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Kargil

The strategic location of Kargil allowed it to conduct trade between Kashmir valley and China/ Yarland/ Tibet. Products like silk, brocade, carpets, tea, poppy, ivory and other items were transferred across the border. The Indo-Pak war of 1999 brought it to the limelight as the conflict was named after the city.

Kargil is located at an altitude of 2740 meters in Kargil district of Ladakh. It is the second largest city of Ladakh and the district headquarters. It is 207 kilometers from Srinagar and falls in the middle of the grueling highway ride from Srinagar to Leh. Kargil has an airport of itself.

Kargil is located on the banks of Suru River (a powerful tributary of Indus River). The landscape of Kargil has unbelievably beautiful alpine landscape. One has to visit this town to grasp its whole splendor. Home of diverse ethnic and cultural customs. It is the land of mixed cultural living of Dards (the direct descendants of Aryans) and Tibetan Buddhists. The picturesque valleys of Suru and Zanskar are a few kilometers drive from Kargil town. Suru is noteworthy for its Buddhist rock carvings and gripping topography. Zanskar is a trekking and mountaineering sensation among adventure lovers. The adventure sports that can be performed in Kargil and Zanskar are-white water rafting, trekking, hang gliding, rock climbing, ice skating, camping and mountaineering. Kargil town is popular for apricot garden.

The best time to visit Kargil is from April to September.

Getting There

By air - Kargil town has a personal airport called Kargil Airport which is just 8 kilometers drive from the heart of the town. However it is a military airport and civilian flights are not very common.
By Road - NH-1D connects Kargil town to Srinagar. This road is open during all seasons and comprises a driving distance of 5 hours from Srinagar to Kargil Town.

Sani Monastery

The Monastery is unique in a number of ways. First, it is the oldest religious monument of Ladakh and Zanskar region. It was documented to be constructed by Kushan ruler Kanishka in 2nd century. King Kanishka was a supporter of Buddhism. He visited Zanskar to consecrate a chorten. The monastery is located in front of the Kanishka chorten. The chorten is protected by stone walls. Secondly, Sani monastery belongs to Drupka Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism (which is the dominant religion of Bhutan). Thirdly, it is the only monastery in the area which accommodates nuns. Lastly, Sani monastery is associated with many significant saints of Buddhism like Guru Rinponche and Naropa. It is situated adjacent to a village named Sani, 6 kilometers northwest of Padum village.

Festivals of Sani Monastery

A number of festivals are organized at the Sani monastery every year. Nungnes is performed generally during the flowering of  ‘Guru Neropa Flower’ (15th and 20th day of the sixth month of Tibetan Calendar). Great Prayer Festival is conducted annually during winter where the ritual of reading Tibetan canon is performed. Naro-Nasjal Festival is conducted in late July or early August. On this festival, monks perform mask dance and the statue of Naropa is unveiled for the spectators.

Shergol Monastery

Shergol village is located in Warkha Valley of Kargil district. It is 32 kilometers from Kargil town and 10 kilometers from Mulbekh. This small village is renowned for a whitewashed cave monastery which is suspended on a cliff in such a beautiful manner that it seems to be a part of a striking granite cliff. Shergol monastery belongs to Gelukpa School of Tibetan Buddhism. Although the monastery is quite accommodating, it has just 2 monks as caretakers. The attractions of this monastery are abounding. Climbing high to reach the monastery is an adventure in itself. It has arresting frescoes, statues and sculptures. The monastery has an image of Avalokiteswar. One can have bird’s eye view of surrounding landscape from Shergol monastery by its privilege of being located at an altitude like this. The village below comprise of a sizeable nunnery and small households.

Mulbekh Monastery

Mulbekh village is a distinguished tourist location of Zanskar region being the home of two gompas of different schools standing side by side and for a nine meter tall statue of Maitreya Buddha (the future Buddha) situated at a little distance along the main road. Mulbekh villages situated at a distance of 40 kilometers from Kargil town and 10 kilometers from Shergol monastery. Set along the road, the village is easily accessible through Kargil-Leh Highway.

The village is that it is located at an altitude of 3,304 meters. The two gompas, one of which belongs to Drupka School and other Gelukpa School, is standing together on a rocky hill which is another 200 meters above the village.

The statue of Maitreya Buddha, also called Chamba, is a rock carved sculpture of Buddha on the right hand side of Srinagar – Kargil - Leh Highway estimated to be carved in 8th century, while some believe it to date back to Kushan period of 2nd Century. The figure looks tall and demands attention on the passerby’s.

Suru Valley

Suru valley is a significant valley of Ladakh region in terms of beauty and proximity to Zanskar range. Suru Valley is 100 kilometers from Kargil town .It forms a part of northeast hills of Greater Himalayas and  is 3000 meters above the sea level. The valley got  its name from Suru River, a powerful tributary of River Indus. Suru Valley expands from Kargil town upto Pensi La (the origin and watershed area of Suru River). Pensi La is just 25 kilometers from Zaskar tehsil.Suru Valley is popular for its beautiful meadows and flowering fields in summer. This valley overlooks the popular twin peaks of Nun(7,135 meters) and Kun(7,035 meters).Mountaineering expeditions to Nu and Kun is conducted from Tangole village of Suru Valley. The people of this valley are generally Dards and of Tibetan origin. Agriculture is the main occupation of the inhabitants of Suru Valley. The valley of Suru profound in apple and apricot trees during flowering season.Sankoo,Panikhar and Rangdum are few important villages of Suru Valley.

Rangdum of Suru Valley

Suru Valley is divided into two parts-Lower Suru Valley and Upper Suru Valley. Lower Suru Valley is the most productive part of Suru Valley and has been discussed above. While Upper Suru Valley is rugged and uninhabited in nature. Rangdum village forms the part of Upper Suru Valley. It is practically a sparse village with huge pasturing grounds with colorful hills on one side and rocky mountain glaciers on other. This village is definitely picturesque. It houses 200 year old Tibetan monastery of Gelugpa sect called Rangdum Monastery. Accomodation provisions in Rangdum for tourists are – a tourist bungalow, 2 tea houses and summer camp arrangements.

Please Note: Rangdum village is located midway between Kargil and Padum town. Rangdum is 130 kilometers and 3 hours drive from Kargil town. Padum is 103 kilometers and 2 and a half hour drive from Rangdum.

Karshe Khar

Karshe Khar is a small village 6 kilometers from Sankoo.This village is popular for its 7 meter tall rock carved statue of Maitreya Buddha. Maitreya Buddha means future Buddha. There is a gandharav on each side of the statue. Apart from this , one will also find the ruins of Karshe Khar king’s palace in the village. They were the ones to build this beautiful statue. Other rock carvings in Suru valley and surroundings are Mulbekh, Apati, Byama Khumba and Dras. These tall structures of Buddhist culture confirm the existence of Buddhist missionaries in Ladkah and Zaskar region.

Padum

The word ‘Padum‘ is derived from the name of Guru Padmasambhava, a Buddhism teacher and highly revered guru. Padum is a Tibetan village with a population of not more than 1000 people. It is the only city of Zanskar tehsil of Kargil district of Jammu and Kashmir. It is 233 kilometers from Kargil town and 103 kilometers from Rangdum. Hemis National Park is nearby. Padum is located at an elevation of 3,669 meters in the beautiful valley of Zanskar. The economy of the population is dependent on agriculture as River Zanskar flows along the village.

Padum is famous for expeditions to Zanskar Range, captivating monasteries, landscape beauty and homestays. Karsha and Bardan monasteries are some noteworthy monasteries of Padum. Karsha Monastery is the largest monastic establishment of Zanskar. Other monasteries of Zaskar Valley are Lungnak and Phuktal, Zongkhul and Pipithing. Pipithing stupa is the same stupa where Guru Padmasambhava had buried a demon. Zongkul Gompa is the place where Indian saint Naropa meditated.

Leaving alone the monasteries, there are many historical sites in Padum like Padum Fort. Padum Fort was the seat of many ancient and medieval rulers of Zanskar. Presently, the fort is in ruins. However, it has some inscriptions which date back to 8th and 9th century.

Zangla

Zangla is the second prominent place in Zanskar Valley of Ladakh region. It is 35 kilometers from Padum in the extreme northern extend of Zanskar Valley. The elevation of Zangla is 3,931 meters and it serves as the base camp for Padum-Markha valley treks. Zangla also serves as an important point of cultural trip to villages of Zanskar-Padum-Strongdey-Zangla-Karsha-Padum. Historically too Zangla has been the one-time seat of Zanskar rulers. Therefore, it has an old castle in ruins perched atop a hill. Proceeding a little further from Zangla, one encounters a village called Tsa Zar. This village is the home of Zangla monastery and an old nunnery. This monastery is popular for its frescos.

Special mention should be given to a natural phenomenon happening in Zangla. This comprise of freezing of Zanskar River in winters. The frozen surface of the river becomes so hard that one can walk on it. This natural phenomenon is called ‘chaddar’ by locals. Chaddar trek is conducted in Padum and Zangla only during winters.

Map of Kargil

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