Padum is named after Padmasambhava. It is the only town and administrative centre in Zanskar. It was historically one of the two main capitals of the Zanskar Kingdom, the other being Zangla. It is 240 km away via the link road from Kargil town (NH1). Padum, like the rest of Ladakh, is scenic and known for its spartan splendour. The landscape acquires different hues with the change of time. Padum also offers close look of Drang-Drung glacier which attracts lot of tourists. A long and winding river of ice and snow, "Drang-Drung" is perhaps the largest glacier in Ladakh, outside of Siachen. Trekking is among the important activities which attracts scores of tourists to Padum. Padum is the centre point for visiting monasteries like Karsha, Stongdey, Bardan and Phuktal.
Where to eat
There are several hotels at Padum which cater to the tourists. The Tourist Complex at Padum also offers meals to tourists.
Best time to visit
The best time to visit Padum is mid July to September as during rest of the year Kargil-Padum road remains closed due to snow. The people are very hospitable but also shy, in the first four years after the re-opening of Zanskar to foreign visitors only a couple of hundred people passed through. Making contact with the children will result in an invitation into a house. If one wishes to make a longer trek the administration or the tourist bureau will be happy to answer any questions and are very helpful with the hiring of horses or obtaining accommodation.
The nearest monument in Padum is a set of ancient rock carving on a huge boulder near the riverbank, just below the old township. These dates from the 8th century and provide epigraphic evidence that the region was under the influence of North Indian Buddhism since ancient times.
The Starrimo Monastery with about 30 resident monks clings to a tree-covered ridge above the old town. Across the expanse of cultivation lies the old village of Pibiting, dominated by its picturesque hilltop monastery, a superb manifestation of stupa architecture.
HOW TO REACH
Road: The 240-km long Kargil-Padum road, of which the first 90-km stretch is paved, remains opened from around mid July to early November. The J&K SRTC operates a thrice-weekly B-class bus service from Kargil. However groups can charter A-Class or even Super-Deluxe buses to visit Zanskar, including the interior places of interest like Strongdey, Zangla and Karsha.
Jeeps and Gypsy taxis can also be hired at Kargil. During June and early July, prior to opening of the road, it is recommended to walk into Zanskar from Panikhar or Parkachik onwards. In June, the summer is at its height in the region and the climate is ideal for trekking along the route free from vehicular traffic of any kind and when the countryside is freshly rejuvenated into life after months of frigid dormancy.
WHERE TO STAY
The tourist Complex at Padum provides furnished rooms for staying. There is catering arrangement in the complex, while camping place nearby is available for budget tourists travelling with personal tents. Padum town has several private hotels where rooms with basic facilities are available. At Karsha dormitory accommodation is available in the newly build inn where basic vegetarian food is also provided.
In the distant villages like Strongdey, Zangla, Sani, etc., accommodation can be sought from the villagers either on payment or in exchange of a suitable gift. Some monasteries may also take in guests, through more as a gesture of goodwill than on purely commercial consideration. Of course the guest is expected to compensate the monastery suitably.