Dras, or Drass, is a small township situated about 60 km away from Kargil, on the road to Srinagar. Dras is widely recognized as the second coldest inhabited place in the world. Dras is popularly known as ‘The Gateway to Ladakh’. The small town is situated at a height of 3230 meters ie 10,990 feet above sea level. During winters, mercury level in the Dras region can plummet to as low as -45 degree Celsius. However, despite biting cold temperatures, Dras is known to host riveting contests of Horse Polo. The easy going and quiet life of Dras is best fit for passing tourists. The region is also home to several treks and hikes for those interested in exploring the region on foot. Dras first came to limelight in the year 1999, when Pakistan Army incursions started the famous Kargil War. The Indian Army was quick to retaliate and captured the region which is now one of its bases in the extreme north region. A War Memorial stands tall in remembrance of the martyred soldiers of the Kargil War.
The site holds great prominence and is visited by thousands of tourists who come to pay their regards to the brave sons of our country. Dras is home to the Dards and Baltis, people who live in scattered huts. The estimated population of the township is around 1,021. The town has a small Muslim majority along with a few Buddhists. The inhabitants of Dras are extremely well versed with the region. The Zoji La pass, which is the starting point of Dras valley, gets covered in snow during autumn and spring. The area also experiences frequent snow storms which make life even more difficult. The locals, however, have been able to deal with the adverse conditions in the region since ages. They continue to play a key role in transporting merchandise and assisting tourists surfacing the Dras region. Dras continues to attract tourists from all parts of the world. Despite the growing presence of the Indian Army, the region guarantees a fulfilling experience. The magic of Dras speaks for itself and the idea of braving freezing temperatures to reach some of the most picturesque viewpoints further magnifies the adventure quotient. Out of all the places to see in Dras, the Manman Top (about 10 km from Dras) is perhaps the most important one. Upon reaching Manman Top, one can view the entire Dras valley and even the Line Of Control (LOC). Then there is the Chorkiat Forest offering a variety of flora and fauna, the Dongchik village which has zero cases to its name as per Police record, Laser La which is a little known hill-station, the Brigade War Gallery providing information regarding the Kargil War, Tiger Hill, and much more. So go ahead and plan an ambitious, adventurous, and truly invigorating trip to the second coldest inhabited place in the world. The best time to visit is obviously during summer when the temperature is marginally warmer, between the months of May and September. Not that it needs to be said but be sure to
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.
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.
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 and the golden browns of LadakhWhile 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.