Top Monasteries in Zanskar Region

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Zanskar province constitutes a big part of Ladakh region and due to unavailability of suitable terrain, monasteries are usually built on slopes or on top of mountains here. People often visit this place to get awed by the its landscape and witness the beautiful monasteries in the middle of all the barrenness. These whitewashed structures, rising up tier after tier on the top of a mountain with murals depicting Buddhism teachings can be the prettiest sight you will ever see. Zanskar has no dearth of monasteries and if you are an enthusiast, we have prepared a list for you.

This is the first monastery you will encounter if you’re entering the Zanskar region by road from the Kargil side. Located on top of a hill in the Suru river basin, a few kilometres from the villages, you get an unparalleled view of Suru valley from here. The monastery belonging to the Gelupa sect, at a height of 13,225 feet, houses a museum with rare artifacts. Although photography is not allowed inside the monastery, you can spend a night here, if you take permission from the monks.

It is the biggest monastery in the Zanskar and belongs to Gelugpa sect. It can be seen from a distance as a pile up of white houses in a red mountain, located in Karsha village which is at a distance of 7km from Zanskar. The monastery is headed by the younger brother of Dalai Lama and is home to 100 monks. Karsha monastery is quite known amongst travellers as the famous Chadar trek ends here. A lot of options for homestays are available in Karsha village with good facilities for travellers.

This spectacularly located cave monastery has Tsarap Chu river flowing right underneath it. It is not connected by any road and one has to trek for 6 hours from Padum-Raru road to reach Phugtal monastery. Established in 13th century, this is also known as one of the remotest monasteries of the world. It also houses a school and clinic run by monks for the locals of Lungnak Valley. There is a guesthouse located at the base of the monastery which is run by monks for travellers.

Stongde Monastery

It is another huge monastery of this region, home to almost 80 monks, and located close to Phugtal Monastery. Situated on top of the mountain it seems like a fortress, there is a motorable road till the monastery from Stongde village, which is 10km from Padum. Being on top of the mountain, you get some of the most spectacular views of green barley fields. It is also one of the best maintained monasteries in the Zanskar region. Guesthouses are available in the village and monks can also allow you to stay in the monastery itself.

Until recently, Lingshed Monastery was the remotest in the world but the efforts by the government has made reaching this mystic monastery a little easier than before. Home to around 60 monks and an Austrian school this is another big monastery of the region. This lesser visited monastery, lies on the Chadar trek trail and is quite hidden from the travellers doing this trek. The trail to reach the monastery begins from Zangla, there are guesthouses available in Lingshed village for travellers.

Sani Monastery

Known to be the oldest monastery of the of Zanskar region, Sani Gompa accommodates one of the chortens made by emperor Kanishka in 2nd century. Located right next to the Sani village which is 10km before Padum, the landscape around it is full of plantation and fields, which also makes it one of the prettiest monastery in Zanskar region. Options for homestays are available in the village with very basic facilities. There is a festival held in the village during the month of August, which attracts all the monks from neighbouring monasteries.

How to get there

You can reach Zanskar region by road from two sides, one from Leh side and another from the Kargil side. The route from the Kargil side is preferred as the road conditions are better from there.

Best time to visit

The best time to visit Zanskar is during July to September, the roads are clear of snow and most of the region is accessible. For the rest of the year everything is covered in snow.

Where to stay

Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Bungalow and homestays are the best places to stay while visiting Zanskar.

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