Zanskar Valley – Ulimate Travel Guide 2024

Zanskar Valley

Zanskar Valley, when someone hears about this place, the only thing that usually comes to mind is the Chadar trek (a frozen river trek surrounded by snow capped mountains). 

When one considers travelling to Ladakh, one only goes to places like Leh, Nubra valley, Stok, Turtuk, and Karzok.

It is like that introverted employee with all the excellent skills, knowledge, and the best attributes but lacks personal branding & doesn’t like to brag about himself. But there is so much more to Zanskar; it is one of the hidden gems in the union territory of Ladakh beyond Kargil district & Suru valley. 

This place should be on top of your travel bucket list because of its rich heritage & culture, the warmth & hospitality of the people, the beautiful monasteries, the pure rawness & the beauty of the valley.

How to plan a trip to Zanskar via public transport?

You can reach Zanskar Valley from Manali, Leh & Srinagar only via shared cabs or your vehicle. 

Only one bus runs from Leh to Padum weekly, which is unreliable.

However, you can take bus from Leh to Kargil & then a shared cab to Padum.

The fare for a shared cab from Manali & Leh is INR 2500 & from Kargil is around INR 2200. The time taken from all these places to reach Padum is around 10-12 hours. These shared cabs take only one break in the journey; however, they also take 4-5 toilet breaks.

Our Recommendation: Take a bus from Leh or Srinagar to Kargil & then take a shared cab from Kargil, because on your way back Reaching Leh or Srinagar, you can also visit places like Sankoo, Panikhar, Parkachik & Rangdum in Suru valley, which is a 3-4 day trip in itself.

If you are on a shoestring budget, you can take one of the many local buses/vans that run from Kargil to Parkachick, which costs between INR 50 – INR 150.

Once in Parkachik, you can hitchhike a ride to Padum, as many trucks, tempos, and local vehicles travel on this route often. (you should try it from 6 AM to 11 AM because by then, most of the cars cross Parkachik.)

Where to stay in Zanskar valley?

Zanskar Valley

When in Zanskar, most of your night stay will be in Padum (Located at an high altitude of 3,669M). But you can also have a homestay experience in Zangla, Karsha, Cha & Purne.

Padum is a tiny town with only a few good places to stay.

We would highly recommend staying in Hotel Zambala, as it is closer to the taxi stand & is in the main town. A reasonable INR 1,000 – INR 2,000 for a night for two people (depends on how well you negotiate), spotless & spacious rooms, and an excellent hot water supply. A local family runs it.

Marq and Ibex are other options in the same price bracket in the main town. Hotel The TRC Zanskar & Omasila Hotel Zanskar are the other two options but are far from the main area.

Things To Do & Places To See

(Click on the image to enlarge)

Zanskar has a lot to offer. Traveling to the valley is an experience in itself. However, here’s a list of places you can visit in the region.

Phugtal Monastery trek

  • When in Padum, the must-do thing is to do the Phugtal Monastery trek. The trek starts from the villages of Purne and Cha.
  • You can take a shared cab which is going to Manali and ask them to drop you at Purne.
  • They will ask you to pay for the entire amount of INR 2500, but you can negotiate to settle anywhere between INR 1200-INR 1500 per person.
  • The distance to Purne is around 2.5 – 3 hours. Once in Purne, you have three options:
  • Option 1: Finish the trek on the same day and return to Padum if you get a ride from Purne.
  • Option 2: Camp overnight at Purne, at Dolma Campsite & Homestays. They charge INR 1000 for the camping experience with breakfast & dinner. Similarly, there are 2-3 other campsites in Purne.
  • Option 3: Return to Purne after the trek, go to Gonbo Rongjon and camp there for the night. The Dolma Campsite’s owner offers to drop and pick up and can charge anywhere between INR 3000 – INR 5000. It is a feasible option only if you are three or more.

Zangla Palace:

Zangla Palace is a 17th-century palace located in the village of Zangla in the Zanskar region of Ladakh, India. The palace is situated on a hilltop overlooking the village and the Zanskar River valley. It is a three-storey structure with a central courtyard. The palace was built by the Zangla royal family, who ruled the region from the 16th to the 19th centuries. The palace was abandoned in the late 19th century after the region was conquered by the British.

Stongdae Monastery:

Stongdey Monastery is a beautiful and historic monastery in the Zanskar region of Ladakh, India. It is a popular destination for pilgrims and tourists alike. The monastery is home to a number of important religious texts and manuscripts, and it offers stunning views of the surrounding village.

Karsha Monastery:

Karsha Monastery is a Buddhist monastery located in the Padum Valley of the Zanskar region of the union territory of Ladakh in northern India. It is the largest and most important monastery in Zanskar.

The monastery was founded in the 11th century by Phagspa Shesrab, a translator who studied with the famous Indian teacher Atisha. The monastery is home to over 100 monks and is affiliated with the Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism.

The monastery is a popular tourist destination and is known for its annual Gustor festival, which is a masked dance that is performed to celebrate the victory of good over evil.

Sheela Waterfall:

Sheela Waterfall is a beautiful waterfall located in the Zanskar Valley of Ladakh, India. It is a popular tourist destination and is known for its stunning views and refreshing waters. The waterfall is located about 4.5 kilometers from the town of Padum and can be reached by a cab.

The waterfall is located in a small village called Sheela and is named after it. The waterfall is about 20 meters high and cascades down a rocky cliff into a pool of water.

Sani Lake

Sani Lake is a beautiful lake located near the village of Sani, which is home to a Buddhist monastery. The lake is believed to be sacred by the local people and is a popular spot for camping and picnics for the locals.

There is also a magnificent statue of Guru Rinpoche right in the middle of the lake.

The local cab drivers will charge you around INR 3000 – INR 4500 to visit all these places. 

We recommend you take your time and visit these places in two days, so you can spend enough time at all these places and enjoy the experience.


  1. Visit Gyalwa Ringna, which is 2kms walking from the main town of Padum.
  2. If you are coming from Kargil, you can also stop at the Penzi La pass and admire the beauty of Drang Drung Glacier.

Where To Eat

Zanskar Valley
Image Credit: Za Pizza, Padum

Padum has very few cafes and restaurants; however, we recommend eating at Zanskar kitchen; they serve the best food in all of Padum. 

If you crave pizza, you can eat at the newly opened, only pizza place in Padum, called Za Pizza. They serve delicious pizzas at a reasonable price.

Other options include Changthang restaurant, Cafe Ale Yato & Karsha Chamling.

The Best Season To Visit

Phugtal Monastery

The roads to Zanskar are open from May till mid-October as BRO clears all the passes, allowing vehicle movement from Leh, Srinagar & Manali.

One can visit from the months of June to September.

Our Recommendation: Visit Zanskar in August or September, as the weather is pleasant & clear to explore the Zanskar mountain range, everything is open, and the chances of road closures are next to none; during these months, many people travel to Zanskar, so the chances of getting shared rides are also excellent.

Budget for a 7-Day Trip

  • A ride to Padum from Kargil & Leh in a shared cab will cost you INR 2200 & from Manali, it will cost you INR 2500. The same will be for the return journey.
  • Three meals a day will cost you around INR 500 – INR 800.
  • You will pay around INR 1000 – INR 1200 for a night’s stay.
  • A shared cab ride to Purne will cost you INR 1200
  • A cab for local sightseeing will cost you INR 3000 – INR 4500 (if you are lucky, you can find travellers at the taxi stand or in your hotel and ask them if they would want to join you for the plan and this will bring down your cost)

If your trip is for around five days & four nights, you can expect to pay around INR 15000 – INR 18000 per person.

Ideas on saving costs:

  1. Travel as a group of friends (2-4 people)
  2. Hitchhike rides wherever possible
  3. If you have time on you, walk to places wherever possible.
  4. Do not buy packaged water. Refill it everywhere.
  5. Carry ready-to-eat food, coffee & tea packets
  6. Opt for places that offer breakfast or dinner
  7. Share meals with your friends or people you travel with
  8. Talk to fellow travellers, ask them about their plans, join them or tell them to join your plan; this will help you cut down your local travel plans.
  9. Do not pre-book the hotels. Reach there and look for options and negotiate. You will get far better deals.

A 7-day itinerary (from Srinagar)

Zanskar Valley
  • Day 1: Take an early morning bus to Kargil. Relax for the rest of the day.
  • Day 2: Take an early morning shared cab to Padum from Kargil. Reach & relax for the day.
  • Day 3: Take a local shared cab to Purne, do the Phugtal Monastery trek and camp overnight at Purne. Or travel to Gonbo Rongjon & centre there overnight.
  • Day 4: Return to Padum & relax for the day or go to Gyalwa Ringna.
  • Day 5: Go for local sightseeing: Karsha monastery, Stongdae Monastery, Sheela waterfall & Sani lake.
  • Day 6: Take a local shared cab to Sankoo. Explore Sankoo & stay there for the night.
  • Day 7: Take a local bus/cab to Kargil & then take a shared taxi to Srinagar.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Zanskar is famous for its stunning landscapes, remote Buddhist monasteries, and trekking trails that offer breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains.

The Chadar river trek is one of the most famous treks in Zanskar which happens during the winter months.

The hidden-gem Phugtal Monastery is also in Zanskar, which is a 2 hour hike from the village of Purne.

Yes, the Zanskar Valley is definitely worth visiting for those who enjoy outdoor adventures and scenic landscapes.

Zanskar region has some of the most peaceful monasteries in India. Phugtal monastery, Stongdae monastery, & Karsha monastery being few of them. The Gonbo Rongjon is a holy mountain for the Zanskari people & is one of the picturesque mountains in the country.

The best time visit Zanskar is in August or September, as the weather is pleasant, everything is open, and the chances of road closures are next to none; during these months, many people travel to Zanskar, so the chances of getting shared rides are also excellent.

Zanskar valley is in the north Indian union territory of India.

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  • Punit
    October 2, 2022 at 3:33 pm

    Now that’s one hell of a blog..!

  • Robert Meurant
    May 24, 2023 at 6:22 pm

    Great help, thank you! Just what I was looking for.

  • Yogesh Nikam
    March 15, 2024 at 7:15 pm

    Very well written blog .read a whole blog after so many days. can’t wait to visit zanskar .thank u for efforts

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