Kargil is 204 km from Srinagar and located on the Srinagar to Leh Highway. It is also a junction where roads to Skardu and Zanskar converge. Kargil is the second largest town in Ladakh and was once a flourishing and an important town lying on the ancient trade routes between India, China and Central Asia. The town has regained its prominence after it was opened to foreign tourists in 1974. Kargil is nestled in the Himalayas, giving it a cool, temperate climate. Summers are warm with cool nights, while winters are long and cold with temperatures often dropping to -40 °C with recorded temperatures of -60 °C in Drass, especially in the tiny town of Drass which is situated 56 km from the Kargil town. The Zanskar plateau is even colder, thus making it a near-uninhabitable place for humans to stay, except for the hardy Khampas. The entire Kargil district is spread over 14,086 km². Kargil town serves as the headquarters of Kargil district of Ladakh in the state of Jammu and Kashmir in India. It is the second largest town in Ladakh after Leh. 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, travelers of various nationalities have replaced traders of the past and Kargil has regained its importance as a centre of travel-related activities.
Before the Partition of India in 1947, Kargil was part of the Baltistan district of Ladakh, a sparsely populated region with diverse linguistic, ethnic and religious groups, living in isolated valleys separated by some of the world's highest mountains. The First Kashmir War (1947–48) concluded with the LOC bisecting the Baltistan district, with the town and district of Kargil lying on the Indian side in the Ladakh subdivision of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. At the end of Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, the two nations signed the Simla Agreement promising not to engage in armed conflict with respect to that boundary.
In 1999 the area saw infiltration by Pakistani forces. They were repulsed by India in the Kargil War. The area that witnessed the infiltration and fighting is a 160 km long stretch of ridges overlooking this only road linking Srinagar and Leh.The military outposts on the ridges above the highway were generally around 5,000 metres (16,000 ft) high, with a few as high as 5,485 metres (18,000 ft).
Best Time to Visit Kargil
Kargil experiences summer from the month of May and last till September and is apt to experience the beauty of the place.
The temperature remains comfortable between 8°C to 21°C.
Major Attarctions in Kargil
- Pashkum : Pashkum is located 15 km from Kargil on the Leh road. It is a historical village with beautiful ruins of castles on hillocks, reminding visitors of its glorious past.
- Mulbek : Mulbek is a small Buddhist village at a distance of 42 km from Kargil on Kargil-Leh road. The main attraction of Mulbek is Mulbek Chamba which has a nine metered tall 7th century rock sculpture of the ‘Maitreya’- the future Buddha and a monastery with beautiful wall painting and statues. There is also a mosque and remains of a fort, which can be visited in Mulbek.
- Shargole : Shargole is a beautiful village located about 35 km towards the right side of Kargil-Leh road. Majority of its population comprises of Buddhists and Muslims. The main attraction is a small monastery with beautiful interior wall paintings. It is perched on a cliff and offers great picturesque views. An exciting four days trek from Shargole leads to Suru valley via Safi La and Rusila Passes. Mulbek and Shargole are connected with Kargil by proper road and have daily bus services. Even private mini buses operate on this route.
- Fokar Urgiyan Rzong : Fokar Urgiyan Rzong is around 8 km further up streams from Shargole. It is located behind a natural fortress. It is best known for the cave monastery of Urgiyan Rzong. This monastery is the popular meditation retreat of Guru Padma Sambhava. Handprints of the great saint and natural statues and figures can also be seen here.
- Rgyal Wakha : Rgyal Wakha is a village, little further from Mulbek. This is hidden in a vertical cliff of conglomerate formation and looks like beehive from afar. Expect stunning views of the surrounding areas from the village.
- Dras : A small town that is 60 km away from Kargil, and 144 km away from Srinagar, located on Srinagar Kargil National Highway. Dras is world’s 2nd coldest place in the world after Siberia. It is often called 'The Gateway to Ladakh'. It is at a height of 3230 m or 10990 ft. The mountain ridges however range from 16000 feet to 21000 feet.The Dras valley starts from the base of the Zojila pass, the Himalayan gateway to Ladakh. For centuries, its inhabitants have been known to have negotiated this formidable pass even during the riskiest period (in late autumn or early spring, when the whole sector remains snow-bound and is subject to frequent snow storms) to transport trading merchandise and to help stranded travelers traverse the pass. They thereby established a monopoly over porterage during the heyday of the pan-Asian trade. A hardy people enduring with fortitude the harshness of the valley's winter, the inhabitants of Dras can well be described as the guardians of Ladakh's gateway.
- Kargil/Dras War Memorial : Kargil war memorial, built by the Indian army following the war with neighboring Pakistan in the late nineties is frequented by travelers plying the highway connecting Srinagar to Leh. The memorial houses some of the major sequence of events that happened during the course of the war along with details of the Indian army personnel, who sacrificed their lives in the process of recapturing some of the peaks occupied by the Pakistan army; like the Tiger Hill and Tololong. The memorial has a memento shop, selling hats, T-shirts, coffee mugs etc. But the main attraction of the whole memorial is the Sandstone wall, in the open, which has the names of all the Indian army personnel, who laid their lives during the Kargil war. Visitors to the memorial can also see from there, some of the peaks that the Indian army captured back from Pakistan. The Kargil war memorial is by the side of the main highway going from Srinagar to Leh in Kashmir.
Timings: 10 am- 12 pm and 2pm-5pm (Closed on Sundays).