Lying deep in the northern arm of Zanskar
at the end of the 35-km long rough road from Padum,
Zangla was being ruled by a titular king till his death in 1989. The old
castle now in ruins except from a small chapel, occupies a hill,
overlooking the desertic valley below.
Ladakh and Zanskar are famed for dogs, big and small, but nowwhere are there as many per family as in Zangla. They include some Corgi lookalikes that appear on the roof of one of the house of the king of Zangla. The old king, who was such a delightful host to trekking parties, died in 1989.
Although for a century the king had held only a nominal title, his lineage can be traced back to when the royal lineage in Zanskar was split. One side of the family ruled from Padum, and the other from Zangla was able to reach an accord which allowed him to retain a nominal rule over the nearby villages of Honia and Chazar, and the villages of Hanumil, Pidmu and Pishu on the far side of the valley. The head monk at Spitok is related to this family, and also administrators the Zangla monastery, which is on the cliff just beyond the village.
Situated near to the ruined castle is the old Nunnery worth
a visit for the austere life style of the small monastic community of
nuns. An old monastery situated in the nearby village of Tsa-zar has
exquisite frescos that shouldn't be missed. The village lies mid-way
between Stongdey and Zangla.
The Padum_Markha Valley Treks
Zangla is the nodal point on the popular Padum-Strongdey-Zangla-Karsha-Padum round trip, which covers most of the cultural sites of Zanskar. The old rope suspension bridge spanning the tumultuous Zanskar near Zangla - a rare feat of folk engineering - is no more in use, but still visible. The river is now crossed by a temporary footbridge for approaching the left bank, along which the trail to Karsha follows. Zangla is also the take-off point for the Padum-Markha valley treks.
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 Stongdey, Zangla and Karsha. 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.
In Zangla 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. There are well-furnished rooms also available in the tourist Complex at Padum. 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.