How to Plan a Zanskar & Suru Valley Trip

Those who have traveled to Leh on motorcycle, car, or on foot figure out that there is a lot more to see and explore in those parts of the mighty Himalayas. Zanskar and Suru Valleys are two such places where one must go to see the divine beauty of nature at its best.

The upper Suru Valley near Rangdu | A file from Wikimedia Commons (Madhusarkar)
The upper Suru Valley near Rangdu | Image – Wikimedia Commons (Madhusarkar)

These Valleys are named after the Zanskar and Suru Rivers respectively, which are two powerful tributaries of the great Indus River.

Suru Valley is the gateway to the Zanskar Valley from Kargil Side (easiest approach). One has to cross the Pensi La (4,400 meters) to land in the Zanskar Valley. One can travel in and around Zanskar only during the summers (June-August) because rest of the time this land remains covered with snow with snowstorms being its favorite aide.

Here we talk about the most commonly taken itinerary for Zanskar Valley, which can easily be covered in 5-7 Days, with Kargil being the start and end point of the journey. This image will help you to plan your journey if you want to just know about places one should visit in the Zanskar and Suru Valley.

Zanskar-Suru Travel Guide

Now let us talk about the day wise of the above mentioned itinerary. We are assuming Kargil as the start point of this jounrey.

Day 1:
Kargil – Sankoo – Panikhar – Rangdum
135 Kilometers/6-8 Hours
Average to Good Roads

  • Reach Kargil either from Leh or Srinagar, which is just an overnight drive and rest at Kargil. It is a small town with plenty of stay options.
  • Ask the hotel guy to get ILP’s. Charges may vary, carry photo identity proofs.
  • Fill your tanks and bags with petrol and food supplies. Get medication and stay prepared for harsh weather.
  • Halt at Sankoo and have a cup of tea.
  • Enjoy the beauty of Suru Valley, yes you are in the Suru Valley.
  • Stop at Rangdum, Day 1 Complete

Rangdum – Pensi La – Padum
125 kilometers / 6-8 Hours
Average to Poor Roads

  • Halt at Rangdum Gompa, 8 Kilometers from Rangdum, scenic place
  • Lakes all around until you cross Pensi La!
  • Welcome to Zanskar Valley, on the other side of the Pensi La
  • Beware of wild animals and loose boulders on the road while descending
  • Off Roading Experience is over, Welcome to Padum
  • Padum is the capital of the Zanskar Region, have fun here, make a phone call back home, there is a phone booth!

Padum – Zang La – Karsha – Padum
80 Kilometers / Unlimited Time
Average to Poor Roads

  • Drive slow and capture everything that comes your way
  • Zang La Fort, Karsha Monsatery, and Tsa-Zar Monastery
  • Visit Zongkul Village, 37 Kilometers from Padum, high-end car needed, preferably a SUV
  • Rough drive next day, sleep well
Kun & Nun Peaks in Kargil District (Photo by Sajith: Wikipedia)

Day 4:
Padum – Pensi La – Rangdum – Panikhar
190 kilometers / 6-8 Hours
Poor to Good Roads

  • Similar as Day 2
  • Take a break atop the Pensi La!
  • Enjoy the vastness of Drag Drung Glacier, just before reaching Rangdum
  • Nun-Kun, the mighty Seven Thousanders’ view from Parakchik
  • Halt at Panikhar, plenty of stay options.

Day 5:
270 Kilometers/8-10 Hours
Good Roads

  • Have fun at Srinagar.
  • Stay in a Boat House
  • Must see the floating Post Office
Day 6 and Day 7: Buffer Days
The landscape of Lower Suru Valley, looking south towards Nun Kun, as viewed between Sanku & Panikhar (Photo: Malikbek – Wikipedia)

TheOKTravel Tip: This part of the world faces harsh weather. Be gentle to roads and people. They need your love, affection, and money too! Just give a thought to the snowstorms this valley has to face. Spread the love!