Gurez Valley Tour Experience: Kashmir’s Unexplored Gem near the indo-pak border
“Uncover a hidden slice of paradise, perhaps the most beautiful of all in Kashmir”
If Kashmir is the paradisiacal crown of India, then Gurez Valley is the most precious jewel in that crown. Forbidden for many years owing to its proximity to the Line of Control, the remote valley has now opened up to emerge as one of the most safe and peaceful places in the entire Kashmir valley. For many, this untouched region is perhaps the most beautiful of all in Kashmir. Inhabited by the forgotten Dard-Shin people who have a distinct cultural identity, similar to their kinsmen in Gilgit-Baltistan, the valleys of Gurez, Tulail, Bagtore and Izmarg are dotted with ancient villages set amidst breathtaking landscapes. This curated trip explores the unseen beauty of Gurez and offers handpicked local experiences in this magical place. An offbeat experience of a lifetime, think of this Gurez Valley tour as a journey to an enchanting fairyland, cozily hidden among the high mountains.
Day 1: Srinagar – Gurez via Razdan Pass (6-7 hours) | Overnight Dawar Hotel/Homestay
- Morning Pick up from Srinagar Airport or Hotel
- Travel towards North Kashmir passing by the Wular Lake: the Largest freshwater lake in India and second-largest in Asia
- Cross the stunning Razdan Pass (11672 feet) on the way – enjoy views of Mount Harmukh on clear days
- Reach Dawar in Gurez and check in to Hotel/Homestay
Day 2: Gurez Valley Exploration | Overnight Dawar Hotel/Homestay
- Take a short road trip to some of the lesser known gems of the valley – Bagtore & Izmarg
- Walk around the pretty village of Dawar and explore its lush meadows and picturesque envrions
- Explore the Kishanganga riverside and marvel at the grand Habba Khatoon peak
- Meet the locals at a traditional village nearby and hike to an underground spring
- Visit Khandiyal Top to get panoramic views of the breathtaking landscape
Day 3: Tulail Valley Exploration | Overnight Dawar Hotel/Homestay
- Today we explore the valley of Tulail driving beyond the Gurez valley closer to the LoC
- Discover an isolated wonderland-a unique blend between the barrenness of Ladakh and greenery of Kashmir
- Experience the ancient and distinctive culture of the region
- Visit the pretty villages of Sheikhpora, Badugam, Angaikot on the way
- Drive on the same route back to Hotel
Day 4: Gurez to Srinagar | Overnight Srinagar Hotel
- After Breakfast, Travel back to Srinagar via the Razdan Pass
- Enroute visit the Peer Baba Shrine and admire the beautiful surrounding landscapes
- Reach Srinagar and spend the Evening at Leisure
- Walk around the markets, spend time by the Dal or indulge in some local Shopping
Day 5: Farewell
- Drop off to Srinagar Airport
- Fly to respective Destinations
1. Gurez: Land of the Dard-Shins
Walter Lawrence, an author and once the British Settlement Commissioner of Kashmir, who visited Gurez in 1894, had called the valley “the most beautiful of Kashmir’s Margs… with mountain scraps of indescribable grandeur”.
127 Kms from Srinagar, the valley of Gurez lies in a peaceful, remote corner in the north of Kashmir. Dotted with quaint villages along the scenic Kishanganga river, this offbeat destination is an unexplored slice of heaven. It is geographically isolated from the rest of the world and is surrounded by exceptional natural beauty. It is also the homeland and last sanctuary for the Dardic people in India.
Historically, Gurez was part of ancient Dardistan. It fell along the old Silk Route, which connected the Kashmir Valley with Gilgit-Baltistan before continuing further to the Kashgar region of China. The local inhabitants are from the ethnic Dard-Shin tribe. Different from Kashmiri, they speak in Shina, a once-thriving language that is slowly vanishing. They have their ancestral connection with the people of Gilgit-Baltistan region, now in Pakistan. Their styles of dress, traditions, customs and cultural identity is similar to their kinsmen located on the other side of LoC.
Today, the last major remnants of this unique ethnic group can be found only in Gurez, Tulail and Bagtore areas, coexisting happily and peacefully with the Indian Army stationed here. This is one rare nook of Kashmir where the Indian Army is on very good terms with the local population, always providing much-needed assistance with medical and other emergencies, especially in the harsh winter months.
On this curated Gurez Valley Tour, we explore a secluded paradise nestled away in one of the most unexplored regions of the Kashmir valley. The trip helps us unravel the Dardic people’s history, culture and heritage, offering us all a fascinating glimpse into the lives of an ancient mountain tribe.
2. The formidable Habba Khatoon Peak
The mountain of Habba Khatoon is the star of Gurez, standing tall and welcoming all the visitors here. It is a graceful, pyramid-shaped peak that rises high over the village of Dawar, overlooking its vast green expanse. A visual of the lazily flowing Kishanganga against the backdrop of this towering giant is one of the most spectacular and memorable sights here.
The rocky mountain looks amazingly beautiful in the evening when the sun shines on its bare face from the opposite side. In the morning, the rising sun behind it makes the mountain even more grand, bringing a mystical touch to this awe-inspiring attraction.
Apart from its natural grandeur, the mountain is also significant particularly because of its name. Habba Khatoon in Gurez valley is named after the 16th century Kashmiri poetess and the legendary peasant-queen. One of the greatest poets of Kashmir, she once composed poems and songs about loss and separation after the death of her husband and is now fondly remembered as the ‘Nightingale of Kashmir’. An iconic figure in Kashmiri literary and medieval history, Habba Khatoon’s ballads are sung in the valley even today. The mountain gem of Gurez stands tall as a grand symbol of the poet’s greatness.
3. Hamlets of the Tulail Valley
Tulail Valley is one of the remotest regions of Jammu and Kashmir located up north of the territory, beyond the Gurez valley. Parallel to the Line of Control, as we travel further up the Dawar township, we enter the Tulail area crossing multiple Army checkpoints. This is a highly restricted area requiring special permissions due to its close proximity to the Border line.
Driving along the Kishanganga river, here we discover an extraordinary land plucked straight out of a folktale. The captivating natural beauty of this unspoilt region is a unique blend between the stark barrenness of Ladakh and lush greenery of Kashmir. The sweet mix of both terrains conjures up exceptional sceneries at every turn.
Many beautiful villages exist on this sixty-km long route, with Chakwali being the last settlement. Sheikhpora, Badugam, Purana Tilail and Angaikot are some of the many picturesque hamlets on the way that constantly demand our undivided attention. With rolling pastures, dreamy landscapes and towering mountains for company, the ethnic Dards-Shins have called these villages home for centuries. Traditional wooden houses and interlocking log structures, built without nails in an antiquated style can still be found in some of these old villages. Isolated far from the onslaught of modernization, the locals here have somewhat managed to retain their unique traditions, lifestyle and cultural identities.
A restricted motorable route connects the Tulail valley with Kargil’s Drass and Mushkoh Valley via (Kabul/Kaobal) Gali pass. The region is also connected to Kashmir’s Sonamarg by remote and forbidden mountain trails.
4. Crossing the Razdan Pass: A road Less Travelled
From the plains of Bandipora , an uphill journey passing through winding roads, coniferous forests and emerald meadows takes us to the breathtaking Razdan pass, the gateway to the heavenly Gurez. Located at an elevation of 11672 feet, it is the highest point that we reach on our Gurez Valley Tour.
The pass connects dozens of remote and far-flung areas, including those near the Line of Control with district headquarters Bandipora in North Kashmir. Once an integral part of the Silk route between Kashmir and Central Asia, the offbeat road to Razdan Pass remains a strategically important link connecting the Gurez with the Kashmiri mainland.
One of the major highlights of this experiential trip is the exhilarating drive through the pass that overlooks deep gorges and cliffs. The high-altitude passage offers some impressive panoramic views of the surrounding mountain ranges and valleys. On clear days, the majestic Mount Harmukh is also visible from here. The highest peak in the vicinity, Mount Harmukh is considered sacred by the Hindus. It is also the famous mountain from which the world’s second-highest mountain peak, K2, was first discovered in 1856. The entire pass area receives heavy snowfall during the winter months cutting off the access to Gurez during that time.
Four Kms short of the pass, there exists a shrine dedicated to Peer baba, a revered local saint who had come from Pakistan in 1933. He breathed his last near the pass where his shrine stands today. It is maintained by the Indian army and offers another extremely scenic pitstop on the way.
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