Kargil is a city in the Kargil district of Ladakh region, in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It is the second largest town in Ladakh after Leh. It is located 60 km and 204 km from Drass and Srinagar to the west respectively, 234 km from Leh to the east, 240 km from Padum to the southeast and 1,047 km from Delhi to the south.
Present-day Kargil,or Purig as it was also known, was not the natural capital of the region. Earlier, Purig consisted of a number of small but independent kingdoms, which included Chiktan, Phokhar, Sot and the Suru Valley. These tiny principalities would often fight among themselves over petty issues. Gasho “Thatha Khan”, an exiled Buddhist prince in the 9th century AD, is perhaps the first ruler who brought together all the territories under a united administration. Another sultan of Purig extended his kingdom to include Zanskar, Pashkum (Jammu and Kashmir) and Sodh, pretty much the territory of the present Kargil district. He is referred to as “the Purig Sultan”. His capital was based at Karpokhar in the Suru Valley. The other famous kings of Kargil were Boti Khan, Abdal Khan, Amrood Choo, Tsering Malik, Kunchok Sherab Stan and Thi Sultan.
It is said that it was the period of Ali Sher Khan Anchan, the famous ruler of Skardu, in the late 16th and early 17th centuries which had a great influence on the area. This prince from Baltistan conquered most of the principalities of Purig and introduced Balti culture in the Kargil district. Subsequently, it was the Dogras who united Baltistan, Purig, Zanskar and present-day Leh district in the first half of the 19th century under a single administrative unit, which lasted till 1947 when a new line of control was demarcated between India and Pakistan separating Skardu and Kargil.
Before the Partition in 1947, Kargil was part of the wazarat (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 Ladakh wazarat had three tehsils (sub-districts), named after the cities of their headquarters: Leh, Skardu and Kargil. The district headquarters shifted between the three locations each year.
1) Rangdum Monastery:
Impressive hills, jagged mountains, and glaciers are a few factors that enhance this famous place. Rangdum Monastery in Suru Valley sits at an elevation of 4,031 meters giving an imposing majestic presence. Located in Kargil Suru Valley, this must visit attraction is an 18th-century old monastery and is home to 40 monks and domesticated donkeys. Besides, you will find a prayer hall located in the central part of the monastery and it will give the visitors a clear view of the artefacts and other collections of Tibetan paintings. While here, you will get the feeling of remoteness as this attraction dwells far off the mainland. Despite the fact that the roads may get a little bumpy this major tourist place is gifted with countless beauties from all the sides.
2) Mulbekh Monastery:
Known for its two Gompas that belong to the Drukpa and Gelugpa sects respectively, the Mulbekh Monastery is one of the most important places to see near Kargil. The monastery is situated at an elevation of 3,304 meters and is indeed a remarkable piece of workmanship that maintains a carved nine meters tall statue of Maitreya Buddha, which is said to be overlooking the old trade route and the present day highway. The statue is also called Chamba and is believed to have been built around 8th Century AD. Even though, the common belief is that this depiction is of Lord Buddha, many scholars asserted a strong resemblance of Lord Shiva as well. In addition it also houses many prized relics, ancient inscriptions and frescoes that reflects the magnificent works of the 14th century.
3) Pensi la Lake:
At an elevation of 4,400 meters, Pensi La is a mountain pass that is the gateway to Padum, the headquarters of Zanskar sub-division of Kargil district. From Pensi La, one can capture the stunning view of the Suru River valley, the glacial lake and the Drang Drung Glacier.
4) Suru Valley:
Fall in the lap of nature where you will only be surrounded by hills, valleys, and rivers. This attractive destination Suru Valley is blessed with grand Rocky Mountains on one side and lustrous green fields on the other. Suru Valley is a must visit place and it is stored with major tourist attractions. With two peaks that praises each other’s beauty, Nun peak stands at 7135 metre and Kun peak stands at 7035 metre giving it a mighty yet attractive appearance. Suru Valley occupies Sanku, Panikhar, Rangdum and all three gives an awe-inspiring destination to visit.
Sankoo is a small town located 40 km south of Kargil. This place has a mix of Turkish and Tibetan architecture style houses. Panikhar is 67 km from Kargil and it is the best place to venture on a mountaineering expedition in peaks like Mt. Nun. Rangdum on the other hand is located 130 km from Kargil. And it has two small villages - Yuldo and Julidok as well as a 18th century Rangdum Monastery.