jammu & kashmir

April 16, 2018 | Author: Anonymous | Category: Documents
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Local buses leave Kargil in the morning and afternoon for Drass. ..... operates its own wireless Radio phone network wit...

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JAMMU & KASHMIR DRASS

Location: 60-km west of Kargil, Ladakh Region, On the Road to Srinagar, J&K Altitude: 3,300m Significance: Second Coldest Towns in the World. Main Attraction: Trekking Situated at an altitude of 3,300m, 60-km west of Kargil on the road to Srinagar, Drass is a small township lying in the center of the valley of the same name. It has become famous as the second coldest inhabited place in the world by virtue of the intense cold that descends upon the valley along with repeated snowfalls during winters. Winter temperature is sometimes known to plummet to less than -40\u00b0. But during summer season the tracts around Drass present a pleasant pastoral sight, offering a complete contrast to the savage face worn by it during the winter months. In this area the dialect spoken is named after the weather - "Hambabs" means snowfall. The fields around Drass are cultivated for both cereals and cash crops. Drass has a number of monasteries and a small bazaar. It is connected to other parts of Ladakh by road. PRIME ATTRACTIONS Zoji La: The Drass valley starts from the base of the Zoji La pass, the Himalayan gateway to Ladakh. For centuries its inhabitants are known to have negotiated this formidable pass even during the most risky period in the late autumn or early spring, when the whole sector remains snow-bound and is subject to frequent snow storms, to transport trader's merchandise across and to help stranded travelers to traverse it. By virtue of their mastery over the pass they had established a monopoly over the carrying trade during the heydays of the Pan-Asian trade. A hardly people enduring with fortitude and harshness of the valley's winter, the inhabitants of Drass can well be described as the "Guardian's of Ladakh's Gateway". Puga Valley: The Puga Valley is famous for its hot water springs. Every year hundreds of visitors come to this valley for a bath in these springs as this is known to help people suffering from rheumatism and skin diseases. Trekking: Drass is a convenient base for a 3-day long trek to Suru valley across the subrange separating the two valleys. This trek passes through some of the most beautiful upland villages and flower sprinkled meadows on both sides of the 4,500m high Umbala pass, which falls enroute. The trek to the holy cave of Amarnath in neighboring Kashmir, which stars from Minamarg below Zoji La, takes 3 days and involves crossing of 5,200m high pass. Drass also offers numerous shorter treks and hikes to the upland villages HOW TO REACH THERE Road: Buses plying between Srinagar and Kargil/Leh touch Drass. Local buses leave Kargil in the morning and afternoon for Drass. Srinagar is well connected with rest of the country via Air and Road through National Highway NH IA.

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WHERE TO STAY The Tourist Complex here provides furnished rooms and suites. Advance reservation can be done through the tourist office at Kargil or its branch at Drass. Some private hotels also provide rooms equipped with basic necessities. Note: All Tourists to Ladakh travelling from Srinagar by road are required to register themselves at the Tourist Registration Center at Drass. NEARBY CITIES Kargil: 60-km Srinagar: 147-km

GULMARG

Location: 56-km South West Of Srinagar, Kashmir Region, J&K Main Attractions: Alpather Lake, Golf Courses & Skiing Altitude: 2,730m Best Time To Visit: In Summer - May To September In winter - November to February The Meadow Of Flowers: A huge cup shaped meadow, lush and green with slopes where the silence is broken only by the tinkle of cowbells, Gulmarg looks like a fantasy set in a film and not surprisingly have been the venue of several films. The valley of Gulmarg, a large meadow about 3-sq-kms in area, stands at 2,730 metres, 56-km south west of Srinagar. The name means 'Meadow of Flowers' and in the spring it's just that, a rolling meadow dotted with countless colorful Bluebells, Daisies, Forget Me Not's and Buttercups. The valley itself is about 3-km long and up to a km wide. Take a Hike! : All around are snow-capped mountains, and on a clear day one can see all the way to Nanga Parbat is one direction and Srinagar is another. It's a popular day trip from Srinagar to Gulmarg, although many people extend their stay or use it as a base for trekking. The road from Srinagar rises gently towards the lower slopes of the range, passing through rice and maize fields. From Tangmarg, at the foot of the range, there are two paths to Gulmarg - a steep footpath or a winding sealed road. There is also a pony track from Gulmarg that leads upwards to Khilanmarg, Kongdori and seven springs. PRIME ATTRACTIONS Khilanmarg: This smaller valley is about a 6-km walk from the Gulmarg bus stop and car park. The meadow, carpeted with flowers in the spring, is the site for Gulmarg's winter ski runs and offers a fine view of the surrounding peaks and over the Kashmir Valley. It's a 600-metre ascent from Gulmarg to Khilanmarg and during the early spring, as the snowmelts, it can be a very muddy hour's climb up the hill. The effort is rewarded, if it's clear, with a sweeping view of the great Himalayas from Nanga Parbat to the twin 7,100-metre peaks of Nun and Kun to the southeast. Alpather Lake: Beyond Khilanmarg, 13-km from Gulmarg at the foot of the twin 4, 511 metre Apharwat peaks, this lake is frozen until mid-June and even later in the year one can see lumps of ice floating in its cold waters. The walk from Gulmarg follows a wellgraded Pony track over the 3, 810 metre Apharwat ridge, separating it from Khilanmarg, 2

and then up the valley to the lake at 3,843 metres. The more adventurous trekkers can climb straight up the boulder-strewn slope of the ridge and descend the other side to the path. For horse riding aficionados, Alpather Lake makes an exciting day's excursion, starting early morning and returning late evening. Reservation Desk The Ningli Nallah: Flowing from the melting snow and ice on Apharwat and the Alpather Lake, this pretty mountain stream is 8-km from Gulmarg. The stream continues down into the valley below and joins the Jhelum River near Sopur. This long, grassy valley is a popular picnic spot and the walking path carries on, crossing the Ningli (also spelt as Ningle) Nallah by a bridge and continues on to the Khilenmarg, another grassy meadow and a good spot for camping. In early summer one will probably share the campsites with Gujars moving their herds up to the high meadows. Foreshore Nallah: Reached from the Tangmarg road, or from the Outer Circular Walk, this mountain stream meets the Bahan River at a popular picnic spot known as 'waters meet'. The stream is reputed to be particularly good for trout fishing; it's about five-km down the valley from Gulmarg but quite close to Tangmarg. The river can be reached by walking 3-km down the path from the gap near Tangmarg and then heading south through the forest, down a slope towards the stream. Near here there is a bridge which leas to the small waters meet picnic spot on the Right Bank. Looking south from Tangmarg the river can be traced up to its source close to the rugged peak known as Foreshore or Shinmahinyu. On the right bank the stream branches, the left path leading to Tosa Maidan, while the right bends away towards the Gogaldara road at a second bridge, about 32-km upstream, and then leads away to the Foreshore pass, Poonch and Kantar Nag. One can continue on from here to Tosa Maidan, a three-day, 50-km walk to one of Kashmir's most beautiful Marg's, crossing the Basmai Gali pass at about 4,000 metres. The track here is very close to the cease-fire line with Pakistan and on the right one will pass the Jamainwali Gali, the pass at 4,000 metres is one of the easiest and safest routes into the Punjab. Shrine of Baba Reshi / Ziarat of Baba Reshi : This Muslim shrine is on the slopes below Gulmarg and can be reached from either Gulmarg or Tangmarg. The Ziarat, or tomb, is of a well-known Muslim saint who died here in 1480. Before renouncing worldly ways he was a courtier of the Kashmir King Zain-ul-Abidin. Every year thousands of devotees visit this shrine regardless of the faith they believe in. Golf Courses: Gulmarg also has one of the world's highest green golf courses, as well as a clubhouse, which is a historical building in its own right. For the would-be golfer, there are golf sets on hire, pros to instruct one in the game, and temporary memberships. Naturally, these facilities are available to players as well, except that serious golfers usually carry their sets along. Gondola Lift: For a fun filled ride of a most unusual kind, Gulmarg's newly constructed Gondola lift from high above Gulmarg, through pine clad slopes, is exhilarating. Gulmarg Biosphere Reserve: For witnessing the glorious fauna of the great Himalayan range, such as the Himalayan Musk Deer, Red Fox, Brown and Black Bear along with numerous resident and migratory birds, visit the Gulmarg Biosphere Reserve. Located at a height of 2,400m above sea level and with a coverage area of 180-sq-kms, this reserve

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is at a distance of 48-km from Srinagar. The best time to watch the wildlife is September to March. ADVENTURE SPORTS SKIING: In winter, Gulmarg acquires a new persona - which of the country's premier skiing resorts. Skiing, to many that watch it on TV, seems like a very elitist sport, requiring a high level of training and expensive equipment. They are surprised, when they visit Gulmarg for a day's expedition to "see the snow", that others with the same level of physical fitness and training are skiing down slopes. Gulmarg is the ultimate beginner's skiing resort. One doesn't requite a heavy woolen wardrobe - slacks or a Salwar Kameez will do fine. In Gulmarg one will also be able to drift to one of the many Ski shops and hire skis, sticks and goggles. Just find yourself a ski instructor and set off down a slope. Neither does one need to exert oneself climbing up slopes. The gentlest slope of 200m is linked with a ski lift, which helps one to go up. When one graduates to intermediate level - which will happen after the first few days of practice, there are other slopes, longer and steeper, which are connected by chair lift. The longest ski run in Gulmarg is provided by the Gondola cable car, which allows a ski run of 2,213m. GULMARG WALKS Outer Circular Walk: A circular road, 11-km in length, runs right round Gulmarg through pleasant pine forests with excellent views over the Kashmir valley. Nanga Parbat is clearly visible 137-km to the north, Haramukh 60-km to the east while to the south one can see the Foreshore and Sunset Peaks and the Apharwat Ridge. Nanga Parbat, the 'lord of the mountains', is the fourth highest peak on earth at 8,500 metres. HOW TO GET THERE Air: Gulmarg is in Baramula District and is 56-kms from Srinagar District. The nearest Airport from here is situated in Badgam District, which is well connected with all the major cities of the country. Rail: The nearest railhead is at Jammu. Road: The journey from Srinagar to Gulmarg takes approximately 2 hours in bus and may take short time by chartered conveyance. The road to Gulmarg is very beautiful and is lined with poplar trees all through. All sorts of transport are available to Gulmarg from Srinagar bus stand at Batmallo and from private transport operators. WHERE TO STAY There are numerous hotels of various standards available for accommodation purpose in Gulmarg, some of them being luxury, several being comfortable in addition to JKTDC's winterized, fully furnished huts, which are great value for money. Assistance for booking accommodation can be had from the booking manager at Tourist reception center in Srinagar. NEARBY CITIES Srinagar: 56-km

JAMMU

Location: 305-km From Srinagar, J&K Significance: The Second Largest Town in the State Of Jammu & Kashmir. Language Spoken: Dogri, Hindi, English, Urdu, Kashmir & Punjabi. Best Time To Visit: October to April

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A Legend: Jammu, the Duggar land where the past still has a living presence. A land of grand ancient temples, and beautiful palaces, all nestling in the foothills of the Himalayas. It is said that, on becoming King, the Suryavanshi Jambu Lochan went on a hunt and, crossing the Tawi, found a deer and a tiger drinking water from the same tank. His ministers explained that this meant that the soil of the place was so virtuous that no living creature bore enmity against another. Raja Jambu Lochan, who lived in the later Vedic period, decided to found his capital , Jambupura, on his soil, on the right bank of the Tawi, overlooking his brother king Bahu's fort. Today the temple of Maha Kali, better known as "Bahu" or "Bawey Wali Mata", located in the Bahu Fort, is considered second only to Mata Vaishno Devi in terms of mystical power. The present temple was built shortly after the coronation of Maharaja Gulab Singh, in 1822. The existing fort, as well as the Manasabdar's palace inside it, was constructed in 1820. A Temple City: Jammu is justly famous for its temples. Infact, it is known as the city of temples and the every fame of its trends to overshadow its palaces, forts, forests and powerful Ziarats (shrines). If Bahu Mata is the presiding deity of Jammu, the Dargah of Peer Budhan Ali Shah is the other shrine that protects Jammuites. The other major tourist attraction is the Ragunath Temple Complex. Maharaja Gulab Singh began the construction of the Raghunath Mandir Complex in the crowded downtown Bazaar named after it, in 1851. It was left to his son, Ranbir Singh, to inaugurate it six years later perhaps the most popular temple north of Banaras, it contains representations of almost entire Hindu pantheon, though the emphasis falls on the various incarnations of Lord Vishnu. The complex houses a rich collection of ancient texts and manuscripts. For those interested in languages one can hear Hindi, Kashmiri, English, Urdu, Punjabi and Dogri spoken in Jammu. The old city of Jammu is perched on a hilltop beside the Tawi River. A new town sprawls away from the hillside and extends for some distance across the other side of the river. History Legend has it that Jamboo Loochen founded the city about three thousand years ago. The Raja was hunting in the area, away from his capital city of Bahu when he came across a lion and a goat drinking from the same pond. The Shivadawala Shrine now stands on this spot in the city. Jammu is known as 'the city of temples' because of its many shrines, with their soaring golden spires or 'Shikhars'. There are many other shrines and temples around the city and environs that date from earlier years but the recorded history of Jammu begins from the time of the Dogra rulers in the early 19th century. In 1846 the Dogra ruler of Jammu was created Maharaja of an ill-defined Himalayan kingdom, 'to the eastward of the river Indus and westward of the river Ravi', by the treaties of Lahore and Amritsar at the conclusion of the first Sikh war. It was the lack of definition of this state - the forerunner of Jammu and Kashmir - that caused the continuing disputes with Russia and China over territory. The British created the state as part of a complex political buffer zone between their Indian Empire and China and Russia. For the Maharaja Gulab Singh, the treaty confirmed for him almost 25 years of fighting and negotiation with the small hill tribes along the northern border of the Sikh Empire,

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centered on the Punjab. The region remained under Dogra rule until the partition of India in 1947, when Hari Singh, the then Maharaja of Kashmir, decided that it would remain as part of India and the state of Jammu & Kashmir was born.

KARGIL

Location: 234-km From Leh in the East, Ladakh Region, J&K Altitude: 2,704m Local Dialect: Purik Historical Significance: An Important Trade And Transit Center in the Pan-Asian Trade Network. Kargil at an altitude of 2,704 m, 204-km from Srinagar in the west and 234-km from Leh in the east, is the second largest urban center of Ladakh and headquarters of the district of same name. It's situated in a lovely valley with apricot trees growing in the intensively cultivated fields. A quite town now, Kargil once served as important trade and transit center in the PanAsian trade network. Numerous caravans carrying exotic merchandise comprising silk, brocade, carpets, felts, tea, poppy, ivory etc. transited in the town on their way to and from China, Tibet, Yarkand and Kashmir. The old bazaar displayed a variety of Central Asian and Tibetan commodities even after the cessation of the Central Asian trade in 1949 till these were exhausted about two decades back. Similarly the ancient trade route passing through the township was lined with several caravansaries. Now, since 1975, travelers of numerous nationalities have replaced traders of the past and Kargil has regained its importance as a center of travelrelated activities. An Adventurers' Base Camp: Being located in the center of the Himalayan region with tremendous potentials for adventure activities, Kargil serves as an important base for adventure tours in the heart of Himalayas. It is also the take off station for visitors to the exotic Zanskar Valley. Tourists travelling between Srinagar and Leh have to make a night halt here before starting the second leg of their journey. The Town Life: The town lies nestling along the rising hillside of the lower Suru basin. Two tributaries of the Suru River that meet here are the Drass and Wakha. The most astounding things about the Kargil region are the artificially irrigated field areas. Since irrigation is so important in this region, the distribution of water requires great care. Every village is divided into groups, called "Gowar", have from five to 10 families, to ensure an equitable arrangement. Willows and poplars grow beside the irrigation ditches, which lead to the terraced fields and line the road for much of its length in this region. They furnish building materials for the construction of houses in this nearly treeless land. The Kargil region actually gets more rainfall than in the rest of Ladakh and the area grows plentiful wheat, barley, and vegetables and, of course, the apricots for which it is famous. Peas have been recently introduced and are flourishing. In May the entire countryside becomes awash with fragrant white apricot blossoms while August, the ripening fruit lends it an orange hue. The dialect spoken here is called "Purik" and shows its relationship with the dialect spoken in Skardu, Pakistan. In contrast to the rest of Ladakh, the children here are taught in Arabic. A momentous occasion in Kargil is the archery contest in May. 6

People Of The Kargil Region: Kashmir’s once came to the Kargil region to graze their cattle, and were followed by the tribes from Gilgit, Chitral and Mongols from Baltistan who settled there permanently. Later an Aryan tribe, the Purkpas, who now live around Drass, and the Dokpas, who are Aryan Buddhists, who live in the villages of Durchik and Gurkun, north of Kargil, drove out the Mongols. The Customs And Lifestyles: The Dokpas, who are Buddhists, are a community of about 700 people, descended from migrants from Gilgit, found mostly in the Indus valley villages of Durchik and Gurkun. They are known for the striking Aryan beauty of their women, and for their fair skin. They are fond of ornaments - even men wear earrings, necklaces, bracelets and strings of imitation pearls. Both sexes decorate their caps with a variety of blood red flowers, which puts them apart from all the other races in Ladakh. The Indus valley here is rich in fruit, particularly grapes, and the Dokpas delight in drink and dance - milk however is taboo. This curious mixture of Buddhist and Hindu religion means their respect for the cow is so intense that even cow dung is never used as a manure or fuel. The people grow their hair long and rarely bathe. The route to their region, over the range from Kargil to the Indus valley, and thence down to Leh, is forbidden to tourists because of the border dispute with Pakistan. The remote locality of the lower Indus villages and the custom of marrying mostly among themselves have preserved their distinctive identity. The government of a village is a seven-man council, elected by all the men. In July these villages celebrate a harvest festival, which lasts for several days. Gurdun, the main village of the region, is 80-km from Kargil. Muta & Polyandry: The custom of 'Muta' limited-duration marriages is still practiced in Kargil. The marriage contract signed at the wedding ceremony only applies for a limited time - in some cases only for one day. Another Tibetan marriage custom, which often strikes westerners as remarkable, is polyandry, the simultaneous marriage of more than one man to the same woman. Today polyandry is only practiced in outlying villages like Saliskote and Trespone. In this situation a woman marries her husband's younger brothers, except for any who may be monks. Together with the great number of unmarried monks and nuns, this practice functions as a social form of birth control -from Cunningham's visit to Ladakh in the mid19th century, up to the latest government of India census, the population of Ladakh has hardly altered. PRIME ATTRACTIONS Trespone and Sankhoo are two 'Imambaras' found in Kargil. These Turkish style buildings have Persian and Arabic speaking Muslim mystics, known as "Aghas", in residence. Kargil also has a mosque, the Jami Masjid. Kargil's Muslims are noted for their extreme orthodoxy - women are conspicuously absent from the streets and all forms of entertainment are frowned on. Like the Iranians the people follow the Shi'ite sect. The Bazaar: The main bazaar has many Kashmiri products including embroidery, turquoises, tobacco, raw sugar and exotic spices. One will also find cloth woven from the finest wool from the long fleeced mountain goats, brass bowls, flower vases, wine cups and tall jugs, leather shoes embroidered with silk or gold silver chains, rings, bracelets and charms, paintings, Pashmina shawls, brightly colored rugs and other more Chinese looking items. Nearby Tsaluskot is the grainery of the region, attracting people from

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Zanskar and Leh, who come to buy grain. The houses have stone foundations and a superstructure of unbaked, heavy clay bricks. EXCURSIONS Mulbek: Situated 45-km East of Kargil on the road to Leh, Mulbek (3,230 m) in an area dominated by the Buddhists. It is situated along either banks of the Wakha River, which originates. Many monuments of the early Buddhists era dot the landscape and are accessible from the road. Mulbek Chamba: The chief attraction of Mulbek (also spelt as Mulbekh) is a 9 m high rock sculpture in deep relief of Maitreya, the Future Buddha. Its excursion combines esoteric Shaivite symbolism with early Buddhist art. Situated right on the highway, it dates back to the period when Buddhists missionaries came travelling east of the Himalayas. Mulbek Gompa: Perched atop a rocky cliff, Mulbek Gompa (monastery) dominates the valley. It is easy to see why in bygone times this site served as an outpost to guard the caravan route. Like all Buddhists monasteries frescoes and statues adorn it. Shergol: Another picturesque village of the Wakha River valley, Shergol is situated across the river, right of the Kargil-Leh road. The main attraction is a cave monastery which is visible from a far as a white speck against the vertically rising ochre hill from which it appears to hang out. Below this small monastery is a larger Buddhist nunnery with about a dozen incumbents. The village is accessible by the motorable road that branches off from the Kargil-Leh road, about 5-km short of Mulbek. Shergol is a convenient base for an exciting 4-day trek across the mountain range into the Suru valley. It is also the approach base for visiting Urgyan-Dzong, a meditation retreat lying deep inside the mountains surrounding the Wakha River valley. This meditation retreat lies tucked away in an amazing natural mountain fortress high up in Zanskar range. Concealed within is a circular tableland with a small monastic establishment at its center. The surrounding hillside reveals several caves where highranking Buddhists saints meditated in seclusion. At least one such cave is associated with the visit of Padmasambhava, the patron saint of Tibetan Buddhism. The main approach is to footpath laid through the only gap available in the rocky ramparts. Wakha Rgyal: Tucked away inside the picturesque upper part of the Wakha Valley, upstream of Mulbek, Royal gives the appearance of a medieval settlement of cave dwellings transported in to the modern times with some improvements and extensions. The houses, neatly whitewashed and closely stacked, are dug into the sheer face of a vertical cliff that rises high above the green valley bottom. From a far the village looks like a colony of beehives hanging from the ochre granite of the Cliffside. HOW TO REACH THERE Road: The J&K SRTC operates regular buses including deluxe coaches between Srinagar and Leh/Kargil. Cars and Jeep taxis can be hired at Srinagar and Leh for Kargil. Local buses including mini coaches, for Mulbek leaves Kargil every morning and afternoon. Cars and Jeep taxis can be hired at Kargil for same day return trips. Srinagar is also well connected properly with rest of the country through Air and Road network. WHERE TO STAY Kargil: There is no dearth of accommodation in Kargil. Hotels are classified into A, B, C and Economy class based upon the standard of establishments and service available. There are two Tourist Bungalows at Kargil together provide suites and furnished rooms

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with proper catering facilities attached with each establishment. The Tourist Office, Kargil, does advance reservation. There is also a circuit house at Baroo with excellent furnished rooms, which can be reserved through the office of the District Development Commissioner. Mulbek: The Tourist Bungalow here provides excellent furnished rooms with catering facilities. Dormitory accommodation at much reasonable price is available with some of the teashops near Mulbek Chamba. Alternatively tourists can return to Kargil for the night. GENERAL INFORMATION Banks: The State bank of India with money changing facility and J&K bank have a branch each in Kargil. Communication: Kargil has worldwide direct dialing telephone facility, besides post and telegraph offices. In addition J&K Tourism operates its own wireless Radio phone network with field stations at Kargil, Padum and Leh, which are connected with controlling stations at Srinagar, Delhi and Jammu. During the tourist season mobile wireless stations are also established in key places in the remote areas. Health: The District hospital in Kargil is fairly well equipped and staffed with a team of specialist and general practitioners. In addition there are Medical Dispensaries at Drass, Mulbek, Trespone, Sankoo, Panikhar and Padum each headed by a qualified doctor and equipped with basic health care paraphernalia. MORE TOURIST INFORMATION The Tourist office here regularly updates its store of information on the region. Tourists undertaking mountaineering expedition on hard trekking along difficult routes are well advised to inform the Tourist Office at Kargil about their routes and proposed program so as to monitor their welfare. Trekking Equipment: The tourist office in Kargil has some trekking equipment for hire under the same conditions as the Leh office. The equipment includes a number of tents, foam mattresses, sleeping bags, alpine jackets, and rucksacks, climbing equipment and so on. Kargil is the starting point for most of the treks and journeys into the Zanskar valley, although it is also possible to enter it from other points along the side of the Leh-Zanskar range. NEARBY CITIES Shergol: 33-km Mulbekh: 45-km Panikhar: 70-km Sankoo: 42-km Rangdum: 130-km

PADUM

Location: Near Zanskar, Ladakh Region, J&K Altitude: 3,505 Also known As: Padam Historical Significance: Erstwhile Capital of Zanskar. Once the capital of the ancient kingdom of Zanskar, Padum (3,505 m) is the present day administrative headquarters of the region. With a population of nearly 1,500, Padum can be described as the most populous settlement of Zanskar, otherwise a very scarcely inhabited valley. 9

A Trekker's Paradise: Incidentally, it is only in Padum that there is a community of Muslims constituting nearly half the township's population, its origin in the area dating from mid 17th century. Lately, Padum has become famous as a major trekking base and a popular tourist destination. Several places of tourist interest in the vicinity of the township can be visited in the course of entertaining walks. People And Their Lifestyle: Unlike most other Zanskaris, who are practically all Buddhists, about 30% of Padum's inhabitants are not Ladakhis but Indo Aryans like the Baltis and Lahulis and are followers of the Sunset Muslim sect. The division into these two completely different population groups is instantly recognizable by the clothing they wear. The people are very hospitable but also shy, in the first four years after the re-opening of Zanskar to foreign visitors only a couple of hundred people passed through. Making contact with the children will result in an invitation into a house. If one wishes to make a longer trek the administration or the tourist bureau will be happy to answer any questions and are very helpful with the hiring of horses or obtaining accommodation. PRIME ATTRACTIONS The nearest monument in Padum is a set of ancient rock carving on a huge boulder near the riverbank, just below the old township. These dates from the 8th century and provide epigraphic evidence that the region was under the influence of North Indian Buddhism since ancient times. The Starrimo Monastery with about 30 resident monks clings to a tree-covered ridge above the old town. Across the expanse of cultivation lies the old village of Pibiting, dominated by its picturesque hilltop monastery, a superb manifestation of stupa architecture. EXCURSION Karsha Monastery: Karsha monastery is the largest in the Zanskar region. It is on a hillside with commanding views of the entire valley and the main Himalayas to the south. The monastery attracts monks from many of the surrounding villages, and at any one time up to 100 monks may be in attendance. The monastic site was probably founded in the 10th century, while the main prayer hall and monks quarters would have been built in the early 15th century, the time when the Gelukpa order was popularized in Ladakh. HOW TO REACH 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 B-class 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 Strongly, 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. |

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WHERE TO STAY The tourist Complex at Padum provides furnished rooms for staying. 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 Strongdey, 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. NEARBY CITIES 8-km Karsha: Stongdey: 19-km

PHUGTHAL

Location: Near Padum, Zanskar Region of Ladakh, J&k Altitude: 3,850m Also Spelt As: Phugtal Main Attraction: Phuthal Monastery 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. PRIME ATTRACTIONS Phugthal Monastery: 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 monastery 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. HOW TO REACH THERE 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 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 11

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. WHERE TO STAY 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. NEARBY CITIES Zanskar: 70-km Stongdey: 50-km

PAHALGAM

Location: 95-km From Srinagar, Kashmir Region, J&K Altitude: 2,130m Main Attractions: Mamaleshwara, Baisaran, Tulian Lake, Aru Best Time To Visit: In Summer - May To September In winter - November to February At an altitude of 2,130m and about 95-km from Srinagar, Pahalgam is probably the most popular hill resort in the Kashmir valley. Since it is rather lower than Gulmarg the nighttime temperatures do not drop so low and it has the further advantage of the beautiful Lidder River running right through the town. Pahalgam is situated at the junction of the Aru and Sheshnag Rivers and surrounded by soaring, fir-covered mountains with bare, snow-capped peaks rising behind them. The Aru flows down from the Kolahoi glacier beyond Lidderwat while the Sheshnag from glaciers along the great Himalayan. At the confluence of the streams flowing from the river Lidder and Sheshnag Lake, Pahalgam was once a humble shepherd's village with breathtaking views. Now it Kashmir's premier resort, cool even during the height of summer. A number of hotels and lodges cater to all preferences and budgets, from luxurious to unpretentious trekkers' lodges, including JKTDC's delightfully romantic, fully furnished huts, partially concealed by giant pine trees. Pahalgam Walks: There are many short walks available from Pahalgam and in addition it is an excellent base for longer treks such as those to the Kolahoi glacier or to the Amarnath cave. Pahalgam can also be used as a starting point for treks out of the region. Pahalgam is particularly famed for its many shepherds and they're a common sight, driving their flocks of sheep along the paths all around the town. PRIME ATTRACTIONS: Around Pahalgam are many places of interest, and because the resort is set between fairly hills, it is worth hiring a pony rather than walking. Pony fares are posted at prominent locations.

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Mamaleshwara: Mamaleshwara is only a km or so downstream from Pahalgam, and on the opposite side of the Lidder, is this small Shiva temple with its square, stone tank. It is thought to date from the reign of king Jayasima in the 12th century, even earlier. Baisaran: This meadow, about 5-km from Pahalgam and 150m higher, provides excellent views over the town and the Lidder valley. Pine forests and the snowballed mountains surround the grassy glen. One can hire ponies for this trek from near the center of town. Tulian Lake: If one continues 11-km beyond Baisaran one reaches the Tulian Lake at 3,353m, 1,200m higher up. It is covered in ice for much of the year and surrounded by peaks, which rise more than 300m above its shores. It also can be reached by pony trek. Aru: The little village of Aru is actually the first stage from Pahalgam on the trek to Lidderwat and the Kolahoi glacier. It makes an interesting day walk from Pahalgam, following the Lidder river for Pahalgam, following the Lidder river for 11-km upstream. The main track, which also can be taken by car, is on the left bank of the river. There is also a less used, and more difficult path, on the Right Bank. At Aru one will often find the Gujars, living in their log huts with their flocks of sheep and goats, en route to the higher sheep and goats, en route to the higher pastures for the summer. Hajan: Hajan, on the way to Chandanwari is an idyllic spot for a picnic. Filmgoers will recognize it instantly as it has been the location of several movie scenes. Chandanwari & Passage To The Amarnath Yatra: Situated 16-km from Pahalgam, Chandanwari is the starting point of the Amarnath Yatra, which takes place every year in the month of Sawan (Rain). The destination is the Amarnath Cave, believed to the abode of Lord Shiva. Although the road from Pahalgam to Chandanwari is on fairly flat terrain, and can be undertaken by car, from Chandanwari onwards the track becomes much steeper, being accessible on foot or by pony. Located 11-km from Chandanwari is the mountain lake of Sheshnag, after which 13-km away is the last stop, Panchtarni. The Amarnath cave is 6-km away from there. During the month of 'Sawan', an ice stalagmite forms a natural Shivling (also spelt as Shivlinga), that waxes and wanes with the phases of the moon. The state government makes extensive arrangements every year for the successful completion of the pilgrimage, registering each one of the over one lakh pilgrims, pony owners and Dandi Walas, providing camps en route, and ensuring safe, comfortable and speedy progress of the Yatris. Even if one's visit to Pahalgam is not during the period of the Yatra, one can still take a pony ride up to Sheshnag Lake, returning late evening. Fishing: Pahalgam is one of Kashmir's popular trout fishing beats. Kashmir is famous for its trout although they tend to be rather small. Additionally, fishing licences are hard to get and rather expensive. A compulsion is to keep am guide and one is also permitted to catch six fishes, which is the daily limit. EXCURSIONS On The Road to Pahalgam: The road to Pahalgam starts out towards Jammu but later branches off to the east at Anantnag. There are a number of points of interest along this route including several Mughal gardens - indeed if one take a bus tour to Pahalgam one’s be thoroughly saturated with Mughal gardens by the time one arrives.

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Pampore: Only 16-km out of Srinagar on the main highway south, Pampore is the Center of Kashmir's saffron industry. Highly prized for it's flavoring and coloring properties and rather expensive, saffron is gathered from flowers, which are harvested in October. Avantipur: This popular stop on Pahalgam excursions is noted for its two ruined Hindu temples. The temples were both constructed by King Avantivarman, after whom this ancient center was named, between 855 and 883 AD. The larger of the two is dedicated to Vishnu and known as the Avantiswami temple. A huge wall encloses the central shrine with four smaller shrines around the center. The other temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and known as the Avantishvara, is about a km before the Vishnu temple, but also close to the main road. It is situated in a courtyard, enclosed by a massive stonewall with a gateway on the western side. The nearby village of Bijbihara has a huge Chinar tree, claimed to be the largest in Kashmir. Sangam: A little further down the road, Sangam is interesting for its strong local industry of cricket bat manufacturing! One'll see thousands of cricket bats displayed by the roadside and thousands more roughly cut lengths of wood being seasoned. Anantnag: At this point the road fords, one route turning northeast to Pahalgam and two others southeast to Achabal and Kokarnag or to Verinag. The Jammu road leaves this route just before Anantnag at Khanabal. Anantnag has a number of sulphur springs, esteemed for their curative properties. The largest spring is believed to be the home of Ananta, the serpent on which Lord Vishnu reclines and from which the town takes its name - 'Abode of Ananta'. Ananta means 'endless' and the water issues from the base of a small hillock and rushes into another spring in the middle of that is a natural mineral deposit column which the locals revere as a lingam. On the 14th day of a full moon fortnight in September/October, there is a festival where the people fast and pour rice and milk into the spring to feed the goldfish. At one time Anantnag was known as Islamabad but this name is no longer used, due to the confusion it would cause with the not too far distant capital of Pakistan also named Islamabad. Achabal: The Mughal gardens in this small town were begun by Nur Jahan and completed by Jahanara, daughter of Shah Jahan, in 1640. It's one of the most carefully designed of the Kashmir gardens and was said to be a favorite retreat of Nur Jahan. Water from a copious spring flows from the garden in three stone lined canals, over three terraces and three cascades, with several fountains in the main canal. There are three pavilions on the upper terrace, shaded by Chinar Trees. There's a tourist bungalow, tourist huts and a camping ground at Achabal. Kokarnag: One may be suffering garden overload by the time one gets here, but Kokarnag has yet another one, noted for its roses. Like Achabal there is a tourist bungalow, tourist huts and a camping ground for accommodation. Daksum: Somewhat above Kokarnag, along the bring river valley, there's the small hill resort of Daksum at 2,438m. It's on the trekking route to Kishtwar and has a Rest house,

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Tourist Bungalow and plenty of camping spots. From Daksum the trail rises fairly steeply to the Sinthan Pass at 3,748m. The pass is open from April to September for trekkers. Mattan & Martand: Only a few km beyond Anantnag, on the Pahalgam road, Mattan is an important Hindu pilgrimage point due to its fish filled springs. A complicated legend relates that the springs were created when Lord Shiva broke open an egg, which had been thrown there, the egg being the reincarnated form of a forgetful boy, who had been cursed by a wandering sage and that's only half the story! On a plateau above Mattan and 3-km to the south, stands the huge ruined temple of Martand. Built by Lalitaditya Mukhtapida it is the most impressive ancient ruin in Kashmir and beautifully sited. The ruins are 67m by 43m and consist of a portico with a small-detached shrine on both side and a quadrangular courtyard. 84 columns surrounded the courtyard - the multiple of the number of days in the week by the number of signs in the zodiac. From here to Pahalgam the road follows the course of the Lidder River, past some good trout fishing stretches. Verinag: Close to the foot of the Pir Panjal range, the spring at Verinag is said to be the source of the Jhelum river, which flows north through Srinagar, Jehangir built an octagonal stone basin at the spring in 1612 and in 1620 his son, Shah Jahan, laid out a garden around it. The spring is said to be over 15m deep and is reputed never to dry up or overflow. There is also a tourist bungalow at Verinag. HOW TO REACH THERE Air: Pahalgam is in Anantnag District and is about 96-km from Srinagar. The nearest airport is in Badgam District. This Airport is connected with all the major cities of India. Rail: The nearest railhead is at Jammu and from there National Highway NH1A connects the Kashmir valley with India. Road: The road to Pahalgam can be taken to Khannabal or alternatively from Bijbehara villages from National Highway NH1A. Every sort of transport to suit every budget from Buses to Taxis ply on this Highway. It takes around 10 to 12 hours to cross this mountainous road, which crosses some beautiful spots and the famous Jawahar Tunnel linking Kashmir Valley with India. Bus service is available from Srinagar and Anantnag, which leave at fixed time from the Bus stands. Taxis and other sort of transport can be hired from Srinagar at pre-fixed rates. Assistance is available at Tourist Reception Center, Srinagar. On Road to Pahalgam one comes across the beautiful Lidder Valley with important spots of Mattan and Aishmuqam. WHERE TO STAY Pahalgam has a number of Hotels and lodges of various types, which are open only during summer months. JKTDC has a Dak Bungalow and number of Huts, which are available on hire. The tariffs depend on the type of accommodation to be hired. Accommodation needs to be booked well in advance from Srinagar. Tourists are advised to contact Manager Tourist Reception center Jammu/Srinagar for booking and Tariffs. Hotel bookings can be executed from their representatives in Srinagar the list of which can be had from the JKTDC. MORE TOURIST INFORMATION The tourist office is just around the corner from the bus halt, on the main road. They may be able to help with hiring porters or ponies. Fishing permits have to be obtained in

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Srinagar. There is a bank in Pahalgam and a post office during the tourist season. If one is planning on trekking from Pahalgam there are plenty of shops selling food supplies although it's cheaper and more plentiful in Srinagar. If trekking is altogether too strenuous Pahalgam also offers the Pahalgam club with tennis courts, badminton courts, a golf course and card evenings! NEARBY CITIES Srinagar: 95-km Pampore: 16-km 29-km Avantipur: Sangam: 35-km Anantnag: 56-km 77-km Kokernag: Daksum: 90-km Mattan & Martand: 61 & 64-km

RANGDUM

Location: 130-km Southeast of Kargil, On Kargil-Zanskar Road, Ladakh Region, J&K Altitude: 3,980m Main Attractions: Rangdum Monastery, Trekking to Henaskot Best Time To Visit: Late June to Mid-September The farthest and the most isolated part of the Suru Valley, Rangdum is an elliptical expanded plateau surrounded by colorful hills on the one side and glacier encrusted Rocky Mountains on the other. Situated 130-km Southeast of Kargil, it falls midway between Kargil and Padum. PRIME ATTRACTIONS Due to its remoteness from inhabited parts either of Suru or Zanskar, the areas wild beauty is almost haunting, while its isolation is near perfect even as the unpaved Zanskar road traverses its length. Rangdum Monastery: The chief attraction of this area is an imposing 18th century Buddhist monastery with about 40 monks in residence. Perched picturesquely atop a centrally rising hillock, which is entrenched around by the bifurcated course of a wild mountain stream, the Rangdum monastery has the aura of an ancient fortification guarding a mystical mountain valley. The villagers are descendents of the monastery's agricultural, serf-tenants, who do not own any land in the region. The monastery enjoys perpetual and unalienable ownership of the entire valley including the fields tilled by the villagers, the pastures, hills and even the streams. Trekking Route to Hinaskot/Henaskot: Rangdum also serves as an important trekking base. The most popular trek from here leads to Henaskut (also spelt as Hinaskot) near Lamayuru, across the spectacular gorge of the Kanji valley. This 5-day trek also forms the last leg of the two weeklong Trans-Himalayan traverse between Kashmir and Ladakh. HOW TO REACH THERE Road: Sankoo, Panikhar and Parachik are connected with Kargil with regular bus services, in summer even twice a day. A bus ride from Kargil takes 2 hours to Sankoo, 3 hours to Panikhar and about 4 hours to Parkachik. Rangdum is serviced by the BI-week bus service to Padum, which increases according to demand. Some trucks plying between Kargil and Padum also offer a lift in the cabin for the price of a bus seat. Cars and jeeps 16

taxis can be hired from Kargil for visiting different places in the Suru Valley, including Rangdum and Penzila. WHERE TO STAY At Sankoo basic accommodation is available in the Govt. Rest House. A Tourist Bungalow is also situated over here. At Panikhar the Tourist Bungalow provides 4 furnished rooms while some private hotels also offers accommodation. At Rangdum the newly built Tourist Complex provides 5 furnished rooms and dormitory accommodation. Tented accommodation operated by the monastery management provides simple overnight shelter while basic food is available at the nearby teashop. NEARBY CITIES Kargil: 130-km 90-km Sankoo: Panikhar: 73-km

RUPSHU

Location: East Of Zanskar Region of Ladakh, J&K Main Attractions: Pangong Lake, Tankse Native People: Changpas Beauty Of The Heights: Located east of Zanskar, the restricted area of Rupshu is Ladakh's easternmost and most elevated region, blending into western Tibet's high plains. In fact, topographically, but not politically, Rupshu is an integral part of the Chang Tang, Tibet's 600-mile-wide, 15,000-foot high northern steppes, of which it is the westernmost extremity. An Ancient Nomad Route: Rupshu has majestic sweeping deserts separated by narrow ranges with lofty passes offering distant views, and a hardy, wide ranging nomadic people called Changpas. Traders from Lahaul still drive their caravans of sturdy mules across Rupshu into western Tibet, carrying goods such as cloth and costume jewelry and trading for gems, stones, hides, and wool. The lowest point in all of Rupshu is at 13,000 feet along the Indus River near the town of Chumatang. Within Rupshu's 5,500-square-mile area are the peaks of the Ladakh and Zanskar mountains, and several large, crystalline lakes including Tso Morari and Pangong, each framed in wide basins between the two ranges. The Native Changpas: The 14,000-foot and 15,000 foot plains of Rupshu support the totally nomadic Changpas. The Changpa economy is geared to the yak, a creature that dislikes descending lower than 12,000 feet in elevation in this region and that provides mild and meat for food, dung for fuel, and wool for clothing and shelter. The Changpas live in black Yak hair tents called "Rebu" and traverse a land so high that, as in Nepal's Dolpo region, one of the first requirements for anyone living there is an animal skin bellows to keep the Yak dung fire going in the thin air. Changpas have traditionally subsisted on a hearty but unvarying diet consisting almost entirely of roasted barley flour, tea, Chang, meat, salt, milk, butter, and cheese. The menu most days is 'Phe' with 'Solja' and various kinds of soup. The women wear their own version of the Ladakhi Perag, and like all women from Ladakh, they buy as much of the imported coral and Tibetan turquoise for their 'Perag' as they can afford. Changpas are Buddhist and like most ethnic Tibetans, they celebrate Losar with fervor and gladly travel long distances for celebrations.

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Myths & Legends: Rupshu, like all of Ladakh, abounds in myth and legend, much of it based on fact. Some say that Jesus passed the "lost" years of his life in Hemis monastery. Lama Govinda received his second spiritual, mystical initiation while resting at Thak Thok monastery on the approach to the Chang La. And gypsy Davy and Lady Ba camped for three weeks at various places about Pangong Lake in the early 1920s. Once, along the northern side of the lake, Lady Ba's horse, Tomar, disappeared with a herd of Kyang. The best Shikaris were sent to track him, and they did, across two ranges and a valley. On the third day, Tomar returned "seven years younger than he went out on Shikar." Fauna: Although the once massive herds of speedy Kyang, the Tibetan wild Ass, are greatly depleted in Rupshu, the Marmot colonies have not visibly suffered from poaching. In Rupshu, as in the sweeping Deosai plains of Baltistan and parts of rugged Zanskar, the sizable, sleek Marmots, larger than the groundhogs they resemble, are the real denizens of this high mountain desert. PRIME ATTRACTIONS The traditional path across Rupshu, the first stretch of the Leh-Gartok-Lhasa caravan route, is now a paved road. It diverges north from the Indus at Karu village, climbing the Ladakh range, across the Indus valley from Hemis Gomba, to reach the Chang La, passing several villages and Chendey and Trakthok monasteries. This route now reaches Tankse 20 miles past the Chang la. Tankse: Tankse is a village 14 miles south of the Shyok River's southern bend. It used to house Ladakh's easternmost customs post and was the effective limit of Ladakh's easternmost customs post and was the effective limit of Ladakh's inhabited territory. At Tankse, the road continues southeast to the Indus valley and the border village and military post of Demchok. The large town of Ali in Tibet lies not far beyond. Pangong Lake: Another nearly level valley leads east from Tankse. Cradled by marble cliffs, this route crosses a low; lade topped pass and, 25 miles beyond, reaches Pangong Lake. Vivid blue Pangong Lake, meaning "great cavity" in Tibetan, is continuous for nearly 100 miles as it crosses into Tibet, reaching as Far East as the town of Rudok. Along its shores are still found the occasional black-necked Crane, an endangered species with white feathers over its body and a spot of rust on its head. Pangong evokes wonderful images: a solitary, tranquil camp near a glacial stream; drinking tea with a Changpa family; and, come evening, tracking the Shy Kyang through low lakeside hills. HOW TO REACH THERE 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 services 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 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.

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WHERE TO STAY 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. Accommodation is also available at the Karsha dormitory. In the distant villages like Strongdey, 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.

SANI

Location: 6-km West Of Padum, On the Kargil Road, Ladakh Region, J&K Main Attractions: Sani Monastery, Kanika Stupa Best Time To Visit: July to Early November This picturesque village of Sani is 6-km west of Padum, on the road to Kargil. The chief attraction here is the castle like monastery, which, unlike other monasteries of the region, is built on level ground. By legend its initial foundation is associated with Kanishka on account of the Kanika Stupa, which stands in the backyard of the walled complex. The main building comprises a huge multi-columned central prayer hall housing an array of statues of popular Buddhists divinities and 'Drugpa' (Old Schools) high saints. The most interesting frescoes, however, can be seen in a small, almost discarded chapel at the back of the main building, whose walls are adorned with stucco murals depicting landscapes and floral designs based on the life of Padma-Sambhava. Adjoining this monastic complex is an old cemetery surrounded by a ring of ancient rock carving which reflect Indian artistic influence. Kanika Stupa: Sani is also associated with Naropa, the famous Indian yogi from Vikramsila, who is said to have sat in meditation for some time under the Kanika Stupa. A small room housing a veiled bronze figure of the Yogi, which is unveiled, once a year in late July now occupies the site. A 2-day long festival is held to celebrate this occasion, which is attended by people from far, and wide monks from Bardan Monastery perform masked dances as ritual offering. HOW TO REACH THERE 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 services from Kargil. However groups can charter A-Class or even Super-Deluxe buses to visit Zanskar, including the interior places of interest like Stongdey (also spelt as Stongde), 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. WHERE TO STAY 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 19

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 Strongdey, 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. NEARBY CITIES Padum: 6-km 14-km Karsha: Stongdey: 25-km

SANKOO

Location: 42-km West Of Kargil, Ladakh region, J&K Famous As: A Picnic Spot Main Attractions: Sankoo-Mulbek Trek, Kartse-Khar A picturesque expanse surrounded by colorful Rocky Mountains, Sankoo is an upcoming township with a small bazaar and numerous villages around. Dense plantations of Poplars, Willows, Myricarea and wild Roses fill the bowl shaped valley, giving it the ambience of a man-made forest tucked within the mountain ramparts. Two side valleys drained by large tributary streams of the Suru River, the Kartse flowing from the east and the Nakpochu descending from the west, open up on either side of the expanse. The Karste Valley runs deep into the eastern mountains mass with a large number of isolated villages tucked within its course. The Sankoo-Mulbek Trek: The 4-day trek between Sankoo and Mulbek follows this valley; the route passes through some very beautiful alpine areas on the way the 4,950 m high Rusi-la . The high altitude settlement of Safi and its mixed Buddhist-Muslim population is struck between the Rusi-la and the Shafi-la over which the final leg of the trek passes before entering the Mulbek valley. A southward diversion from the foot of the Rusi-la leads to Rangdum across the glaciated Rangdum pass where the Karste River rises. The 3-day trek to Drass across the Umba-la (3,350m) follows the western valley. A Scenic Picnic Spot: Sankoo is a very popular among local picnic lovers who throng the area from Kargil town and other places. Locally it is also popular as a place of pilgrimage to the ancient shrines of Muslim scholar-saint, Sayed Mir Hashim, who was specially invited from Kashmir for imparting religious teachings to the region's Buddhist ruler, Thi-Namgyal of the Suru principality, following his conversion to Islam during the 16th century. The shrine is situated in the village of Kartse-Khar, the erstwhile capital of Purig Sultanate, on the outskirts of Sankoo where the chief had his summer palace. Another nearby attraction of Sankoo is the 7m tall rock statue, which was built in the 7th century. HOW TO REACH THERE Road: Sankoo, Panikhar and Parachik are connected with Kargil with regular bus services, in summer even twice a day. A bus ride from Kargil takes 2 hours to Sankoo, 3 hours to Panikhar and about 4 hours to Parkachik. Rangdum is serviced by the weekly bus service to Padum, which increases according to demand. Some trucks plying between Kargil and Padum also offer a lift in the cabin for the price of a bus seat. Cars and jeeps

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taxis can be hired from Kargil for visiting different places in the Suru Valley, including Rangdum and Penzila. WHERE TO STAY At Sankoo basic accommodation is available in the Govt. Rest House. A Tourist Bungalow is also being built here. At Panikhar the Tourist Bungalow provides 4 furnished rooms while some private hotels also offers accommodation. At Rangdum the newly built Tourist Complex provides 5 furnished rooms and dormitory accommodation. Tented accommodation operated by the monastery management provides simple overnight shelter while basic food is available at the nearby teashop. NEARBY CITIES Kargil: 42-km 38-km Panikhar: Parkachik: 58-km Rangdum: 98-km

SONAMARG

Location: 81-km From Srinagar, Kashmir Region, J&K Altitude: 2,740m Also known As: Sonmarg Best Time To Visit: In Summer - May To September In winter - November to February The Meadow of Gold: At a height of 2,740m, Sonamarg is the last major point in the Kashmir valley before the Zoji La pass into Ladakh. At the pass the green, lush Kashmiri landscape abruptly switches to the barren, dry landscape of Ladakh. Sonamarg is thus not only a good base for treks but also a jumping off point for trips into Ladakh. The name means 'Meadow of Gold' and although this could be due to the profusion of flowers that carpet the meadow in the spring it is also possible that the name derives from Sonamarg's strategic trading position in the days when this was a major route into central Asia. The Sindh River meanders along here and abounds with Trout and Mahseer. Sonamarg's Importance Is Two Fold: It is the starting point of a major trek passing several mountain lakes - Vishansar, Kishansar, Gadsar, Satsar and Gangabal. One trek leads all the way to the Amarnath cave. The other reason for Sonamarg's importance lies in the fact that it is the last halt on the Kashmir side for the drive from Srinagar to Leh. Walks From Sonamarg: One of the most popular short walks from Sonamarg and a major attraction during the summer months is the 4-km route to Thajiwas, a small valley at the foot of the Sonamarg glacier. A path leads up to the Shakhdar hill, overlooking the glacier from the northeast. It is dangerous to climb the steep slope leading up to the glacier. Ponies can be hired for the trip up to Thajiwas glacier. Often in early summer one will meet groups of Gujar passing through Sonamarg on their way to the alpine meadows for the summer. PRIME ATTRACTIONS Nilagrad: A mountain river meets the Indus at the Baltic colony, Nilagrad, 6-km away from Sonamarg. The water of the river is reddish in colour. The Baltic thinks the water has curative power of many diseases. Inhabitants of the colony visit this place every Sunday to bath in the river.

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Bisansar Lake & Krishnasar Lake: There is a lake in every corner of the Himalayas and there is one at Sonamarg also. The road proceeds from Sonamarg to Bisansar Lake via Nichinai Pass. Crossing the river at Nichinai Pass stands the Bisansar Lake at an altitude of 4, 084m, with its lovely natural beauty. Beside the lake is the Krishnasagar Lake at an altitude of 3,801m, popular for Trout fishing. EXCURSIONS Baltal: This beautiful meadow is right at the foot of the Zoji La pass and thus is the final place in Kashmir. The river from the foot of the Amarnath glacier meets the Indus near Baltal. It stands at a height of 2,743m and during the Amarnath pilgrimage there are tents set up here. It is possible to walk to the Amarnath cave, more usually approached from Pahalgam, in one day. Check about conditions before departing, though. The weather can be treacherous and at other times melting snow and ice make the route very dangerous. There's now a jeep road most of the way to the cave. The turn off to Baltal is at 94-km on the Leh road, and then it's 3-km or so downhill. Yushmarg: If one can take some time out, then take tour of Yushmarg in daytime. Buses on conducted tours run to Yushmarg thrice a week. 47-km southwest of Srinagar amidst pines and firs lies the vale - Yushmarg (2,700m) at the slope of the Pir Panjal ranges. Its is a beautiful pasture as well as a nice picnic spot. HOW TO REACH THERE Air: Sonamarg is in Srinagar District on the Srinagar Leh Highway, 81-km from Srinagar. The nearest airport is in Badgam District, connecting the capital city with all the major cities in India. Rail: The nearest Railhead is at Jammu and from there National Highway NH1A connects the Kashmir valley with India. Road: Every sort of transport to suit every budget from Buses to Taxis ply on National Highway NH1A. It takes around 10 to 12 hours to cross this mountainous road, which crosses some beautiful spots and the famous Jawahar Tunnel linking Kashmir Valley with India. Bus service is available from Srinagar and Anantnag, which leave at fixed time from the Bus stands. Taxis and other sort of transport can be hired from Srinagar at prefixed rates. Assistance is available at Tourist Reception Center, Srinagar. WHERE TO STAY Sonamarg has a number of Hotels and lodges of various types, which are open only during summer months. JKTDC has a Dak Bungalow and number of Huts, which are available on hire. The tariffs depend on the type of accommodation to be hired. Accommodation needs to be booked well in advance from Srinagar. Tourists are advised to contact Manager Tourist Reception center Jammu/Srinagar for booking and tariffs. NEARBY CITIES Srinagar: 81-km Baltal: 98-km Yushmarg: 34-km

SRINAGAR

Location: Kashmir Region, J&K Main Attractions: Canals, Houseboats & Mughal Gardens Significance: Capital of J&K. Best Time To Visit: In Summer - June to Early November 22

In winter - December to February The capital of Jammu and Kashmir and the largest city in the state, Srinagar (1,730m) is famous for its canals, houseboats and Mughal gardens. The city itself is quite unlike most other large Indian cities for here you are much more in Central Asia than on the sub continent. It's a city full of intriguing alleyways and curious buildings. A place where it's very easy to spend a few hours simply wandering - particularly along the old city streets near the Jhelum river. An Ancient Learning Center Arts & Culture: The city has long been a center of the arts and learning - it has had a university or for hundreds of years and is a center of Sanskrit study. 'Sri' means beauty or wealth of knowledge and 'Nagar' Means City. The great Buddhist emperor Ashoka originally founded the city - the present village of Pandrethan marks his old city. The present city was founded by Pravarasena II (79-139 AD) who named it "Praparapura" and built it practically contiguous with the old capital, which was called "Srinagari". Praparapura is recorded in Chinese annals by Hiuan Tsang who visited the city in about 630 AD and described it as extending about 4-km from north to south and about 2-km from east to west along the right bank of the Jhelum. King Ananta was the first to transfer his royal residence to the left bank of the river. A Legend: Legend has it that when Pravarasena decided to build himself a new capital, to choose the location he started walking at midnight and was confronted by a demon on the other side of the Mahasarit River. The demon spread his bent leg across the stream and dared the king to cross over it to the other side. The king cut off the leg with one stroke of his sword and calmly crossed. The demon was delighted with the king's boldness and told him to build the city where he would find the beginnings of a plan laid out for him. The next morning the king found the boundary lines drawn at the foot of Hari Parbat and built his city there. To this day a Sathu or Bund that is shaped like a bent leg separates the waters of the Dal Lake from the Tsont-i-Kul. Houseboats: If one is longing for the delights of a houseboat holiday, then check out lakes of Srinagar to try one. Srinagar is a unique city because of its lakes - the Dal, Nagin and Anchar. The River Jhelum also flows through a part of the city. Most houseboats on the Nagin and the Jhelum are situated on the banks of the lake, and can be accessed directly from land without the help of a Shikara. While all those on the Dal require a Shikara to get to and from them. Most houseboats on the Dal are situated in long straggling rows; some face the boulevard, Srinagar's exciting address, while others are situated singly or in-groups of two and three. City Of Lakes: Srinagar's lakes are the reason why the city receives so many tourists. Not just expanse of water, the lakes are filled with houseboats, villages, narrow water canals, lotus and vegetable gardens and houses and shops. Life on the lakes, as witnessed from the confines of a Shikara, is unique. It is possible to book a Shikara for the whole day and sightsee Nishat Garden, Nasim Bagh, Hazratbal Mosque, Pathar Masjid and Shah Hamdan's Shrine, having a picnic lunch in the boat. While Nagin is quieter, the Dal is full of local colour, with tourists being rowed in Shikara to shops selling every conceivable handicraft - all within the lake.

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Let's have A Ride of the Lake!: A Shikara ride is one of the most soothing, relaxing aspects of a holiday in Kashmir. It can be an hour-long ride to see the sights of the Dal; a shopping by Shikara expedition to visit handicraft shops within the periphery of the lake; or a whole day trip to visit important city landmarks. Because the Dal is so central to the landscape of Srinagar, many places of tourist interest have, over the ages, been built in its vicinity. The Mughal Gardens: The art of designing formal gardens which the Mughal (also spelt as Mogul) emperors expended such time and energy upon, reached its zenith in Kashmir. The Mughal gardens in Agra or Lahore may be very fine but only in Kashmir is the formal beauty of the gardens matched by the natural beauty of the surrounding countryside. The gardens follow a standard pattern with a central channel carrying water through the descending terraces in a delightful series of cascades, falls and pools. STONGDEY MONASTERY Location: 18-km North Of Padum, Ladakh Region, J&K Also Spelt As: Stongde Altitude: 3,500m Famous As: The Second Largest Monastic Establishment in Zanskar. The monastery of Stongdey lies 18-km to the north of Padum, on the road leading to Zangla. An old foundation associated with the Tibetan Yogi, Marpa, Stongdey is now the second largest monastic establishment of Zanskar, inhabited by the resident community of about 60 Gelukpa monks. The sprawling whitewashed complex has a number of temples, each a repository of the region's rich monastic legacy. Foot can reach Stongdey in about 4 hours along the recently laid rough road. The climb up to the monastery is rather strenuous, but it is worth the trouble for the breathtaking scenery of the valley available from here. HOW TO REACH THERE 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 thriceweekly bus services from Kargil. However groups can charter A-Class or even SuperDeluxe 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. WHERE TO STAY 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

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ZANGLA

Location: 35-km From Padum, In Zanskar Region of Ladakh, J&K Altitude: 3,370m Best Time To Visit: June to Early November 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 nowhere are there as many per family as in Zangla. They include some Courage 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. PRIME ATTRACTIONS 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 PadumStrongdey-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. A temporary footbridge for approaching the left bank, along which the trail to Karsha follows, now crosses the river. Zangla is also the take-off point for the Padum-Markha valley treks. HOW TO REACH THERE 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. WHERE TO STAY 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 25

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. NEARBY CITIES Padum: 35-km Stongdey: 16-km 25-km Karsha:

ZANSKAR

Location: 235-km From Kargil, Ladakh Region, J&K Main Attractions: Panikhar, Panzela Pass, Karsha & Trekking Best Time To Visit: July to October The Virgin Vale: About 20-km south of Rangdum stands the Pazila watershed across which lies Zanskar, the most isolated of all the trans Himalayan Valleys. The Panzela Top (4,401-m) is the picturesque tableland adorned with two small alpine lakes and surrounded by snow-covered peaks. As the Zanskar road winds down the steep slopes of the watershed to the head of the Stod Valley, one of Zanskar's main tributary valleys, the majestic "Drang-Drung" glacier looms into full view. A long and winding river of ice and snow, the Drang-Drung" is perhaps the largest glacier in Ladakh, outside the Siachen formation. It is from the clifflike snout of this extensive glacier that the Stod or Doda River, the main tributary of river Zanskar, rises. The Mountainous Panorama: Zanskar comprises a tri-armed valley system lying between the Great Himalayan Range and the Zanskar mountain; The three arms radiate star-like towards the west, north and south from a wide central expanse where the region's two principal drainage's meet to form the main Zanskar River. It is mainly along the course of this valley system that the region's 10,000 strong, mainly Buddhists population lives. Spread over an estimated geographical area of 5,000-sq-kms, high-rise mountains and deep gorges surround Zanskar. The area remains inaccessible for nearly 8 months a year due to heavy snowfall resulting in closure of all the access passes, including the Penzela. Today, Zanskar has the distinction of being the least interfered with microcosms of Ladakh, and one of the last few surviving cultural satellites of Tibet. Within the mountain ramparts of this lost Shangri-La stand a number of ancient yet active monastic establishments. Some of these religious foundations have evolved around remote meditation caves believed to have been used by a succession of famous Buddhist saints for prolonged meditation in pursuit of knowledge and enlightenment. HISTORY The Khampa, the nomadic shepherds who originally roamed the grazing pastures of the Tibetan plateau, would have been familiar with the high passes into Zanskar many centuries before the villages of the Zanskar or Indus valley were established. In the 11th century, the eminent scholar Ringchen Brangpo wandered the Zanskar valley selecting sites from the 108 monasteries that were to be found throughout the west Himalayas. At the same time, legend has it that the sage Naropa meditated at the site of Sani monastery. 26

The Advent of Foreign Travelers: The famous Hungarian explorer Coso de Koros was one of the first European travelers to visit the region. He spent nearly a year, in 1826-27, at the monastery of Phugthal translating Buddhist texts from Ladakhi into English. An inscription of his name can be still found in the monastery. Dogra Invasion: A few years later, the Dogra general Zorawar Singh led his army over the Umasi La during the conquest of Ladakh and the Zanskar. In 1834 he reduced the powers of the royal families in both Padum and Zangla to a nominal status and established the fort at the village of Pipiting just north of Padum. He is also said to have paid a small fortune to hire a local guide to lead his army directly across the passes of the Zanskar Range to the Indus Valley in Order to mount a surprise attack on the king of Ladakh. The Dogra conquest was recorded by Thomas Thomson, a member of the East India Company's Boundary Commission crossing the Umasi La in June 1848 en route through the Zanskar and Indus Valleys to the Korakoram Pass. PRIME ATTRACTIONS Panikhar: On the route to Zanskar, Panikhar, which is commonly considered to be on the border of the Suru Valley, is an important place. There is a high pass between Panikhar and Sankoo, a moderately sized valley about 42-km from Kargil, Ladakh. Zorawar Singh and his forces entered Ladakh from the Suru Pass in 1832 en route to conquer Tibet. He built a fort whose ruins stand to this day. Penzella Pass: The Panzella Pass is situated at an elevation of more than 4,200 m over the Zanskar range (Penzella mountains). It separates Zanskar from the Suru valley and other parts of Ladakh. On either side of the pass there are camping grounds used by migratory grazier communities and travelers. At the top, an enchanting view of the surrounding ranges and countryside greets the visitor. At the top of the pass, there are two springs of greenish water credited by legend to be the birthplace of the progenitors of the famous Zanskar breed of ponies. Different forms of vegetation come up around the pass soon after the snowmelts in summer. These include many species, which have medicinal value. Marmots live in burrows, moving to lower elevations in winter. The brown bear is also found on the slopes of the Penzela Pass. The Penzela glacier, where the Suru River arises, is situated on one of the flanks of this pass. On the Zanskar side, an extensive stretch of flat land is present at the foot of the pass. It is dissected by a number of streams and supports reverie vegetation, which becomes thick in summer. This is an ideal camping ground for graziers and trekkers. The Penzela Pass remains open only from May to September, being closed for the rest of the year due to heavy snowfall. Karsha: Karsha is another large settlement across the river from Padam, at a distance of about 8-km from the latter. It has a small market, school, dispensary and post and telegraph facilities. There is also a monastery at Karsha, which is revered by the population living in the surrounding region. HOW TO REACH THERE 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 services from Kargil. However groups can charter A-Class or even

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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. WHERE TO STAY 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. WHEN TO TREK For most people, the timing of a trek out of Padum is determined by the opening of the motorable road from Kargil over the Pentse La. The pass is normally cleared of snow by the beginning of July, and generally remains open until the end of October. The alternative is to trek from Panikhar or Rangdum over the Pentse La. This can be completed in May, although it is advisable not to cross the high passes leading out of Zanskar until the end of June. By this time the villagers begin to cross the Singge La, the Umasi La and the Shingo La and Phitse La. These times should also be noted if one is planning to trek into the Zanskar Valley from Lamayuru, Leh or Darcha. The passes remain open until the middle of October, although freak storms in September have occasionally required treks to be re-routed. River crossings also need to be considered when planning a trek. In particular, the route from Padum to the Markha valley follows gorges where the late spring snow melt makes the rivers difficult to cross until August. For the intrepid, there are winter trails linking the Zanskar valley with the Indus. From late January through February, the villagers and monks follow the route over the snow bridges that form in the depths of the gorges. When the ice begins to thaw, they follow a route over the Cha La to the Khurna valley and then trek down to its confluence with the Zanskar River. Here there are some places to ford the Zanskar River to reach Niimu and Leh. The locals favor this route in the springtime, until the deep snows on the Pentse La begin to thaw in May. NEARBY CITIES Karsha: 9-km Stongdey: 20-km Burdan: 10-km Zongkhul: 20-km Phukthal: 70-km

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ZONGKHUL

Location: On Padum-Kishtwar Trek, In Zanskar Region of Ladakh, J&K Main Attractions: Cave Monastery, Trekking Best Time To Visit: July to Early November A spectacular cave monastery of Zanskar, Zongkhul falls on the Padum-Kishtwar trekking trail, just before the ascent of Omasi-la Pass begins. PRIME ATTRACTIONS Situated like a Swallow's nest on the rock face of the 'Ating George', the monastery is associated by legend with the famous Indian Yogi, "Naropa'', who lectured in the Nalanda and Vikramsila Universities. The present cave monastery is said to be used by the famous Yogi for the solitary meditation. A footprint on the stone near the ingress of the lower cave is reserved as that of the yogi. The frescos on the cave walls are very old and reflect a high degree of artistic achievement. These are believed to be the original murals executed by Zhadpa Dorje, the celebrated scholar-painter of the same monastery who was active about 300 years ago. HOW TO REACH THERE 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 services 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 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. WHERE TO STAY 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. Accommodation is also available at the Karsha dormitory. In the distant villages like Strongdey, 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. NEARBY CITIES Zanskar: 20-km Karsha: 11-km

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