Ladakh – Exploring Padum, Karsha, Strongde and Bardan Monastery and Back to Sankoo

25th September:

Once you approach Padum, the valley widens significantly and sandwiched between Zanskar Range at North and Great Himalayan Range in South. It’s actually a trekker’s paradise as many treks towards Lamayuru, Leh, Markha Valley, Darcha, Pangi Valley, Kishtwar starts from here in various directions. The long 274 km journey from Kargil and back in same way sometimes work as deterrent to visit this heavenly place. In next few years when Hanumil to Chilling would be connected along with Zanskar river Gorge, people can travel from Zanskar to Leh in just crossing 165km which is presently 500+ km via Kargil. Also road work is in progress between Reru and Zanskar Sumdo to connect Darcha in Leh-Manali highway to connect with Padum via Singo La. There is a plan of building a tunnel in Singo La as well and with Rohtang Tunnel if this can be done, Manali – Leh would be an all weather road bypassing it’s present alignment across high passes of Barlacha la, Nakeela, Tanglang la. You should have 2 full days for Padum to do some justice to this place. Unfortunately we have only a day to spare. We started our day with Zangla Palace which in on the way to newly built unfinished road towards Leh in North. The valley view was awesome and we enjoyed an awesome Horse Shoe Bend on Zanskar River enroute, straight from geography text book. Car can’t go till top and you have to walk if you want to go up on the palace to get a dramatic view of the valley. On the way we climbed a steep Strongde Diversion to see that Monastery as well. Absolute brilliant view from top. Bardan Monastery is on the southern side via the road towards Reru and it’s completely different view with deep canyons and gorges all through. The monastery was built on a hillock and commands a majestic view. Better visit the place around noon when sun would be at top so you get better lights for photography, else this stretch is difficult for photography with deep canyons around. The Bardan experience was superb, the monk opened the door, explained us on history of monastery and the two different sect in Buddhism, Gelukpa (Monasteries like Karsha, Strongde, Rangdum fall in this category) and Drukpa (Bardan, Zongkhul, Topchilling, Gurugandhal, last two are in Keylong fall in this category). They offered tasty namkeen chay (Butter Tea) and also offered us the lunch. Their hospitality would surely touch you. We came back to Padum, take a little break and proceeded to Karsha to get the dramatic view from Karsha towards Padum Valley. Karsha is a must visit during sun set and experience the last rays of light kissing the valley floor, awesome experience indeed!! It was our last night at Padum and without the availability of cook (most of the support staffs in these hotels leave by Mid Sep and it becomes very difficult to manage acco and food specially if you are a large group during end season), the owner was kind enough to serve mutton, very tasty indeed in that height and cold.

Towards Zangla valley:


Strongde Monastery at right side top:


From the Strongde Monastery looking towards Zangla Valley:


Zangla Palace:


A Sweet Zanskari Baby, see the invaluable smile after getting the Cadbury:


It’s all about colors, really awesome during fall:


Zanskar River taken a Horse Shoe Bend, Straight from geography text book:


What a place to stay:


Bardan Monastery, a very dramatic location on a cliff:


Kid with Lama, inside Bardan Monastery:


Karsha Monastery from other side of Valley:


Zanskar Valley from Karsha Monastery:


Karsha Monastery:


26th September:

I mentioned Padum Taxi Union is another bottleneck and they would force you to take their car for sight seeing and drop to Kargil. Here Kazim again taken a brilliant move, he managed a car requisition slip from Army where it’s mentioned the car was requisitioned for army purpose form Drass and having army guests in it. Zanskar guys asked a few questions but Kazim outsmarted them with this and we had an excellent trip with him all through with no pressure of taking a Zanskar car anywhere. The return had to be in same route and honestly little scary if you think you have to travel same 274km of road again. We started early, quick look at Sani Gompa and then heading fast towards Drang Drung Glacier. We parked the car before the Pensila Ascent from Zanskar side and tried a small trek to glacier which was very much possible but even a 30 mins walk in that height with chilling wind is difficult to withstand. Also going to glacier was easy as you go down and know where you are heading, coming back to car was quite difficult as you can’t figure height from below towards the road on top. I managed to hit the road at least 2 km behind the car was parked and had to walk. We spent little more than an hour in whole but it was an amazing experience being so close to a glacier. Rangdum was a stop for quick lunch and we crossed the worst section of Rangdum and Parkachik in an hour and half. We dashed to Sankhoo as next day we were planning for Leh but Sankhoo GH of JKTDC seems to be in poorer condition than Purtikchey, though markets were closeby and getting foods were easier here. Purtikchey had geysers in the rooms, Sankhoo didn’t have which was a necessary requirement in end September.

Retracing back the Zanskar Valley:


Zanskari Girl with Yak at Skaygam Village:


Drang Drung Glacier Again:


Zanskar – The Wild West:


Once again Suru Valley at its magical best:



Approaching Rangdum:


Randum Monastery:


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