is the most important town in the Suru Valley. It is the
headquarters of Kargil District and has the most modern
amenities, although not of the level of those found in the
plains of India. There are number of other settlements of
significant size in the Suru Valley. Kargil is a fairly busy
town servicing the villages of the surrounding region. The
important Srinagar-Leh road passes through Kargil.
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.
Situated 45 kms East of Kargil
on the road to Leh, Mulbek (3230 m) in an area dominated by
the Buddhists. It is situated along either banks of the Wakha
River. Many monuments of the early Buddhists
era dot the landscape and are accessible from the road.
Mulbek Chamba: The chief attraction of Mulbek is a 9 m
high rock sculpture in deep relief of Maitreya, the Future
Buddha. Its excursion combines esoteric Shaivite symbolism
with early Buddhist art. Situated right on the highway, it
dates back to the period when Buddhists missionaries came
travelling from the east of the Himalayas.
Mulbek Gompa: Perched atop a rocky cliff, Mulbek Gompa
(monastery) dominates the valley. It is easy to see why in
bygone times this site served as an outpost to guard the
caravan route. Like all Buddhists monasteries it is adorned by
frescoes and statues.
Shergol: Another picturesque village of the Wakha River
valley, Shergol is situated across the river, right of the
Kargil-Leh road. The main attraction is a cave monastery which
is visible from a far as a white speck against the vertically
rising ochre hill from which it appears to hang out. Below
this small monastery is a larger Buddhist nunnery with about a
dozen incumbents. The village is accessible by the motorable
road that branches off from the Kargil-Leh road, about 5 km
short of Mulbek. Shergol is a convenient base for an exciting
4-day trek across the mountain range into the Suru valley. It
is also the approach base for visiting Urgyan-Dzong, a
meditation retreat lying deep inside the mountains surrounding
the Wakha River valley.