You may have heard the name mentioned in news during the Kargil war with Pakistan. Or heard of Tiger’s Hill in the movies based on the war. You can actually travel to this cold desert, tucked on the Himalayan ranges in Jammu and Kashmir.
The town of Drass, 60 km west of Kargil on the road to Srinagar, is located at an altitude of 3,300 m in a relatively flat and open space in the centre of a valley. It has extensive willow groves along the river. In winter it is covered with a thick blanket of snow. Drass experiences the lowest temperatures in the Ladakh valley and is said to be the second coldest inhabited place in Asia. The mercury may drop to as low as 40 degrees Celsius below freezing point, and communication with the outside world is often completely cut off.
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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.
Many trek to Zojila pass in Kashmir, and Drass is located beyond this trek route. Drass is a convenient base for a three-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 with flower sprinkled meadows on both sides of the 4,500 metres high Umbala pass which falls enroute.
Drass has some of the hardiest habitants of the mountains. Its inhabitants are mainly of the Darad stock. 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 modern polo.
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Women carry these multi purpose baskets every time they stepped out. The baskets hold everything from hay to children, and the hardy women traverse the pass trails with agility, basket strapped to their shoulder.
You can also visit the Kargil War Memorial in the town. The Tricolour swaying high, against the Tololing mountain range will evoke jingoism in any travelling soul.
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Anybody visiting Drass would have the Tiger’s Hill on their bucketlist, but you have to be lucky to view it clearly on a cloudless day.
You can also visit Mushko Valley in the vicinity, which is known to bloom with wild flowers in summer.
The buses plying between Srinagar and Kargil passes through the Drass sector. Drass is connected to Srinagar by NH 1.
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