Category Archives: Jammu & Kashmir – Ladakh

Jammu and Kashmir alias J &K is union territory of India, along the Pakistan border. Ladakh is another Union territory along the international Border with Pakistan. Himalayan mountains occupy many parts of these areas.

Chiktan Fort and Castle Ruins near Ladakh in Kargil

Chiktan Fort alias Chiktan Castle or Chiktan Khar is a fort in the Chiktan village near Ladakh in Kargil district, India.

Chiktan Fort – Image courtesy – wmf.org/project/chiktan-castle

This fort was a majestic fort, which is now ruined. The initial construction of the fort was started by Tahtah Khan, Prince of Baltistan. He who took shelter in this region after a failed attempt on his life, in the eighth century. Later on the fort and a palace (castle) was made in the 16th century. It served as the royal residence for centuries, for many a dynasties which ruled the areas.

The fort was neglected after it was attacked by Dogra King of Jammu, who destroyed the parts of the fort.  Thus the fort was abandoned in the late 19th century.

In the middle 20th century, the royal family used the stones from the fort for the construction of a new local government hospital in the area.  Seeing the negligence, local people also took the remaining wood and other things. Due t o these reasons and ageing, along with  the natural calamities over course of time, the fort was reduced to rubble.

This fortress is believed to be older than the Leh Palace.

This fort ruins are situated deep inside a valley, along the Indus river banks.  The palace was  a Masterpiece of the Tibetan Architecture, which is found in Lhasa (Tibet).  It is said that there was rotating wooden room, which  gets rotated due to the outside winds.

This fort can be combined as part of Ladakh tour. Your Ladakh trip will not be complete without visiting this magnificent fort ruins. This fort is not normally included in Ladakh tour packages. 

How to I Go to the Fort ruins near Ladakh in Kargil?

This ancient fort ruins are is at a distance of around 75 kilometers from Kargil.

Kargil was the the site of the last war between India and Pakistan. Kargil war or Kargil conflict occurred in 1999,  along the Line of Control (LOC).  It is known as “Operation Vijay” in Indian military terms.

Jammu and Kashmir Welcomes Tourists

Jammu and Kashmir is to welcome tourists from 10th October 2019, after a few weeks of restrictions, imposed earlier on 2nd August 2019.

Sonamarg 11
Sonamarg

The state Governor has recalled the earlier security order, which asked the Amarnath yatris (Amarnath pilgrims) and tourists to immediately leave the Valley.

The Indian Express, a leading daily newspaper from India says the following (selected portions from the news report is given below).

The decision was taken at a meeting held to review the security situation in Kashmir. The meeting, chaired by Malik, was also attended by the Principal Secretaries of Planning and Housing & Urban Development Department.

In a major step towards J&K returning to normalcy, Governor Satya Pal Malik Monday recalled the Home Department’s August 2 order asking Amarnath yatris and tourists to immediately leave the Valley. The Governor’s order will come into effect from October 10, allowing tourists to return to the state for the first time since Parliament abrogated Article 370.
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The decision was taken at a meeting held to review the security situation in Kashmir. The meeting, chaired by Malik, was also attended by the Principal Secretaries of Planning and Housing & Urban Development Department.

On August 2, the J&K administration, in an unprecedented move, called off the annual Amarnath Yatra ahead of time in view of the “latest intelligence inputs of terror threats”.

The order had led to panic in the Valley and people in Srinagar crowded markets to make emergency purchases and stock essential goods. In the next 72 hours, Parliament passed a Bill abrogating J&K’s special status and bifurcating the state into two union territories.

Last week’s announcement of Block Development Council (BDC) elections in the state was seen as the first test to the prevailing security situation in Kashmir and gave hope that normalcy would soon return in J&K. On Monday, the Governor was informed that there is “active interest in the BDC elections and most of the seats of Chairpersons of BDCs would be filled”.

He was also briefed about the progress in apple procurement which has crossed 850 tonnes and worth Rs. 3.25 crores.

The Oldest Surviving Religious Structures Dedicated to Future Buddha (Maitreya Buddha) at Basgo Buddhist Monastery

Maitreya Buddha statue with a height of 14 meters is located at Basgo monastery or Basgo gompa. It is situated near to Ladakh, India. This Buddhist monastery  is situated on the Himalayas. This monastery was established by  Namgyal dynasty rulers in 1680.
Basgo Buddhist Monastery or Basgo GompaBasgo Buddhist Monastery or Basgo Gompa

Basgo gompa was the cultural and political center of the Namgyals. This place is rich in culture and heritage. It is one of the unexplored gems of Ladakh. The monastery overlooks the ruins of an ancient city.

View of sunset from the monastery is stunning. You can see the basking Himalayan mountains.

Basgo Buddhist monastery is famous for the Buddha statue and murals paintings. There are three Temples Chamchung, Chamba Lakhang and Serzang; dedicated to Maitreya Buddha  inside the monastery. These temples were built during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It is made up of mud bricks.  14 meter tall Maitreya Buddha statue is the tallest one among the statues here.

The interior walls of these temples have mural paintings, depicting the life of Lord Buddha and others, who helped in building these temples.

These temples are the oldest surviving religious structures dedicated to Maitreya Buddha (Buddha of the future).

The monastery  and the temples were damaged due to old age. The mural paintings, statues and the floors were damaged. Repair works were carried out in the last decade. These temples are now almost back to its original state. Boundary walls were also constructed for the temples.

Hemis National Park and Hemis monastery are situated close to the the  Basgo Monastery. The nearby monasteries like Hemis Monastery and local people are also dedicated to the cause of preservation of the temples inside Basgo gompa.

How Do I Go to the Buddhist Monastery, Basgo Gompa?

Jammu city is at around  650 kilometers away. The nearest railway station is at Jammu.

Srinagar city is at around 380 kilometers away. This road passes through Kargil, the site of the conflict between India and Pakistan during the 1999 Kargil war or Operation Vijay.

Basgo gompa is at around 42 kilometers from Leh, the largest city and administrative headquarters of  Ladakh district.

Manali is at around 500 kilometers away from the monastery.

Stok Kangri – Himalayan High Altitude Climbing Even for Non-Technical Trekkers After Acclimatization

Stok Kangri is the highest mountain with a height of 6,153 meters or 20,187 feet, in the Himalayan Stok Range. It is situated in the Leh – Ladakh region, India. It is at a distance of around 15 kilometers from Leh.

View of Stok Kangri
View of Stok-Kangri

The mountain peak is situated inside the Hemis National Park. Its very popular with High Altitude Climbing community. Base Camp for trekking is at an altitude 4,980 meters or 16,339 feet. Climbing normally takes anywhere between 8 hours to 14 hours. The 3,281 feet trekking time varies, depending on the weather conditions.

The shortest route for the Stok-Kangri expedition is through Stok Chu and Stok village. This route is often used while descending. Stok-Kangri mountain peak can be be trekked even by the non-technical trekkers, during July and August.

Please bear in mind that High Altitude Climbing requires a lot of stamina and is not for the mentally weak. Acclimatization is also required in most cases.

Group trekking package is available with many leading trekking companies.  Please check with your travel agent if you are interested in trekking to this beautiful areas. The area is blessed with the beauty of nature.

How Do I Go to Stok-Kangri?

Stok-Kangri is situated at around 15 kilometers southwest of Leh, the second largest district in India.

Leh–Manali Highway National Highway, 1D, connects Leh to Srinagar.

Manali is at 479 kilometers distance from Lah through this highway. National Highway, 1D, is open only for 4 to 5 months in a year, depending on the snowfall.

There is an International airport and railway station at Srinagar.

Hemis National Park and Hemis Monastery

Hemis National Park is the largest national park in India, spread over 4400 square kilometers and is a world renowned high altitude national park, near Ladakh. It’s regarded as the best place to see snow leopards in the wild.

A Snow Leopard in Hemis National Park
A Snow Leopard in Hemis National Park.

The National park is bounded by Indus River on the northern side. This National Park is rich is flora and fauna. A large species of Endangered mammals, including the snow leopard numbering around 200, are found here. Shapo alias Urial or Arkars; a subspecies of wild sheep; are found in this National Park and is the only place to spot them in India. 16 species of mammals and 73 species of birds are found in this park.

Flora consists of alpine vegetation. This national park is home to around 15 endangered medicinal plants.

This park is the lone national park in India, which lies north of the Himalayas.

Hemis Monastery, a 400 year old Tibetan Buddhist Monastery, is situated here at Ladakh.

Hemis Monastery (gompa) at Ladakh
Hemis Monastery (gompa) at Ladakh

How Do I Go to Hemis National Park?

This national park is situated at around 10 kilometers from Leh, the nearest city. The road routes to Leh are Srinagar-Leh highway and Manali-Leh highway; both these passes through some of the highest passes of the continent.

Srinagar railway station and Jammu Tawi railway station are at around 232 and 253 kilometers distance respectively from Hemis National Park. Kalka railway station in Haryana is at around 326 kilometers away.

Leh Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport is at around 5 kilometers from Hemis National Park.

Maitreya Statue at Nubra Valley known for Wild Bactrian Camels and Himalayan Trekking

Nubra Valley is a tree-armed valley at an average altitude of 3048 meters or 10,000 feet, located along the Himalayan mountain ranges, in Ladakh district, India.

Maitreya statue in Nubra Valley
33 meter tall Maitreya statue, a symbol of peace, facing Pakistan, in Nubra Valley.

Nubra Valley is situated to the north-east of Ladakh valley. Buddhists constitute majority of the population. Lower altitude and western end of the Valley has Muslim populated areas.

Shyok River, a tributary of the Indus River, meets the Nubra river (which originates in the Siachen glacier), in Nubra valley and then the widened river flows from here. Siachen Glacier is situated to the north of this valley.

Diskit town in the valley is the main town here. Diskit Monastery, established in 1420 A.D, is situated here. The 33 meter tall Maitreya Buddha statue, facing Pakistan as a symbol of peace, is maintained by the Diskit Monastery inside the Monastery premises. As per Buddhist belief, Maitreya Buddha is the future Buddha of this world.

Baktrian Camel
A Baktrian Camel.

Wild Bactrian Camels can be seen here. They have two humps on their back. (There are wild Bactrian camels and domesticated Bactrian camels). Known for its tolerance for cold conditions as well as drought conditions and high altitudes, people here use thse domesticated Bactrian camel for riding.

Due to the rivers that flows through the valley, the villages along the valley are fertile. Many a fruits, nuts and pulses are grown in the valley.

How Do I Go to Nubra Valley?

Nubra Valley can be accessed from Leh town, through the Khardung La pass, which was once regarded as the highest motor-able road in the world and is open all through the year. Diskit town is the main town in the valley which is connected to Leh.

In 2008, an alternative route was built from Sakti, connecting the main Nubra road, via Agham and Khalsar, along River Shyok. For the trekking enthusiasts, there are many passes over the Ladakh Range of mountains, from the Indus Valley.

Leh is connected to Srinagar by buses. There is an airport and a railway station at Srinagar.

Inner Line Permits to Nubra Valley

Foreigners are required to get the Inner Line Permits to visit Nubra Valley. Indian citizens are not required to get this permits from 1st May 2014.

Dachigam National Park Near Srinagar

Dachigam National Park alias Dachigam Wildlife Sanctuary is located near to Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir, India.

Sarband Lake with Dachigam National Park in the background
Sarband Lake with Dachigam National Park in the background

Dachigam national park is spread across an area of 141 square kilometers. Dachigam in local language means 10 villages; named in memory of the ten villagers that were forced to move out of this protected national park.

This National Park is a protected area from 1910. Initially, the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir declared this as a protected area. Later on, the concerned government authorities took charge of the area. Though the area was first created as a a game preserve and for the drinking water needs of Sri Nagr city, in 1981 the area was declared as a National Park.

This National Park is part of the Zabarwan Range of Mountains, which is part of Western Himalayas. It is located at an altitude of 5500 feet to 14000 feet. Marsar lake is located deep inside the National park. This lake is the source of Dagwan river.

This National Park is rich in flora and fauna. Meadows of the National Park is known for its brightly colored flowers. The forests are heavily wooded.

How Do I Go to Dachigam National Park?

This National Park is at a distance of around 22 kilometers from Srinagar in India. National Highway 1A and National Highway 1D passes through Srinagar. Srinagar railway station is the nearest railway station to Dachigam Wildlife Sanctuary. There is an airport at Srinagar which is connected to other parts of the country and abroad.

Aharbal Waterfalls Known for its Photography, Skiing, Trekking and Horseback Riding

Aharbal Waterfall is a beautiful falls in Kulgam district, in Jammu & Kashmir, India.

Aharbal Waterfalls near SriNagar, Kashmir.
Aharbal Waterfalls near SriNagar, Kashmir.

The fall is known as the ‘Niagara of Kashmir’. Aharbal falls lies on Veshu river, a tributary of River Jhelum. The falls is in an Alpine valley famous for its pine & fir trees and the area is part of the “Pir Panjal mountains”.

Aharbal town is famous for Adventure tourism. Veshu river is rich in Trouts and fishing permit needs to be taken for the tourists to go for fishing here. The area is famous for trekking also. Other activities includes Horseback riding, skiing and photography.

How Do I Go to Aharbal Waterfalls?

The falls is situated at around 65 kilometers south of Srinagar. Its at a distance of 8 kilometers from the Mughal Road, which connects Srinagar with Poonch. Srinagar is connected to other parts of India and rail, road and flights. Awantipora railway station is the nearest railway station at around 25 kilometers away. Srinagar is the nearest major railway station. There is an International airport at Srinagar; Sheikh ul Alam Airport.

The falls is at around 18 kilometers south of Shopian, the nearest town. Kulgam town is at around 28 kilometers away.

Lack of Food Stalls Near the Waterfalls

There are no food stalls or hotels near the falls. You need to get the food packed and then go to Aharbal Waterfalls.

Baglihar Dam Across Chenab River

Baglihar Dam is a 144 meter high Dam built by India across Chenab River in southern Doda district, Jammu and Kashmir, India.

Panorama of Baglihar DamPanorama of Baglihar Dam

Baglihar Dam’s Stage-I of 450 Mega Watt (MW) Baglihar Hydel Power Project was inaugurated in October 10th, 2008. Construction of this work was started nine years back in 1999. Stage-II of 450 megawatt Baglihar Hydel Power Project was inaugurated in November 2015 by the Prime Minister Shri. Narendra Modi. This dam is also known as Baglihar Hydroelectric Power Project. This dam has now a total power production capacity of 900 Mega Watts.

Pakistan has initially raised some disputes related to this Dam, at various international forums like World Bank. Professor Raymond Lafitte, a Swiss civil engineer appointed by World Bank to resolve the issue, declared his final verdict on February 12, 2007; forcing some changes like reduction in the height of dam structure, pondage capacity, and raising of power intake tunnels.

On 1st June , 2010, both India and Pakistan has resolved the issues at the meeting of the Permanent Indus Water Commission and agreed not to raise the issue further, ending years of dispute, once for all.

How Do I Go to Baglihar Dam?

Anantnag is at around 130 kilometers distance from this massive barrage over Chenab River.

Srinagar is at a distance of around 180 kilometers from the Dam. Pathankot in Punjab is also almost at the distance from this dam in Doda district of Jammu & Kashmir.

Phugtal Monastery in Ladakh

Phugtal Monastery is one of the oldest Buddhist monasteries in Ladakh, in Kargil district, India. Phugtal Monastery is located in the remote Lungnak Valley in south-eastern Zanskar taluk. The Phuktal Monastery is built like a honeycomb around a natural cave, which is believed to have been in existence for more than 2,550 years. The present Phuktal Gompa of the Gelug lineage was established here in the 14th century by Jangsem Sherap Zangpo.

Phugtal Monastery
Phugtal Monastery.

Phugtal Monastery is also known as Phuktal Monastery or Phugtal Gompa and the Monastery can only be reached by foot. Supplies to the Phuktal monastery are brought on donkeys, horses, and mules in the warmer months. In the frozen winters, supplied are brought through the frozen Zanskar River.

Monastery here houses about 70 Buddhist monks. The monastery is built on a cliff, right under a cave entrance. The foundation is built with clay and twigs. The earliest inhabitants of the cave were the 16 followers of Gautama Buddha, whose images are there on the cave walls of the Phugtal Monastery.

How do I Go to Phugtal Monastery?

Phugtal Monastery is very difficult to reach . One can drive up to Zanskar from Padum by road and then need to trek, the remaining part. It requires lot of trekking (anywhere around 7 to 9 hours trekking alone) and its not a place for ordinary tourists. You need to cross many a Himalayan mountain passes to reach the Monastery via villages of Anmu and then Cha. A few houses offer home stay facility in Cha.

Another option is to go to the village Purne, on the opposite side of the river Lungnak and you need to cross wooden bridges en route. The second route is wider and not so high as mentioned in the first option.

Its advisable to opt for a group tour package from any reliable tour operator.