Phugtal Monastery Trek – A Travel Guide

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Phugtal Monastery or Phugtal Gompa is housed in remotest corner of Lungnak Valley in south-eastern region Zanskar, Ladakh. Also, often termed as Phuktal Monastery, it is one of the most enchanting sites up there in the entire region. The fact of it being built into or around a natural cave in the cliffside, like a honeycomb, adds all the more fascination to the trek of Phugtal Monastery. Hence, it is also widely popular by the name of “cave monastery”. The remote location of Phugtal monastery leaves you with nothing but all the peace and solitude you can ask from the mother nature.

Phugtal Monastery, the first views…
Phugtal Monastery, the first views

About Phugtal Monastery

If I cite what wikipedia says here, “Phugtal Monastery is one of the only popular Buddhist monasteries in Ladakh that can still be reached on only by foot. The supplies to the monastery are brought on horses, donkeys, and mules in the warmer months of summers and in the frozen winters, they are transported through the frozen Zanskar River by walking over it. The present Phuktal Gompa, of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism, was established in the early 15th century by Jangsem Sherap Zangpo, a disciple of Je Tsongkhapa. Tsongkhapa was the founder of Gelug, which is one of the newest schools of Tibetan Buddhism.

Phuktal monastery hosts an Amchi, a traditional tibetan physician who provides natural Sowa-Rigpa medicine. These medicines are mostly prepared at the traditional tibetan clinic in the monastery. The villagers comes over to see the Amchi when there is any health issues. The monks from the monastery perform tradition prayers in village at the significant events that is birth, wedding, death, etc..

Phuktal Monastic School is setup to provide quality education to the students of the local villages without any charges or fees. The education involves a mix of traditional learning and the modern curriculum to help these students that come from the local farming families in the Lungnak Valley, which are extremely poor and least educated. The monastery bears the cost for the room, board and study materials of the students. If you pay a visit, DO NOT forget to carry some education material to be donated to the school.

Hence, the whole village life revolves around the Phuktal monastery only.

Those amazing landscapes of the Phugtal monastery trek
Those amazing landscapes of the Phugtal monastery trek
Phugtal Monastery, a close up view…
Phugtal Monastery, a close up view
Phugtal Monastery, a close up view
Phugtal Monastery, a close up view

How to reach Phugtal Monastery or Phuktal Monastery

A road is being built from Padum to connect Phugtal monastery and Darcha in Himachal but who knows how much time will it take to be complete now because of the 2015 flash floods in Zanskar valley damaging the roads built in this region the most. Earlier, the road or motorable dirt track had been made available almost up to Anmo village from where the trek to Phugtal was just a day’s affair via Cha village but because of flash floods in 2015, now the road has barely been restored to Icher village only. Icher Bridge was washed away in 2015 flash floods but due to the hard work of BRO and the local people of Icher village, it was restored again in January 2016. So, now, one has to trek from Icher to Anmo to Cha to Phuktal or Icher to Anmo to Purne which lies at the other side of Lungnak river and then to Phugtal monastery.

3 Day Trek to Phugtal Monastery

Assuming that you are properly acclimatized in Padum, a bare minimum necessity to undertake any high altitude trek, I will provide a day wise rough sketch of the Phuktal Monastery trek along with necessary details. If you are wondering on how to reach Padum or Zanskar Valley, please read Zanskar Valley – Most Common Itinerary

Day 1 | Padum – Raru – Ichar – Anmu – Chah (6-8 Hrs of trekking)
  • Give a shot at a 3-4 day trek + road journey to Phugtal Monastery
  • Drive from Padum to last road Icher, about 1 and half hour
  • Start the trek from Icher until Anmu or up to Chah, in case you are short on days
  • It will take about 4-6 hrs trekking from Icher to Anmu and further couple of hours trekking to Chah from Anmu
  • Few homestays are available at Anmu as well as Chah villages
  • Food will be rice, vegetable, dal, curd and some local food. You can carry some foods to cook at Homestay, if you wish
  • The river flows aside this trek and may have a magical feeling to it
Day 2 | Chah – Phugtal / Phuktal Monastery – Purne (5-6 Hrs trekking)
  • This day you pay visit to the honeycomb cave like Phugtal / Phuktal Monastery and return to other side of Lungnak river at Purne for overnight stay
  • Start early from Chah in order to spend more time at Phugtal so that you can return back to Purne with enough daylight left in the day
  • Please note that the direct route from Chah village to Phuktal Monastery is a bit difficult and narrow. It should only be taken with a guide or local else you should take route through Purne which is easier in comparison but takes one more day trekking
  • Chah to Phuktal direct route takes about 2.5-3 Hrs even being 6 KMs apart and Phuktal to Purne will take you another 2-2.5 Hrs
  • Refreshments shall be available at Chah and Zamthang villages
  • There is a guest house with attached bathroom at Phugtal monastery as well in case it gets late for you and you do not like to risk the way back
  • At Purne there are two-three beautiful camping sites and a small guest house with shop and a homestay
Day 3 | Purne – Anmu – Icher – Raru – Padum (7-8 Hrs of trekking)
  • Purney to Icher will take you about 7-8 Hrs, so start early in the day
  • Your taxi pick up should be there for pickup at Icher
  • If you are not tired, you can visit Bardan and Muney monestaries while driving back to Padum
Phugtal Monastery, some other views…
Phugtal Monastery, some other views
Phugtal Monastery, some other views
Phugtal Monastery, some other views
Phugtal Monastery with a chorten outside…
Phugtal Monastery with a chorten outside
Lungnak river and the trek to Phugtal monastery
Lungnak river and the trek to Phugtal monastery
That scary fall down into the Lungnak river
That scary fall down into the Lungnak river
Peculiar landscapes as seen on the way to Phuktal… Soil erosion in effect
Peculiar landscapes as seen on the way to Phuktal... Soil erosion in effect
Peculiar landscapes as seen on the way to Phuktal... Soil erosion in effect

Stay options at Phuktal Monastery Trek

  • There are home stays available at Anmu, Chah and Purne villages
  • Purne village has a guest house with a shop too for buying general stuff and food items
  • There is a guest house with attached bathroom at Phugtal monastery
  • Camping sites are available at almost all villages including Purne or you can ask the local villagers to let you camp in their farms
  • At Padum, you can stay at Omasila Hotel – Zanskar Valley. You can connect with Nobu Omasila at +91-9469369109. They mostly offer about 20% discounts to all DoW Community members, just email him the user Id of your DoW Community with a screen shot of any post made in the DoW Community. He shall also be able to help you arrange the Phuktal monastery trek as well.
Villages on the trek to Phugtal Monastery…
Villages on the trek to Phugtal Monastery
Villages on the trek to Phugtal Monastery
Villages on the trek to Phugtal Monastery
Villages on the trek to Phugtal Monastery
Villages on the trek to Phugtal Monastery

Other tips for Phuktal Monastery Trek

  • Local agents can help book the home stays in case you want no surprises after the tiring days of trekking 🙂
  • There are two satellite phones on way to contact with your loved ones, one at Cha village and other at Phuktal itself
  • If you want to do camping while trekking, it can be arranged by local travel agent in Padum, Zanskar. He will provide you a personal tent, kitchen tent, mattresses and sleeping bags. He will arrange the food of your choice too mostly limited to Indian, Italian and Chinese 🙂 .. Of course, there will be a professional guide, a cook and ponies so that you only have to carry yourself and water bottles
  • Taxi charges are about Rs 2600 for a drop to Icher and Rs 3000 for a pick up from Icher. Sometimes you have a choice to share the taxis, which helps in reducing the cost.
  • The guide and cook charges will be same for either one person or 10 in a group. The more people you have in group, more cheaper it will be.
  • You can also get bikes or bicycles on rent from Padum if you want to add more adventure to your journey. You can connect with Zangskar Explorer in Padum, contact number +91-9469369109 – Nobu Omasila. He shall also be able to help you arrange the Phuktal monastery trek as well. You can refer him DoW Community or my name, he will be happy to help always.
  • If you visit Bardan and Muney monasteries on the first day it will be more enjoyable because when you will be back from the trek you may be tired and mostly people skip. But, that adds to less time left to make it to Chah village on Day 1 itself.
  • There are basic medical facilities are there at Chah village as well
  • If you want it to be a relaxed trek to Phuktal monastery, you can do it in 4-5 days with very easy pace and more enjoyment
  • As with any other high altitude trip, especially for this trek PLEASE carry more than enough water, ORS, energy drinks (optional), dry fruits, chocolates, eatables, regular medicines to help you survive at least two-three days

How you can help Phugtal Monastery & Spread Smiles

You must be wondering what this section is all about? Well, it is all about spreading smiles in remotest villages of Himalayas… As you must be knowing by now that there is a Phuktal Monastic School at Phugtal monastery that provides free quality education to the local children of Lungnak valley in Zanskar. Also, if you are connected with Devil On Wheels, you also must be familiar with our DoW Cause – GYAAN 500. It basically envisions to support / aid the educational material such as school stationary, books, notebooks, school bags, etc.. required in local schools in the remote villages of Himalayas.

Well, in December 2014, a landslide occurred between the Shun and Phuktal villages which caused the formation of a landslide dam on the Phuktal river. In May 2015, the Phuktal river flooded as it burst and washed away the entire school campus 😥 😥 … The building, equipment, materials, and stores were all destroyed leaving nothing but shattered dreams of education. The monastery has applied to both central and state govt. for providing the financial aid to help rebuild the school and restart their educational programs. However, I request each and every traveller or tourist visiting the Phugtal monastery to help in their own individual capacities in order to restore the washed away local dreams of education in Lungnak valley !! The core team of DoW Community will soon be undertaking a project to contribute our part in this restoration but more the merrier, I will say. In order to check what all is required, you can also get in touch with Dr. Tsewang Yangjor directly at tsezanskar88@rediffmail.com or in Leh via telephone at 09469297433 or 91-1982-264585.

Hence, you are seeing such a section in this travel guide. I hope each one of you will come forward and support such a cause on your own to help this school in need. This is no less than spreading smiles and taking back loads of wishes of purity and innocence.

Stupas on the way to Phugtal monastery trek
Stupas on the way to Phugtal monastery trek
Stupas on the way to Phugtal monastery trek
Those many scary hanging bridges you cross on the trek to Phugtal monastery
Those many scary hanging bridges you cross on the trek to Phugtal monastery
Those many scary hanging bridges you cross on the trek to Phugtal monastery
Those many scary hanging bridges you cross on the trek to Phugtal monastery
Karsha Monastery near Padum, a distant view…
Karsha Monastery near Padum, a distant view

Conclusion

I hope the above travel guide to this fascinating buddhist monastery (Phuktal monastery) proves helpful in planning your next trip to Phukgal monastery. Feel free to post any comments, queries or suggestions either in DoW Community or comments section at the end of the article.

Have you been to Phuktal monastery before or planning to make your next trip to Zanskar valley? How about sharing your stories or thoughts with us too?

Special thanks to dear friend, Nobu Omasila from Padum, who provided all the required details for the trek to Phuktal and contributed these pictures to DoW Community.

If you found above article useful, then PLEASE stay connected with us on Facebook or Twitter or Email Subscription for any himalayan travel queries or travel updates / tips / news / guides on Traveling to Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Kashmir and other parts of Himalayas. Travel, off the road with us...


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You can call me an Avid Traveler, a Day - Night Dreamer and a Passionate Lover of Himalayas who has a high zest for driving whilst exploring new places in Himalayas & sharing back those Himalayan Travel experiences with the other fellow Travelers... I am in love with Spreading Smiles in Himalayas through DoW Causes & currently enjoying life as Happy Traveling Soul at DoW Community. You can read more about me in detail at the link here ...

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44 Comments

  1. shivam soni on

    Hi Dheeraj,

    It would be great if you could provide an update on the current status of Jispa – Phugtal route as of now June 2017. Also I am coming this july to Leh doin the entire circuit starting from Jammu -Srinagar- Kargil – Leh – Nubra – Turtuk – Pangong – Hanle – Tso Morriri – Tso Kar – Sarchu – Jispa – Manali on bike & Car. I know you have already stated that the route is incomplete and we have to trek to reach the marvellous Monastery, so i just wanted to know it current road status and if it can be adjusted on the way back to Manali from Sarchu.??

    • Shivam, the route from Jispa to Padum is not yet open. It will still take a couple of years to fully connect it as per locals. The route is only open up to Shinku la pass, about 40 KMs from Darcha

  2. Natalia Horinkova on

    Thanks for this amazing article. Would you recommend going in November – December? Or should I try planning this trip rather September?

    • No, please plan the trip in September. November – December will be too late and the road connecting to Padum from Kargil also closes by that time of the year.

  3. aquatarkus17 on

    Hi,are posible
    1 Kargill -Padum
    2- near Padum atractions (Karsha, Sangla etc)
    3- end of the road – cha
    4-Cha -Phugtal (night in monastery)
    5- Phugtal -begin the road, car tu Padum
    6- Padum to Kargill ?

    • This looks feasible to me. You will be needing shared taxi from Kargil – Padum to save costs. Also, do take a local with you from the village so that you are not alone on Phugtal trek.

  4. Hi, Dheeraj.

    My Whatapps Contact no. 7829171686

    I want to trek to Phugtal monastery after reading your wonderful guide to this place.

    Im travelling from Manali-Leh highway.

    So my planning is as below:

    Day 1 Manali- Keylong
    Day 2 Keylong-Leh-Kargil
    Day 3 Kargil-Padum
    Day 4 Padum-Cha village
    Day 5 Cha-Phugtal
    Day 6 Phugtal-Cha-Padum-Sani village
    Day 7 Sani-Padum-Lamayuru-Leh

    Can u give me some suggestion on my schedule?

    Is it possible to cover Keylong-Leh-Kargil in one day? Im taking HPDTC bus that depart in the morning from Keylong.

    And is it possible to cover Sani-Padum-Lamayuru-Leh in one day as well?

    Really hope to hear from you very soon. I will travel in first week of Sep. You can whatapps contact me too.

    Very much appreciated!

    • Well Sonship, there are few things which is too much in your plan:

      Day 2, Keylong to Leh is only possible. Then next day Leh – Kargil and then next Kargil Padum
      On all these days you will have to leave by 6 AM especially on Day 2 and Day 4. Then, one day rest is required in Padum to acclimatize a bit so that you can do the trek. Then, similar amount is required to return back.

      • Hi, Dheeraj.

        According to your suggestion, i made some adjustment as below.

        Day 1 Manali- Keylong
        Day 2 Keylong-Leh
        Day 3 Leh- Kargil
        Day 4 Kargil- Padum
        Day 5 Padum-Cha-Phugtal
        Day 6 Phugtal-Cha-Padum-Sani village
        Day 7 Sani-Padum-Lamayuru/Kargil
        Day 8 Lamayuru/Kargil-Leh

        Please help me to look through this revised schedule.

        Q1. On Day 5, is it possible to complete the trek from Padum to Phugtal?

        Q2. On Day 7, is it possible for to stay overnight in Lamayuru?

        Q3. Most importantly, can I complete this 8 days visit to Zanskar valley all by Shared taxi/ public bus?

        Hope to hear from you. Big thank you!

  5. hi dheeraj. first of all a great article with some amazing pics. me and my best friend are planning a trip to phugtal from manali.

    we are planning to ride till purne as it is just 231 km from manali, but this route is not mentioned by any of the traveler as everyone has mentioned route from padum village.
    we are just collecting info bout few things
    1. availability of drinking water ?
    2. availability of petrol may be in bottle if any ?
    3.Can we stay in the monastery ? me & my buddy want to meditate for couple of days.
    4.How can we help in rebuilding the school?

    • Hi Varun,

      Manali to Purne road is under construction and only complete up to Shinko La pass. Hence, you do not see any mention by any traveller. It is a trek route alongside which BRO is building a road as well. So, you cannot make that trip from Manali brother. You can only go from Padum side to Phuktal or do Darcha – Padum trek.

  6. Just what I was looking for. I am preparing an itinerary for my Mumbai-Ladakh-Mumabai Motorcycle road trip. I have listed about 16 monastery, Hanle Observatory, Pangong Lake and Khardungla. About Phungtal Monastery, would it be possible to ride a motorcycle across the trails to reach here, or at least a nearest spot where I can park my bike and trek the remaining part.

    Also I would love to contribute to the school there. I was thinking of getting in touch with the school and maybe bring some supplies along with me if possible when I come there.

    • Vishal, you can ride the bike only to the point mentioned in the article above, may be at max. a KM more ahead on dirt track but dont think can go beyond it. You will need to have few days in your schedule to make a trip to Phugtal as mentioned in the article above.

  7. Hi Dheeraj,

    I am planning to go on bike to phuktal but confused about the routes.I Know that its has limited accessibility but i need to know where shall i enter from.There are two ways one from padum & then there is this google map shows from jispa through kurgiak chu road.I don’t know if this kurgiak really exists or not but it is really there then it might cover up lot of distance.Let me know if you have any idea about it?

    • Neil, what do you mean by bike? Motor bike? There is no road that goes to Phuktal. The one that goes from Jispa is not complete and is only possible up to Shinkoo La not beyond.

      • Thank you for replying. Can you share your email or phone no. .We are planning in september so i got some queries to ask for.It would be great if you could help.

  8. Hi Deeraj, this ((“I cannot rest from travel; I will drink life to the lees”-ALFRED, LORD TENNYSON,))shall define how Kevlar are the efforts you put to construct such an immaculate piece of travelogue, I wish i shall be able to generate such fantastic scenery dwelling on my cameras during my September first week visit.lastly an **important point is there is a complete route and road/ homes stay houses guided maps from “HIMALAYAN HOME STAYS” /snow leopard home stay in ladakh which can be found and very benefical to our DOW community taveler ,do check it. http://www.himalayan-homestays.com/ladakpages/default.html

  9. Hi,
    I have booed a tour which includes a guide to take on a day trek with over night stay in guest house from Padum – Phucktal monastery.

    My concern is that route dangerous like crossing water, dangerous foot brisges and walking along narrow paths on edges of cliffs and valley?

    Any advise would be helpful as I will be there in June this year

  10. hi
    This is vivek.
    I will be travelling from Srinagar – leh – Manali, starts june 6th.
    I wanna do this trek.
    But the problem is I am a solo traveler.
    I cant afford much for this trek alone.
    It would be helpful if i get any partners for this trek.
    Thanks.

    I forgot to tell this, very good and in depth article.
    keep doing.

  11. Hi Dheeraj!
    I came back from Ladakh and planning to go Zanskar in September.
    I want to do this trek to Phuktal, most likely from 20 to 23 of September. is it good time?
    can we arrange a room for sleeping in gompa?
    How is situation with river? I heard many times people could not go because of floods.
    One more suggestion- can you get any map of this trek with mentioned elevation?

    thanx,
    BR
    Katia

    • Yes, it is good time to travel in Zanskar Valley. Yes, gompa has stay options available. It was a flood situation last year but it got resolved after the flashfloods caused by landlside artifical lake burst.

      I am sorry about the map of it 🙁

      • Hi!

        I can’t find any of this villages (except Padum)) on the google-map, the only reason i need it is to know elevation (how much per day we go up and on which we sleep), may be I can contact travel agent who can give me such info? Can you suggest me anyone who replies emails?

  12. Eric Davenport on

    Hey Dheeraj!

    This is an amazingly helpful and article with beautiful photography! I am planning a trip to India and stumbled across this incredible looking Trek and am thinking I’ll have to add it to the itinerary. I have a few questions if you don’t mind answering!

    Do many of the people in the surrounding villages or monastery speak English? I would think homestay owners most likely speak English but I don’t want to assume anything.

    Is it possible to keep trekking past Phugtal to another destination, or is the best option to back track to Icher?

    I’d like to do this without a guide to save some money if possible . Is it easy to find homestays and keep from getting lost on the trail without a guide? Or would you suggest hiring one for this trek?

    Thanks for any insights!

    • Hello Eric,

      Thank you and glad you liked the article. Very unlikely that those people will be speaking English. Most of them are not even literate to higher classes. So, do not assume, you have to use your gestures to communicate or get an English speaking guide from Padum with you.

      Yes, from Phugtal, you can trek a little back towards Purne and start back the trek to Darcha. That is named as Darcha – Padum trek.

      I will suggest that you should have a guide with you. Though to save money many people take the local villagers with them too. But, having a company on a high altitude trek is absolutely necessary and locals know the terrain and region more than anyone else do. I always prefer a guide to such treks to remote places

  13. hi , quite interesting ; I had been to Leh Ladakh in 2012 . would like to trek on Zanskar or may be interested in some summer activities. I am 52 and fit for trek of 6-7 kms a day.

  14. Ole Ejnar HANSEN on

    Mamaste Sharma
    Thanks for teh very good information. My wife and I were at Phuktal in 1994. A great experiment, we slept at the monastery. Like to go back one day.
    The enlighted yak, OleEjnar Hansen, Denmark

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