Zanskar Travel Guide

Located in the Ladakh region in the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir, Zanskar range is a mountain range and a part of Tethys Himalaya. It is situated at an altitude of 19,700 feet and separate Kinnaur district from Spiti in Himachal Pradesh. It is one of the most isolated regions in Ladakh and can only be reached either through a strenuous week long trek and a 14-hour drive alongside an uneven route along the Suru River. The mountain range is quite rich in terms of flora and fauna. However, a new road is under construction along the valley of the Zanskar River, connecting Padum to Nimmu on the Leh-Kargil road.

A sub-district of Kargil in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, Zanskar region is a semi-arid high altitude desert. The area is one of the major draw among international and domestic adventure seekers. Administrative centre of the region is located in Padum. For a brief period of time it was a part of Guge Kingdom in Tibet. Perched on an altitude of 4,400 m, Pensi La is a Gateway to the area. Zanskar Valley gets completely cut off from rest of the world between November and May due to heavy snowfall. Most of the local population are Buddhist and the royal family still reside here although playa ceremonial role only.

A place where dreams come true, a place that equals heaven, a place that satiates the hunger of adventure enthusiasts, a place where seasoned bikers meet their best amusement; this is what describes Ladakh. The land of high passes has always been a go-to destination for people of all ages due to the adventure activities it holds and mesmerizing natural landscapes on offer. One of the best places to visit in Leh-Ladakh is the Zanskar Valley. This is a magical place like no other. Where people love to visit other regions of Ladakh during summers, one can see an equal amount of crowd at Zanskar in winters as well. One of the best things to do in Zanskar is the Chadar Trek. People from around the world fancy this adventure activity where they get a chance to walk on the frozen river.

More or less Zanskar Tourism has increased several-fold due to the adventure activities and natural landscapes that keep the tourists engaged for good. From the phenomenal and popular Chadar Trek in winters to enjoying adrenaline-rushing white water rafting activity in summers; Zanskar is a complete package. Here is a complete Zanskar travel guide that has all the important information about the place, the best time to visit, and other elements. So, go through all the information and make your plans accordingly.

Location

When it comes to remote and pristine location, Zanskar gets as close to isolation as it can and could be reached only through a long 15 hours road drive. The journey along treacherous and potholed terrain follows Suru River or gets complete through an arduous trek. The region lies on the Northern flank of the Great Himalayan Mountain Range.

Best Time to Visit Zanskar

One of the offbeat destinations of Ladakh is the Zanskar Valley and it is part of the Kargil District. Though it boasts of some of the most spectacular sights of the entire Leh Ladakh but it surely has different faces to show at different times. Zanskar is accessible throughout the year and people love to travel to this place around the year. Although one cannot access Leh Ladakh during winters due to heavy snow but flights do fly at this time as well. Here is the division of all the three seasons experienced by Ladakh. You can pick the best time to visit Zanskar Valley according to your interest and preferences.

Summer Season in Zanskar

Being a valley in the Himalayas, the summer season in Zanskar Valley is pleasant with temperatures ranging between -1°C and 15°C. The place experiences this season between March and June. From the month of May, the snow starts to meltdown making it convenient for riders to visit here.

Monsoon Season in Zanskar

Zanskar Valley doesn’t experience much rainfall because of its high altitude location. Though it experiences a bit of rainfall between the months of July and September. With greenery all around the place, the skies being clear and the climate just perfect; the monsoon is known as the best time to visit Zanskar Valley. It is the time when nature lovers get to enjoy the beauty and adventure enthusiasts get their share of adventure activities.

Winter Season in Zanskar

Right from the month of early October, Zanskar starts receiving heavy snowfall and the mercury takes a dip to 0°C and further less over time. But that doesn’t stop people from coming here and enjoying the infamous Chadar Trek. One of the best activities of Zanskar Valley. So, those who have a brave heart can visit here during winters and enjoy this trek with several other people. And for such people, winter is the best time to visit Zanskar.

How to Reach in Zanskar

There are a few routes that travelers can take to reach Zanskar by road but the best amongst them is the Srinagar- Kargil- Padum road. It is comparably well maintained and arguably the fastest route to reach Zanskar. However, travelers who are traveling from the other end of this circuit which is the Manali-Leh Highway can also connect with the same road from Leh.

Fastest and Best route to travel to Zanskar: Delhi- Srinagar- Kargil- Padum.

The other routes that a person can take include:

Manali-Leh highway (exit from Srinagar Side) - Take the Leh to Kargil road and then from Kargil head towards Padum.

Alternate routes:

Darcha- Shingo La- Padum

The next one runs along the Zanskar River which is also called the frozen river for Chadar Trek. Leh- Nimoo- Chilling- Padum.

Where to Stay in Zanskar

As already discussed, Zanskar is an offbeat destination of Ladakh so it offers only decent accommodation as options. All the visitors can stay in these places to spend a night before heading to their next destination on the trip. There are a few budget huts and lodges that are available in the villages of Zanskar and Padum. If you wish to camp, there are various options in Padum. JKTDC alpine huts are also wonderfully built and they are a good place to spend a night or two. .

There are several budget accommodations in Zanskar and near the valley. Guesthouses in Panikhar, Sankoo, Rangdum, and Parkachik are also available as options for travelers. If travelers wish to rent a private guest house, this option is also available here but in Karsha. Even the monastery of Karsha stays open for travelers to halt and rest for a night.

Apart from all this, homestay options are also available in Zanskar now. So as per your likings and preferences, make your choices.

Petrol pump 

For those who are traveling on the Srinagar-Leh highway, finding petrol pumps will be easier. But when you reach Kargil, ensure that your vehicle is filled to the brim. When entering Suru Valley, there are no petrol pumps till Padum. Also, even at Padum, there is no surety of getting the fuel because they get a limited supply only. But mostly, people at the petrol station here will give a sufficient amount of petrol so that the traveler reaches Kargil. It is better to carry cold bottles, 2 lts if possible, and fill them up before leaving Kargil so that you find no problem thereafter.

Availability of ATMs

Kargil is the last place where you will find an ATM. After this, there are a few areas where these machines are installed but they are non-functional at times and can be un-operational at any time in the day. So it is always advised to keep enough cash in your pocket while traveling to Zanskar Valley.

Most places accept only cash because network issues are still persistent here in the area. So, any online payment will be declined or unsuccessful.

Tips to keep in mind when you travel to Zanskar

  • Make sure that the entire riding time or driving time is done during the daytime. Avoid traveling at night. Wake up early and start to ride/ drive at dawn.
  • Keep all the essential items in the backpack including extra punctures, tool kit, lubes, clutch wire, break wire, and foot pump.
  • Keep yourself covered with layers of clothes throughout the road and ride/ drive with caution.
  • Do keep yourself hydrated to keep problems at bay. It is also advised to munch on a few snacks at every halt.
  • Make sure your bike gets rest throughout the trip because it is not just you taking the beating but the machine as well. This is the reason why short breaks at intervals are important.
  • Keep a puncture kit, tight seal bottles to fill petrol, and a foot air pressure to fill in the tires if required.
  • Make sure that the chain is lubricated every now and then. Change the engine oil if required. Do keep chain lube and clean, engine oil in spare.

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