Zanskar Travel Guide
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).
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)
Must visit places in Padum, Zanskar
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,
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. <br>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). <br>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 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).