- Day 1: Reach Padum.
- Night at Padum
- Day 2: Leave Padum. Night at Kargil.
Why travel 250 km from Kargil to Padum, through a backbreaking journey – there’s no comfortable way to get to Zanskar – only to return back in less than 24 hours? (Unless of course, you have contacts with the Dalai Lama and can use the helipad in Padum – yes, there is a helipad in Zanskar!)
So what are the things to do in Zanskar? What “more” does it have to offer? Allow us to present a list of “6 things to do in Zanskar” (that are not the Chadar Trek).
1: Trekking in the Zanskar valley
Its location deep in the high altitude Himalayas can easily make Zanskar the trekking capital of India! There are high altitude multi-day treks to Rangdum/Parkachik in the Suru valley or to Lamayuru.
There is a big part of the Zanskar valley beyond the “end of the road” marking on the map. Which means to discover the Zanskar valley by foot is among the unique things to do in Zanskar valley. If you don’t feel safe taking off by yourself, ask your host family for a recommended guide. If it really is safe for you to go by yourself, they will tell you so.
Along the way, visit some hard to reach monasteries in the Zanskar valley. We got a chance to see the Bardan monastery on our way to the Phuktal monastery.
Tip: The locals are used to the high altitude of the Zanskar valley. For the outsiders, the time taken to cover a certain distance would be way longer than the locals. We would just double the estimated time told to us by the local people of the Zanskar valley.
2: Attend the monastery festivals in Zanskar
These are not targeted for the tourists (because there aren’t very many tourists in the first place!)
The festival itself – the decked up monastery, masked dances by the lamas, tranced devotional music – is an extravaganza. Experiencing these festivals is one of the top things to do in Zanskar.
Read “Colourful monastery festivals in Ladakh and Zanskar”
3: Discover the simplicity of the local life in Zanskar
Except for Padum, there aren’t many guest houses or tourist facilities deeper into the Zanskar valley. Which only means one thing – you have to live with the locals in their homes – one of the best things to do in Zanskar valley! We lived in two such homes in Zanskar – one in Sani with a shepherd’s family. The other time was in an accessible-only-by-foot village of Cha en route our trek to the Phuktal monastery.
Tip: At first, they might be hesitant to let you stay in their homes because they know they lack the “tourist facilities”. Convince them that you can live with whatever they have to offer.
Read “When less is more or a Simple life of Sani in Zanskar”
4: Have heartfelt conversations with the monks in the monasteries
Karsha is a village close to Padum, almost at a (long) walking distance. The main lama and the nun monasteries were closed when we visited. All the monks were away to attend a ceremony in a local’s house.
He was delighted that “fellow Indians” had visited his monastery. He said he had loved the sea when he had visited Mumbai many years ago. He even gifted us a katha for souvenir.
Tip: In the absence of too many tourists, such conversations are easily possible in the monasteries of the Zanskar valley.
5: Have lunch with the lamas in the Zanskar valley
If you reach a monastery at lunch time, it will be assumed that you are joining the lamas in their mid-day meal. All you have to do is find a place for yourself to be seated. Someone will get a bowl for you. You will be a part of their food service. Just like that. No questions asked.
The lunch time view won’t be bad either!
6: Try to grasp what remote means, in Zanskar valley
This is the sign next to the only fuel station in the entire Zanskar valley. The Indian Oil trucks we hitchhiked in while traveling to Zanskar were getting the fuel supply from Jammu to this fuel station.
Which makes this solitary pump the one and only means for the people of Zanskar to be connected to the world beyond their valley.
Experiencing life in the fabled faraway lands was the most precious tick mark for the things to do in Zanskar Valley list.
51 thoughts on “Things to do in Zanskar – not only Chadar and Padum”
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This is just too amazing! I love all your photos. I wish my ‘Ladakh’ comes true, too. Thanks for the guide!
Hey Renuka, all the best for Ladakh happening! What we realised on this first visit was – you’ll never visit just once!
Nice Blog and beautiful clicks. Reminded me of our trip to the Suru Valley(till Parkachik) in 2005! Have done the Chadar trek in 2017 and counting my days for the Padum to Darcha trek planned for this August.
That sounds fantastic! Are you trekking solo or with a group, from Padum to Darcha?
It’s husband -wife duo 🙂
Super-duper! Wish you all the best and do share your story once you are back.
Thanks a lot! Sure “ll share our experience once we are back..
Thank you so much. I will be volunteering at Skyagam Monastery (only if you’ve heard about it) in Zanskar region for a month or so this summer. And, this blog is really helpful in that context.
Wow … such awesome dramatic shots!
Zanskar IS dramatic, those high Himalayas…they are quite a sight!
Well said! This is the age of celebrity itineraries.
Interesting term you’ve used – celebrity itinerary. Know what you mean!
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This is interesting. I like to travel and write stories about people and places but I just hold myself back and I know that I need a long time out. Hopefully, one day I will come over all this.
Hope you get on the road real soon! Happy travels and happy sharing!
Amazing clicks, I would love to learn photography from you if you conduct a webinar.
Thanks, Aaftab! Will keep this in mind!
The photos are a TREAT, literally a TREAT to the eyes! Love the way you guys cover offbeat experiences:) Bookmarking this post!
Hey Divyakshi, feels so good to read this from you! Do let us know if you need any info when you travel to Zanskar. The entire Zanskar valley was such a revelation for us, we had absolutely no idea such a place existed in India! We just followed where the road took us (and are we glad!) 🙂
I was thinking of a trip in Zanskar.
Now I am planning ! When we see these photos, we change ! 😉
“When we see these photos, we change” – you nailed it, there! Happy planning fro your Zanskar travel.
Excellent photos friends! I would suggest including captions to the various images. That would make it easier to refer to them while making comments.
Breathtaking pictures. Gorgeous rugged mountains. So beautiful.
Thank you, Abhiray!
that is awesome 🙂
Thank you so much! 🙂
Your beautiful clicks and write up is making us more and more interesting to explore this place.Thank you.:)
Sriram & Krithiga
Hey Sri-Kri(nice combo!), just do it 🙂 Zanskar is a paradise for a true traveler! (Tourists won’t like it 🙂 )
Sucha lot of things to do and all very interesting too.
Loved the pictures.
Yes, after we got back from Zanskar, we were surprised when people would invariably mention Chadar trek when we talked of our travels in Zanskar. Always wanted to say how there’s so much more to do in the Zanskar valley, beyond the Chadar trek.
Beautiful place. I would love to visit it some day.
Zanskar has so far managed to stay away from “development”. Can’t say how long it’ll stay as it is today. Visit soon, is all we will say.
Amazing pics. Loved the post.
Such amazing pictures wants me to book next flight to Ladakh 🙂
Hehe…maybe just do it!
Wonderful pictures and description, loved it.
Thank you, Geeta!
Glad you brought that out – it is not just about the Chadar trek for that is all I hear. Lovely pictures and pretty useful information. Cheers
Hey Ami, glad you agree! “Zanskar?” “Oh yeah, the Chadar trek!” There was something wrong (and damaging,too!) in these reactions that we would hear. Though we should share our thoughts on that.
its an amazing experience to visit such a place. Loved reading this post a lot , shots are very nice, thanks for sharing. one day will visit for sure. Bookmarked this post.
Thank you so much, Jyotirmoy! Travel in Zanskar was such a revelation for us! Best wishes for making Zanskar happen for you soon!
Someday I would love to do all of these! Thanks for the inspiration, stunning pictures!
Hey Arti, the Zanskar valley is still pretty much an untouched part of the higher Himalayas. Hope Zanskar works out for you soon 🙂
Mind blowing images, thank you for sharing your amazing trip and experience
We really felt like we needed to show there was so much more to Zanskar than the perceived notion of Zanskar = Chadar trek. Happy you liked the images and the story!
This is really an off beat travel blog.It must be so interesting to stay with the locals and experience their life of the remotest place first hand.
It was an amazing experience to stay with the locals in Zanskar and discover their simple life.