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Published by ANK SHRINIVAASAN

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Published by: ANK SHRINIVAASAN on Oct 01, 2008
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JAMMU & KASHMIR
DRASS

Location: 60-km west of Kargil, Ladakh Region, and On the Road to Srinagar, J&K
Altitude:3,300 m
Significance: Second Coldest Towns in the World.

Main Attraction:Tr ek k in g

Situated at an altitude of 3,300m, 60-km west of Kargil on the road to Srinagar, Drass is a small township lying in the center of the valley of the same name. It has become famous as the second coldest inhabited place in the world by virtue of the intense cold that descends upon the valley along with repeated snowfalls during winters. Winter temperature is sometimes known to plummet to less than -40\u00b0.

But during summer season the tracts around Drass present a pleasant pastoral sight, offering a complete contrast to the savage face worn by it during the winter months. In this area the dialect spoken is named after the weather - "Hambabs" means snowfall.

The fields around Drass are cultivated for both cereals and cash crops. Drass has a number of monasteries and a small bazaar. It is connected to other parts of Ladakh by road.

PRIME ATTRACTIONS
Zoji La: The Drass valley starts from the base of the Zoji La pass, the Himalayan

gateway to Ladakh. For centuries its inhabitants are known to have negotiated this formidable pass even during the most risky period in the late autumn or early spring, when the whole sector remains snow-bound and is subject to frequent snow storms, to transport trader's merchandise across and to help stranded travelers to traverse it.

By virtue of their mastery over the pass they had established a monopoly over the carrying trade during the heydays of the Pan-Asian trade. A hardly people enduring with fortitude and harshness of the valley's winter, the inhabitants of Drass can well be described as the "Guardian's of Ladakh's Gateway".

Puga Valley: The Puga Valley is famous for its hot water springs. Every year hundreds of
visitors come to this valley for a bath in these springs as this is known to help people
suffering from rheumatism and skin diseases.
Trekking: Drass is a convenient base for a 3-day long trek to Suru valley across the sub-

range separating the two valleys. This trek passes through some of the most beautiful upland villages and flower sprinkled meadows on both sides of the 4,500m high Umbala pass, which falls enroute.

The trek to the holy cave of Amarnath in neighboring Kashmir, which stars from Minamarg below Zoji La, takes 3 days and involves crossing of 5,200m high pass. Drass also offers numerous shorter treks and hikes to the upland villages

HOW TO REACH THERE
Road: Buses plying between Srinagar and Kargil/Leh touch Drass. Local buses leave
Kargil in the morning and afternoon for Drass. Srinagar is well connected with rest of the
country via Air and Road through National Highway NH IA.
WHERE TO STAY
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The Tourist Complex here provides furnished rooms and suites. Advance reservation can be done through the tourist office at Kargil or its branch at Drass. Some private hotels also provide rooms equipped with basic necessities.

Note: All Tourists to Ladakh travelling from Srinagar by road are required to register
themselves at the Tourist Registration Center at Drass.
NEARBY CITIES
Kargil:
60-km
Srinagar:
147-km
GULMARG
Location: 56-km South West Of Srinagar, Kashmir Region, J&K
Main Attractions: Alpather Lake, Golf Courses & Skiing
Altitude:2,730 m
Best Time To Visit: In Summer - May To September
In winter - November to February
The Meadow Of Flowers: A huge cup shaped meadow, lush and green with slopes
where the silence is broken only by the tinkle of cowbells, Gulmarg looks like a fantasy
set in a film and not surprisingly have been the venue of several films.

The valley of Gulmarg, a large meadow about 3-sq-kms in area, stands at 2,730 metres, 56-km south west of Srinagar. The name means 'Meadow of Flowers' and in the spring it's just that, a rolling meadow dotted with countless colorful Bluebells, Daisies, Forget Me Not's and Buttercups. The valley itself is about 3-km long and up to a km wide.

Take a Hike! : All around are snow-capped mountains, and on a clear day one can see all

the way to Nanga Parbat is one direction and Srinagar is another. It's a popular day trip from Srinagar to Gulmarg, although many people extend their stay or use it as a base for trekking. The road from Srinagar rises gently towards the lower slopes of the range, passing through rice and maize fields.

From Tangmarg, at the foot of the range, there are two paths to Gulmarg - a steep footpath or a winding sealed road. There is also a pony track from Gulmarg that leads upwards to Khilanmarg, Kongdori and seven springs.

PRIME ATTRACTIONS
Khilanmarg: This smaller valley is about a 6-km walk from the Gulmarg bus stop and

car park. The meadow, carpeted with flowers in the spring, is the site for Gulmarg's winter ski runs and offers a fine view of the surrounding peaks and over the Kashmir Valley. It's a 600-metre ascent from Gulmarg to Khilanmarg and during the early spring, as the snowmelts, it can be a very muddy hour's climb up the hill. The effort is rewarded, if it's clear, with a sweeping view of the great Himalayas from Nanga Parbat to the twin 7,100-metre peaks of Nun and Kun to the southeast.

Alpather Lake: Beyond Khilanmarg, 13-km from Gulmarg at the foot of the twin 4, 511 metre Apharwat peaks, this lake is frozen until mid-June and even later in the year one can see lumps of ice floating in its cold waters. The walk from Gulmarg follows a well- graded Pony track over the 3, 810 metre Apharwat ridge, separating it from Khilanmarg, and then up the valley to the lake at 3,843 metres. The more adventurous trekkers can climb straight up the boulder-strewn slope of the ridge and descend the other side to the path. For horse riding aficionados, Alpather Lake makes an exciting day's excursion, starting early morning and returning late evening. Reservation Desk

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The Ningli Nallah: Flowing from the melting snow and ice on Apharwat and the

Alpather Lake, this pretty mountain stream is 8-km from Gulmarg. The stream continues down into the valley below and joins the Jhelum River near Sopur. This long, grassy valley is a popular picnic spot and the walking path carries on, crossing the Ningli (also spelt as Ningle) Nallah by a bridge and continues on to the Khilenmarg, another grassy meadow and a good spot for camping. In early summer one will probably share the campsites with Gujars moving their herds up to the high meadows.

Foreshore Nallah: Reached from the Tangmarg road, or from the Outer Circular Walk,

this mountain stream meets the Bahan River at a popular picnic spot known as 'waters meet'. The stream is reputed to be particularly good for trout fishing; it's about five-km down the valley from Gulmarg but quite close to Tangmarg. The river can be reached by walking 3-km down the path from the gap near Tangmarg and then heading south through the forest, down a slope towards the stream.

Near here there is a bridge which leas to the small waters meet picnic spot on the Right Bank. Looking south from Tangmarg the river can be traced up to its source close to the rugged peak known as Foreshore or Shinmahinyu. On the right bank the stream branches, the left path leading to Tosa Maidan, while the right bends away towards the Gogaldara road at a second bridge, about 32-km upstream, and then leads away to the Foreshore pass, Poonch and Kantar Nag.

One can continue on from here to Tosa Maidan, a three-day, 50-km walk to one of Kashmir's most beautiful Marg's, crossing the Basmai Gali pass at about 4,000 metres. The track here is very close to the cease-fire line with Pakistan and on the right one will pass the Jamainwali Gali, the pass at 4,000 metres is one of the easiest and safest routes into the Punjab.

Shrine of Baba Reshi / Ziarat of Baba Reshi: This Muslim shrine is on the slopes

below Gulmarg and can be reached from either Gulmarg or Tangmarg. The Ziarat, or tomb, is of a well-known Muslim saint who died here in 1480. Before renouncing worldly ways he was a courtier of the Kashmir King Zain-ul-Abidin. Every year thousands of devotees visit this shrine regardless of the faith they believe in.

Golf Courses: Gulmarg also has one of the world's highest green golf courses, as well as

a clubhouse, which is a historical building in its own right. For the would-be golfer, there are golf sets on hire, pros to instruct one in the game, and temporary memberships. Naturally, these facilities are available to players as well, except that serious golfers usually carry their sets along.

Gondola Lift: For a fun filled ride of a most unusual kind, Gulmarg's newly constructed
Gondola lift from high above Gulmarg, through pine-clad slopes, and is exhilarating.

Gulmarg Biosphere Reserve: For witnessing the glorious fauna of the great Himalayan range, such as the Himalayan Musk Deer, Red Fox, Brown and Black Bear along with numerous resident and migratory birds, visit the Gulmarg Biosphere Reserve. Located at a height of 2,400m above sea level and with a coverage area of 180-sq-kms, this reserve is at a distance of 48-km from Srinagar. The best time to watch the wildlife is September to March.

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