power bank with Canon chargers…). In which of the following is this possible?

    I’d need this information especially for:

    Zanskar (Padum or Karsha) and

    guesthouses around Tso Moriri.

    Furthermore, how about electricity at Pangong Tso and Nubra (Hunder, Diskit)

    Thank you so much for your information and for sharing your experience. This would help me a lot to plan our 50-days-Ladakh-trip.

    Kind regards from Thailand,

    Daniel

    • Hello Daniel,

      Most of the places will have electricity like Nubra Valley, Zanskar, Padum, Karsha. Guest houses in Tso Moriri too will have electricity but limited supply and same will be applicable for Pangong Tso. Some of them do have generators for providing this limited power supply. So, better carry extra batteries for your camera and keep them charged in Leh, Padum, Nubra before making moves to remote places like Pangong Tso, Tso Moriri and Manali – Leh highway

  7. Hi Dheeraj,
    I was wondering is it possible to add Zanskar Valley to the 14 days most common Srinagar-Kargil-Leh-Manali trip? Because the Zanskar Valley itself take 8 days as stated above. I’m from Indonesia and i’m not sure if i can go back to Ladakh again in the future so i hope i can cover all the places if it’s possible (with time effeciency, and money issues of course haha). Or maybe can you suggest me another itinerary to cover best places at Jammu-Khasmir and Ladakh in less than 18 days?

    Thanks in advance,

    -Falah

    • Hi Falah,

      Zanskar Valley needs about 3-4 days at minimum from Kargil. So, within 14 days, well, it will be too much to ask for. You will need to skip one of the places in Ladakh in order to accomodate it. You can at most save two days, one by directly flying to Srinagar and other by removing the rest day in that common itinerary for Ladakh. You will still needs at least 1-2 days to add Zanskar Valley.

      I see you have 18 days, then it is like:

      Fly to Srinagar, saves you one day. Reach Kargil the next day, then move to Padum from Kargil. Rest day at Padum and local sightseeing next day, next day start for Rangdum enjoying the journey in between with longer stopovers, finally reach Kargil or Mulbekh or Lamayuru next day. From there resume the 14 day plan. Remove rest day from the plan and well you should be good to go with 18 days.

  8. Pingback: Phugtal Monastery Trek - A Travel Guide - Devil On Wheels™

  9. Hi Dheeraj,
    It’s good to know that we can reach Padum with Public transportation.

    With my previous trips to ladakh (July/2015 & Dec/2015), I have covered following places:
    – Manali-Leh
    – Khardungla-Diskit-Turtuk
    – Pangong Tso
    – Tsomoriri

    I have already planned to reach Srinagar in July/2016.

    1. Srinagar-Leh-Hanle (& probably few other places)
    > But, Do I have anything else than Hanle? I have visited other places in my previous visits.
    2. Srinagar-Kargil-padum (Just as per your suggested itinerary)
    > I would miss Kargil-Leh route, Lamayouru and Hanle.

    I am thinking of going on with (2)
    Do you have any suggestion?
    Thanks in advance

    -Rohith

    • Hmm, well there are many routes like Pangong Tso – Nubra connects with 3 routes, I am not sure which one you took. Then Pangong Tso – Tso Moriri connects via 3 routes, not sure which one you took. Kargil to Leh is connected by two routes too not sure which one you too. You can try all these places as well 🙂 … Refer DoW Maps of Ladakh to explore any routes that you might not have taken. Zanskar Valley should be done as a dedicated trip, so focus on it only this time.

      • Thanks Dheeraj,
        I think, I will plan for Zanskar only.
        As I am travelling solo, just worried about the journey.
        Anyways, I will update on my travel once I finish.
        Anyways, I have 4 more months to plan.

  10. Jatin Doshi on

    hi Dheeraj,

    As usual amazing info regarding any destination in the Himalyas. Just wanted to confirm one thing. Can the above 8/9 day itinerary be done using public transport? Or is it difficult to get public transport in Zanskar?

    • Jatin, with public transport as well it can be done. Buses do run between all these places but within Padum/Zanskar you might have to rely on shared taxis or private taxi only.

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