Drass (3230 m), 60 km west of Kargil on the road to Srinagar, is a small township lying in the centre of a 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 alongwith repeated snowfall during winter. Winter temperature is sometimes known to plummet to less than-40 C. During the spring and summer, however, the valley around the township becomes very picturesque as the gently undulating hillsides turn into lush green pastures splashed with a variety of fragrant wild flowers.
Its inhabitants are mainly of the Darad stock, an Aryan race believed to have originally migrated to the high valleys of the Western Himalayas from the Central Asian steppes. They speak Shina which, unlike the Tibetan-originated Ladakhi dialects spoken elsewhere in Ladakh region, belongs to the Indo-European linguistic family. Their ancestral sport, `horse-polo' which the Darads play with particular zeal, resembles our modern polo.
The Drass valley starts from the base of the Zojila 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 travellers 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 hardy people enduring with fortitude the harshness of the valley's winter, the inhabitants of Drass can well be described as the guardians of Ladakh's gateway.
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Journey to Ladakh
Drass is a convenient base for a 3-day long trek to the 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 4500 metres high Umbala pass which falls enroute. The trek to the holy cave of Amarnath in neighbouring Kashmir, which starts from Minamarg below Zojila, takes 3 days and involves crossing a 5200 metres high pass. Drass also offers numerous shorter treks and hikes to the upland villages.
How to reach: Buses plying between Srinagar and Kargil/Leh touch Drass. Local buses leave Kargil in the morning and afternoon for Drass.
Note: All tourists to Ladakh travelling from Srinagar by road are required to register themselves at the Tourist Registration Centre at Drass.
Information: Courtesy Govt of India
Editor: Romola Butalia   (c) India Travelogue. All rights reserved.