Why visit Drass?

It all began with Drass. The discovery of beauty in barren brown mountains, the intensity of (let’s call them) anti-green landscapes and the thumping sound of the heart in the ears.

Landscape of brown barren mountains starts in Drass

Mountains start to become brown and barren as the Greater Himalayas start after the Zoji la in Drass.

Drass was the town we chose to spend our first ever high altitude night in. It turned out to be so much more than just an “altitude acclimatisation” stopover on the way to Ladakh.

Amarnath yatra seen from the Zoji la

This is the view from Zoji la, the first mountain pass that leads the way from the lush green valleys of Kashmir to the cold desert of Ladakh. The tiny specks of settlement seen at the bottom are the tents at the base camp of Baltal. This is specially set up only during the Amarnath yatra.

The fun started with Zoji la.

The mountain pass which leads the 400 km Srinagar-Leh national highway. It is essentially a bridge between the lush greens of Kashmir (where we had spent the last 45 days) and the golden browns of Ladakh.

A relatively short mountain pass of 13 km that starts right after Baltal, the first and dangerous pass on the Srinagar Leh highway, NH-1 D, the shortest access to Ladakh sees a lot of bikers when it opens up in the summer months.

While we were on it, it also felt like a bridge to the other side of life! There were plenty of opportunities for the vehicle to skid and topple over to go plunging into the Indus which flows all along the Zoji la.

After Zoji la, it is a smooth drive to Drass. A board declaring Drass to be the second coldest inhabited place on earth (Siberia being the first) greeted us. Just next to it is the accommodation facility of the Jammu and Kashmir tourism department.

Tourist accommodation provided by the Jammu and Kashmir tourism department

This is the accommodation facility of the Jammu and Kashmir tourism department. Dras is so much more than just an “altitude acclimatisation” stopover on the way to Ladakh.

We were curious about how people in such a cold region lived. We walked through the village and peeked into their houses. The houses here were starting to look different from the ones in the Kashmir valley.

Would you like to live here?

A beautiful house drenched in golden sunlight surrounded by barley fields and the barren Greater Himalayas in Drass.

The wooden structures were gradually transitioning to stone and mud houses. Barley was the main crop here. Copperware was replaced by ceramics.

 

A neatly arranged kitchen of a house in Dras with all the utensils and other kitchenware organised on the shelves in the wall.

Warm wear was a must even in the summer.

 

Young girl from Drass, wearing a bright red salwar kameez and a sweater, head covered, stands by the window in her house and smiles for the camera as she casts her reflection in the window glass.

Women carried these multi purpose baskets every time they stepped out. They were used to carry mud, dung, crops, flock and children!

Women from Drass carry these multi purpose baskets every time they step out. They are used to carry mud, dung, crops, flock and children!

The mosques were a work of art! Adding a splash of colour in the otherwise brown landscape.

A mosque in Dras with its colourful columns and decorative inscriptions adds colour to the other brown landscape surrounded by the Greater Himalayas.

We didn’t know any of this till we actually visited Drass. Drass was primarily known to us because of the Kargil war. It was unsettling walking through the streets and seeing the mountains right in front, where, in the recent past a fierce war was fought.

We headed to the Kargil War Memorial.

The Tricolour swaying high, against the Tololing mountain range brought goosebumps.

The Indian tricolour at the Kargil War Memorial sways with the breeze in the backdrop of the Tololing mountain range in Dras.

Next to this is a small war museum, where the army screens a short film. A must watch. A memorial ground on the other side, is a disturbing sight  – as it should be. We highly recommend a visit to the Kargil War Memorial to everybody – not just Indians. It’s a humbling visit.

We highly recommend a visit to the Kargil War Memorial at Drass to everybody – not just Indians. It’s a humbling visit.

Walking through the village, we saw two young boys playing cricket without any gear – no bat, ball or stumps.

The young boy, Mateem had traveled on a Sadbhavna tour. It is an initiative by the Indian Army, where in children from remote regions travel to various parts of India and interact with others. On this tour, he had seen a cricket match live, and caught on the fascination for cricket.

The young boy, Mateem had traveled on a Sadbhavna tour. It is an initiative by the Indian Army, where in children from remote regions travel to various parts of India and interact with others. On this tour, he had seen a cricket match live, and caught on the fascination for cricket.

Mateem was from Srinagar. He and his siblings were visiting their cousins in Drass. Seeing us chat with Mateem, they all came over.

TTwo girls and their baby sister smile for the camera in Drass

Meet Zaibon Nissa, the girl on the left in the photo below. Probably the smartest kid we have met in our travels. She told us they belonged to the Dard community and spoke one of the Balti languages.

May I take your picture too?

Meet Zaibon Nissa, the smartest kid we have met in our travels. She asked us if we knew the language. When we answered negative, she decided to teach us some basics. She is till date, the only kid who has asked us if she could hold the camera. And taken a photo of us, making sure of getting the frame just as she wanted!

She asked us if we knew the language. When we answered negative, she decided to teach us some basics. She asked me to write sentences in English. She would translate each one, explaining every word. All the while making sure I was taking correct written notes!

She is till date, the only kid who has asked us if she could hold the camera. And taken a photo of us, making sure of getting the frame just as she wanted!

Bhimbet, a massive rock that can fly!

We then headed to a place on the outskirts of Drass, called Bhimbet. Mateem and his brother Mubarak volunteered to take us there.

Bhimbet is a massive rock representing Bhim from Mahabharat which is supposed to have moved across the mountains on its own in Drass

It is a piece of rock that is supposed to represent Bhim, the burly Pandava from the mythology epic Mahabharat. Local folklore says that overnight this piece of rock moved, by itself, from the other side of the mountain to its present location! The locals also believe that the soil surrounding it has great healing powers.

First sunset at high altitude

The sun sets in Dras among the pink sky and dark clouds against the silhouette of the poplar trees near the stay facility of the Jammu and Kashmir tourism department.

We were back in Drass just in time to see the first of many glorious high altitudes sunsets. We don’t know if altitude affects the cloud formations. Because, the clouds here were something special!

On our bucket list of Drass was to have a look at Tiger Hill, the highest and the most famous mountain peak of this region. However, it was covered in clouds the whole time and continued to evade us.

Tiger Hill is the highest and the most famous mountain peak in this region. It shot to prominence when a fierce battle was fought here in the Kargil War of 1999.

Drass was an excellent introduction for us to the high altitude nature of the mountains and its people. The next day we headed to Kargil, to begin the rest our journey further ahead into the Zanskar and Ladakh regions.

Landscape from Drass to Kargil is dominantly brown from the barren Greater Himalayas, snow almost melted in the summer, with the greens indicating a village.

Tips for Drass:

  • Drass is at an altitude of over 3000 meters. Pay attention if your body starts showing any signs of discomfort.
  • Walk at a slower pace, do not rush into things. Consume sufficient water.
  • Kargil, which is further ahead of Drass is at a lower altitude. Head there if Drass feels uncomfortable for the first high altitude night.

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Sandeepa and Chetan. Married. Indians. Exploring Travel as Lifestyle. Featured by National Geographic, Yahoo. We hope that through our travel stories we inspire others to make their dream into a reality.

Comments

19 thoughts on “Why visit Drass?

  1. pratikmme

    Hey Sandeepa and Chetan,

    Beautiful portrayal of a place.

    Just wanted to know if we can book the accommodation in advance and if there is a permit required for foreigners (Maldivian)

  2. Raj A

    Hi Sandeepa, Which time of the year best time to go to Drass Leh and Kargil please advise. I am very much interested in going by mid May or Jun

    1. Sandeepa Chetan Post author

      Hello Raj, these high altitude Himalayan regions can be visited for sure in the summer months, June to September being peak season. Roads start opening up as the BRO (Border Roads Organisation) completes the repair works and takes the snow off the roads. Because it is so weather dependent, the exact dates of the roads opening change every year. Even so, the Srinagar Leh highway is generally open by June – so you can access Drass, Kargil and Leh. The Leh Manali highway takes a while, sometimes around June end.

  3. akanksha pande

    yes your journey was amazing n thrilling , photo excellent myself akanksha tour n treak passionate i aslo plan my tour nlgoing to leh nubra valley ts omoriri kargil n dras only three ladies safe n amezzing thrilling journey nature is beautiful food flower foto mast your pic give mi sweet memories

  4. Zouhura

    Hi there, I have book my flight to Leh on 14 October. Hopefully I’m not too late to enjoy the scenery. Please advise.

  5. Suresh

    Hi Sandeepa

    I will be traveling via dras on 20th july… just wanted to know regarding booking of rooms, is it nesscary to have booking or place will be avaliable for ad hoc booking.

  6. Vivek

    Hi,
    This is vivek .
    I have planned to visit Drass in June 1st week.
    I heard it is a good place to trek.
    But u haven’t mentioned anything about that.
    Do u have any idea of the trek?
    Thanks,.

    1. Sandeepa Chetan Post author

      A popular trek from Drass is to Sankoo, 3 or 4 days from Drass. The local caretaker at the Drass guest house will also be to tell you more about the nearby treks.

  7. Sanket

    Hi guys… Thnks for sharing ur wonderful experience with fellow travellers. It would realy be very kind of u to Help me out on this. We r traveling to leh via srinagar n we want to spend 1 night @ drass. can u share any info(contact number) on hotels n Home stays or dormitories… We r 12 guys. Thanks

    1. Sandeepa Chetan Post author

      Hey Sanket, we wish you all an amazing trip to Ladakh. We had stayed in the J&K Tourism guest house, they have enough rooms for 12 people. No number though, since we just walked in and got the room. The guest house was almost empty when we reached there. We did look around at other hotels/guest houses, but found the tourism board one to be the best of the lot.

      1. lokesh kodati (@itsme_Loki)

        Hi Chetan,
        We planning to go for a trip in August. We are planning to take a car rental in Delhi and by car to Jammu and from Jammu to Leh and to Ladakh. And returning to Delhi via Manali…please suggest whether it I as a good idea to take car for all these places

        1. Sandeepa Chetan Post author

          Hello Lokesh, there are specific instructions about which car registrations can go in these areas of Ladakh. Only local car rentals are allowed. We suggest you check about all of this before you make a plan. You will find many resources on the internet for this information.

    1. Sandeepa Chetan Post author

      Absolutely, Ronak. The beauty of Drass came as a complete surprise. Especially since all you hear about it is just a place en route Ladakh! Glad we stayed back in Drass for a day.

      1. Deepak

        Hi sandeepa,

        I want to visit sando top and manman top where I can see LOC. Is it possible ? If so, how far are they, how to reach ? Best accomodation at drass ? Plz let me know detail ..
        Ty !