Visiting Zanskar? Don't Forget To Explore The Village of Rangdum

Photo of Visiting Zanskar? Don't Forget To Explore The Village of Rangdum by Footloose Dev

Nestled amidst the mighty Himalayas, Rangdum welcomes you with a big valley hug, marking the end of Suru Valley and the beginning of Buddhism of your journey from Kargil to Zanskar. I ended up there while I was solo travelling from Parkachik towards Zanskar, passing through the beautiful valley with glimpses of wild horses running on the grass or sometimes playing in the Suru river, and being shadowed by the beautiful peaks on your right and left; it was a ride which still gives me the kick when I think about it.

Leaving the sound of Azan in Kargil, driving slowly on a poorly conditioned yet a memorable road, you will get the first sight of some Buddhist flags after about 100 kms and that’s when you will know you are close to Rangdum. You will be surprised when you will see Rangdum for the first time. Imagine a huge field of 10km diameter with may be around 25-30 houses and surrounded by the gigantic peaks and glaciers. Rangdum at 3,657 m (11,998 ft) above the sea level makes it all the more special.

Photo of Rangdum by Footloose Dev

Rangdum is the last inhabited village of Suru Valley, with its gompa and the attendant village of Juliodok. Nomadic herdspeople called bakarwals trek up every year from the Himalayan foothills near Jammu, to get their livestock fatten up from the rich summer grass.

I ended up spending a night and a couple of extra hours in the next morning before I could find my next hitchhiking ride. So if you are in the grip of time, taxi from Kargil would be the most efficient option to reach Rangdum.

Things To See & Do Around

Rangdum Monastery

Belonging to the Gelugpa sect, this 200 years old Tibetan Buddhist monastery is the biggest attraction in Rangdum. The monastery of Rangdum, although not one of the principal of the Ladak, definitely worth a stop if you're making a journey to Zanskar. It overlooks the valley from the top of the small hill surrounded by the river, the surrounding scenery is beautiful, and the monks are very welcoming to visitors. The gompa, and his paintings are very well preserved, and on request you can visit a small and interesting museum. 

Photo of Rangdum Gompa, Rangdum by Footloose Dev

The monastery also supports the small school which is located on its slopes, and purchasing a postcard, or a painting card from the kids, you can make an offer to the school. It’s about 6 km from the Rangdum village, standing tall and alone on the highway, making it impossible to miss your field of view. It’s a home for about 30 monks and as many donkeys. There’s an army check post at the foot of the monastery which checks your ID before you make your move ahead for Zanskar.

Photo of Visiting Zanskar? Don't Forget To Explore The Village of Rangdum by Footloose Dev

Trekking Base

Rangdum serves as a popular base for trekking. One of the treks lead to Henaskut near Lamayuru, crossing the famous Kanji-La pass. The 5-day trek crosses the fabulous gorge towards the Kargil-Leh highway.

For serious hikers, the more arduous & ambitious trek involves crossing the high glaciated Chillung-La behind the famous Nun-Kun to reach the Kishtiwar Valley in almost about 10 days.

Photo of Visiting Zanskar? Don't Forget To Explore The Village of Rangdum by Footloose Dev

Staying in a home-stay

Rangdum is the first place to get your introduction of the warm hospitality of the Zanskar people. So if it’s your first time in Ladakh and you are coming straight from Srinagar towards Zanskar, you ought to stay in one of the home stays in Rangdum and get yourself acquainted to the simplistic lifestyle, the practise of Buddhism, the kindness of hosts and the beautifully built sand-brick houses. Not to mention the unique food.

Getting There And Where To Stay

Rangdum is not one of the well-connected places I have to stay. I mean there’s a reason why places are called off-beat and Rangdum’s access justifies it’s off-beat character. 

Photo of Visiting Zanskar? Don't Forget To Explore The Village of Rangdum by Footloose Dev

The best way to reach is to take your own vehicle (perhaps on a motorbike trip in Himalayas) or taxi from Kargil. I was in Rangdum and it took me almost 5 hours before I could hitch a ride to Zanskar. Even the taxis coming from Kargil were full. There’s a bus from Kargil which can drop you to Rangdum but it’s absolutely jam-packed. It can be act of suffering if you are not familiar with buses in the mountains. So taxis and your own vehicle for the most, and if you are an adventurer, hitchhiking is a better option than bus. And yes, it takes you 8-9 hours to reach from Kargil even though it’s just about 120 km.

Photo of Visiting Zanskar? Don't Forget To Explore The Village of Rangdum by Footloose Dev

There are a few interesting places to stay in Rangdum. Nothing beats the local homestays, but for those who like privacy can book their room in Jammu and Kashmir Apline Hut which is right at the beginning of the village for around 500 Rs a night. One can also stay at the Rangdum monastery just to tick off one of the checks from their bucket list, but just to give you a bit of warning – you share the room, rather a hall, with other people on a stone cold bed without any blanket provided and you have to pay something around 200Rs as well. There are handful of restaurants as well which serve the basic north Indian and Tibetan food.

Well, I’ll have to say Rangdum is more than just a lunch break for your journey from Kargil to Zanskar and it’s well worth to pay a bit more for the taxi and spend at least a night in this beautiful valley.