Close your eyes and visualize a vast plain surrounded by immense rocky Himalayan peaks with snow-capped tips, a broad and powerful river flowing through it since countless centuries. In the middle of this massive stretch of land, imagine a small village nestled in the center of lush green fields filled with colorful wild flowers, traditional old houses and farms spreading all over the place. Clear blue skies and a bright golden sun never seem to disappear; a cold gust of mountain wind blows across the land, the grass fields undulating and dancing to its rhythm. Welcome to Padum.
A BIT OF CONTEXT
The village of Padum is located in a remote valley of the Zanskar area, making it an ideal location for travellers who want to escape the usual busy and crowded touristic areas. In the recent years, it has become a center of interest for the trekking community, as there are approximately 32 trekking routes to be explored starting from Padum. The town is at around 3500m above sea level, and is inhabited by 2000 people. Keep in mind that there is an old town and a new one, a stark contrast being very present between the two.
GETTING TO PADUM
The only way to reach Padum by road is through the town of Kargil. Once you are in Kargil, you can either rent a private taxi, which will be quite expensive, or take a “share-jeep”, available at the town’s car parking. Make sure to book your car 1 day in advance. Expect incredible landscapes along the way! If you want to come by trekking route, you can leave from Darcha (Manali); expect 7-10 days of hiking!
THINGS TO DO
Even though Padum is lost in the Zanskar mountain range, there are a couple of fun as well as cultural activities to be explored! Here is a small list of what you could do once you reach.
- Go on a hike to a monastery:
The Zanskar region is riddled with various stunning Buddhist monasteries that are spread across the entire area. These holy places are a must see, as most of them were built at least 500 – 2500 years ago, and will definitely provide you with an immersive experience into Buddhism. A 20-minute walk upwards from the old town, you will find the Stagrio Monastery that hosts around 30 lamas. There are many more monasteries, but they are further. Simply ask a local guide if you have any questions.
- Visit the Shila waterfall:
A short 30 min car drive away from Padum and propped up against a gigantic mountain is located the charming village of Shila, behind which you will find the beautiful waterfall that becomes a small stream. This is a perfect place to go for a picnic with friends and family, and simply enjoy the sun and a dip in the stream when it becomes too hot.
- Mountain Biking:
In the center of Padum and just 50m away from the market place, you will find the multi-purpose “Zanskar Aventure Point” center. They are a travel agency, cyber café, activity center and restaurant. They rent high-end mountain bikes that you can use to explore the vast valley and surroundings; this is an awesome way to discover the area!
- Rock Climbing:
On the outskirts of Padum, you will find an impressively big rock in the middle of a colorful flower field that is known as a great and challenging rock climbing location. You can bring your own climbing material, or either rent it at the “Zanskar Ski School” which is in the center of the town.
- Visit the old Palace:
During the olden times, a king once ruled Padum since it was the capital of old Zanskar, and the town was built around the 8th century. Therefore, located on a small hill in the middle of the old town there is an ancient palace; perfect for watching the sunset with your friends!
WHEN TO VISIT
During the winter months, all the destinations in the area of Ladakh and Zanskar are entirely covered with snow; the whole region is cut off and the roads closed. The best time to visit is in between the months of June and October.