ADVERTISEMENT
Go back to
Home » My Kolkata » Places » Check out Kargil’s first and only hostel for backpackers

Mountain Travel

Check out Kargil’s first and only hostel for backpackers

“We started Black Sheep to change the perspective of associating Kargil only with war,” say the Hussain brothers

Karo Christine Kumar | Published 17.08.22, 08:31 PM
The best views in the house are from the outdoor dining area at the Black Sheep

The best views in the house are from the outdoor dining area at the Black Sheep

Courtesy Black Sheep

Resting against the rugged and stark summer landscape of Kargil stands Black Sheep, a boutique resort that opened its doors in May 2022. Black Sheep is the first and only hostel-cum-hotel in Kargil for the new-age traveller. 

We checked in and here’s what we found… 

The building used to be a school and after the campus was shifted to a bigger place, it was converted into a hostel

The building used to be a school and after the campus was shifted to a bigger place, it was converted into a hostel

Courtesy Black Sheep

Home away from the herd

ADVERTISEMENT

The spot with the best view is the outdoor dining space from where guests can witness the landscape of Kargil in all its splendour, as the brown Suru river runs through the city. 

The building used to be an old school, Munshi Halibulla, named after the owner’s grandfather. After the campus was shifted to a bigger place, it was converted into a hostel. Walls were broken and the top floor was added, along with the suites, lounge and restaurant. The hostel has been built in sync with Islamic architecture, which is based on shapes and structures of the mosque, tomb, palace and fort. Mineral blue leads the colour palate. 

There are 13 private rooms and two suites (in picture)

There are 13 private rooms and two suites (in picture)

Courtesy Black Sheep

“Leh was already a popular destination, so we decided to open a hotel in our hometown Kargil. We want to boost tourism and change the perspective of associating Kargil only with war,” says founder Tafazzul Hussain, a BCom graduate from Delhi University, who opened Black Sleep with his brother Muzammil, a graduate from Symbiosis University, Pune.

For the new-age traveller

There are three dorms, two with eight beds each and one with six, each equipped with storage units and charging points

There are three dorms, two with eight beds each and one with six, each equipped with storage units and charging points

Courtesy Black Sheep

If you’re backpacking your way across Srinagar to Leh, Black Sheep is a budget-friendly place to stay. In fact, it’s cleaner and better-equipped than Zostel in Srinagar. If you’re on a workation, there is a designated workspace with a projector, Wi-Fi and a pretty impressive cafe, too. The building also houses 13 private rooms and two suites for regular and high-end travellers. There’s something for everyone!

Meet the Hussain brothers

Tafazzul and Muzammil Hussain run the hostel

Tafazzul and Muzammil Hussain run the hostel

Courtesy Black Sheep

Black Sheep was opened by the Hussain brothers — Tafazzul and Muzammil —  who were featured among the ‘50 people to know in the Himalayas’ by Conde Nast Traveller after they adopted the border village of Hunderman in Ladakh. In 2013, they also founded Roots Ladakh, which focuses on community-driven projects. “We worked with architectural students from CEPT university in Gujarat, adopted the village Hunderman, and converted a house into a museum. It was a project for the students, helped the local community in the village to earn a living, and it promoted tourism,” says Tafazzul. They recently followed the same model with Zyabul, the “invisible village” in Heniskot. Roots Ladakh also promotes wildlife tourism such as Himalayan Brown Bear expeditions in Dras, and organises wildlife conflict awareness campaigns in villages. “We teach villagers how not to attract brown bears and snow leopards that are drawn to the livestock in their houses, by disposing of waste food carefully and learning to use fox lights,” says Tafazzul.

Treks and trails

The Hussain brothers also run Roots Ladakh, which promotes wildlife tourism. The Roots Travel Cafe, opposite the hotel, serves dishes from the Black Sheep menu

The Hussain brothers also run Roots Ladakh, which promotes wildlife tourism. The Roots Travel Cafe, opposite the hotel, serves dishes from the Black Sheep menu

Karo Christine Kumar

The management organises trips to nearby locations. For example, the 500-year-old Hunderman (now in ruins) along the LOC between India and Pakistan. Or a trail to Apati to see one of the oldest Maitreya Buddha Statues, a 7th century rock relief. 

Most of the outdoor trips listed on the Black Sheep website have been curated by Muzammil and one of the lead guides, Nisar. “I do the easy treks!” laughs Tafazzul. “They write down the itinerary and I do the costing. We’re a small team of six so I am the finance and operations guy, and Muzammil does the travelling, marketing and HR.”

The story behind the name

Apart from his great grandfather, Munshi Aziz Bhat, everyone else in the family had government jobs. So when the brothers said they wanted to build Black Sheep, not many family members were happy with the idea. “We were like the black sheep of the family and so we named it after ourselves,” laughs Tafazzul. “I also feel the name resonates with travellers who visit us because anyone who visits offbeat places is doing something unique,” he adds. 

Mountain views from the dining area

Mountain views from the dining area

Karo Christine Kumar

Kargil and tourism

Kargil is no stranger to hosting travellers right from the days of the Great Silk Route but promoting travel to Kargil as an independent destination is not easy.

“Around 10-15 per cent of the traffic that goes to Leh would probably come to Kargil,” says Ali Asgar, owner of Barula Hotel in Kargil. 

“If we want to sustain the business, we have to include Leh or Zanskar into the itinerary,” explains Tafazzul. Building the first hostel in Kargil is the first step towards that change.

“The response has been overwhelming in the first three months, maybe because of revenge tourism. We’ve had 60 per cent occupancy in the last three months, of which around 20-30 per cent of our guests have come via social media. There are many YouTubers and bloggers who visit us as well,” adds Tafazzul. 

The lounge area is a great place to hang out outside of your rooms

The lounge area is a great place to hang out outside of your rooms

Courtesy Black Sheep

Next up

The highway between Kargil and Zanskar, which was in a mess, is now being made into a four-lane highway. “We hope to take Black Sheep to Leh and maybe even branch out to Zanskar,” says Tafazzul. 

The brothers are also opening a six-room property named Drenmo Lodge (drenmo meaning brown bear) in Hulyal, which is an extension of the Brown Bear expedition by Roots Ladakh. 

The menu at the Black Sheep cafe is a mix of Continental and Indian and has local specialities like (left) sea buckthorn juice

The menu at the Black Sheep cafe is a mix of Continental and Indian and has local specialities like (left) sea buckthorn juice

Karo Christine Kumar

Travel details:

  • Pay per night: The dorm beds are priced Rs 700, private rooms Rs 3,200 and suites are around Rs 5,500  
  • Wi-Fi: Yes, but signal strength could be better
  • Meals: At the in-house cafe; there are also plenty of options nearby though most eating houses shut by 8pm
  • Website: www.blacksheepbnb.com

    This is not a sponsored article
Last updated on 18.08.22, 11:34 PM
Share:
ADVERTISEMENT

More from My Kolkata