Zanskar Valley, when someone hears about this place, the only thing that usually comes to mind is the Chadar trek (a frozen river trek).
When one considers travelling to Ladakh, one only goes to places like Leh, Nubra valley, Stok, Turtuk, and Karzok.
Zanskar 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.
Zanskar 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.
You can travel to Zanskar from Manali, Leh & Srinagar only via shared cabs or your vehicle.
Only one bus runs from Leh to Padum weekly, which is unreliable.
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, 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)
When in Zanskar, most of your night stay will be in Padum. 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.
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Zanskar has a lot to offer. Traveling to the valley is an experience in itself. 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.
Apart from the Phugtal Monastery trek, in the remaining days, you can hire a local taxi to take you to places like Zangla Palace, Stongdae Monastery, Karsha Monastery, Sheela waterfall & Sani 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.
Bonus: Visit Gyalwa Ringna, which is 2kms walking from the main town of 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 roads to Zanskar are open from May till mid-October as BRO clears all the passes, allowing vehicle movement to Zanskar from Leh, Srinagar & Manali.
Our Recommendation: Visit Zanskar 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.
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:
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