#DiscoverTheUndiscovered: There’s no better way for trekkers to slam-dunk into the heart and soul of Ladakh than by visiting a spot that looks like a honeycomb perched on a hill. Phugtal Gompa here is a tourist’s delight, which radiates with an ethereal aura ideal to quench your thirst for beautiful panoramic mountains views and alluring topography. By Kashish Arora
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Ladakh’s gobsmacking landscapes have always attracted tourists from all over the world. It’s always been a muse for photographers, too. If you often find yourself contemplating on visiting a unique destination, then traversing through mountain paths and hiking to a destination that looks nothing less than a visual straight from a storybook should be on your cards.
Phugtal Gompa (gompa means monastery) is one such surreal haven that can instil a deep sense of tranquillity and calm in you. As per the local Zangskari language, Phugtal originates from the word Phug meaning ‘cave’, and tal meaning ‘at leisure’. Phuktal, the monastery’s alternate spelling, means liberation.
Situated at the cliff of Lungnak Valley in Ladakh, Phugtal (Phuktal) Gompa used to be a natural cave. The monastery is built around this old cave that once served as a shelter for monks, around 2,500 years before the structure was constructed. This cave, before the monastery was constructed, served as a transcendental abode for Sages and Buddhist monks. Today, Phugtal Monastery is home to 80 monks. In addition to a temple, four prayer rooms, a library, and numerous residents make this destination a must-visit spot.
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The primitive cave is also protected by a sacred spring. In fact, a hollow in the rock above the monastery contains flowing water. This water is believed to possess medicinal and healing properties. Since this is one of the few monasteries in Ladakh that can be reached on foot, its striking architecture feeds into the desires of trekkers and travel enthusiasts who are fond of spelunking.
Two villages, Anmu and Cha, are situated next to Phugtal. Trekkers and visitors often visit these to relax. As locals greet tourists with immense warmth and enthusiasm, this halt provides an excellent opportunity to learn about the past and present of the people living in the area.
Phugtal Monastery, located in the remote area of Zanskar Valley is a must-see for hardcore travellers. To reach, drive to Padum (from Srinagar or Leh), and continue onwards for a two-and-a-half-day-long trek to reach Phugtal. Rera, Pepula and Purne are some prime locations on this route. You can also ride a donkey or horse to reach the monastery. The voyage through this road takes about six to eight hours.
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