A Sneak Peek Inside Ladakh's Famous Zanskar Region

9th Apr 2023
Photo of A Sneak Peek Inside Ladakh's Famous Zanskar Region by Aparajita

Zanskar is an enchanting land, far from the maddening tourist crowd, which is sure to leave you awestruck with its raw beauty. From the green Suru Valley, to barren brown mountains, from castle like Gompas to glaciers and frozen rivers, from a meditative experience to a high adrenaline adventure rush. Zanskar offers a range of experiences for everyone. If it sounds intriguing, read on to explore more about this relatively untouched region.


Zanskar is located in the Kargil district of the UT of Ladakh. It is located 250 km from Kargil town. The administrative centre is Padum. Around halfway through the picturesque Penzi-La pass is Zanskar, which remains cut off from the rest of the world for more than eight months a year due to blockade of the Penzi La. Zanskar is spread over more than 5,000 Sq.Km.

Places to Visit:

1. Sani Gonpa:

This castle like monastery is unlike other monasteries of Ladakh, is built on level ground. The monastery belongs to the Drukpa Kargyu school of Tibetan Buddhism and is famous for being the oldest gompa in Ladakh. It is 7kms from Padum. Its origin is associated with Kanishka (Kushan ruler of 2nd century AD), on account of the Kanishka Stupa, which stands in the backyard of the walled complex. Sani Lake adds to the charm and beauty of surroundings. Every year, the monastery also hosts two festivals, namely Sani Naro-Nasjal, The Great Prayer Festival, and Nungnes.

Sani Gompa (c)https://siaphotography.in/

Photo of SANI GOMPA, SANI GOMPA, Padum by Aparajita

2. Karsha Gompa:

9 kms from Padum this is the largest monastic establishment in Zanskar. It was founded during the 14th century. The imposing complex of white washed structures can be seen even from padum. This complex houses 150 monks, eight temples, two assembly halls, valuable icons, artifacts, scrolls and thankas. Every year in January, the “Gustor festival” is held in the precincts of the monastery in which the resident monks perform sacred masked cham dances.

3. Stongde Monastery:

18 kms from Padum, the monastry is perched atop a hillock overlooking the village. This monastery is associated with the famous Tibetan Yogi Marpa who is said to have founded it and is also known as Marpa Ling. It was built in the 11th century. Every year, the Stongdey monastery hosts the “Gustor Festival” on the 28th and 29th of the eleventh Tibetan month.

Stongde Monastery (c) 10yearitch.com

Photo of Stongdae Gompa by Aparajita

4. Burdan Monastery:

12kms from Padum in the Lungnak valley is an isolated monastery perched atop a rock rising vertically from the river, The monastery holds prominent position among the Drogpa order monasteries of Zanskar. It was founded by Deba Gyatso during early 17th century. But it is famous as the seat of Lama Barapa.

Bardan Monastery (c) siaphotography.in

Photo of Bardan Monastery, Zanskar by Aparajita

5. Phugtal Gompa:

This is one of the superb cave monastry of Zanskar and is picturesquely situated in Lungnak valley. The monastery is built around a cave and resembles a honeycomb which adds to its beauty. It was founded by Phagspa Sherab Zangpo by 2nd half of the 11thcentury. The monastery is situated in a remote location that serves the purpose of meditation in a peaceful atmosphere. It is one of the only monasteries in Zanskar that can be reached only by foot.

Phugtal Gompa (c)kashmir-ladakh-tourism.org

Photo of Phuktal Gompa by Aparajita

6. Zangkul Gompa:

Zankul is situated in a side valley near Ating village and falls on the route of Padum – Kishtiwar trek. It was the meditation retreat of famous Indian yogi Naropa (10th century AD)

Zangkul Gompa(c) Tour My India

Photo of A Sneak Peek Inside Ladakh's Famous Zanskar Region by Aparajita

7. Suru Valley:

The Suru valley is located in the Kargil district of Ladakh. It is around 139 km from Padum, stretching from Kargil up to the Penzi La glacier (origin of Suru river). The picturesque valley is dotted with small villages and offers spectacular views and sightseeing opportunities. There are many picnic spots in Suru valley like Sangra Parkachik, Umba, and Damsna.

Suru Valley (c) www.ladakh-tourism.net

Photo of Suru Valley by Aparajita

How To Reach?

The nearest airports from Kargil are located at Srinagar(223 km) and Leh(213 km).

The nearest railway station from Kargil is Jammu Tawi(460 km away).

From Kargil, it is possible to reach Padum by hiring a cab. The distance is around 240 km.

Best Time To Visit:

June to September is the preferred time to visit Zanskar valley, as it is accessible from Ladakh, and at its picturesque best. The road to Zanskar Valley gets blocked by heavy snowfall during the winter and opens only in May.

However, for Chadar Trek, which is a trek over the frozen Zanskar river, the preferred time is December and January.

Important Points to Note for Visiting the Region:

While travelling from Leh to Zanskar, it is advisable to stay in Leh for a night to acclimatize appropriately and then travel to Kargil on the following day early in the morning.

It would take five to six hours to reach Kargil from Leh, and the journey is quite tiring. So it is not advisable to travel to Zanskar on the same day of arrival in Kargil. Instead, it is better to arrange a taxi to Padum for the next day.

Zanskar valley remains isolated from the rest of Ladakh in the months of December to April. In these months, the Chadar trek trail on the frozen river of Zanskar is the only route to connect Zanskar from the rest of Ladakh.

Visitors traveling through this route should drive slowly and be aware of rocks and debris on the road, for their own safety.

The Ladakh government provides helicopter services to reach Zanskar valley, limited to emergency and rescue services.

Start planning your trip to explore this hidden region of Ladakh now! And if you've already been there, write about your experiences on Tripoto.

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