My visit to Kargil, the joint capital (shared with Leh) of the Indian Union Territory, Ladakh was an eccentric experience. The district town of Kargil is at 8780 feet above sea level. There are several places to visit in Kargil. It is generally the chosen destination for night halt while travelling on the Srinagar-Leh Highway (NH 1D). It is located somewhat in between Srinagar, Kashmir (204 kilometres away) and Leh (234 kilometres away).
Places to visit in Kargil are mostly along the Srinagar-Leh Highway. I have visited all these places while travelling from Srinagar to Leh by road. The drive is an ethereal experience.
Zoji La Pass
Zoji La pass is 99 kilometres from Kargil towards Srinagar. This 11570 feet high mountain pass connects Kashmir Valley with Drass, Suru Valleys and even the Indus Valley. You will especially love if you are an adventure junkie. This is a one-way road, not in the best of conditions. Even during the summer months, most of the area remains covered in snow and water from the melting glaciers. Driving or riding on this road is an out of the world experience.
Kargil War Memorial
Kargil War Memorial: This is a war memorial, 5 km from Dras, 45kms from Kargil towards Srinagar. It was built in honour of the Indian Army soldiers, who fought bravely at the Kargil War in 1999. You can find the names of the martyrs in Operation Vijay prestigiously engraved. The Majestic Indian Flag (11.4 meters X 7.6 meters) flutters gracefully against the backdrop of the Tiger Hill, Tololing Heights and Batra Top, where the fighting took place.
There is a gallery showcasing the valour with which the Indian army fought and won the war against Pakistan. And also a cemetery (Wifi Graveyard) for those who lost their lives fighting the war. I found several exhibits of war tankers, Bofors and a MIG. This is among the most important places to visit in Kargil. The tourists must stop to pay their homage to the soldiers who gave their lives protecting us, the civilians. I felt proud and patriotic when I learnt about the incidents of the war, narrated to us by a Major General.
Munshi Aziz Bhat Museum
Munshi Aziz Bhat Museum: This is an intriguing museum in Kargil town. It has more than 3500 collectables out of which around 1000 are displayed. Most of these are art and artefacts used or exchanged during trade through the old silk route. There are different galleries; for coins and currencies, for paintings, scriptures, manuscripts and ancient books. There are also galleries for silks, robes and carpets, for jewellery and accessories. You can also find armoury and weapons and things used in daily life like utensils and smoking pipes.
Hunderman Village: The 10 kilometres drive to this village is extremely scenic. This is one of the unique places to visit in Kargil. It is one of those northernmost villages in India, lying in India governed Baltistan region. This humble rugged hamlet has been Line of Control (LOC) between India and Pakistan and hence strategically sensitive.
For 4 months in 1969, this village belonged neither to India nor to Pakistan. The inhabitants abandoned the old village (Hunderman broq) and moved to a new settlement uphill. For years their old settlement remained abandoned. It was called the ‘Ghost Village’ unless Ilyas Ansari, a man with historical roots in the village; with the help of a Ladakhi NGO and tourism company; converted some of these dilapidated structures into a museum and restored and exhibited the items collected.
The architecture of the broq houses was that no door was externally visible. A lever mechanism of unlocking was hidden and only known to the owner of the house. From here the museum gets the name, ‘Unlock Hundarman (Brok), Museum of Memories’. It has various exhibits from items used by Purgi Settlement to letters exchanged during trade through the old silk route. The museum also has fired bullets used during Indo-Pak war.
Mulbekh Monastery: I visited the Mulbek village, situated 45 kilometres from Kargil towards Leh, on the NH1D. The two gompas of the Mulbekh Monastery are significant places to visit in Kargil. The gompa is perched on the cliff edges. One should climb up the rooftops to see the breathtaking views of the bluest of the blue skies above, the colourful rocky Himalayas and the lush green valley below. It is popular for the rock-carved Chamba Statue and inscription which dates back to 8th century. You can observe a strikingly enormous statue carved into the rock face, on the other side of the road. The statue looks similar to that of Lord Shiva’s; worshipped as Maitreya Buddha. Also known as ‘The Future Buddha’ or ‘The Buddha-to-come’.
Lamayuru-Moonscape: Lamayuru is mid-way between Kargil (102kms away) and Leh (114kms away). I visited Lamayuru while travelling to Leh from Kargil. The drive from Kargil to Leh along NH 1D is extremely scenic and covers most of the popular places to visit in Kargil. Lamayuru Monastery is the oldest existing monastery in Ladakh. The beautiful hanging white blocks of the gompa on the mountains with Tibetan scriptures carved on the rocks is a painter’s delight. The monastery exhibits age-old statues of Buddha and ancient scriptures and thankas. One can book a night stay at Lamayuru or a nearby serene village with apricot orchards by the Indus River, called Uletokpo.
The greatest attraction of this region is the Moonscape/Moon Land. I found the pass at 13500 feet (Fotu La) extremely rugged and barren. I saw some odd geographical formations similar to those of the landforms on the moon. It is hence called the Lunar Landscape. The yellow land with craggy rocks and the blue sky looks surreal. This is one of those places to visit in Kargil which you just cannot miss.
On the way to Lamayuru from Leh (Sham Valley attractions), you can visit Gurdwara Pattarsahib, magnetic hill and many monasteries. You will observe the ancient Spituk Monastery, closer to Leh. Do you know, it is famous for the majestic Kali which is unveiled during the Spithuk Festival? You must also visit the Rhizong Monastery, Likir Monastery, Alchi Monastery, Phyang Monastery and the ruins of the Basgo Palace.
Suru Valley: Another place to see in Kargil is the picturesque Suru Valley, 40 kilometres from Kargil town (Not on NH 1D). The Suru basin is a fertile canyon drained by Suru River, a tributary of the Indus. There are several scenic picnic spots in this not so touristy region. It is a popular base for several treks.
The drive from Kargil to Leh is a memory for the entire life and I appreciate Border Roads Organisation (BRO) and the Indian Army for the maintenance of such difficult roads which remain open from May to October.
A versatile writer and travel freak, discovering the world in her own casual way. Loves to immerse into the core of Mother Nature and extract her inherent beauty.