Kargil (2704 m), 204 kms from Srinagar in the west and 234 kms from Leh in the east, 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. Being located in the centre of the Himalayan region with tremendous potentials for adventure activities, Kargil serves as an important base for adventure tours in the heart of Himalayas. 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.

The town lies 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 available along the narrow valley as also the rising hillsides are intensively cultivated in neat terraces to glow barley, wheat, peas, a variety of vegetables and other cereals. Kargil is famous for the fine apricots grown here. In May the entire countryside becomes awash with fragrant white apricot blossoms while August, the ripening fruit lends it an orange hue.

Places to visit in Kargil

The most beautiful camping in the Ladakh region on the way of Spituk Monastery which is just 5 kms from Leh town. Alchi Choskor is the only monastery in the Ladakh on flat ground, around 69 Kms west of Leh. Largest and most famous of all of the temples and built by the great translator Ringchem Zangpo. The temple was founded in 11th century, which accounts for the Indian and particularly Kashmiri influences.

Sarchu is at the other base of Baralacha - La (4892mts.), the end point of Himachal Pradesh on the way to Leh -Ladakh. The distance of 251 km. from Manali has Rohtang Pass (3900mts.) Gondhla fort and Headquarters Keylong of the tribal district Lahoul. Patseo is the huge ground used by ancient traders gathering from Lahoul, Spiti, Ladakh, Zanskar, Tibet, China, Yarkand etc during that period, further takes to a beautiful high altitude lake- Suraj Tal, the origin of River Bhaga. There are various trekking routes to Spiti, Chandertal and Zanskar start from here. The strategically important base for the Indian army and the cold desert with moonscape remains open for just four months in a year. A real Shangrali-La in Himalayan silence.

Basgo Village
About 80 kms. West of Leh, Basgo was the capital of lower Ladakh before the kingdom was united at Leh. Until recently, this fascinating World Heritage Site was crumbling into dust, but UNESCO and the Basgo Welfare Committee have joined forces to restore the ancient citadel compound. Today, Basgo's Chamba Gompa is one of the highlights of the Indus Valley. The mural work inside has been spectacularly restored using traditional colours and techniques, images of Bodhisattvas and celestial beings even cover the ceiling.

The main building contains a two-storey statue of Maitreya and there is a second Gompa just downhill with another outsized Maitreya statue. The ruins of the citadel are scattered across the surrounding hill. Basgo has no place to eat or sleep but there are roadhouses for meals in nearby Nimmu, 2 kms. back towards Leh near the confluence of the green Indus and the murky brown Zanskar river. A road is slowly being built from here to Padum in Zanskar.

The original Choglamsar village is situated on the bank of Indus river. The new Tibetan refugee camp just off the main road from Leh, which is important center for Tibetan Culture, History and Buddhism. Tibetan children village has library, Medical center, and Traditional Handicraft shop and study center. Around one Km from TCV towards Hemis the central Institute of Buddhist studies, the study center for Tibetan Buddhism and Ladakhi culture has Tibetan painting and sculpture school, library with good collection of books.

Once capital of the Zanskar valley lies on top of a hill at the far end of the Lungnak valley. The majority of its 400 - 500 inhabitants are Muslims who are engaged in trading. At the eastern border of Padum, a suspension bridge cross over the Tserap Lingti Chu. From there a path leads along its right bank, and further along the river Zanskar, towards Tonde and Zangla. To the southwest, slightly above Padum, lies the Monastery of Stagrimo, which can be reached in 15 minutes. The monastery of Stagrimo belongs to the Drukpa Kagyupa order and is presently the home of about 30 monks.