Zanskar Travel Guide

Zanskar Travel Guide

General info about zanskar

Zanskar {the name means Land of White copper}, Zanskar is one of those inhabited regions which are situated in the shadow of the Great Himalaya at the altitude of 10,500 Feet, remote from the outside world by snowbound passes most of the year. Zanskar Zanskar is the dream destination for the adventure seeker tourists. Some of them make it here by Trekking, walking across amazing terrains and high passes for almost a week or more, and most of them make it by bike expedition. According to 2018-19 Census report Zanskar has total population of 14,000; Zanskar was merged with Jammu and Kashmir in 1947 in Dogra rule. Weather in Zanskar, despite the harsh winter temperatures dropping sometimes -40*C, and in summers the average temperature touches 25-27*C, but you will feel a cold wind in every afternoon. There is no internet services in phones, most of the time mobiles don’t have network. But there are some internet café’s in the Padum town which charges Rs 5 / Minute,

How to reach zanskar

A trip to Zanskar requires 8 days or more if you’re starting from Srinagar or Leh. A day to reach Kargil and another very long day to reach Padum. The 236 Kms road from Kargil to Padum is full of beautiful passes, Glaciers and Mountains with harsh terrains the road is megdimaized for about 90 Kms going through the Sankoo. And then SURU Valley / Panikhar, the road turns bumpy and rough after Parkachik with a breathtaking view of Nun & Kun peaks which are the highest mountains of Jammu and Kashmir at the alt of 7,000 m /23,000 ft.

Route Map

Srinagar - Zanskar
Srinagar > Sonamarg > Kargil > Suru Valley > Rangdum > Padum, Zanskar

Leh - Zanksar
Leh > Kargil > Suru Valley > Rangdum > Padum, Zanskar

Itinerary:-

Day 1: Reach Kargil either from Srinagar or Leh

Day 2: Leave from Kargil as early as possible if you want to cover this distance in one day, it will be very long and rough road driving day. As mentioned earlier this road is 236 Kms long and is only 90 Kms are Magadimized, the rest is total rough road. After 1 hour drive you will reach a village known as Suru Valley / Panikhar with lush green fields, apricot trees, and paddy fields along with the bank of Suru River.

The Suru Valley: A rich historical and cultural heritage.

Suru valley enjoys not only an exceptional ecological environment with rich wild life of (Wolves, ibex, bear, snow leopards, etc.) Flocks of Ibexes can often to be observed from the Suru Valley, Just across the Suru River on pastures, after the first snowfalls, one can also dusk dozen of wolves descending from mountain.

The wolves are so abundant in this area that the place is locally known as SHANGTSANGS which literally means “Wolf’s Den” in Balti language.

But it has also a great historical and cultural heritage, local people speak Purik language, a Tibetic language (also known as Balti Language), which derives from old Tibetan, a language in this area at the time of the Tibetan empire (7th – 9th centuries A.D). Traces of Tibetan presence are also attested by many archeological sites in the area such as the Bod Kharbu (the “small tibetan fort”) and magnificent giant statue of the maitreya Buddha (Champa) located in Kartse Khar only few Kms from Sankoo.

A few centuries ago the population of this region has converted from Tibetan Buddhist to Islam and many Sufi masters have visited the region. One can also visit an old Shrine or grave of famous Muslim saint of the Sunni sects located in Tai-Suru (Panikhar). The Purik people of the Suru Valley have preserved a simple way of life and are very hospitable. They are proud of their Tibetic culture as well as they are proud of their Muslim and Asian heritage.

View of stepped paddy field and houses of Tangole Village, Suru Valley

And also you will get the first view of Nun Kun peaks from Phurtikchey.

Suru valley is also very famous tourist destination and also trekking start point for Parkachik glacier – 20 Kms (One / Two Day trek), or the waterfall of Shanshinala (2 Days Trek). A trail leads to the Pahalgam valley in Kashmir (13 Days Trek). In summer and autumn, cycling, trekking, rafting and fishing are available activities, while in winter and spring, long distance skiing can be practiced.

Beyond Panikhar, the road will be bumpy and rough you will pass by another beautiful village of Tangole with increasingly greenery of step paddy fields with Mt Nun in background from where the mountaineer’s start their hike to Mt Nun (7135 m/23,408 ft).

Accommodations

Kargil -------- Suru Valley Resort
Rangdum ---- Nun Kun Camps
Padum -------- Hotel TRC Zanskar

After 30 minutes of driving you will reach the last village of Suru valley known as Parkachik 20 Kms from Panikhar, there are again mud houses with flat roofs, staying at Parkachik (alt 3600m /11,800 fts) can be a great experience. You can stay at J&K Tourism Alpine Hut (Rs 500 / Night). There is glamorous background view of Parkachik glaciers that descends from Mt Nun Kun and then drains into the Suru River.

After Parkachik you will reach Rangdum. It’s one of best pace to have night stay, since it’s the Mid Way between Kargil and Padum. I will recommend a night stay here, you can stay at a J&K Tourism Alpine Hut (Rs 400 / Night) but you have to book in advance from Tourism office in Kargil day before, you have also the Deluxe camping which charge you around (Rs 2000 – 4500).If you’re not interested to have a night stay here then you cab will stop here for a food break this is the only food point where most of the driver’s stop for food and rest. After this you will drive towards the Panzi-La pass in between your cab will halt at checkpoint near Rangdum Gompa to inspect your Id Cards if Indian and Passports if foreigner. After the Rangdum your will approach towards Panzi-La pass which is the highest pass on this highway at the altitude of 14,000 Feet. On the right you will see a breathtaking Dring-Drang glacier.

Take some beautiful pictures and drive through from some small villages of Zanskar like, Akshow, Abran, Skayagam and Phey, just ahead of bridge you will reach Sani

Breathtaking view of Abran Village

which is famous for its ancient Gompa, from Sani its just 6 Kms well magemadized road to Padum, What a bug relief after a long bumpy and rough road drive.

Padum Zansar (Altitude 11,500 Fts)

Accommodation in Padum - Zanskar

The Administrative headquarters and Main city of Zanskar, Padum town’s main street is lined with shops and hotels, most tourists make Padum as their base camp to tour Zanskar. Here you have Tourist Reception Center locally known as TRC Zanskar hotel (Rs 1500 / Night), then other Budget hotels, but I recommend staying at TRC Zanskar because it’s a Government property hired by Gulzar Ahmad (+91 9419071778) (www.hotelTRCzanskar.in)

View of Padum

Must visit places in Padum, Zanskar

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Royal Padum Khar Palace

Padum Khar Palace is a former Royal Palace, Situated on a small mountain near old town / old market of Padum which was abandon after 5 families of Buddhists accepted Islam and became Muslim in 2008, ever since the all shops of the old market are closed now which was once the crown of Zanskar. Just 1 Km of walking distance from Padum Market, overlooking the town of Padum and Junkhor area
The palace is believed to have been built by king Shaklday in the 13th Century who was descendent of Nyatitsanpo of stod Kugay. The king had 3 sons and the eldest among them Sonamlday had ruled the Kingdom of Kis’htwar, the middle one Zamtaklday ruled Padum and the youngest one was given the charge of Zangla Palace, Since 15th century Zanskar has been subordinate to Ladakh, Sharing its fortunes and Misfortunes in 1822 a coalition of Kulu, Lahoul and Kinnaur invaded Zanskar, Plundering the country and destroying the Royal
Palace at Padum until then Zanskar was an Independent kingdom.
Every year in November Annual festival of sacred Mask Dance is being performed by the Monks of Bardans,

Karcha Gompa

Situated 9 Km north from Padum, the Gompa is reached by a road which cuts through the breathtaking view .It’s complex of building cascade down a steep hillside, presenting a breathtaking view as you approach.
Karcha Monastery is known for its range and tone of colours and postures depicting both religious and secular scenes. Every inch of the interior walls are covered with frescos of Buddha’s, Bodhisattvas, and patrons of royal lineage, temples and of the pursuits such as hunting. The monks of Karcha dressed in pure red from head to toe whom they have sacrificed their life and desires to learn their religion (Buddhism).
They never marry nor they live a normal life in their homes, they spend all their lives in the Gompas and Monasteries. The Karsha Gompa is being renovated to a new structure of Japanese temple like buildings.

Sani Monastery

Sani monastery is 8 Kms from Padum, which a trek able distance, you can also hire a cab from Padum to Sani Monastery for return they will charge you around (Rs 1,200) and for drop (Rs 800). The Gompa is often remains locked and we too didn’t get the chance to see it from inside, we tried to locate the keepers of this Gompa, but the local people said that the monks are not resident in the Gompa. Its run by the Lamas from the Bardan monastery, they only visit 5-7 times in a month in order to clean and maintain it. However, they said Sani Monastery is probably one of the only worship places of Buddhists in the region, it’s because of odd-shaped chorten, called Kanika Choten, at the back side of Gompa’s building has been associated with Central Asian King Kanishka (2nd Century AD). If you get the chance to see it from inside promise me you will send me the photographs. @ WWW.KASHMIRTHROUGHMYLENS.IN/UPLOADS

Best Time to Visit Zanskar.

You can visit from April to November Mid, after that road will be closed for 5 months because of snow. Like its said dangerous roads to beautiful places will be truth at the moment when you travel on this road. But you have keep something’s in mind before you travel on this road,

No 1: That there is no Fuel filling station in between Kargil to Zanskar highway, even in Zanskar there is no guarantee of the fuel will be available sometimes, so for precautionary measures take around 20 liters of fuel from Kargil if you’re travelling on your own car or bike.

No 2: The another things is that Zanskar road can get closed at Panzila top or any other place in any month for up to 4 days because of the Snow, landslides or any other natural climatic problems, so it’s advised take some snakes, food items, drinking water and woolen clothes along with you.

Salman Gulzar

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One thought on “Zanskar Travel Guide”

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