Tourism in Ladakh has exploded, and places like Nubra Valley, Zanskar, and Pangong Lake are on the bucket lists of almost everybody visiting the high-altitude mountain desert. However, there’s one place in Ladakh that tourists rarely visit, Suru valley.
Located in Ladakh’s Kargil district, Suru Valley is the greenest place in Ladakh. The Suru river, one of the Indus’ most essential tributaries, flows through the valley. It’s also home to Ladakh’s tallest peaks – Nun and Kun. If you want to know more about this rarely-visited valley in Ladakh, read.
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The history and culture of Suru Valley
Once upon a time, Suru Valley was one of Ladakh’s most important places, and rulers of Ladakh built numerous forts here. However, the valley underwent a significant transformation in the 16th century, as most of its inhabitants converted from Buddhism to Shia Islam. Only the valley’s last village, Rangdum, remained predominantly Buddhist.
The people of Suru Valley identify themselves as Ladakhi, but the origins of many of its inhabitants can be traced back to Central Asia. Purgi, the language spoken by the valley’s residents, bears a close resemblance to the Ladakhi and Balti languages but doesn’t have a script.
Geographically, Suru Valley is close to Kashmir, and as a result, it receives much more rainfall than other parts of Ladakh. This is the reason why the valley is the greenest place in Ladakh. Agriculture is the primary occupation of the people living in the valley.
Places to experience Suru Valley at its best
Now that you know a little bit about Suru Valley’s location, history, and culture, let’s get to know some places in the valley that are worth visiting:
The town of Kargil is where the Suru Valley experience begins. Kargil is second-only to Leh in terms of importance and is a bustling town famous for its part in the 1999 India – Pakistan war. The meaning of the word ‘Kargil’ is ‘center,’ which refers to its almost equal distance from Leh (Indus Valley), Srinagar (Kashmir Valley), and Padum (Zanskar Valley).
Around 40 km into the valley from Kargil lies the small town of Sankoo, which was once the capital of Ladakh. Sankoo is the greenest place in the valley and is close to some of the valley’s most iconic destinations. For starters, the village of Kartse Khar is home to a massive Buddha sculpture carved on a mountain face. You can also access the Umba La, a high-altitude mountain pass that connects Sankoo with the town of Drass. Finally, there’s also the village of Karpo Khar, home to Syed Mir Hashim’s tomb, the preacher who introduced Shia Islam to this part of Ladakh.
Another 25 km from Sankoo, you’ll be greeted by the village of Panikhar. The quaint little village, surrounded by towering mountains, is one of the best places in the valley to relax and unwind. If you feel adventurous here, take a walk along the Chilling Nullah (stream), which leads to Warwan Valley in the neighboring Kishtwar district.
The second-last village of the Suru Valley, Parkachik, is one of the best places in Ladakh to witness a glacier without having to scale dizzying heights. Even though global warming has resulted in a radical retreat of the Parkachik Glacier, it’s still a stunner of a spectacle.
The road from Parkachik to Rangdum is terrible, but the views of the Shafat Glacier more than make up for it. The Suru River, at this point, is a favorite with the locals for fishing. So, if you’re in the mood for some fishing when you’re in Ladakh, this is the place to do it.
Rangdum is Suru Valley’s last village, contrasting the other villages in the valley. For starters, it’s predominantly Buddhist. Then there’s the stark and barren landscape reminiscent of how Ladakh is projected in the media. If you continue beyond Rangdum, you’ll pass the Pensi La – the gateway to the Zanskar Valley. While at Rangdum, don’t forget to tour the Rangdum monastery, which is perched on a hilltop near the village.
How to reach the Suru Valley
You can access the Suru Valley from Leh or Srinagar, but you’ll have to reach Kargil first. An alternate route will also be accessible in a few years to come. This route will approach the valley from the Zanskar side and make it easier for tourists from Manali.
The road to the Suru Valley remains accessible throughout the year. Recently, the valley has been hit by floods and landslides in the summers and winters. However, it’s relatively safe, and even if you find yourself stuck somewhere within the valley, you can expect help from the warm and friendly locals.
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