“What are the places to see in Padum?” or “Tell us about local sightseeing in Padum – Zanskar Valley“, few questions readers on DoW always asks me. Well, I have already talked about How to plan a journey to Zanskar Valley and hence, you know how to reach Padum in Zanskar Valley. In this article today, I will talk about what are the places to see in Padum. This will help you plan your trip to Zanskar Valley accordingly and dedicate the required number of days for it.
What to see in Padum Village
Zanskar Valley, once known as kingdom of Zanskar, is a sub-district (tehsil) in Kargil district of Jammu & Kashmir state. About 240 KMs from Kargil and located at an altitude of 3670 Mtrs, Padum is the administrative headquarters of Zanskar Valley. In ancient times, Padum was used to be one of the two capitals of kingdom of Zanskar, other being Zangla which also houses a palace too. Padum village serves as the base for the tourists visiting Zanskar Valley. It offers decent range of restaurants to eat and private hotels or budget guest houses / home stays for overnight stay. There is a very decent government tourist bungalow too for the stay that charges about Rs 600-700 per night.
You will be able to find an ATM, a major govt. hospital, BSNL mobile phone network or landline telephones in Padum. In fact it is the only place where you will find these facilities after traveling about 50 KMs beyond Kargil, not even in any village of Suru Valley.
In Padum village, you can pay a visit to the Mud Palace of the local “Raja(King)”. There are some 8th century old rock carvings that you can watch near the river bank in Padim. You can also drive to the old village of Pibiting having that picturesque hilltop monastery seen from almost any corner of Padum. It is at Pibiting village where Zanskar river merges into Lungnak river and then runs down towards Lungnak valley in south-eastern Zanskar.
Local Sightseeing in Padum
Now, let’s look at the details of other local sightseeing in Padum and what are the places you can visit around Padum while you enjoy your stay in Zanskar Valley.
Phuktal monastery is one of the most popular and serenely located monastic establishment in whole of Ladakh and Zanskar Valley. It is housed in remotest corner of Lungnak Valley in south-eastern region Zanskar, Ladakh. Phugtal 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. You can read about it in detail and how to reach it from Padum in my previous article: Phugtal Monastery Trek – A Travel Guide
Zongkhul monastery lies about 37 KMs from Padum in Stod valley. It is build in a spectacular cave on a rock wall and belongs to the Drukpa school of Tibetan Buddhism. It is also known as Dzongkhul Monastery and lies on the Padum – Kishtwar route just before the ascent to Omasila Pass begins. The roads to Zongkhul monastery are not so good and hence, it takes about 2-2.5 Hrs to drive this 37 odd KMs. While driving from Padum towards Kargil, you will reach at Tungri village bridge. You have to leave and pass it to continue straight and reach a point where two roads fork out. You have to take the left desolated road in order to reach Zongkhul.
Zongkhul monastery is associated with Naropa, a popular Indian Buddhist yogi, who is said to have meditated in one of the two caves and the monastery is dedicated to him. You can see his footprints in the rock near the entrance to the lower cave. The terrace of the monastery offers some beautiful views as well.
Sani Monastery & Sani Lake
Sani monastery and Sani lake lies on the way to Zongkhul from Padum and is considered as a holy site. It is one of the 8 holiest Buddhist sites in the world and houses one of the 108 chortens constructed by emperor Kanishka in the first century AD. It is just 6 KMs from Padum and much like Zongkhul, Sani monastery also belongs to the Drukpa school of Tibetan Buddhism. The Sani lake offers very serene surroundings to spend any sunny afternoon around it.
Karsha is the largest & richest monastery in Zanskar region. It is the house of about 150 residential monks. Karsha is about 14 KMs from Padum village and offers extremely picturesque panoramic views of whole valley from its vantage points. The monastery complex is so large that it can be easily seen from the grounds of Padum village located on the hills. Khurshan village is the base of the monastery and also offers facilities for rafting in Zanskar river to the tourists. You must visit Karsha village for beautiful views in the evening.
Stongdey monastery is located at a hilltop, about 21 KMs from Padum village. It is one of my favorite places in Zanskar Valley because it offers some majestic 180 degree views of the entire valley and Zanskar range, especially in the morning. You will just love the views from the top, I bet it. Many people doing the Darcha – Padum trek also visits this monastery and it does have a accommodation facility too for the tourists. It is the second largest monastic institution in Zanskar Valley.
About 35 KMs from Padum village, houses a palace and used to be the second capital of kingdom of Zanskar in ancient times. There is no monastery in Zangla but a nunnery. However, Zangla is the last point where in general tourists visits as a day long road trip. The road to Zangla offers some beautiful vistas and popular point where the Zanskar rivers bends a u-turn along with soil eroded rock formations around it. Zangla palace offers good morning views of the valley.
Bardan monastery or Bardan Gompa is about 12 KMs south of Padum and fall on the opposite side of Padum – Stongdey – Zangla – Karsha – Padum circuit. Again in case you are interested in the monasteries and buddhist culture you can visit this 17th century Buddhist monastery which belongs to the Dugpa-Kargyud monastic order.
Sheela Village Waterfall
About 8 KMs from Padum, there is a refreshing waterfall at a village named Sheel village. The road going over to Darcha from Padum will run near this village once completed. In summers, it turns out to be a refreshing point to take a shower and in winters when it freezes, it is a lovely sight to watch again. Foreigners sometimes climbs it too in winters.
I know you must be thinking that most of the sightseeing places in Padum are monasteries or religious places. It could be very difficult for a person who do not have much interest. However, almost all of these monasteries falls on some very scenic route and offer beautiful aerial views of the valley from their vantage points. Hence, even in case you feel you had enough of monasteries while visiting Ladakh or Zanskar, do not give them a miss just because they themselves offer some majestic vistas.
I hope the article will help you decide which places to visit after reaching Padum in Zanskar Valley. If you know anything more about local sightseeing in Padum village, feel free to share with everyone here to help fellow travelers. In case, you can have questions about visiting Padum or Zanskar Valley feel free to post under the comments section of the article or in DoW Community forums.