Though it is surrounded by awesome scenery, most travellers don’t spend more than a few hours in Kargil, capital of the area dubbed “Little Baltistan”, which rises in a clutter of corrugated-iron rooftops from the confluence of the Suru and Drass rivers. As a halfway point between Leh and Srinagar, its mundane hotels fill up at night with weary bus passengers, who then get up at 4am and career off under cover of darkness. Although the town has expanded several kilometres along and above the riverside, the central area around the main bazaar, which loops round into a northerly orientation, is very compact and walkable. Woolly-hatted and bearded old men and slick youngsters stroll the streets past old-fashioned wholesalers with their sacks of grains, spices and tins of ghee, and butchers displaying severed goats’ heads on dusty shelves. The town feels more Pakistani than Indian, with the faces and food deriving from Kashmir and Central Asia.

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