Some places, you just want to visit. One such place is Phugtal Monastery on the outskirts of Zanskar Valley in Ladakh. Two thousand years ago, Phugtal Monastery was just a cave in the mountains. Early Buddhist monks and scholars meditated here in complete isolation for years at a time. That's how the monastery got its name: 'Phug' means 'cave,' 'tal' means 'liberation.' One of the world's oldest and most remote monasteries, it is situated in the rugged Zanskar Valley of Ladakh. It's said that Arhats and Guru Padmasambhava both lived there, over a thousand years ago.
Today, Phugtal Monastery remains one of the most remote outposts in Zanskar. For those interested in visiting the monastery, getting there requires a trip through impossibly beautiful landscapes. Followed by a 3-hour journey from Padum to my village Purne deep in the valley. And finally, a hanging wooden bridge connects us to Phugtal Monastery across! The only entrance to the monastery is through this bridge and is currently only used for food supplies. It's maintained by local villagers and the monks who reside there.
Phugtal Monastery is located in the southwestern part of Zanskar Valley. It is situated within the Lungnak Mountains, and you can reach it by hiking a trek from either Purne village or Chah village.
The Phugtal Monastery sits at the heart of the Zanskar region, hidden in a remote valley that is not shared by humans and animals.
The monastery actually dates back to 2500 years ago. Much of the history of this monastery has been lost, but it is believed that monks and anyone seeking enlightenment would use it as a place of solitude where they could meditate. It's thought to be an old Buddhist temple in which monks would stay, unsure if anybody else was around before they mined and hid it with boulders inside what used to be a cave and made the opening smaller with some rocks.
The monastery isn't open to visitors, but locals tell us that it's said to have amazing spiritual powers because throughout its history members of different religions and sects from all over Tibet have visited this place out of curiosity or on pilgrimage.
Phugtal Monastic School was created to provide education to the locals of the villages. The monastery provides free education for the students and also bears the cost of their stay, food, and study materials.
The time to visit Phugtal monastery is between June and September. This is because the roads to Padum remain open during those months. The last two weeks of October are also a good time to visit.