Did you know the word Kargil is actually made up of two words – Khar and rkil. In the local language, Khar means castle and rkil means center. Therefore, Kargil translates to a place between the castles! However, according to some other sources, the words Gar and Khil make up Kargil. Gar is ‘anywhere’ and khil is ‘a central place’. This translates to a central place for people to stay. All thanks to Kargil tourism for this enlightenment!
The History and Culture of Kargil
It is said that during the 8th century, Gasho Tha Tha Khan was the first ruler to establish a dynasty in Kargil. The Sod area in Kargil was under him and this dynasty can still be found there. In ancient times, Kargil was known as Purik, given the Tibetan, since most inhabitants of Kargil have features that resemble them. Drass is home to people from the Dard race and Zanskar has Ladakhi – Tibeto stock.
Kargil is inhabited by people who come from the Aryans, Dard, Tibetans, and Mongoloids. Kargil is a melting point of ethnicities and you will find Brogpas, Baltis, Purik, Shinas, and Ladakhi people settled here. Commonly used languages include Shina, Balti, Purig, Ladakhi, etc. As the Balti and Shina languages are written in Urdu script, Urdu is common in the area.
Kargil Tourism Winter Conclave 2021
The Kargil winter conclave is an initiative by Kargil tourism to promote Kargil as a winter sports destination in the Ladakh region. The first edition of the Kargil tourism winter conclave was held in 2020 and the one I attended was just the second event held in Kargil.
In recent times, Ladakh has become a UT and Kargil tourism has taken necessary measures to promote the region as a tourist hotspot. The chief guest for the Kargil tourism winter conclave was Executive Councilor for Tourism Mr. Phunsok Tashi, who welcomed travel agents and travel bloggers from all over India.
The drive from Leh to Kargil for the Kargil tourism event
It was in 2018, that I had first visited Kargil when Vidur and I were on a 6-month road trip to the Northern regions of Srinagar, Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Aru Valley, Spiti Valley, Jibhi, Naldehra, Narkanda, Garli, Chitkul, and Dharamsala. When we explored Kargil, we were mesmerized by its simplicity, beauty, and hospitality.
For 4 days, we stayed at Hotel the Kargil, and our host Mr. Zaheer took us around some fantastic spots all across the valley. Places like Hundarman, Suru valley, and Batalik appealed to us, and ever since our visit there, we have been extensively promoting them through our social media channels.
This time when we got the call from Kargil tourism to attend the winter conclave, I didn’t think twice. In a few days, I landed in Leh looking forward to my adventure trip. Even though I had covered the stretch from Leh to Kargil before, everything looked new. The winter weather had engulfed the valley in white and everything looked so clean and new. The drive was memorable and the Indus river looked glorious, shimmering in the winter sun.
Beautiful terrains all around
Our drive continued right along the Indus river for quite some time and I was eagerly looking to attend the Kargil tourism winter conclave. Armed with my GoPro, I kept recording the journey, to share it with Vidur who couldn’t make it for this trip.
There was snow everywhere and I could see a sheet of ice just underneath the car tires. Chilly winds hit us as we opened the windows to take videos and throughout the drive, the mercury kept dropping to subzero temperatures. Our first exploration was to a few gigantic ice formations on the roadside – these looked similar to stalactites!
Mulbekh Monastery tour by Kargil Tourism
Kargil tourism had arranged for us to reach Mulbekh monastery as part of our tour. The monastery is located about 50 kms from Kargil town and has an impressive stone-cut statue of Lord Buddha. As I stood near the 8th-century beauty, we were welcomed by Kargil tourism members and attended a beautiful local dance performance.
Post the performance, the Kargil tourism team accompanied us to our hotel in Kargil, PC (Popular Chacha) Palace, which I would definitely recommend to everyone. Interestingly, it is the only hotel open during the winters in Kargil! It had been a long and tiring day and I dozed off as soon as I got into the blanket!
3-day itinerary by Kargil tourism
The Winter Conclave arranged by Kargil tourism spanned over 3 days with a very detailed and interesting itinerary. I was really looking forward to exploring some new places as I had already explored spots like Suru Valley, Hundarman, Batalik, and Nun Kun during my trip in 2018.
The itinerary prepared by Kargil tourism was a mix of heritage sites in Kargil, winter sports in Kargil, monasteries in Kargil, cultural experiences of Kargil, and some culinary experiences as well.
Kargil tourism Winter Conclave- Day 1
In the wee hours of 21st February 2021, we woke up and rushed to get ready for our trip to Dras. It is one of the coldest places on earth and covered in a white blanket of snow for most of the year. The drive went through the beautiful Kargil Srinagar highway but we couldn’t see much on either side due to the massive ice walls.
Winter temperatures in Dras can get to unimaginable levels, in some instances -60 degrees Celcius as well! The beauty of visiting Kargil in winters is that everything looks so clean and pristine. The tourist crowds haven’t reached there yet so the snow is untouched. Combine that with blue skies and meandering clouds, you have witnessed heaven on earth!
Ice hockey in Dras
But it turns out that the local boys are naturally skilled at playing Ice Hockey without much training. Imagine being in a secluded part of India with extremely cold weather. And then you hear the whistles, coaches shouting and the sound of hockey sticks hitting each other!
It was a surreal experience to watch an Ice Hockey game as part of the Ladakh Winter Conclave 2021. Dressed in all-black, professionally designed hockey jerseys, the boys moved across the natural ice rink with ease and style. I couldn’t even stand on the rink for 30 seconds! Watching them glide across the ice rink, battling the cold and opponents was such an amazing experience. Kudos to Kargil tourism and the Sports Authority for promoting Ice Hockey in Kargil.
After experiencing the exhilaration of the Ice Hockey match and interacting with the boys, it was time for the next item on the itinerary – Draupadi Kund. According to legends, and we have so many of them, Draupadi took bath in a small pond in this region. The Pandavas, during their exile, traveled across the country and this was one of the places they lived in for some time.
In winters, you won’t see the lake as everything is frozen. Located next to the kund is a small template dedicated to Draupadi. It is located in Pandaras, on the Srinagar-Leh highway, and is the only high altitude in the Dras region.
Kargil War Memorial or the Dras War Memorial
The Kargil War Memorial needs no introduction. It is the place where our Kargil heroes rest, a place that reminds us of the sacrifice our jawans made during the Kargil War. The Kargil War Memorial is not a destination; it is an emotion that needs to be felt to remind you of how fortunate we are to enjoy the freedoms of life.
The Kargil War Memorial honors our soldiers who fought bravely and helped defeat the enemy. At the Kargil War Memorial house, one can see picture descriptions of the significant events that took place during the war and army personnel who lost their lives. Additionally, the memorial has a sandstone wall where the name of all the soldiers who died are inscribed.
From the Kargil War Memorial, you can see Tiger Hill, which was one of the most strategic points during the war. Walking through the memorial, you will be humbled by the gigantic Indian national flag and the sight of our resting warriors.
Balti Bazaar Kargil
The charm of every small town can be best experienced through a walking tour especially if it’s through the rustic part of the town. Balti Bazaar is a historic place in central Kargil that is replete with crumbling wooden buildings built along narrow lanes. Walking through these lanes, you can imagine how life would have been in the past.
Balti Bazaar was once a busy trading center as it was part of the famous Silk Route. The town prospered due to the prosperous trades that ran through it. However, now the place lays in ruins, having been battered by time and nature’s fury. Walk through the place, talk to locals, and indulge in some architectural photography, if you like.
Apo Bazaar Kargil
From the narrow lanes of the Balti Bazaar, we headed towards another local market in Kargil, the Apo Bazaar. This tour, organized by Kargil tourism took us through the open-air market that is as colorful to look as it is to taste! Dotted with shops that sell spices, local wares, street food, and souvenirs, Apo Bazaar is a happening place if you want to experience a slice of Kargil life.
What you must try are the dried apricots and the fresh non-veg items being grilled all over the market. It is a good place to do some shopping while helping the local economy grow.
In 2018, when we took a trip to Hundarman, we were left speechless. The town faced an identity crisis during the Kargil War as it went from being a part of India to being in Pakistan and then again coming under India.
The village was deserted in a hurry and it is now a museum that shows the struggles of life during the war. The architecture of the village is astounding. Multi-level dwellings made up of mud and stone and supported by wooden planks. Think of it like our apartment buildings. When you do visit Kargil, Hundarman is definitely a place to explore.
Kargil tourism Winter Conclave - Day 2
Our second day of the Kargil tourism winter conclave was going to be as action-packed as the first day. Here is what we experienced.
Kargil city viewpoint
The viewpoint is located on a small elevated space from where you get panoramic views of Kargil town and the surrounding mountains. The vantage point is an awesome spot to do landscape photography and to witness sunrise and sunsets.
Snow football event
Did such a thing even exist? Apparently, it does, and the local boys love it! In a country dominated by cricket, it is a refreshing sight to see other sports flourishing as well. The Kargil tourism team escorted us to a snow-covered ground where two teams were battling it out with each other and the elements.
Skiing at Linkipal ski slopes in Kargil
Skiing is another winter sport being heavily promoted and developed by Kargil tourism. Located close to Kargil town are the Linkipal Ski slopes that have ideal conditions for skiing. Watching the local athletes glide by was a lovely experience especially when some of the naughty ones splashed some ice on us!
Ashuna Trespone Valley visit by Kargil Tourism
One of the most beautiful places to visit in the Kargil river is any spot on the Suru valley! Its gorgeous emerald waters will leave you spellbound! Head to the Trespone village near Kargil if you want to indulge in some photography of the Suru river flanked by the mountains.
After some photoshoots, Kargil tourism took us to Trespone Valley resort where we enjoyed a steaming hot cup of Kawah! Part of the colorful and delicious Kashmiri cuisine, Kawah is a saffron-infused drink consumed primarily during winters.
Kartse Khar Buddha statue
Another familiar sight for me from my 2018 visit was the Chamba statue. The 7-foot rock-cut statue of the Maitreya Buddha is located near a beautiful hamlet and has to be accessed by a short 1-minute walk from the main road. Vehicles can go near a small nullah from where you will be able to walk towards the statue.
Kargil Tourism Cultural Show
It’s not often that you get to witness cultural events specially organized for your group! But thanks to Kargil tourism, we were witness to an extravagant display of the local traditional performances.
The highlight of the day was definitely the Balti dances performed by both men and women. Dressed in lovely traditional attires, all the performers graced the stage with their memorable performances that showcased the Ladakhi culture.
And then the icing on the cake was the traditional cuisine arranged by Kargil tourism. The generous spread had dishes like Rogan Josh, Seekh Kebabs, Yakhni, Marzwan and many more other dishes.
Kargil tourism Winter Conclave - Day 3
For our last day, Kargil tourism had planned a day infused with activities, events, visits to local sights, and lots of photoshoot opportunities.
Driving up to Hambutingla was nostalgic as in 2018, I had spent quite some time here with Vidur. Not many people know about this pass as it lies on the way to Batalik from Kargil. Located at an altitude of 13,202 feet it is one of the highest motorable roads in the Ladakh region.
Full of hairpin bends and curves it’s fun to ride on when the tarmac is in good condition. For those who have car sickness, do go slow and take lots of breaks.
Indus viewpoint near Batalik
Those who have read about the Kargil War would know about Batalik, one of the strategically important locations in the Kargil region. On the way to Batalik, you will come across many viewpoints over the Indus River. Cutting through the rocky brown terrain, the azure waters of the Indus River liven up the landscape and give it a much-needed color.
The pure Aryan Race descendants
A visit to Garkone will give you the feeling that you have stepped out of India. That’s because the people in the village are said to be of a pure Aryan race! The features are striking and the Central Asian race is said to be from Alexander’s garrison.
It took me a couple of minutes to absorb it; I caught myself staring at the people there and admiring their facial features! Once you get over this, you will be besotted by their traditional attire and cultural events. Kargil tourism had arranged for a short event where the local women performed some of their traditional dances for our group!
It was nice to interact with them, learn about their lineage and their way of life. Please note that you can’t reach Garkone village by car. You will have to hike quite a bit and it is better to take a local guide with you for this tour.
From Garkone, the Kargil tourism team took us to the hamlet of Chiktan which houses the Chiktan fort. Even though the fort is in ruins it is a magnificent reminder of the region’s past glory. People say that the Chiktan Khar was once bigger and grander than the Leh Palace and was constructed by the Baltis in the 16th century.
Sangnag Chosling monastery | Yakmal Bodhkharbu
This was the last stop arranged by Kargil tourism and signaled the end of the Kargil Winter Conclave. Located on the Leh Kargil route is the Sangnag Chosling Monastery that is over 350 years old. Dedicated to Maitreya Buddha, the monastery houses a ginormous Buddha statue and elegant ancient paintings. You can cover the monastery in about half an hour.
How to get to Kargil | How to reach Kargil
Srinagar is the nearest airport to Kargil (approximately 204 kilometers) that is well-connected to major Indian cities like New Delhi, Jammu, Leh, Chandigarh, Amritsar, Mumbai, Indore, and Bangalore. Major airline carriers like IndiGo, Spice Jet, Air India, and GoAir have excellent connectivity and regular flights to Srinagar Airport. Once you reach the airport, you can either hire a cab or board a bus to reach Kargil.
You can board daily buses from Srinagar and Leh which are 204 and 234 kilometers respectively from Kargil. The bus fare depends upon the type of bus you choose- regular or deluxe but the charge will be quite nominal.
The nearest railway station to Kargil is in Jammu which is approximately 540 kilometers away from the town. You can take private taxi services, jeeps, or mini-coaches that are available for hire outside the railway station. This station is linked to most of the Indian cities like Delhi, Chennai, Pune, Kolkata, Mumbai, and Trivandrum.
Some of the trains that run from here are New Delhi-Jammu Tawi Rajdhani Express, Uttar S Kranti, Jhelum Express, Mumbai Central-Jammu Tawi Swaraj Express, Himgiri Express, and Himsagar Express.
For adventure lovers around the world, hitting the road to Kargil can be a dream drive. Kargil can be easily reached by roadways via national highway 1D. (Srinagar to Leh route cuts through Kargil and the Kargil military airport). You can get taxi services to reach Kargil from other places in Ladakh, Srinagar, and Manali.
Best Hotels in Kargil | Where to stay in Kargil
Through the efforts of Kargil tourism, Kargil is slowly on its way to development. However, there are quite a few good hotels there. Our recommendation will always be Hotel the Kargil where we spent 3 days during our trip in 2018. However, you can also check out Rangyul Resort Kargil and PC Palace Kargil.
The availability of the hotels depends on the season. Some of the hotels don’t operate during peak winters so you should call in advance and find out their status. There are numerous homestays as well. If you are planning a visit to Kargil anytime soon, you can check some here.
Best time to visit Kargil
Kargil is a year-round destination and you will see different shades of it as the seasons change. During our Kargil tourism trip, we visited Kargil in peak winters and it was just breathtakingly beautiful. Once the winters leave, the white landscapes slowly turn to green, and the valley blooms with flowers and green pastures all around.
So, depending on whether you want to see white Kargil or green Kargil, you can pick any time of the year to visit Kargil.
Places to visit near Kargil
Kargil is blessed with an abundance of natural beauty and the same is being highlighted through the efforts of Kargil tourism. Some of the best places to visit in Kargil include
- Hundarman village
- Suru Valley
- Zanskar valley
- Kargil War Memorial
- Aryan Valley
- Nun-Kun peaks
- Chiktan Khar
- Mulbekh Monastery
- Rock-cut Buddha statues
- Sani Monastery
- Stod Valley
Click here for a detailed travel guide for Kargil.
Kargil Tourism FAQ
Where is Kargil?
Kargil is a small town located in the Western part of Ladakh. After Leh, it is the second-largest town in the Ladakh region.
Is Kargil safe for tourists?
It sure is. Kargil is one of the safest places in the world and even though it is close to the Indo-Pak border it is very safe. Even solo travelers, women tourists can travel freely inside the valley and visit the border regions.
Is Kargil worth visiting?
Absolutely. Kargil tourism is investing heavily in promoting Kargil as a tourist spot as there are numerous spots to visit like Hundarman, Suru valley, Nun-Kun peaks, palaces, villages, border areas, and much more.
How far is Kargil from Srinagar?
From Srinagar, you will need to travel 200 kms to get to Kargil.
How far is Kargil from Leh?
The distance from Leh to Kargil is 217 kms and it takes about 6 hours to complete the journey.
How far is Kargil from Manali?
From Manali, it is located at a distance of 650 kms through Leh. If you travel from the Srinagar side, then it is about 700 kms.
How far is Kargil from Delhi?
Now that’s a long way! The total distance from Delhi to Kargil is 1000+ kms!
When is Kargil Vijay Diwas celebrated?
Kargil Vijay Diwas is a holiday observed in India on the 26th of July. On this date in 1999 India successfully took command of the high outposts in Kargil.
When did the Kargil war take place?
The Kargil War lasted from 3rd May 1999 till 26th July 1999. It resulted in a decisive Indian victory.
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