the capital of the ancient kingdom of Zanskar. Padum (3505 m)
is the present day administrative headquarters of the region.
With a population of nearly 1500, Padum can be described as
the most populous settlement of Zanskar, otherwise a very
scarcely inhabited valley. Incidentally, it is only in Padum
that there is a community of Muslims constituting nearly half
the township's population, its origin in the area dating from
mid 17th century. Lately, Padum has become famous as a major
trekking base and a popular tourist destination. Several
places of tourist interest in the vicinity of the township can
be visited in the course of entertaining walks. The nearest
monument is a set of ancient rock carving on a huge boulder
near the river bank, 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 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:
The 240 km long Kargil-Padun 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 Stongdey, Zangla and Karsha.
Jeeps, Gypsy and taxis can also be hired at Kargil. During June
and early July, prior to the 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 when the countryside is
freshly rejuvenated into life after months of frigid dormancy.