A Beautiful Buddhist Town
Phugthal is by far the most spectacularly located monastic establishment anywhere in Ladakh , the Phugthal complex spills out of the mouth of a huge cave high up in the sheer mountain face of a lateral gorge through which a major tributary of the southern Lungnak (Lingti-Tsarap) River flows.
Perhaps, the most isolated monastic establishment of Zanskar, its foundation dates back to the early 12th century. The sight of the monastery on the limestone Cliffside never fails to impress. The main assembly hall is carved out of a huge cave, with the monks quarters scattered down the hillside. Inside the monastery there is an inscription to "Coso de Koros", one of the first Europeans to visit the Zanskar region and the first to translate the Buddhist texts from Ladakhi into English.
The Trekking Route
Phugthal is accessible from the Padum-Manali trekking route through a 7-km long trail that branches off from the Purney Bridge on the main trail. A visit to Phugthal, including Bardan and Muney monasteries enroute, makes a good 5-days round trek from Padum. Alternatively, one can add one extra day to Padum-Manali trekking itinerary to include a day-return visit to this unique monastic establishment inhabited by a resident community of about 40 monks.
Road: The 240-km long Kargil-Padum
road, of which the first 90-km stretch is paved, remains opened from
around mid July to early November. The J&K SRTC operates a
thrice-weekly bus service from Kargil. However groups can charter A-Class
or even Super-Deluxe buses to visit Zanskar,
including the interior places of interest like Strongdey, Zangla and
Jeeps and Gypsy taxis can also be hired at Kargil. During June and early July, prior to opening of the road, it is recommended to walk into Zanskar from Panikhar or Parkachik onwards. In June, the summer is at its height in the region and the climate is ideal for trekking along the route free from vehicular traffic of any kind and when the countryside is freshly rejuvenated into life after months of frigid dormancy.
The tourist Complex at Padum provides furnished rooms. There is catering arrangement in the complex, while camping place nearby is available for budget tourists travelling with personal tents. Padum town has several private hotels where rooms with basic facilities are available. At Karsha Dormitory accommodation is available in the newly build inn where basic vegetarian food is also provided. In the distant villages like Stongdey, Zangla, Sani, etc., accommodation can be sought from the villagers either on payment or in exchange of a suitable gift. Some monasteries may also take in guests, through more as a gesture of goodwill than on purely commercial consideration. Of course the guest is expected to compensate the monastery suitably.
Zanskar: 70-km (Approx.)