20 kms. South of Rangdum stands the Pazila watershed across which lies
Zanskar, the most isolated of all the Trans Himalayan Valleys. The Panzila
Top (4401 m) is the picturesque tableland adorned with two small alpine
lakes and surrounded by snow covered peaks.
As the Zanskar road winds down the steep slopes of the watershed to the
head of the Stod Valley, one of Zanskar's main tributary valleys, the
majestic "Drang-Drung" glacier looms into full view. A long and
winding river of ice and snow, the Drang-Drung" is perhaps the largest
glacier in Ladakh, outside the Siachen formation. It is from the cliff-like
snout of this extensive glacier that the Stod or Doda River, the main
tributary of river Zanskar, rises.
Zanskar comprises a tri-armed valley system lying between the Great
Himalayan Range and the Zanskar mountain; The three arms radiate star-like
towards the west, north and south from a wide central expanse where the
region's two principal drainage's meet to form the main Zanskar River.
Major trekking routes in
Once the capital of the ancient kingdom of Zanskar, Padum (3505 m) is the
present day administrative headquarters of the region. With a population of
nearly 1500, Padum can be described as the most populous settlement of
Zanskar, otherwise a very scarcely inhabited valley. Incidentally, it is
only in Padum that there is a community of Muslims constituting nearly half
the township's population, its origin in the area dating from mid 17th
century. Lately, Padum has become a famous as a major trekking base and a
popular tourist destination. Several places of tourist interest in the
vicinity of the township can be visited in the course of entertaining walks.
Padum is famous as a major trekking base and a popular tourist destination.
Kargil to Padum
When all bridges are open the route is accessible from early June to late
October. On the last day's walk from Phe to Padum you cross the river and
pass by the Sani gompa, one of the most important in Zanskar.
Padum to Lamayuru
The alternative route from Padum starts out on the opposite side of the
Zanskar river and takes you to the Linghsot gompa before joining up with the
first route at day 5.
Padum to Kishtwar
You cannot use horses on this route but must take porters. On day 4 your
Zanskari porters will not continue further and you must hire local porters
or a pony. The last few days are hard work with many ascents and descents
but the road from Kishtwar, already extending to Galar, is gradually being
The monastery of Stongdey lies 18 km to the north of Padum, on the road
leading to Zangla. An old foundation associated with the Tibetan yogi,
Marpa, Stongdey is now the second largest monastic establishment of Zanskar,
inhabited by the resident community of about 60 Gelukpa monks. The sprawling
white-washed complex has a number of temples, each a repository of the
region's rich monastic legacy. Stongdey can be reached by foot in about 4
hours by road. The climb up to the monastery is rather streneous, but it is
worth the trouble for the breathtaking scenery of the valley seen from here.
Lying deep in the northern arm of Zanskar at the end of the 35 km long road
from Padum, Zangla was being ruled by a titular king till his death a few
years back. The old castle now in ruins except for a small chappel, occupies
a hill, overlooking the desertic valley below. Nearby is the old nunnery
worth a visit for the austere life style of the small monastic community of
nuns. An old monastery situated in the nearby village of Tsa-zar has
The village lies mid-way between Stongdey and Zangla. Zangla is the nodal
point on the popular Padum-Strongdey-Zangla-Karsha-Padum round trip, which
covers most of the cultural sites of Zanskar. The river is now crossed by a
temporary foot-bridge for approaching the left bank along which the trail to
Karsha follows. Zangla is also the take-off point for the Padum-Markha
The other spectacular cave monastery of Zanskar are in Zongkhul, that falls
on the Padum-Kishtwar trekking trail, just before the ascent of Omasi-la
Pass begins. Situated like a swallow's nest on the rock face of the Ating
george, the monastery is associated by legend with the famous Indian yogi
Naropa, who lectured in the Nalanda and Vikramsila universities.
The two caves here are the present monasteries, are said to have been used
by the famous yogi for the solitary meditation. A footprint on the stone
near the ingress of the lower cave is reserved as that of the yogi. The
frescos on the cave walls are very old and reflect a high degree of artistic
achievement. These are believed to be the original murals executed by Zhadpa
Dorje. The celebrated scholar-painter of the same monastery who was active
about 300 years ago.