Drass at a height of around 11,000 ft. is a town in the district of Jammu and Kashmir and referred as ‘Gateway to Ladakh’ region. Drass is the base of Zojila pass, which links J&K and Ladakh region. It is of strategic importance due to its location. Drass is the 2nd coldest place in the world with temperatures plummeting in the range of -30*C to -40*C in winter.
History and Culture:
The local population of Dardic and Balti tribes have origins of Aryan race and speak Shina. ‘Horse-Polo’ is the traditional regional sport. Drass is primarily an open and flat space and has large willow groves along Drass river. This is a valley formed by the river, which originates in Machoi glacier of Zojilla Pass. The town is 60 Km west of Kargil on the way to Srinagar. Agri production is adversely impacted due to poor, unyielding soil conditions and short agricultural season. Because of this, food grain is imported from other regions. Likewise, fuel is also in short supply.
How to Reach?:
Travelers can reach Drass from Srinagar or Jammu Tawi by either buses or other modes of transport.
By Air: Shaikh-ul-Alam Airport, Srinagar is is the nearest airport which is about 100 Kms away from Drass. Visitors can take a bus or private transport and reach Drass.
By Road: NH 1 connects Srinagar, Kargil, and Leh to Drass. Travelers can hire a cab or board a bus from any one of these three places to reach Drass. Distances / approximate travel time from the 3 locations are as under
- Srinagar – Drass – 100 Km / 3 Hours
- Kargil – Drass — 65 Km / 2 Hours
- Leh – Drass — 280 Km / 7 Hours
By rail: Though the closest station is Srinagar at present Srinagar and Jammu Tawi is not fully connected. Jammu Tawi is very well connected to many Indian cities and is the nearest to Drass which is 420 km away. Travelers can reach Jammu Tawi by train then take a taxi/bus to reach Drass in about 14 hours.
Time to Visit :
The region predominantly experiences 2 seasons ie. – Summer (June to September) and winter (October to May). It is ideal to visit in summer when temperature averages 23*C. Drass records an average of 550 mm. of snowfall in winter. Winter besides being extreme cold also results in a lot of road closures due to heavy snowfall.
Accommodation and Food:
Drass has only limited number of mid-range budget hotels which are comfortable with all basic amenities and which provide ‘bed and breakfast’. Alternatively, a lodging facility run by J&K Tourism Development Corporation (JKTDC) with clean and spacious rooms is available. However, reservation and prior permission from the Office of the District Commissioner are necessary.
Exclusive vegetarian restaurants are very rare at Drass. All restaurants serve both vegetarian and non-vegetarian food. Though all types of food is available, must tries of local food include – Thupka (Noodles in mutton soup), Yakhni and Tabaq Naat (fried ribs), Gushtaba (pounded and spiced meatballs cooked in yoghurt sauce), Marchwangan Korma (hot mutton curry served with rice and nan) Momos, Skieu (mixture of vegetables, mutton and flour), sponge cakes. Local population consumes mostly non-vegetarian food.
A lot of buses and private vehicles are available for intracity transportation and other major places. However, due to ever-changing weather conditions, the services may not be regular. No private cars are allowed inside Leh Ladakh region including Drass, but the local taxi owners’ association provides efficient and courteous cab hiring services.
Things To Do:
- Trek to Amarnath Caves – One of much cherished and a revered trip to Hindus.
- Mountain View – Reach ‘Manman Top’ for a splendid view of entire Drass sector and ‘Line of Control’ with Pakistan!
- Cycling– Sure to provide a unique experience to travelers with its expansive unpolluted atmosphere with different terrains.
- Walk thru Chorkiat Forest – To watch wildlife from close quarters.
- Visit remote villages Dongchick and Laser La – To intermingle with the local
- Visit Brigade War Gallery – To know about Kargil War and Tiger Hill, which is one of the highest peaks and was recaptured during the war.
- Walk thru Mushko Valley – For an enchanting view of wildflowers in summer.
- Watch / Play Polo – This is a traditional sport of Drass and participation provides a unique experience.
- Participate in local Festivities – Prominent local festivals include Hemis, Losar and Ladakh.
- Mountaineering and Trekking– Perfect place for adventurists to undertake mountaineering and trekking activities.
- Camel safari– A unique way of traversing the rocky plains of Leh on humped camel backs!.