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HOME      »    DESTINATION OF LEH LADAKH         »    HOTELS IN LEH LADAKH
ZANSKAR AND ZANGALA TOUR
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About 20 Km south-east of Rangdum stands the Panzila axis, across which lies Zanskar, the most isolated of all the trans-Himalayan valleys. The Penzila pass (4,401m) is a picturesque tableland surrounded by snow-covered peaks.
As the Zanskar road winds down the steep slopes of Penzi-la to the head of the Stod valley, the majestic " Drang-Drung" glacier looms into full view. A long and winding river of ice and snow, "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 tributary of the Zanskar River rises. 


Zanskar is a tri-armed valley system situated between the Great Himalayan Range and the Zanskar mountains, the three arms radiating star-like towards the west, north and south from a wide central expanse. Here the Zanskar River comes into being by the confluence of its two Himalayan tributaries, the Stod/Doda and the Lingti-Tsarap rivers. It is mainly along the course of this valley system that the region’s approximately 14,000 strong, mainly Buddhist population, live. 

In and Around

Rangdum

Rangdum is situated almost halfway between Kargil and Padum and was founded in the 18th Century by Losang Geleg Yeshe Drogpa. The Dukhang or assembly hall holds many beautiful statues. There is a great statue of Buddha in the small temple just behind. 

Sani

This is believed to be the oldest Ka-ni-ka (named after the former king of Kashmir) Gompa in Zanskar. Unlike most in Ladakh and Zanskar, this Gompa is built like a castle in the village on flat ground, and involves no steep climbs, and so is more welcoming then the average Gompa. There is an impressive prayer room, full of Buddhist statues and plenty of frescoes and Thankas to delight. There is also a famous stone carving of the Maitreya Buddha on a large rock near the Gompa.

Padum

Padum is the administrative headquarters of the Zanskar region, but was once an ancient capital with very light population of Buddhist and Suni Muslim. Padum itself has little to offer, but serves as a good base for exploring near by villages, monasteries and treks.

Tagrimo

Situated in Padum plain, is a Kagyupa monastery with about 30 resident monks. It was built in the 17th century. Among the paintings one can recognize Nawang Namgyal, founder of the Bhutanese theocracy. 

Pipting

Is the north east of Padum. Stupa and a few buildings, including a temple are above the village. The temple has pictures of Avalokeshvara with eleven heads, Padmasambhava, Maitreya, as well as Vajrabhairava and Tsong Khapa. The last two indicate that this monastery belongs to Gelupa tradition. 

Karsha

This is one of the most important Gompa in Zanskar, dating back to about the 11th century, and belonging to the Gelukpa order. A large white complex housing over one hundred monks, the Karsha Gompa holds pujas, often different from those in Ladakh, we should be witnessed, if possible. The three day Gustor festival held in July or August each year is particularly spectacular. There is also a five hundred year old nunnery. 

Thonde

On the way to Zangla is the gompa at Thonde, nearly 20 km from Padum. With about 50 monks of the Gelukpa order, Thonde is now the second largest gompa in Zanskar, after the one at Karsha. The village of Tsazar, half a between Thonde and Zangla, also has an impressive gompa.


Zangla 

The road continues past Tsazar to the village and gompa at Zangla, which belongs to the Drukpa. It is also where the king of Zanskar has his castle. Zangla is 35 km from Padum, and can be included in one of a few three or four day trek around the area. There is a small nunnery near by which is also worth exploring.

Bardan
The remote gompa at Bardan is about 12 km south of Padum, on the trekking route to Darcha. It belongs to the Drukpa order, and was built in 17th century.

Muni
Is upstream from Bardan with in 2 1/2 hours walking distance. The monastery houses a small community of Gelupa monks. The murals have been repainted recently and portray subjects particularly venerated by Tsong Khapa's disciples, such as Yamantaka and the protector Chukden. 

Zongkul

Two caves associated with the great Indian master Naropa (10 century) are the oldest religious center within the monastery. Two temples were built over the first cave with the monastery around. Temple walls are hung with beautiful Thankas. unfortunately, there are only faint traces of the paintings which embellished the first cave, but Naropa's footprints are there. The second cave is above the monastery and houses statues of Naropa and Vajradhara.

Phuktal

This is the most impressive monastic site in Zanskar. At a turn of the path, the monastery suddenly towers up in front of you. The buildings huddle up against the entrance to a cave which is the religious center of monastic group. The foundation of Phuktal goes back to Pagpa Sherap, the translator of Zanskar, at the beginning of the 12th century. A painting portraying the medicine Buddha Bhaishajyaguru is on the left wall and Vajradhara is on the right wall. The wall at the back is decorated with portraits of Tsong Khapa. On the right wall, the monks have recently painted pictures of Guhyasamaja and Avalokiteshvara with four hands, and on the left wall are green Tara and Shakyamuni

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