Phugtal Monastery or Phugtal Gompa is housed in the remotest corner of Lungnak Valley in the south-eastern region of Zanskar Valley, 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 trip to Phugtal Monastery. Hence, it is also widely popular by the name of “cave monastery.” The remote location of the Phugtal monastery leaves you with nothing but all the peace and solitude you can ask from mother nature.
Let's quickly dive into the details:
Phugtal gompa lies in the remote corner of the Zanskar Valley of the Ladakh region. People can trek to one of the most popular honeycomb-shaped Buddhist monasteries in Ladakh.
Padum gets disconnected from the world in winters due to heavy snowfall on Kargil to Padum road over Pensila Pass. Hence, people walk over the Chadar trek to reach Padum and then take the Padum Phugtal trek route. During summers, the supplies are transported to the monastery through mules/donkeys or horses.
In the 2020 – 2021 winters, the road from Kargil to Padum over Pensila Pass remained open all around the years, which is a big welcome to the year-round connectivity to Zanskar.
This monastery belongs to the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism. Gelug is one of the newest schools of Tibetan Buddhism and was founded by Je Tsongkhapa. In the early 15th century, Jangsem Sherap Zangpo, a disciple of Tsongkhapa established Phugtal gompa.
Beginning in 2020, you can now travel to Phugtal Monastery from Manali to Darcha to Shinku La to Phuktal monastery as well. This new route offers some majestic beauty on the road and traveling via Shinku La pass adds a unique touch to the overall journey.
You can just visit Phugtal monastery and come back via the same route from Manali to Padum via Shinku La – Darcha in case not interested to cover Zanskar Valley or if you have already covered it.
Phuktal Monastic School is set up 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.
Hence, the whole village life revolves around the Phuktal monastery only.
If you pay a visit, DO NOT forget to carry some education material to be donated to the school and spread smiles.
Phuktal monastery hosts 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 come over to see the Amchi when there are any health issues. The monks from the monastery perform traditional prayers in the village at the significant events that are birth, wedding, death, etc.
Don’t forget to read my article on planning a budget trip to Zanskar Valley.
June to September is the best time to visit Phugtal monastery. In summers, the road from Kargil to Padum opens when snow is cleared from Pensila Pass in the May-June period. Srinagar Leh Highway also opens in May. Hence, you can make a road trip to Zanskar Valley only in the summer months of June to September.
Similarly, the road from Manali – Darcha to Shinku La Pass will open in May end or June after which you can travel on this new route to Phuktal Monastery. The road will remain open up to the end of October after which it becomes very risky to travel on these remote routes in Ladakh or Zanskar.
As of October, the high passes of the Himalayas start getting snowfall. The chances of Pensila Pass closing for the season get higher and higher with each passing day of October.
By October or November, Pensila Pass closes and disconnects Zanskar Valley from the rest of the world. Similarly, Shinku La pass closes in winters and even the connectivity between Keylong to Darcha is closed in the winter months. So, you cannot travel via this new route to Phugtal from the Manali side as well during the wintertime of the year.
In winters, when the Zanskar river freezes to ice, people walk over it to reach Padum on the adventurous Chadar Trek.
You can also read the detailed article to know more about the Best Time to Travel Ladakh & Zanskar
As of 2022, the tourists can get to the Phugtal monastery either by Padum – Phugtal route or they can reach Phuktal from Manali – Darcha – Shinku La – Padum road route.
The road connecting Padum to Darcha – Manali via Shingo La in Himachal is entirely operational in 2020. This road goes passing by Purne from where you can go for the Phugtal monastery trek. This trek will take just about a couple of hrs to reach the monastery as compared to earlier days.
Even from the Padum side, now you can drive to Purne which is on the way from Padum to Manali road. Then it will take 2 hrs from Purne to Phuktal as there are no roads till Phuktal monastery as of now.
If you are interested in more of a pure trek route from Padum to Phugtal then you can trek from Icher to Anmo to Cha to Phuktal or Icher to Anmo to Purne which lies at the other side of the Lungnak river and then to Phugtal monastery. Refer to the 3-day plan itinerary below.
Are you not sure about the budget for the trip? Well, you can read my detailed article on how to calculate the cost of the Zanskar Valley trip?
As of 2021, the road has been connected at both ends from Padum to Darcha via Shinglo La pass and lots of people have already covered this route in the 2020 and 2021 seasons. I hope in season 2022 as well; more and more people will start traveling from Darcha to Padum via Shingo La pass. This route will certainly make this monastery very popular among tourists.
There have been several vehicles as of October 2020 end that reached Padum from Darcha – Manali side. Hence, next season in 2020 we may start seeing more vehicles reaching Manali to Padum over Darcha – Shingo La route.
Please bear in mind that the road near Shinku La pass on either side is pretty challenging and you require to cross a couple of deepwater crossings which can be quite challenging in the early season when snow melts and July – August time when rains are common.
If you have only a day to visit Phuktal monastery from Padum, then better start your day early in the morning. It takes more than 2 hrs to drive from Padum to Purne and then you need to trek for 2 hrs to reach the monastery.
You will spend some time up there at the monastery as well and then you can consider a similar time to return to Padum or reach Kurgiak further towards Darcha – Manali. So, if you have enough days in hand, it’s worth spending a night at Purne Homestay or at Phuktal monastery itself, as most people opt to do. Refer to 2 Day itinerary below.
As suggested above, the one-day trip to Phuktal is now possible but not recommended, I will suggest you follow the below two-day trip plan to visit Phuktal from Padum to either return or continue towards Manali from Padum via Darcha – Shingola pass route.
After breakfast drive towards Phuktal monastery. On the way, you can visit the Bardan monastery which is on a rock cliff beside the bank of the Tsarap river. Then have lunch at Purne and enjoy the beauty of Lungnak valley. You can also witness blue sheep there if you are lucky enough.
You can spend the night at Purne Guest House or Homestay and maybe go camping in the wild up there.
After breakfast trek towards Phugtal. You can take about 2 hrs for regular trekkers and about 3 hrs for non-regular trekkers. After reaching the monastery, have your lunch at Phuktal.
There is a small guest house which is run by Phuktal monastery monks for the Travellers. If you wish to eat there then you have to order an hour in advance or they can serve you with Maggie and tea on instant order.
After exploring trek back to Purne from where you can take your car or taxi to drive you back to Padum or further towards Kurgiakh campgrounds so that you can continue your journey the next day towards Shinku La Pass – Darcha – Manali.
Apart from the road journey to Purne, the only other way to reach the Phugtal monastery is by trekking to it. I need to assume that you are properly acclimatized in Padum. It is a bare minimum necessary to undertake any high-altitude trek.
If you are wondering how to reach Padum or Zanskar Valley, please read my article on Zanskar Valley – Most Common Itinerary
I will provide a day-by-day itinerary of the Padum to Phuktal Monastery trek along with other necessary details.
If you love planning your Himalayan trips, then do read the detailed travel guide on how to make a road trip to Zanskar?
You can also plan to include the Karsha monastery while coming back to Padum in case you have time or you plan to add a day. Karsha monastery can also be visited as a part of local sightseeing in Padum village.
You should check the 12 must-have things to carry on a trek or camping trip in the Himalayas.
At Padum, you can stay at Omasila Hotel – Zanskar Valley. You can connect with Nobu Omasila at +91-7889857547 or +91-9469369109. They mostly offer about 40% discounts to all DevilOnWheels Community members. You can always refer my name (Dheeraj/DevilOnWheels) to Nobu bhai.
Nobu bhai also runs Kailash hotel at the main market at a cheap price of Rs 1000 double bed with attached bathroom and hot showers.
He will also be able to help you arrange the entire Phuktal monastery trek from Padum as well.
Trip Suggestion: If you are interested in the monasteries, do not forget to visit Hemis Monastery in Ladakh on your trip.
You must be wondering what this section is all about? Well, it is all about spreading smiles in the remotest villages of the Himalayas. As you must be knowing by now that there is a Phuktal Monastic School at the 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 must be familiar with our DoW Cause – GYAAN 500. It envisions to support/aid the educational material such as school stationery, 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 for providing financial aid to help rebuild the school and restart their educational programs.
However, I request every traveler or a tourist visiting the Phugtal monastery to help in their capacities to restore the washed away local dreams of education in Lungnak valley !! The core team of the DoW Community will soon be undertaking a project to contribute our part in this restoration, but the more the merrier, I will say.
To check what is required, you can also get in touch with Dr. Tsewang Yangjor directly at email@example.com or in Leh via telephone at 09469297433 or 91-1982-264585.
Hence, you see 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 on your next trip to Phugtal monastery. This is no less than spreading smiles and taking back loads of wishes of purity and innocence.
I hope the above travel guide to this fascinating Buddhist monastery (Phuktal monastery) proves helpful in planning your next Phukgal monastery trip. Feel free to post any comments, queries, or suggestions either in the DoW Community or the comments section at the end of the article.
Have you been to the 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 a dear friend, Nobu Omasila from Padum, who provided all the required details for the trek to Phuktal and contributed these pictures to DoW Community.
This post was last modified on Feb 15, 2022 08:53
Are you looking for a hostel in Leh, or are you a biker looking to… Read More
Let me start this article to capture the road conditions from Delhi to Spiti valley… Read More