Nurtured by the Drass River which rises in the Machoi glacier near the famous Zojila Pass, the enchanting Drass Valley is situated at a height of 3230 m. The valley experiences extremely harsh cold weather in winters and temperature may even fall to minus 40 degree Celsius. This cold valley (60 km to the west of Kargil) starts from the Zojila pass, the Himalayan Gateway to Ladakh.
The valley also enjoys a short summer season that begins in May when the snow starts melting. The valley comprises a small town called the Drass Town, which is located in a flat and open space. One can spot greenery and vegetation along the river during summer, but the town is covered under a thick blanket of snow in winter. A major part of the valley is inhabited by the Brokpa Tribe. This tribe is believed to be the descendant of the Dards of Chilas found in the Gilgit region. The people of this tribe are involved in growing Barley and other cereals.
Drass suffered heavily in the summer of 1999, when the town was shelled by Pakistani backed incursions. The Indian army eventually re-captured the town, its surrounding areas, and Kargil district. It is the nearest point to the Line of Control.
At the entrance of Drass are three stone figures of a king and two women carved on pillars. The inscription on the pillars is in the old Brahmi script and the ornaments worn by the women, Kashmiri.
Drass inhabitants consist mainly of Dard stock, an Aryan race believed to have originally migrated from Central Asia. They speak Shina, a Dardic language, which is unlike the Ladakhi dialects spoken elsewhere in Ladakh. The population is majority muslim, as is the rest of Kargil district. It was predominantly a Buddhist region, which converted to Islam in the 15th century. The only Buddhist remains of note in the whole area are images of the Maitreya Buddha carved on a rock face in Mulkekh.
Drass Valley PRIME ATTRACTIONS
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”.
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 in Drass Valley
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
The short summer season begins in May with the melting of snow. Winters are long and harsh, with snow often falling to a depth of 14 feet, and the temperature dropping to -40 C.
Bed and breakfast
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.
How To Reach
Avoid traveling to the Drass Valley in late autumn or early spring season because the valley witnesses heavy snowstorms during this period.
By Air: Srinagar (147 km) is the nearest airport.
By Road: Buses or taxis from Srinagar to Kargil and Leh pass through the Drass Valley.