Kargil is located on the bank of the Suru River which flows at around 10,000 ft. high. Here people were followers of Buddhist religion till the 14th century AD. Presently, Kargil is inhabited by Muslims of Shia sect.
The landscape of the Suru valley is wonderful, especially when it gets dotted by flowers in the summer. It expands from Kargil town upto the Penzi La watershed, from where the Suru river rises. The Suru valley has a large population, mainly of Tibetan-Dard Muslims, who converted to Islam in the 15th century. The beauty of the region is enhanced by the peaks of Nun (7,135m) and Kun (7,035m) Massif.
The Kartse Khar an ancient village with a 7m tall rock carved statue of Maitriya Buddha. All this is evidence of the presence of Buddhist community in the valley in the past. There are other rocks carved statues and stupas are to be seen in Suru valley, if any one wishes to explore.
Panikhar is the best station for undertaking mountaineering expeditions to the various Peaks surrounded the valley. Tanyol, the approach base for climbing Mt. Nun, is just 6 Kms. further up the valley along the road. A short walk up the hill slopes from here takes one across the Sentik Ridge to the base camp on the rim of the ice plateau. Another very interesting hike is to the Nun- Kun view saddle (3810m) in the Parkachik ridge. This requires 3 hours of walking along verdant slopes overlooking the fertile valley below.
Drass is around 60 Kms. to the west of Kargil on the road to Srinagar. The place has beautiful pasture grounds. Drass is the second coldest inhabited place in the world, where the temperature goes as low as - 50 in winter.
Drass has become famous in recent years because of Pakistans misadventure in the Tiger hill and Tolloling areas. One can have a lovely view of Tiger hill from Drass village. Drasss inhabitants consist mainly of the Dards stock, an Aryan race believed to have originally migrated to these villages of the western Himalaya from central Asian steppes. They speak Shina, which is very much unlike the Ladakhi dialects spoken elsewhere in the Ladakh region. The favorite pass time of the inhabitants of Drass is Polo.
Buddhist remains at Drass
Drass is dominated by Muslims, which was predominant Buddhist region, converted to Muslims in 15th Century. The only Buddhist remains of note in the whole area are images carved in relief on stone of Maitriya, Avaloketeshvara, a lotus flower, a man on horseback and a stupa.
Zangskar valley lies to the south west of Leh, surrounded by the Himalayan and Zangskar ranges, which is the most isolated of all the trans- Himalayan valleys. Zangskar comprises of two main valleys of Stod (Doda chu) and Lunak (Tsarab chu), which converge below at Padum. The valley has an area of about 5,000 sqr. Kms. and an elevation of 13,154 ft. The area remains inaccessible for nearly 7 months in the year. All the high passes are close in the winter and the river freeze on the surface. Zanskaris walk along the frozon river to reach the Indus River in Nimoo village, which is known as the Chadar trek. The route from Kargil to Padum via Penzi La is the only motorable road to reach Zangskar valley, which remains open from June to September.
The route from Kargil to Padum via Penzi La is the only motorable road to reach Zangskar valley, which remains open from June to September.
The Kargil to Padum Road was completed in the late 70s. Even today this road is not mettaled and has been neglected by Govt. localites are trying to start construction of Chadar road from Nimo to Padum, which would be the shortest route if constructed.
Padum is around 464 Kms. from Leh and 234 Kms. away from Kargil. Once the Capital of the Zangskar valley, today it is the administrative headquarter of the region and probably the most populous settlement of Zanskar. There is a small market along the main road with hotels, restaurants and many shops. The town has a newly contructed Mosque and Muslim community. Stakrimo Gonpa is on a hill side and the 10th century monument carved on a huge rock near the river bank, provides epigraphic evidence that the region was influnced by Budddhism since ancient period.
The Nubra Valley means Ldumra (the valley of flowers), situated in the north of Leh. The average altitude of the valley is about 10,000 ft. above the sea level. The main attraction in this area is Bactarian Camels (Shaggy double hump Camel) around sand dunes, Deskit & Samstanling monasteries and Khardung la Pass (18,380 feet.) above sea level. The road journey to Nubra valley leads through Khardongla (the highest motor able road in the world) 18380 ft. around 50 kms. away from Leh. After crossing the pass, you can have a view of Khardong village, Khalser and Deskit (the main villages of Nubra valley). The Deskit village offers Guest Houses and lower budget hotels. The Camel safari can be organized from Deskit to Hunder village. Hundar village has small monastery and it is located on ancient Silk Route.
The land of Nomads
Changthang means Eastern Flat land, is located in the east of Leh on the Chinese border. The average altitude of the area is around 14600m above sea level. This area is also known as Rupsho valley. The main attraction of this area is Changpa nomads, wild animals, Lakes and rare birds.
The Tsomoriri Lake is a beautiful mountain bounded expanse of water, around 240 Kms. from Leh in Rupsho Valley. The Lake is located at 14,000 ft. near a small village of Korzok. The Korzok Monastery of 19th century houses Shakyamuni Buddha and other statues. The Nomadic people are most outstanding feature of this Lake area, which grazed herd of goats and yaks. The Tsokar (the salt Lake) around 76 kms. from Tsomoriri is also a wonderful Lake in this area.
Pangong is 40 miles in length and nearly 2-4 miles in width at a height of 4267m above the sea level What strikes the eye in coming first in view of this lake is the lovely colour of its water, espacially towards evening, which is of the richest deep blue, over the whole expanse, at morning time, it is of a lighter a very brilliant colour. The water of the Lake is not that salty as sea water.
Pangong Tso trip can be organised in two days and overnight stay at Tangtse. Travellers are not allowed to pitch their tents near the Lake and only allowed to go upto Spangmik due to security reason. As 75% of the Lake is in China and only 25% is in India. The landscape on the way to Pangong is spectacular.
Dhahanu The land of Aryans
Dhahanu is situated to the south west of Leh, around 163 Kms. passing through the beautiful villages of Kaltsey, Domkhar, Skurbuchan and Achinathang. There are many small villages but only two villages of Dha and Hanu are open for tourist. Being on lower altitude Dhahanu is warmer than Leh. The main attraction of this tour is Drokpa Community considered being as last race of Aryans confined to the valley. Their feature is pure Indo Aryan and they have preserved their racial purity down the Centuries. Their culture and religious practices are very similar to ancient pre- Buddhist religion known as Bon-Chos.