Location: 234-km From Leh In The
East, Ladakh Region, J&K
Local Dialect: Purik
Historical Significance: An
Important Trade And Transit Centre In The Pan-Asian Trade Network.
Town & Around
(2,704 m), situated midway between Srinagar (204 Kms) and Leh, (234
kms) on the Srinagar-Leh highway, is the second largest urban centre
(approx. 8,000 inhabitants) of Ladakh and headquarters of Kargil
district. A quiet town now, in the past it served as an important
trade and transit centre for the Central-Asian merchants due to its
unique equidistant location (about 200-230 kms) from Srinagar, Leh
and Skardo, all well known trading outposts on the old trade route
network. Numerous caravans carrying exotic merchandise transited in
the town on their way to and from China, Tibet, Yarkand, Kashmir and
Baltistan. Since 1975, travellers of various nationalities have
replaced traders of the past and Kargil has regained its importance
as a centre of travel-related activities.
New part of Kargil town
in lap of the Himalayas, Kargil serves as an important base for
undertaking adventure tourism and trips to the exotic Zanskar Valley
and other Himalayan regions. Visitors travelling between Srinagar
and Leh have to make a night halt here before starting the second
leg of their journey.
The town and
its suburban villages lie nestled along the valley system formed by
the confluence of the Suru River and its tributary, the
Wakha-chhu. The land along the narrow valley floor and the
hillsides are neatly terraced and intensively cultivated to grow
barely, wheat, peas and several other cereals, besides a variety of
vegetables. Thick plantations of poplars and willows, besides rich
orchards of apricot, apple and mulberry, adorn the area to form a
rich oasis against the backdrop of the undulating mountains. Kargil
area is famous for its fine apricots. In May the countryside
surrounding the town gets awash with the white apricot blossoms,
while in August the ripening fruits lend an orange hue to the
Overview of Kargil town &
convenient base for undertaking adventure activities like trekking,
mountaineering, camping, river- rafting, etc. in the high Himalayan
valleys. It is also a convenient base for taking excursions to the
Wakha- Mulbek valley, where the chief attraction is a 9 m high rock
sculpture of Maitreya, besides other monuments. Another tour option
is to visit the beautiful Suru Valley to behold the gradually
unfolding panorama of the impressive Himalayan landscape. Yet
another interesting excursion option is to visit Drass to see
its famous features like Tolo-ling, Tiger Hill and the
Mushkoo Valley, well known throughout India on account of
the extensively televised conflict on the LoC between India and
Pakistan during May-August, 1999.
Young faces from
Young faces from
Kargil town in winter
offers some interesting walks through the suburban villages nestling
along the rising hillsides of theriver valleys. The best among these
is the walk towards Goma Kargil along a 2-km long winding
road that passes through some of the most picturesque parts of the
town, offering breathtaking views of the unfolding mountainscape as
one ascends alongside a tumbling mountain stream. It is best taken
in the afternoon as the setting sun plays magic with the changing
hues and shades of the hills. A shorter walk across the bridge, over
the Suru River, takes you through the ancient village of Poyen,
and up the Wakha-chhu valley.
A very good
view of the tiered and terraced township, sweeping down the
hillside across the river can be had from here.
An ancient village
Hill formation in
A stroll in
the bazaar might lead to shops selling flint and tobacco pouches,
travelling hookahs and brass kettles, handcrafted items of
every day use that find their way into the marts as curios.
showroom of the Government Industries Centre has pashmina
shawls, local carpets and local handicrafts on display and sale.
Apricot jam produced here is a rare delicacy, while Kargil's
famous dry apricots can be purchased from the market.
In Kargil town one may meet
the Brokpa or Drokpa tribals from the
Indus Valley villages of Darchiks, Garkon etc. of Batalik Block,
which is about 56 kms north of Kargil.
This area is
now open for foreign visitors up to Dah village from the Khalsi
side. However, Indian nationals can also approach the area (with the
permission of the local authorities) along the Kargil-Batalik Road,
which connects Batalik, Darchiks and Garkon villages and leads
onward to Khalsi, via the other Brokpa or Drokpa villages of Dah and
Biama, along the course of the Indus
Mulbek Chamba: The chief
attraction of Mulbek 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 it is adorned by frescoes and
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
centre. The surrounding hillside reveals several caves where
high-ranking 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.
Tucked away inside the picturesque upper part of the Wakha Valley,
upstreams of Mulbek, Rgyal 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
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.
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 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
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
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.
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, 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.