Transit hub to Leh & Zanskar Valley: Kargil, Jammu & Kashmir
Located at a distance of 204 km from the capital city of Srinagar is the town of Kargil. This town is located at an altitude of about 8871 feet above sea level. Kargil is the second largest town in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir and is a very important transit hub for travellers, with roads leading to Leh, Srinagar and Zanskar Valley.
Kargil can be easily accessed by road from Leh, Srinagar and Padum in the Zanskar Valley. Buses, private taxis and shared jeeps make daily trips to Kargil. Shared jeeps ply all day to and from Kargil towards Leh and Srinagar. Private taxis are costly but a preferred option for luxury travellers and group travellers.
There is a bus every morning at around 4 am from Leh and Srinagar to Kargil and vice-versa. If you are planning on travelling by bus it is advisable to book the bus ticket a day before the journey since there is only one bus and booking the ticket on the bus might lead to getting a back seat or having to stand for the long bumpy fun ride. Fun ride since the local bus is the best place of getting to know locals and hear local folk music play all the way through the bus journey.
The inhabitants of Kargil had originally migrated from Tibet and Mongolia and were Buddhist until the 14th – 15th century when the Muslim missionaries began to convert the local people. Today nearly 90% of the population are followers of Islam. The dressing attire of the locals is still very much traditional with the older men dress in Hijabs and ladies in Burkas. The younger generation men mostly dress in western clothing, but the girls wear more traditional clothes.
The town became world famous during the mid-90’s because of the India-Pakistan war, when this town and the surrounding areas were under the Pakistani-based militants. All the locals have a sad if not depressing story to tell of how the Kargil war has affected and altered their life forever. Many of them lost their loved ones, while many have their loved ones stuck in POK (Pakistan occupied Kashmir) and have not seen them or had contact with them for many years. A big irony in the age of communication.
While in Kargil the attractions are limited to the museum of Munshi Aziz Bhat which has artifacts from central Asian trade and is also the main attraction for tourist in the town. The Jameh Mosque in the main street is open for visitors.
The area around Kargil has stunning scenery and makes really good early evening leisure walks. Walking through the lanes and by-lanes is something worth doing. Every lane has its own unique feel and will always have small rosy cheeked children running around and playing or peeping in curiously from their tiny wooden house window’s.
Accommodation at Kargil is costly for the standard of the rooms that are on offer. A regular backpacker guest house room will cost the same as a double room in most other places. The prices are high since there are very limited guest houses and since this town is a major traveller hub in this section of the Trans-Himalayas. Bargaining is a skill that will not be of any use in this town as the guest house owners will never bother to negotiate.
Kargil has plenty of decent eateries and restaurants, that serve up some really good Indian food and the chicken biryani served here is a must have. If you are a pure vegetarian then your options for eating are very limited since Kargil does not have a single pure-vegetarian eatery.
The street food is also a must have, the kebabas and momos sold on the streets are really cheap and very tasty. The bakeries in Kargil make really delicious fruit cake and even better rotis. The rotis are good things to munch on while walking through the lanes.
The best time to visit Kargil is during the summer months from the end of May to mid-September. It is important to keep in mind that since Kargil is a high security area there is no mobile network coverage for anyone who does not have a local sim card. There are a few calling booths and also a couple of cyber cafes and ATMs in Kargil.
The town of Kargil is a place which attracts travellers not because of its beauty and sights to see but more because of its strategic location. Kargil is a place that a traveller would absolutely fall in love with and at the same time this place would be one that a tourist would hate.
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