If you want to see and experience one of the most beautiful and majestic monasteries on our planet and need some info about Phuktal, you’re in the right place; here is all you need to know, from directions to home-stays and local tips and advice. Being one of the top 10 monasteries in India, this place is really a must see.
Adding to the places uniqueness is the fact that Phuktal is one of the if not the most isolated monasteries in the region of Zanskar, located within the Jammu and Kashmir district. The monastery was built around the 12th century by Sherap Sampi, but remained a well preserved hidden secret until the 19th century when it was discovered by Hungarian Alexander Cosmo de Koros. In the ancient days of old, the cave in which the monastery was built used to be inhabited by rishis (sages) and hermits 2500 years B.C! It is today an active monastery where approximately 39 young monks ranging from the age of 5 – 20 are taught the ways of Buddhism by senior lamas and monks.
GETTING TO PHUKTAL
Day 1 – The only way to get to Phuktal is by foot, but you can leave from the town of Padum to get you a bit closer by jeep; it drops you straight next to the charming village of Ichar. Once in Ichar, there is another small stretch of road that goes towards the next village. Ask around for the local driver if you don’t want to walk it and he should drop you till the end of the road for a cheap price.
Once the driver has dropped you off, expect about 2h30 of incredible walk through rocky landscapes and immense valleys in between which flow huge, sacred decade old rivers. These short but intense walks will leave you craving for more, and are bound to create memories that will last a lifetime!
The next village you will reach is called Anmu, and consists of not more than 5 houses and 1 home-stay. This is where most people stop for a good nights sleep before continuing, but if you want or feel like walking more, the village of Chaa is 3h further away.
Day 2 – We suggest you leave a bit early in the morning once you are headed for the next village, Chaa, as it gets quite sunny during midday till 4pm. The walk till Chaa takes approximately 3h to complete, making it possible to go to Phuktal that very same day if you wish to. It would make for a 6-hour walk in total from Anmu. Various home-stays and a tea shop are available in Chaa as well, this village being a bit bigger than Anmu. You can either spend the night here, or walk for 3 more hours until Phuktal, which is the most beautiful part of the hike.
Just 200 meters before the Phuktal Monastery, there will be a guesthouse in which you can spend the night. If you rather a more culturally immersive experience, you may ask one of the elder monks in the monastery to host you. They should normally be more than happy to offer you a room for a price of your choice, and you will have the opportunity to share your meals with all the children monks. Spending a day with these kids truly provides you with a small insight into their daily lives, which is a very humbling experience.
THINGS TO KNOW
The sun hits hard when you’re at 4000m’s, and there’s less air. You need at least 3-5 days of acclimatization at over 3000m’s if you’ve just gotten into the area, due to risk of Altitude Sickness.
For trekking consider bringing at least 2 liters of water for each of the 3 – 4 hour walks; your body really needs it. You can refill in every village, as well as buy snacks. A sleeping bag is good too, with a cap for the sun and warm clothes for the evenings. Lip balm is also very useful, as the air gets cold and crisp! A horse might be a possibility, just ask local people in any of the villages.