Zanaskar attractions are Buddhist Culture, Monasteries, Mountainscape

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Zanaskar - Quick Facts

Area: 7000 sq. Km.
Population: 6,17,404
Altitude: 6000 m above sea level
Season: June to September
Clothing: Summer- Light woollen, Winter- Heavy woollen
Rainfall: 664 mm average
Languages: Urdu, Kashmiri & Dogri

Zanskar in the Kargil sub-division of Ladakh, spread over an estimated geographical area of 5000 sq kms of mountainous territory and surrounded by high-rise mountains and deep gorges. It is located between the Great Himalayan Range to the south and the Indus Valley to the North. Zanskar River, which flows through it, joins the Indus a little below Leh. The whole Zanskar Valley is situated in the inner Himalaya and is higher than most other areas of Ladakh. The Climate is very harsh and the area receives precious little rain. The great attractions are the Buddhist culture, beautiful monasteries, awe-inspiring barren mountainscape and the twin peaks of Nun (7135m) and Kun (7077m).

Towards the western end of the Himalayas a series of continuous mountain ridges, comprising scores of 6000 metre (20000 foot) peaks forms an effective barrier between the Indian provinces of Lahaul and Ladakh. Linking these contrasting mountainous regions is a trekking route that provides one of the great challenges of the Indian Himalaya. Padam is the Head quarter of Zanskar and can be reached by a rough road from Kargil. Along this highway are glimpsed unforgettable sights of Nun- Kun, Barnaj, Doda and other high Peaks, and views of several glaciers, such as Ringdom, Pensi, Darung, Drung and kange.

By Air
The nearest airport is at Leh, about 230 kms away.

By Road
The road connecting Zanskar with Kargil is open from mid July to early November. Buses, jeeps, gypsies and taxis are readily available for transport to Zanskar from Kargil.

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 exquisite frescos.


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 Vikram Sila 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.


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.

Panikhar is an important place in the Zanskar Valley that is the border of the Suru Valley. At Panikhar the fort of Zorawar Singh is a major tourist attraction.

Penzell 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 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.

Nubra Valley is the geographical backbone, and the historical heartland of Ladakh. The common way to access this valley is to travel over the Khardung La from Leh where one will first encounter the Shyok Valley. To enter the Nubra valley, one must cross over the Shyok River via a small bridge and pass through a military checkpoint. Non-locals require an "Inner Line" permit (easily obtained in Leh town) to pass. The Sasser Pass and the famous Karakoram Pass lie to the northwest of the valley which connect Nubra with Xinjiang. Previously there was much trade passing through the area with East Turkestan and Central Asia. The Nubra valley contains the small towns of Sumur and Panamik. Sumur has a Buddhist gompa or monastery while Panamik is noted for its hot springs. Most of the people are of mixed Tibetan and Central Asian origin and speak varieties of the Balti language. The beautiful village of Baigdandu is located in the valley. Here one can suddenly find beautiful people boys and girls with startling blue eyes, auburn hair and ruddy cheeks as against the typical mongoloid features of the Ladakhis. Buddhist monasteries flourished in the valley among which the famous Diskit Gompa. This monastery, over 350 years old, is the oldest in the Nubra region. It is also one of the largest.The monastery belongs to the Gelugpa (Yellow Hat) Sect. The Nubra valley is accessible from Leh via a number of high passes. One of them is the Khardong-la, the highest motorable pass at 5600 m.

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