Padum, the ancient capital of Zanskar, is located at a height of more than 3500 meters and is currently its district headquarter. Though sparsely populated, this tourist town is credited for being the most populated town of Zanskar. The place is dominantly inhabited by Muslims.
Most of the inhabitants are Buddhists while 30% of the population comprise of Lahulis and Baltis tribes that are the followers of Sunni sect off Muslims. People here are quiet hospitable and a little attention from your side can offer you the opportunity of being invited to their houses. The tourist authorities are always ready to help you in finding accommodation.
One of the major attractions of Padum is that the valley serves as a major trekking base. Other tourist attractions of this valley include the Starrimo Monastery situated on a tree-covered ridge above the old town, which houses about 30 resident monks. Then, there is a set of ancient rock carving on a huge boulder near the riverbank, just below the old township, dating back to the 8th century. These engravings prove that the region was under the influence of North Indian Buddhism.
Last but not the least, the old village of Pibiting, near Padum, is worth visiting. An outstanding manifestation of stupa architecture, it stands dominated by a charming hilltop monastery.
How to reach
The Kargil-Padum road remains open from mid July to early November. One can easily commute by bus or hire a taxi/jeep to explore the nearby destinations like Stongdey (19 km), Zangla, Sani (6 km) and Karsha (5 km). The months of June and July are considered the best for trekking.
By 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 Strongly, 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.