Visit Dras in Kargil: The Second Coldest Inhabited Place in World (2021)
Dras, a town located in the Kargil district in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir. It is also known as the ‘Gateway to Ladakh’. It is located at the height of 3230m and lies on the ancient silk route. This is known as the National Highway 1D leading to Srinagar. The beautiful town of Dras is the coldest place in India and second coldest place in the world, with temperatures dropping to as low as -45 degree Celsius. This also makes Dras the second coldest inhabited place in the world after Siberia. Image Source
This town is extremely beautiful with views of the majestic mountains and beautiful valleys all around. Dras is blessed with ethereal natural beauty. Dras has a beautiful landscape to offer. The place has snow half of the year. It has a rugged terrain with scenic mountains and calm environment characterize this frosty hamlet. Dras is popular as a trekking base where people stopover during their trek from Minamarg to Amarnath via Zojila Pass. The three famous pinnacles tiger hills, the three pimples and Tololing can be viewed from Dras. People come here to see this beautiful view on a clear day. This view is something to behold for the rest of your lives. So, make sure you pack your bags and get ready to visit Dras on your next vacation.
The Pakistani troops occupied this paradise during the Kargil war in 1999. The battle continued for about two months during which course several Army men lost their lives. But the Indian army recaptured the town of Dras and to commemorate their sacrifice, Dras war memorial was built which is today, the main attraction of this village and in the nearby area.
Places to See and Things to do in Dras
1. Dras War Memorial
Dras War Memorial, also known by the name of Kargil War Memorial is built by the Indian Army in honor of and commemorating the 1999 Kargil War between India and Pakistan. The memorial is located on the Srinagar-Leh National Highway 1D. It is situated about 5 km from the city center across Tiger Hill. It is a great place to visit and specially to pay respect to the people who died to safeguard a country during times of war. There is a War Gallery that showcases the war photos, and it also depicts the stories of brave soldiers at the Dras War Memorial. You will also be able to see a Sandstone wall which is inscribed with the names of the Indian army personnel who lost their lives during the war in this memorial. Visiting this memorial will give you chills down your spine and make you feel thankful and respectful of the sacrifices given by soldiers during the war. You can reach the Drass War memorial on the road leading to Leh from Srinagar. The memorial is located a little distance from Drass town. If you do not have a personal vehicle, you can get regular buses and taxis from Srinagar via National Highway 1. Drass War Memorial is open to the public on all weekdays including Saturdays from 10 am to 12 pm and 2 pm to 5 pm. The memorial remains closed on Sundays.
Matayen is located on the Srinagar-Leh Highway, 21 km ahead on Drass. It is the first inhabited village on the highway and the second coldest inhabited place after Siberia. Although Matayen lies in the Ladakh region, an interesting fact is that it is a Kashmiri speaking village in Ladakh. It is situated at the end of Minimarg pastureland and is famous among tourists for several reasons. The village has over 30 Sunni Muslim families that have been residing here since a very long time. Their ancestors have relocated from the valley of Lolab in North Kashmir. Since it is located on the ancient silk route, this village has been a famous halting point and a camping site for traders travelling on this route to and from Central Asia during the ancient times. The reason for inhabitation at Matayen is because it is a flat surface and people encountered a flat surface after the treacherous uphill and downhill in Zoji-la. This place felt like a relief and there was a hut where people travelling on this route used to rest. It is a very small village with a population of around 450 people. There are only 2 shops in the village. There is a middle school and primary health center at the village. This is one of the poorest villages in the Drass region. Medical emergencies from the village need to be taken to Kargil which is 80 km uphill and the path is covered in 3-4 ft snow during the winters which makes it a difficult task. It is nice to see the lifestyle of old Kashmiris residing here while you are around. It is certainly a historical place that should not be missed on your visit.
3. Ningoor Masjid
Ningoor masjid is a famous tourist site and a place of religious importance among the local and Muslim community in general. The legend says that one of the walls of this masjid was raised on its own while constructing the place Make sure you visit this place of you are in the area or around.
Minamarg is one of the mountainous trails on the way to Amarnath Yatra. It is famous for its scenic beauty and located 30 km from Dras. It is a nice tourist spot as well and people visiting the nearby areas come over to visit and enjoy the scenic beauty with their friends and families.
5. Mulbekh Monastery
Mulbekh Monastery or Mulbekh Gompa consists of two gompas, one Drukpa, and one Gelugpa Buddhist monastery in Kargil, Ladakh, northern India. It is one of the top attractions in Kargil and the area around. The most interesting thing about this monastery is its location. Another interesting fact about this place is the statue of Maitreya Buddha that is carved on a very big and enormous slab of stone. Mulbekh Monastery is located at a distance of around 36 Km from Kargil on the way towards Leh on the National Highway 1D.
The Mulbekh monastery is believed to be around 800 years old and was built by the students of the Tibetan scholar, Lotsawa Rinchen Zangpo. The legend says that the idol dates back to the 8th century but there is another school of thought that believes that the monastery was built in the Kushan’s period. The sculpture is said to have been carved by the missionaries. But based on the carvings it is clear that the missionaries were not Tibetans and were people from Ladakh. There are other ancient edicts near the main sculpture in the Kharoshti script. Mulbekh forms a panorama that is made of rock with occasional green patches spread across the unending horizon. Mulbekh Monastery stands on the top of a crag and is situated almost 656 feet above the road. One needs to walk for a bit on a steep path to reach this beautiful monastery.
6. Amarnath Yatra
Amarnath is considered one of the holiest pilgrimages for Hindus and is visited by thousands of tourists every year. The door of the Amarnath temple or the cave opens in the Shravan month in the Hindu calendar that is in July-August. The place has a unique significance for Hindus especially people who worship Lord Shiva. One of the biggest Lingam formed with Ice is located inside the cave which resembles Lord Shiva. The trek for Amarnath yatra starts from Minamarg which is 30 km away from Dras. The cave is placed at an altitude of 3,888m, which is around 141 km from Srinagar, the capital of Jammu and Kashmir. The holy shrine has an important part to play in Hinduism and is considered to be one of the holiest shrines. The annual ‘Amarnath Yatra’ is started by Pratham Pujan which as per the legend is done to invoke the blessings of Baba Amarnath. As per the religious beliefs, it has been claimed that the lingam grows and shrinks with the phases of the moon reaching its height during the summer festival. It is a site of religious importance and people visit especially for Amarnath Yatra from all over the country.
Best Time to Visit Dras
You will experience some extreme weather conditions in Dras. The best time to visit this beautiful place and enjoy every bit of the adventure it has to offer is between the summer months which are short from June to September. The temperature in Dras goes down to almost minus 5 degrees Celsius. During monsoon, there is a light shower to heavy snowfall, and it is also common to have landslides and cloudbursts. So, monsoons should be avoided to visit Dras. Summer is a nice time for the tourists to get around and to enjoy the wilderness in the surrounding areas. The weather is pleasantly cold and is considered a good time to spend in Dras
Winters start in October and last up to May. Winters in Dras are long and freezing. The temperature during winters drops to extreme levels and becomes intolerable for people not accustomed to living in extreme weather conditions. It is not inadvisable to go during winters, but it becomes a little difficult for tourists going from warm areas to stay in cold.
How to Reach Dras?
Dras is connected to the rest of India only by roads. There is no direct flight or rail connectivity, but you can easily take a flight for Leh / Srinagar and take public transport from there. You can choose from air travel, trains, buses, or taxis to reach this heavenly town in this beautiful valley.
Air travel to Dras
: The Nearest airport is Kushok Bakula Rinpoche airport at Leh at a distance of approximately 110 km from Dras. It is connected to most of the major cities in India. The local airlines and carriers like Air India, Jet Airways, Indigo, Spice Jet, and others have direct flights from Delhi. You can take a taxi to Dras or jeeps are also available for hire at the airport. To reach Leh, you can also take connecting flights from other local airports in India if a direct flight is not available from your nearest airport. You can hire a taxi from the airport to reach go to your destination in Dras or the nearby cities if you are planning to go anywhere else.
Rail Travel to Dras:
The Nearest railway stations are the Jammu railway station which is around 500 km from Dras. If you are coming from different and farther areas of the country or outside, you can reach Jammu Station and hire a taxi from here. The railhead is connected to most of the major cities in India. Jammu railway station is directly connected to prime cities of the country, including Delhi, Bhatinda, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, and Jodhpur via several superfast, express, and mail trains. You can take a taxi or take a shared cab from outside the railway station to reach your destination.
Road Travel to Dras
: Dras is connected via road to all places. Nearby areas have frequent buses that are plying on this route. There are regular buses from cities like Udhampur, Jammu, Srinagar, and Leh. You can also hire a taxi from these destinations. Generally, tourists reach Leh via public transport like planes, buses, etc., and hire a taxi from Leh to reach Dras. Bus services also ply to and from the city of Dras from nearby places like Jammu Tawi, Srinagar, Leh. However, there are no regular buses that travel on this route and it is very risky to rely on public transport.
Places to Stay in Kargil
There are few to no places to stay in Dras. You can get accommodation at nearby places including Dras. It is located in a very volatile part of the country given the history of the war in the area and the constant infiltration. Dras is located in a remote area and you will not find many let alone fancy places to stay during your visit. Often known as the cold desert of India, you will see brown mountains without any vegetation and majestic views of the valleys you have ever seen. There are only a few guest houses or homestays to stay at Dras and you can choose a place based on your budget. You can also choose from several homestays at this place that you will enjoy which will give you a comfortable vibe and homely feeling. You can try to book the place before visiting during the season because it gets really difficult to find accommodation if you land in the town without any arrangement to stay in summer. You will also find places a little far from the main town so be careful and check all the details and confirm when booking the accommodation. Some of the famous places to stay around are Royal Gasho Hotel, Hotel Dras Heights, Hotel Chhutuk Hights, Hotel Suru View, etc.
Things to Eat in Dras
Like other towns and cities in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, Dras offers a variety of Kashmiri food. You will also get to taste an amalgamation of the tastes of different cultures. There is a variety of food available at Nathatop if you want to try street food and snacks. Do not miss eating chocolate Barfi, Sund Panjeeri, Rajma with Rice, Kalaadi which is a type of cheese found locally in the state, Pickles specific to the state like Kasrod, Girgle, Mango with Saunf, Zimikand, Tyaoo, Seyoo, and Potatoes pickles, Khatta Meat which is mutton cooked with Pomegranate or lime juice. You will find famous restaurants and roadside eateries both serving delicious food. You will also find the famous Kashmiri dishes here that are a trademark of the state. The most famous dishes in the area are Rogan Josh, Modar Pulao, Matschgand, Shab Daig, Haakh, Yakhni, Nader ki Gaad, Kashmiri Naan are among the few. Make sure you try all the food during your visit. Like all the places, the food is also a unique specialty in Dras and the nearby places. The best and famous places to eat in the town are Pasgo and Shangrila.