The town of Kargil is best remembered to the Kargil War when Indian military troops captured the Tiger Hill from infiltrators and emerged victorious in a long battle. It is situated at an elevation of 8,780 feet along the banks of the river Suru, also known as Indus.
The present day Kargil was once known as Purig. Gasho Thatha Khan also known as the Purig Sultan brought together all the warring small time princely states in the region and under his rule. This Purig later on became Kargil which is today the headquarters of the Kargil district of Ladakh.
The people of Kargil are of mixed Dard and Tibetan descent. Till the 14th and 15th centuries, the people of this region were followers of Tibetan Buddhism, but with the emergence of Muslim invaders then, many people were proselytized and converted to Islam. Today, a majority of the population belongs to the Shia Muslim community, while the minority communities belong to the Sunni Muslim and Tibetan categories.
The architecture of monuments and building reflect the impact of this conversion. The architectural styles are a combination of Tibetan and Iranian styles. The more recently constructed mosques exhibit a combination of Iranian and Arabic architectural styles.
Kargil serves as an excellent destination for adventure activities such as trekking, camping, mountaineering, river rafting etc. Some of the major tourist attractions in this region are the Nun and Kun peaks, the Mulbek, the Zanskar Valley etc. The local attractions include Pashmina Shawls, local carpets, dried apricots etc.
The nearest airport for reaching Kargil is situated at Leh. The nearest railway station is at Jammu, which is situated at a distance of 739 km from Leh. Roads connect Kargil to Srinagar and Leh and passengers will be required to register themselves at the Tourist Registration Centre in Drass.
For some years, adventure seekers all around the world have been talking about Chadar Trek in the Zanskar Region. Until this year, hundreds of people have experienced the thrill hidden and the mind blowing sights around Chadar frozen river. In fact, Chadar Trek is the most sought after and one of the breathtaking treks in the Himalayas. The winter trek is so special for those who are ready to have adventure at the maximum level.
The river trek starts from Chilling where the river begins to freeze and mostly, travelers choose February as the best time to cross the frozen river as the ice sheets will be comparatively stable. The precarious snow-flakes would pose severe threats during the trek but in some other time, the challenges would be kind to the trekker. The surrounding of the river are completely vertical cliffs tall up to 600 meters. The Zanskar River is a tributary of the Indus and is 5 meters long.
A trekker would have to cover 16 kms per day to complete the Chadar Trek. Usually, people opt for 10-15 days of trek depending on the climatic conditions persisting here. The temperature at Chadar will come to the lowest at -35 degree Celsius during winter and thus Chadar Trek becomes more intimidating. Approximate trekking distance one would have to cover in total is 75 kms.
Maximum altitude: 11123 feet is the height at which Chadar Trek would lead you to.
Location: To take part in Chadar Trek, one should arrive in Leh and from Leh, the journey starts and goes to Chilling, the beginning of the Zanskar River in the frozen state. From Leh it would take about 65-70 kms to reach Tilad via Chilling, the base camp of the trek.
Best time to visit: January end to February is the best time suitable for trekking in the frozen river of Chadar. Quality and safe trekking gears and highly warm clothes are required.
The two major sects of Buddhism, Drukpa and Gelugpa had two gompas in Mulbekh Monastery. The location is 45 kms away from Kargil and 260 km from Leh town. The nine meter statue of Maitreya Buddha placed in the premise catches the eyes of every visitor. Also, the two gompas are closely connected to the palace of Rajah Kalon of Mulbekh located nearby. To reach the gompa, there is a steep footpath arranged behind the building.
There are different opinions about the establishment of the gompa but the idol of Buddha placed here dates back to the 8th century and some others believe that it was built in the period of Kushan. The sculptor is the contribution of the missionaries but there is a saying that the artwork present in the sculptor shows that the missionaries were not Tibetans but mostly Ladakhis. Kharoshti scripts were also found in the main sculptor.
Structure of the monastery
Apart from the limestone idol of Buddha carved in the rock face, there are other relics of statues and frescoes. The entire monastery is made charming with the very valuable paintings and some relics of the prized items of the ancient period. As Maitreya is famous as Chamba among the Buddhist sets, the monastery has gained the name Mulbekh Chamba later.
Location: Mulbekh gompa is located in Kashmir, 45 Km from the town and 260 km from Leh in Ladakh region. You can reach the gompa by bus or jeep.
Timings: It is open on all days from 08:00 am to 06:00 pm
Entry fee: Entry to the gompa is free
Highlight: The gompa is 3504 meters above the foothills which gives a mesmerizing view of the valleys down.
Phugtal or Phuktal gompa or monastery, a significant Buddhist monastery located in the Lungnak Valley that too very remotely from the main town and this one is reachable only by walking. The essential things for the monastery will be carried by animals during summer days and during winter they will be transported through the frozen Zanskar River.
The etymology of the name Phutkal is interesting and the name means the cave of liberation or leisure as per the information given by scholars. The birth of Phutkal Monastery was 2500 years ago and it was built around a cave with the aim of inviting any number of sages or saints to come and meditate. But the current status of Phutkal Gompa is because of the Gelug School of Tibetan Buddhism. It was established in the early 15th century by Jangsem Sherap Zangpo.
Structure of the monastery
The honeycomb structure of the monastery surprises every one. Given the increased number of tourists, the monastery is popular now as a favorite trekking point. The cliff side structure houses a temple, prayer rooms, apartments, quarters, library with sacred manuscripts, teaching facilities and the original cave and a spring. Around 70 monks who are residing in the monastery are always seen chanting or meditating.
Location: The location of the monastery is Lungnak Valley in south-eastern Zanskar.
Timings: It is open on all days of the week from 06:00 pm to 04:00 pm.
Entry fee: To enter the monastery no entry fee is required. But cameras and food from outside are not allowed.
Highlights: There are a number of festivals happen everywhere at the monastery which are celebrated for different reasons. Every year the dates of the festivals change depending on the lunisolar calendar. Smonlam Chenmo is the most important one as it signifies the entry of the New Year.
Kargil, the second largest town after Leh in Kashmir has multiple images in the mindsets of Indians. The spot where India’s patriotism won, the spot where India’s soldiers lost their lives, the spot where a dramatic tug of war between two countries happened and the spot which makes India proud always; hundreds of reasons are there to recognize Kargil as one of the primary locations of India. Politically, Kargil has gained so much importance because of the renowned Kargil War but now it is termed as one of the most visited tourist destinations as well in Kashmir. Visitors are curious to visit the sensitive zone in India where history was turned topsy-turvy.
There are a lot to see in Kargil in the form of monasteries, lush greenery, river basins, trekking points and so on. Mulbekh Monastery, located 36 Kms from Kargil is the most famous gompa in Kargil district which is featured because of the 9 meter tall idol of Maitreya Buddha. Near to Kargil is yet another attraction that is Suru Basin. When the Panzella glacier starts to melt, Suru Basin becomes the richest fertile land in the dry Ladakh region. The fields of wheat, barley and grapes are rich in greenery and thus give a splendid sight to the tourists. If you keep patriotism inside you on a dramatic level, then never miss to visit the Drass War Memorial where the photos, things used during the Kargil war and the hardships during the war are displayed along with the 100 feet high flagpoles. For trekking, the surroundings hill tops are perfect and a visit to Lamayuru Monastery located on Leh-Srinagar Highway will be concluding your tour of Kargil in presumably perfect way.
Height: 2676 meters above sea level
Location: Kargil is located 60 km from Drass and 204 km from Srinagar to the west and 234 km from Leh to the east. One can reach Kargil from Padum by covering a distance of 240 km and a drive from Delhi will take around 1047 kms to be covered.
Best time to visit: June to September is the ideal time to visit Kargil as per the information given by the experts and experienced travelers.
Drass Valley in Kargil District in Jammu and Kashmir is popularly called as the gateway of Ladakh. In the infamous Kargil War, Drass has played a significant role. The Pakistani Army in 1999 started dropping shells in Drass and in the surrounding villages and thus the war broke out between India and Pakistan. In the end, India recaptured Drass and other parts in the premises and then on Drass has been recognized as the memorial of the Kargil War
Drass is nestled amidst the snow-clad peaks on the Leh- Kargil National Highway at a height of 3230 meters above the sea level. Zojila Pass is the beginning of Drass Valley. Even when the harshest climatic conditions of winter hit the inhabitants here, the people kept guarding the valley intact and thus they are called the guardians of Ladakh’s gateway. The residents of the valley is known to be the saviours of stranded travelers who try to cross the pass along the snow covered trails and also they have stayed back in the valley to transport trading merchandise in the extreme cold. Drass is recognized as the base for the three day long Suru valley trek.
The coldest region of India is Drass where -12 degree Celsius is the average temperature during winter and it falls onto as low as -17 degree Celsius during the peak time of winter. The tours of Drass compulsorily include a visit to the famous Drass War Memorial which is built to pay tribute to those who lost their lives in the India-Pakistan War in 1999. There is a Brigade War Valley that also turned to be the space to commemorate the lives and dedication of Indian soldiers during Kargil War.
Height: Drass Valley is located at an average height of 3820 meters.
Location: It is located 60 kms away from Ladakh and starts from the foot of the famous Zojila Pass.
Best time to visit: The season between the months of May and September are the suitable time to visit Drass.
In the history of India, 1999 is a significant one in terms of politics in India and in its foreign relations. The Kargil War to be true has shocked the pulse of India but due to the timely attack of Indian Army against Pakistan made India proud though the war led many of our soldiers to lose their lives.
To commemorate the victory India achieved and also to pay tribute to our brave soldiers, the Indian Army has built a War Memorial in Drass, the most important location which became famous during the war and now the memorial is known in different names such as Kargil War Memorial and Drass War Memorial. The Indian name of the memorial is Vijaypath. Lulled by the foothills of Tololing Hills, Drass Memorial keeps the soldier still alive through the epitaph which has the names of all the soldiers embalmed on it. On 26th July every year, Kargil Vijay Diwas is celebrated at the memorial. Indian Prime Minister pays tribute to the brave soldiers at Amar Jawan Jyothi at the India Gate, New Delhi on the same day.
A Sandstone Wall is the prime attraction in the memorial which shows the names of the Indian Army personnel who fought and lost their lives in the war and near to the memorial you can see a souvenir shop as well. On the 13th anniversary of the victory in Kargil War, the soldiers have hoisted an Indian flag that weighs up to 15 kg as a tribute. There is a gallery, Manoj Pandey Gallery that displays the photographs taken during the war, the weapons used and artilleries discovered.
Location: Drass Valley in the foothills of Tololing is the location of Kargil War Memorial. You can visit the memorial during the visit to Kargil from Leh. It is located 5 kms from the city center across the famous Tiger Hill.
Timings: It is open on all days except Sunday, from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm and from 02:00 pm to 05:00 pm
Best time to visit: During the months of May, June, July, August and September would be the perfect time to visit the memorial.
The Zanskar Range is the mountain range in Jammu and Kashmir that acts as the separating line between Ladakh and Zanskar. The Zanskar Range is a part of the Tethys Himalayas, formed with weakly transformed sedimentary series. The average height of the Zanskar Range is 6000 meters. It is an inevitable spot for adventure lovers during their adrenaline rushing trekking trips to the Trans Himalayas every year.
On the way to Zanskar Valley, one will come across the incredible Suru Valley which puts forth a decent trekking experience to adventure lovers. Zanskar is alluring always with its brightly shining mountain peaks and the presumably attracting villages, sometimes, it looks overshadowing the relishing Changthang Region as well. Tourism has caused a great enhancements on the economic side of the region like education flourished and the lifestyle of the people has changed but it took its toll on the fragile mountain environment.
Nevertheless, Zanskar is the favorite tourist destination still because of the vast area that is made beautiful by multiple hues, the distinct flora and fauna and the extremely variant climatic conditions. There are two main branches of the Zanskar River; one is Doda which has source near Pensi-La and flows south eastwards to reach Padum and the second one is formed by two tributaries called Kargyag River and it has source near Shingo La.
Height: The valley is situated at an average height of 6000 meters above the sea level.
Location: It is located at a distance of about 464 kms from Leh and would take around 10 to 11 hours to reach. Buses are available from Leh to reach the valley.
Best time to visit: The months of June, July, August and September are suitable to visit the Zanskar Range as the other months will cause heavy snowfall and the roads will be blocked.
The Zanskar Valley is the place to witness enchanting visuals of snow
capped peaks and alpine lakes. Located in the Ladakh district, there
are numerous places to see here. Visit the Zongkhul Monastery by
undertaking the exciting Padum-Kishtwar trekking route.
Visit Zangla, which is an ancient castle that also houses a chapel
and also feel amazed at the captivating beauty that you see from the
Penzella Pass. Take a village tour through a human settlement in this
divine land at Karsha. Get more breathtaking views from Panikhar and
also visit the Panikhar Fort.