Zanskar is a small town, spread over an area of 7000 sq. km, at an altitude ranging from 3500 m to 7000 m above sea level. Zanskar definitely is one of the remotest regions in the world to reach and the fact becomes more prominent as it remains virtually inaccessible for 8 months due to bitter cold and heavy snowfall. Zanskar is a semi desert that is surrounded by mountains from all sides and is cut through by Zanskar river which is the reason many people come to Zanskar braving all the adversities. Zanskar River is one of the best places in the world where you can indulge in river rafting. All the high passes are close in the winter and the river freeze on the surface. People of Zanskar walk along the frozen river to reach the Indus River in Nimoo village, which is known as the Chadar trek.
The route from Kargil to Padum via Penzi La is the only motorable road to reach Zangskar valley, which remains open from June to September.
The nearest airport to Zanskar is at Leh. Although it is equally convenient to get here from Srinagar as well.
Easiest way to come to Zanskar is by road from Kargil. The distance is around 235 km and state transport has its buses running between Zanskar and Leh. You can also hire luxury coaches and taxis from Kargil.
Transportation inside the city generally comprise of taxis and jeeps. Most of the locales prefer walking.
Places to see in Zanskar
Zanskar has lot of beautiful Buddist monasteries like Zongkhul, Bardan, Stongde, Karsha, Phuktal and Sunni Palace and most of monasteries and be visited in a day or two by Jeep from Padum.
Zanskar is an ideal destination for adventure travelers. Rafting, mountaineering and trekking are some of the adventure sports that you can enjoy on your tour to Zanskar. Remala and Karsha Gompa near Padum offer excellent opportunity for river rafting on Zanskar River. You can also take various trekking trails in Zanskar.
Zangla 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. 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 exquisite frescos.
Zongkhul The other spectacular cave monastery of Zanskar are in Zongkhul. 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.
Stongdey The monastery of Stongdey lies 18 km to the north of Padum, on the road leading to Zangla.
Penzella Pass Penzella Pass that divides the Zanskar valley with the Suru Valley. Besides being the excellent camping site the Penzella Pass is a vintage point offering excellent views of the majestic mountains and the captivating countryside.
Karsha Karsha is a human settlement with basic facilities. The Gelugpa monastery at Karsha is a must visit to know the importance of the religion in the lives of the inhabitants of Zanskar. The mural art displayed at Labrang is other must check out in Zanskar.
Padum is around 464 Kms. from Leh and 234 Kms. away from Kargil. Once the Capital of the Zangskar valley, today it is the administrative headquarter of the region and probably the most populous settlement of Zanskar. Padam valley in Ladakh is one of the few ones that have a dominant population of Muslims. Constituting nearly half the township’s population, their origin dates back to the mid 17th century. Padum is considered as the most populous settlement of Zanskar with a population of nearly 1500. Stakrimo Gompa is on a hill side and the 10th century monument carved on a huge rock near the river bank, provides epigraphic evidence that the region was influnced by Budddhism since ancient period.