One of the least explored destinations in the country, Zanskar, located in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir. The Zanskar Range is a mountain range in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir that separates Zanskar from Ladakh. Geologically, the Zanskar Range is part of the Tethys Himalaya, an approximately 100-km-wide synclinorium formed by strongly folded and imbricated, weakly metamorphosed sedimentary series, is one of the known Buddhist kingdoms of the western Himalayas within elevation of 12000 feet. The beauty of the Zanskar landscapes changed our definition of beautiful. Situated in the Himalayan range, Zanskar is popular with adventure junkies. A hotspot for trekking, paragliding and river rafting, Lamayuru to Darcha and Lamayuru-Padumare some of the popular trekking trails that pass around Zanskar. Zanskar, which is the land of moonscapes and threatening paths, charms the best of wanderers, invites them with enthralling sights and enchanting landscapes, and turns them into a pro traveler for life. It also separates Kinnaur District from Spiti in Himachal Pradesh. The highest peaks of Himachal are in the Zanskar Range.
Zanskar is famous for its high beautiful mountains and landscape. Zanskar is one of the most unexplored places in Jammu and Kashmir. Pleasant climate, landscape, snow-capped Himalayan Mountains and sparking rivers makes Zanskar a perfect holiday destination for worldwide tourists. Zanskar comprises a tri-armed valley system, 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. Adventure is the main cause as to why people like Zanskar. River rafting and other sports are very famous here, and Zanskar is known for it clear waters. The spectacular Himalayan landscape and the lifestyles of the inhabitants attract many tourists to the hidden kingdom of Zanskar.
Tourist Attraction :
Penzella Pass :
Penzella Pass is the pass that divides Zasnkar valley with the Suru Valley. Penzella Pass is located at 4400 metres above the sea level in the Zanskar range of mountains. Considered to be an ideal camping ground for trekkers, the site is renowned for two greenish water springs. The region also has various species of plants that have rich medicinal values. Zanskar range, the slopes of the pass are covered with snow in the winter season. In summers, when the snow melts, a large variety of flora and fauna can be seen on the slopes of the pass. A variety of wildlife is also present here including the commonly observed Marmots and brown bears. The Pass is also flanked by glaciers on both the sides, from which engendered streams flow into the Suru and Zanskar river, creating a lovely sight. The Penzella Pass is open only during the months of May to September as the region sees heavy snowfall in other months.
Zanskar River :
If adventure is what you love, Zanskar River expedition will be an adventurous experience like never before. River rafting probably is the most indulged in activity in Zanskar River. The rafting experience takes you through one of the most breathtaking gorges of the World. One of the largest tributaries of river Indus, Zanskar River emerges from the north facing Himalayan slopes. Branched into two: Doda tributary, begins in close proximity to the Pensi La Pass and flows alongside the Zanskar Valley towards Padum, whereas the Kargyag river tributary forms the second branch emerging from near the Shingo La and Tsarap river. Due to the glaciers, the entire area of the river has been transformed into a U-shaped valley. The only outlet for the whole Zanskar hydrographic system is thus the Zanskar river, which cuts the deep and narrow Zanskar Gorge through the Zanskar range. Tourists can also visit the Abring and the Padam villages that are situated around the river.
One of the most daunting treks in the valley, it runs through the heart of Zanskar Valley to finally reach Lahaul Valley in Himachal. Padum also serves as the abode to exotic flora and fauna. Once the capital of the ancient Zanskar Kingdom, the region still holds antediluvian relics like intricate carvings on a large rock situated on the banks of the river Lung-nak, dating back to 8th century. Its older section, comprising of inter-connected adobe houses and several high-rise chortens, surround a boulder-strewn hillock, site of the erstwhile palace and fort. Apart from these attractions, the scenic beauty of the surrounding areas from this region is too lovely to be put into words.
Zongkhul Monastery :
Zongkhul is one of the popular cave monasteries, which is used by Yogis for the purpose of meditation. 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 a stone near the ingress of the lower cave is highly revered as that of the yogi. Located near the village of Ating, this monastery is famous for murals believed to be painted more than 300 years ago. In the 4th month of the Tibetan calendar, Zongkhul Huchot festival is organised by the locals. It is believed that Naropa used to meditate in this monastery, which makes it a prime location as several other Mahasiddhas also meditated at this site. The monastery has number of shrines. There are images of Buddha, Padmasmbhava, Mitukpa and Mahakala. The monastery houses 15 monks and 23 novitiates. With no road access, trekking is the only way to reach the monastery. It lies on the Padum-Kishtwar trek route. The best time to visit Zongkhul monastery is between July to early November as rest of the year, the region remains covered with snow.
Rangdum Monastery :
Rangdum Monastery is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery belonging to the Gelugpa sect, situated on top of a small but steep sugarloaf hill at an altitude of 4,031 m at the head of the Suru Valley, in Ladakh. Flanked by colorful hills on one side and dazzling white glaciers on the other, the region is a charming site. The Drang-drung glacier can also be seen from this region. this monastery looks like a fortress and in fact was used as one by Dogra armies of General Zorawar Singh. It is an ancient monastery from 18th century and a visit is recommended.
Most of the precipitation occurs as snowfall during the harsh and extremely long winter period. These winter snowfalls are of vital importance, since they feed the glaciers which melt in the summer and provide most of the irrigation water. Parts of Zanskar valley are considered some of the coldest continually inhabited places in the world. Owing to the altitudes the Zanskar valley is accessible only during the summer months. The winter months are too harsh for travel in Zanskar. The best time to visit Zongkhul monastery is between July to early November as rest of the year, the region remains covered with snow.
How To Reach :
By Air : Nearest Airport is Leh (105 km), Flights from Delhi, Jammu and Srinagar connected to Leh
By Rail : Nearest rail head is Jammu(700 km). After getting off at the railway station, one can take a shared bus to Zanskar Valley via Kargil. All Major city like Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Pune, Indore, Jabalpur and Rishikesh are well connected to Jammu by rail.
By Road : There is a regular bus service from Jammu & Kashmir State Road Transport Corporation from Leh and Kargil for Padum with stops at various points in Suru and Zanskar Valley.
Image Copyright by commons.wikimedia.org, flickr.com