The most secluded of all the trans Himalayan valleys, Zanskar lies about 20 km south of Rangdum, at an altitude ranging from 3500 m to 7000 m above sea level. Situated on a beautiful location besides the striking Suru Valley, Zanskar is considered as a hill resort. It is located on the top of Pensi La which is the in Leh Ladakh region. This place is at a distance of about 230 km from Kargil. Known for its mind blushing landscape view, Zanskar is renowned for the rich Buddhist Culture that dwells in people over there. This place was named as Zanskar because some of the rivers that flows there bear copper sediments in it and the actual meaning of Zanskar is Copper Star. Zanskar is also included in the list of tourist destination that attracts a lot of international audiences. The way people over here live and their culture is what lures people towards them. In case you are planning to tour here then you got to know that summers is the best time for to go there. The winters of Zanskar are extremes to the extent that it freezes the River Zanskar and covert it into Chador Road.
Zanskar Major Attractions
This 4000 metre high pass separates Zanskar from the Suru valley and other parts of Ladakh. Different forms of vegetation with medicinal powers, can be seen during summer, and Brown Bear is the most common mammal found at Penzila Pass. The pass also provides an excellent camping ground for trekkers. It remains closed from October to April due to heavy snowfall.
This is the famous river that nourishes the whole valley. It offers wonderful opportunities for adventure sports and a unique ecosystem for the distinctive vegetation.
Located about 8 km from Padum, Karsha is visited for its renowned monastery. It also has a small market, school, dispensary, and post and telegraph facilities.
Rangdum is situated almost halfway between Kargil and Padum and was founded in the 18th Century by Losang Geleg Yeshe Drogpa. The Dukhang or assembly hall holds many beautiful statues. There is a great statue of Buddha in the small temple just behind.
This is believed to be the oldest Ka-ni-ka (named after the former king of Kashmir) Gompa in Zanskar. Unlike most in Ladakh and Zanskar, this Gompa is built like a castle in the village on flat ground, and involves no steep climbs, and so is more welcoming then the average Gompa. There is an impressive prayer room, full of Buddhist statues and plenty of frescoes and Thankas to delight. There is also a famous stone carving of the Maitreya Buddha on a large rock near the Gompa.
Situated in Padum plain, is a Kagyupa monastery with about 30 resident monks. It was built in the 17th century. Among the paintings one can recognize Nawang Namgyal, founder of the Bhutanese theocracy.
Is the north east of Padum. Stupa and a few buildings, including a temple are above the village. The temple has pictures of Avalokeshvara with eleven heads, Padmasambhava, Maitreya, as well as Vajrabhairava and Tsong Khapa. The last two indicate that this monastery belongs to Gelupa tradition.
On the way to Zangla is the gompa at Thonde, nearly 20 km from Padum. With about 50 monks of the Gelukpa order, Thonde is now the second largest gompa in Zanskar, after the one at Karsha. The village of Tsazar, half a between Thonde and Zangla, also has an impressive gompa.
Padum is the administrative headquarters of the Zanskar region, but was once an ancient capital with very light population of Buddhist and Suni Muslim. Padum itself has little to offer, but serves as a good base for exploring near by villages, monasteries and treks.
The road continues past Tsazar to the village and gompa at Zangla, which belongs to the Drukpa. It is also where the king of Zanskar has his castle. Zangla is 35 km from Padum, and can be included in one of a few three or four day trek around the area. There is a small nunnery near by which is also worth exploring.
The remote gompa at Bardan is about 12 km south of Padum, on the trekking route to Darcha. It belongs to the Drukpa order, and was built in 17th century.
Is upstream from Bardan with in 2 1/2 hours walking distance. The monastery houses a small community of Gelupa monks. The murals have been repainted recently and portray subjects particularly venerated by Tsong Khapa’s disciples, such as Yamantaka and the protector Chukden.
Two caves associated with the great Indian master Naropa (10 century) are the oldest religious center within the monastery. Two temples were built over the first cave with the monastery around. Temple walls are hung with beautiful Thankas. unfortunately, there are only faint traces of the paintings which embellished the first cave, but Naropa’s footprints are there. The second cave is above the monastery and houses statues of Naropa and Vajradhara.
Trekking in Zanskar
Trekking attracts a huge number of adventure lovers to Zanskar. The actual craze of trekking at Zanskar starts with the opening of the motorable road at Kargil (from the beginning of July to the end of October). Chadar Ice Trek route along with the trek routes over the Pentse La, routes to the Singge La, Umasi La, Shingo La and Phitse La and other easy routes from Lamayuru, Leh and Darcha remain open until the middle of October. Zanskar can be seen completely only by trekking through the high rises.
Zanskar River Rafting
A highly challenging raft on the icy waters of the Zanskar River, is a thrilling adventure which takes you through one of the most breathtaking gorges of the world.
In Zanskar Valley, you can shop at Leh where you can find some of the best Ladakhi and Tibetan handicraft items, jewelry pieces and Thangka paintings as well as fine woolens.
Where to Stay
Zanskar offers several stay options ranging from good and comfortable budget hotels to irresistible camping sites to luxury accommodations. You can also find good and affordable stay facilities in monasteries and private residences.
How to Reach Zanskar
Flight offers convenience while drive to Zanskar offers thrill and adventure.
By Road: Srinagar-Leh route is 434 km long and has regular bus services. It features 11,500 fr high Zoji-La Pass and a night halt at Kargil, famous for Indo-Pak conflict. Several tourists prefer Manali-Leh route as it features upland desert plateau of Rupsho; a number of high passes including 17,469 ft high Taklang-La Pass, world’s second highest motorable pass; and a night halt at Serchu or Pang. Manali is 473 km from Leh.
By Rail: Zanskar Valley does not have a railway station of is own. The closest one is at Jammu, 690 km away. Jammu has several express trains that connect it to all the major Indian cities.
By Air: Leh, the capital of Ladakh and main connecting link to Zanskar, has the nearest airport and offers regular daily Indian Airlines, Jet Airways, and Kingfisher Airlines flights to Delhi. Less frequent flights are also available to Chandigarh, Srinagar and Jammu from here.