About 20 kms south-east of Rangdum stands the Panzila axis, across which lies Zanskar, the most isolated of all the trans-Himalayan valleys, Zanskar is a remote, ancient kingdom in the northwest Indian Himalaya. About 10,000 Zanskari people live in isolated villages spread across Zanskar, which has a valley elevation of over 3500m. Winter temperatures of -30 Celsius are common, making it one of the highest and coldest inhabited places in the world. Zanskar a subdistrict or tahsil of Kargil district, which lies in the eastern half of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. The administrative centre is Padum .
Zanskar is a tri-armed valley system situated between the Great Himalayan Range and the Zanskar mountains, the three arms radiating star-like towards the west, north and south from a wide central expanse. Here the Zanskar River comes into being by the confluence of its two Himalayan tributaries, the Stod/Doda and the Lingti-Tsarap rivers. It is mainly along the course of this valley system that the region's approximately 14,000 strong, mainly Buddhist population, live.
Spread over an estimated geographical area of 5000 sq kms of mountainous territory, Zanskar is surrounded by high-rise mountains and deep gorges.
It remains inaccessible for nearly 8 months a year due to heavy winter snowfall resulting in closure of all access passes, including the Penzi-la. This geographical isolation and the esoteric nature of Buddhism practised here have enabled its inhabitants to preserve their identity, so that to-day Zanskar is the least interfered with microcosms of Ladakh. Closer observation of the lifestyle evokes admiration for a people who have learnt to live in perfect harmony with the unique environment.