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Young monk, Zanskar valley, Ladakh
Harvest in a village of Zanskar, Ladakh

Zanskar valley - cultural tour

Duration: 5-6 days
Distance: 990 km

The isolated Zanskar valley is known for its breathtaking landscapes and its remote and authentic villages where it looks like the time has stopped. The history-rich monasteries in Zanskar are often built around ancient cliff top meditation caves, preserving an archaic form of Buddhism.

After driving up the majestic Indus Valley, you will reach Kargil, the second largest town in Ladakh where 90% of the population is Shia Muslim. The Kargil-Zanskar road goes through Muslim villages in the fertile Suru valley adorned with glaciers and the towering Nun-Kun peaks (7135m). After crossing Pensi La pass, drive down to Padum, the capital of Zanskar.

Zanskar valley - cultural tour - map

Tour Highlights

Zangla palace & monastery

Zangla village was ruled until recently by a king who still lives here with his family. The village is protected by a small ruined citadel built on a hillock and it takes 15 minutes to hike up to the citadel. Inside, a small Buddhist shrine overlooking the entire valley is still intact. The nunnery centre is another place which is worth visiting in Zangla, here travellers can learn about the daily life of the nuns.

Zangla Gompa palace and monastery in Zanskar

Stongde monastery

The monastery, home to more than 60 monks, is the second largest in Zanskar. It is perched 300m above the valley, offering a spectacular view of the surrounding mountains and villages. There are several temples with beautiful wall paintings inside the gompa. Gon Khang, the temple of guardian deities, is one of the prominent shrines.

Stongde Gompa monastery in Zanskar

Karsha monastery

It is the largest monastery in Zanskar with a community of 120 monks. Belonging to the Gelugpa order, it was founded by the famous translator Phagspa Sherab in the 11th century. The whitewashed monastic quarters rise almost vertically on a mountainside above the village. Steep steps lead to the complex comprising eight temples, chortens, residential rooms and assembly halls.

Karsha Gompa monastery in Zanskar


Padum, with a population of 1500, is the capital of the Zanskar region. There are small restaurants, hotels, guesthouses and shops in the town. It is a good base for exploring the nearby villages and monasteries.

Padum, the capital of Zanskar

Sani monastery

The monastery is located on a flat area in the centre of the village. It is among the oldest monastic institutions of Tibetan Buddhism in Ladakh and Zanskar. A 6m-high stupa called Kanika Chorten is believed to have been constructed in the 2nd century.

Sani Gompa monastery in Zanskar

Zongkhul monastery

The monastery is built on a rock face containing two caves. According to the legend the famous Indian scholar-saint Naropa meditated for two years in the lower cave where his footprint can be seen on a rock near the entrance. Beautiful frescoes on the cave walls were painted by Zhadpa Dorje who visited the monastery some 300 years ago.

Zongkhul Gompa monastery in Zanskar

Pensi La & Drang Drung glacier

At an elevation of 4400m, Pensi La is the pass connecting the Suru and Zanskar valleys. From the pass, there is a spectacular view of the glistening white Drang Drung glacier, one of the largest in Ladakh with a length of 23 km and an average elevation of 4750m.

Pensi La and Drang Drung glacier, Suru and Zanskar Valleys

Rangdum Monastery

At the end of Suru valley, Rangdum is the first Buddhist village on the road to Zanskar. The gompa, located on a small hill, belongs to the Gelugpa order.

Rangdum Gompa monastery in Ladakh

Suru valley, Parkachik glacier & Nun-Kun mountains

The Suru river, a tributary of the Indus river, flows through the picturesque and fertile Suru valley located south of Kargil. Near Panikhar village, the magnificent Parkachik glacier moves slowly down from the northern slopes of the towering mountains Nun (7135m) and Kun (7087m).

Suru valley, Parkachik glacier and Nun-Kun mountains

Shargole monastery

Shargole is a small monastery which is perched in the heart of a granite cliff; its minuscule prayer chamber is accessed via a ladder. Inside the gompa there is an icon of an Avalokiteswara and three images of Tara carved in wood.

Shargole Gompa monastery in Ladakh

Mulbek rock carving

Mulbek is famous for the statue of Chamba, an impressive 9m-high Maitreya Buddha figure engraved on a rock face which is over 1000 years old.

Mulbek rock carving in Ladakh

Indus Valley from Leh to Lamayuru

All the highlights of the Indus valley tour to Lamayuru (Spituk, Phyang, Basgo, Likir, Rizong, Lamayuru) are also included in this tour.

Indus valley monasteries in Ladakh: Lamayuru, Likir and Spituk

All the itineraries can be customized to suit your own special interests, preferences and timing. Please contact us for more information.