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  About Ladakh > Destinations > Zanskar      

The west and the south western part of Ladakh, constitute the Kargil district. The Kargil town is the headquarter of the district. Zanskar is the only Buddhist dominated region in the Kargil district, which has otherwise about 85 % muslim. Zanskar valley is the most isolated of all the regions of Ladakh. Padum (3505 m) is the headquarter of Zanskar block. Entire Zanskar is in fact trekkers paradise. The road that links Kargil and Padum also remain cut-off for about eight months a year and there is no air links either, except for emergency purpose. The Padum valley is a wide plain where two rivers; Stod from north-west and Tsarap river from south-east meet to form the Zanskar river flowing north to join Indus at Nemo. It is on this Zanskar river, that the famous “Chaddar-trek’ is carried on in winter, where one walk on the frozen river in winter. The locals use this ‘chaddar’ to come to Leh for this is the basic life line during the winters. In fact this river valley is gorges are often so impossible that the main access to the valley is from Kargil.

Some of the monasteries are quite well known, but unfortunately many of the villages do not have any road connection. Some of the monastery with motorable road are: Karsha is the largest Gelugpa monastery of Zanskar, 9 km from Padum. It is situated on the base of a hill with a beautiful view of whole valley. Zangla has a ruined fort, it is here the Hungarian scholar, Csoma de Koros spent his winter in 1823. Stongde, 18 km away from Padum, is situated high on hill which gives a panoramic view. It is the second largest Gelugpa monastery in Zanskar. Bardan monastery is 12 km away.

Caution: Leh-Padum (Zanskar) is very long and a ‘rough & tough’ journey. The road from Kargil to Padum is virtually a bumpy mud track and may exhaust you if you are not used to long road journey. If you are not for a trek, then remember to save enough energy to travel back on the same road. Much of the part of the road may appear desolate track with no mechanic shops, no fuel pumps, and no emergency services enroute. Your ration should be calculated, as there is no hotel or shops particularly in the later half. Even the traffic is thin, for any help, if in case.

ZANSKAR CIRCUIT: Leh-Padum (474 km): From Leh to Kargil, its the same route. The next stage of from Kargil to Padum about 240 km is almost a dirt track throughout the stretch. Make sure you are well prepared with your basic necessity, including fuel for the return trip too. About first 100 km the road meanders through the valley of Suru, the scenic beauty of the valley may compensate your bumpy ride. Although the road is tarred, but you can hardly see any evidence. Perhaps the worst road of Ladakh, it remains open from around July to October, it may stretch to December depending upon the weather. If travelling direct from Leh, a night stay at Kargil is obvious for your next stretch will be quite exhausting. To ease on Kargil-Zanskar, you may break for a night at Rangdum, but that means-one more day.

Caution: Zanskar experiences drastic fluctuations in the daily temperature even during the height of summer. Days are pretty warm, even have the hot desertic effect at times, but the evenings can become quite chilly thus requiring additional clothing. If you are planning for a trek from Padum or any other area then make sure to have your provisions from Srinagar, Leh or Kargil.

Kargil-Panikhar (67 km): From Kargil you turn south, the first major village is Sankoo (2960m), about 40 km ahead, it has several little shop and restaurants. The off-shoot valley to the east, across Suru river, is the Kartse valley. Kartse-Khar (castle) on the mouth of the valley, has a 7 m tall sculpture of the Future Buddha of 7-8th century. There is a shrine of Sayed Mir Hashim, a 16th century scholar. After about 25 km is another village Panikhar (3180m), situated under the shadow of the Nun-Kun massif. Panikhar along with Parkachik is the base for expedition to the Nun-Kun.

Panikhar: It is a base station for undertaking mountaineering expeditions to the various Himalayan peaks surrounding the valley. Tourist Rest House and a Tourist Bunglow at Suru. Tourist Bunglow at Panikhar. There are couple of restaurants and shops with only basic necessity, taxi and busses are available to and from Kargil.

Parkachik: Parkachik (3450m) is the perfect base for trekking and expedition in the Nun-Kun area. There is a tourist hut. [[There are no other amenities like shop, hotel or restaurant.]]
Parkachik-Rangdum (63 km): Parkachik is about 20 km from Panikhar. Here you can see the Parkachik glacier. Parkachik La (pass is 3,810 m). The next stretch is about 40 km away, passing a second glacier called Shafat Glacier and you reach the first major village of Zanskar, Rangdum (3657 m) situated beautifully on a large alluvial plain, surrounded by beautiful peaks.

Rangdum: Although the hamlets itself is collection of few houses, but the monastery in the centre of this wide plain is impressive. This is an 18th century Buddhist monastery of Gelug-pa order. It is also the base for major trekking routes. There is a Tourist Complex, if you do not wish to tent in the ethereal ambience of the beautiful valley. There is also a control check post. No shops, except a tea-stall with food, if lucky.

Rangdum-Karsha (112 km): From Rangdum it is about 20 km to Pensi La pass (4400 m) which forms the watershed of Stod and Suru rivers, but both tributaries of the main Indus. Right on the pass is two small lakes, a solitary chorten and here you see the Drang-Drung glacier, lieteraly as if in motion. After Siachen, it is the largest glacier in Ladakh. Crossing Pensi La, now you are in the Zanskar valley and the next stretch is the last bumpy 90 km along the Stod or Doda river. There are several tiny hamlets, the interesting ones are Himilung, Phe and Dungring. One should make a detour to visit Dzongskul monastery, situated in the gorge of a tributary of the Doda river which descends opposite the village of Phe. At Tungri (3710m & 8 km short of Padum) you cross the Stod to the right and enter Sani village (3490m). To the left bank the road leads to Karsha (3800m).

Sani: Famous for its monastry and particularly the Stupa that is claimed to be the oldest stupa in Ladakh. Its foundation is associated with Kanishka (Kushan ruler of second century AD), while some say it was magically constructed by the force of Asoka’s prayer. Sani monastery itself was constructed during the reign of Deskyong Namgyal (1729-39).

Padum: Padum (3505m) is in fact a point where trekkers end or start their journey. There are sufficient hotels and restaurants to cater the small number of tourists. Camping sites are sufficient on the wide green plains. There is also a market, where you can buy some of your basic goods if planning a trekking, but do not expect everything. There are 8th century rock carvings scattered on the upper side of the town, one on a big boulder on the bank of the young Tsarap is impressive. Amenities include local taxis, phones, police post, post office, a tourist bunglow. Zangla is a nodal point on the popular Padum-Stongdey-Zangla-Karsha-Padum round trip which covers most of the cultural sites of Zanskar. The old rope suspension bridge spanning the tumultuous Zanskar near Zangla - a rare feat of folk engineering – is no more in use, but still visible. The river is now crossed by a foot bridge, to reach Karsha. Zangla is also the take-off point for the Padum-Lamayuru and the Padum-Markha valley trek. A visit to Phugtal, including Bardan and Muney monasteries enroute, makes a good 5-days round trek from Padum.


high asia ladakh tour and travels
A village in Zanskar

high asia ladakh tour and travels
Phugthal monastery

high asia ladakh tour and travels
Phugthal monastery

high asia ladakh tour and travels

high asia ladakh tour and travels
Phugthal monastery























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