The Zanskar sub-division of Kargil district is centered around
its main settlement at Padam Four main routes over passes up
to 500m converge here from Lahoul in the Chenab valley,
Kishtwar, the Suru valley and Leh. Truly one of the most
desolate places in the Himalaya, Zanskar is known for its
spectacular scale, hardy mountain folk and extreme winter when
the Zanskar river freezes to from the "chador" over which mail
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.
About 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. It is mainly
along the course of this valley system that the region's
10,000 strong, mainly Buddhists population lives. Spread over
an estimated geographical area of 5000 sq. kms. High rise,
mountains and deep gorges surround Zanskar. The area remains
inaccessible for nearly 8 months a year due to heavy snowfall
resulting in closure of all the access passes, including the Penzi-la. To-day, Zanskar has the distinction of being the
least interfered with microcosms of Ladakh, and one of the
last few surviving cultural satellites of Tibet. Within the
mountain ramparts of this lost Shangrila stand a number of
ancient yet active monastic establishments. Some of these
religious foundations have evolved around remote meditation
caves believed to have been used by a succession of famous
Buddhist saints for prolonged meditation in pursuit of
knowledge and enlightenment.
The 240 km long Kargil-Padun road, of which the first 90 km
stretch is paved, remains opened from around mid July to early
November. In June, the summer is at its height in the region
and the climate is ideal for trekking along the route free
from vehicular traffic of any kind and when the countryside is
freshly rejuvenated into life after months of frigid dormancy.
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 Kargil to Padum Road was completed in the late 70’s. Even
today this road is not mettaled and has been neglected by
Govt. Localites of the region are trying to get the
construction of Chadar road started running from Nimo to Padum,
which would be the shortest route if contructed.
Padum is the sub-tehsil
of Zangskar which is 464 kms from Leh and 234 kms 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 Zangskar. There is a small market along
the main road with hotels, restaurants and number of shops.
The town has a newly contructed Mosque and a recently formed
Muslim community. Stakrimo Gonpa on a hill side and the 10th
century monument carved on a huge rock near the river bank,
provides an epigraphic evidence that the region was influnced
by Budddhism since ancient period.
The main attractions in Zangskar are the ancient Buddhist
monasteries like Zongkhul, Bardan, Stongde, Karsha, Phuktal
and Sunni Palace. The beauty of these monasteries are beyond
describtion and most of the monasteries can be visited in a
day or two by Jeep from Padum.