Kargil is the second largest urban centre of Ladakh and headquarters of the district of same name. A quite town now, Kargil once served as important trade and transit centre in the Pan-Asian trade network. Numerous caravans carrying exotic merchandise comprising silk, brocade, carpets, felts, tea, poppy, ivory etc. transited in the town on their way to and from China, Tibet, Yarkand and Kashmir. The old bazaar displayed a variety of Central Asian and Tibetan commodities even after the cessation of the Central Asian trade in 1949 till these were exhausted about two decades back. Similarly the ancient trade route passing through the township was lined with several caravanserais. Now, since 1975, travellers of numerous nationalities have replaced traders of the past and Kargil has regained its importance as a centre of travel-related activities. It is also the take off station for visitors to the erotic Zanskar Valley. Tourists travelling between Srinagar and Leh have to make a night halt here before starting the second leg of their journey.
Pilgrimage Tourism in Kargil
Kargil rests nestling along the rising hillside of the lower Suru basin. Two tributaries of the Suru River that meet here are the Drass and Wakha. The land of Kargil offers pilgrim tourism as Kargil is also a land of religion. There are several monasteries located in Kargil and are famous among the inhabitants of the land. The monasteries are Cave Monastery, Shargol Monastery, Stongdey Monastery, Mulbekh Gompa, Stagrimo Monastery, Zangla Monastery, Pibiting Monastery, Starrimo Monastery, Sani Monastery etc. Apart from these monasteries here are some places that reflect the early Buddhist art like the Mulbek Chamba and the chief attraction of Mulbek is a 9 metre 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. Urgyan Dzong is the meditation retreat that lies tucked away in an amazing natural mountain fortress high up in Zanskar range. Concealed within is a circular table land 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. Apart from these monasteries, Kargil is the abode of a few Imambaras, namely, Trespone and Sankhoo. These are also considered to be the places of tourist attraction. The buildings are made keeping in mind the Turkish style of architecture and are home to the Muslim 'Aghas'. Besides the imambaras the Muslims of Kargil flock to the Jama Masjid.
Leisure Tourism in Kargil
The leisure tourism in Kargil comprises a wide range of visiting places that are scattered throughout the land. Being located in the centre of the Himalayan region with Zanskar Valley, Kargil has tremendous potentials for adventure activities. Kargil serves as an important base for adventure tours in the heart of Himalayas. The Wakha Rgyal is 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 white-washed 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. Another place that worth visiting is the Nishat Garden which was established by Queen Noor Jahan's brother, Asif Khan in 1633 AD. It is situated on the banks of world famous Dal-Lake in the backdrop of Zabarwan hills. This garden commands magnificent view of the lake. The Garden is terraced with beautiful water channel flowing right in the middle. In addition to enjoying these sites, one can also opt for adventure tourism which the land offers. Some of the places like Panikhar, is known to be the best station to embark on mountaineering expeditions to the various Peaks surrounding the valley. Tanyol is the approach base for climbing Mt. Nun. In addition to this, the Nun- Kun view saddle (3810m) in the Parkachik ridge is another very fascinating climb. Kargil itself acts as a base for the trekking tours. The tourists are free to take up trekking, mountaineering, camping, river rafting etc and enjoy the offerings of this hilly terrain. Kargil serves to be the entry point to the wondrous Zanskar Valley. Even more, Kargil hosts the popular archery contest in the month of May every year and are celebrated with great enthusiasm. People come to visit Kargil may decide on to enjoy these social functions.
Nature Tourism in Kargil
The view of nature in Kargil is spectacular as it has various beautiful landscapes to behold. One of them is the Suru valley which offers the tourists to enjoy the colours of nature with various flowers dotted around the valley in summer. Moreover, the ancient village of Kartse Khar exhibits 7m tall rock carved statue of Maitriya Buddha with other magnificent Stupas and rock carved statues in Suru valley that compels the tourists to pay a visit here. Drass valley, located around 60 Kms. to the west of Kargil on the road to Srinagar, has beautiful meadows and majestic mountain peaks surrounding it. These are some of the well known destinations that enable the tourists for nature tourism.
Visiting Information on Kargil
How To Reach
By Road: Regular buses are available from Kargil and the state road transport of Jammu and Kashmir offers bus services that ply between Srinagar and Kargil and some local buses like the mini coaches also opens another options for travel. Moreover, to reach Kargil one can take cars or jeeps for road transportation.
By Air: To reach Kargil, one has to pass through Srinagar. The nearest airports of Kargil are the Leh Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport at Leh and Sheikh ul Alam Airport commonly known as Srinagar Airport, an international airport in Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir. From these airports airways are available to reach Kargil.
Kargil is a land where hotels are available according to the pocket of the tourists. Apart from hotels, the travellers can stay in the tourist bungalows. On the other hand circuit houses also make excellent accommodation options. These accommodations offer basic medical, communicational and banking facilities to the tourists. Most preferable time to visit Kargil is summer as the winter
Kargil has a different appeal which lies in the vicinity and the snowy and hilly surroundings. The snow that envelops the land also has another beauty that is witnessed during summer when the land with the sun beams brings back the spectacular grandeur of the land.