Drass is a small town in the state of Jammu and Kashmir which is located about 60 km from Kargil on the Kargil–Srinagar Highway or NH-1. The town of Drass is located at an altitude of about 10,597 feet above sea-level. Drass is well-known as the second coldest inhabited place in the world after Siberia.
Temperatures in winter drop to a bone-breaking low of -45℃ but during the summer months of May to August, Drass is a completely different place. With the sky over-cast for most of the day and a few short drizzles that last not more than a couple of minutes, the town of Drass experiences a very pleasant climate during the summers and this is the best time to visit this town.
The town of Drass is located about 142 km from the state capital of Srinagar and is easily accessible by road during the summer months. There are multiple transport options for travellers to choose from while travelling to Drass.
The first is to hire a taxi from Srinagar which is a preferred option for a group of about 5-7 travellers. The second is to take a shared cab and pay per seat. This is a good option for solo travellers. The last option is the local government bus which is not very reliable and also very over crowded. There is usually a bus in the morning at 6am from the Srinagar bus station to Kargil, but don’t be surprised if the bus is randomly cancelled in the morning. All buses that ply to Kargil stop at Drass for about 10 minutes or more.
Once in Drass the first thing that travellers will notice is the sign board by the state tourism board which indicates that this town is indeed the second coldest inhabited place on earth. The inhabitants of this town are mostly Muslims. Most people who live here are hard breed people who have not only learnt the art of surviving in the extreme cold but have also learnt how to make the best use of their surroundings.
Drass valley starts at the end of Zojila Pass and for centuries the inhabitants are known to have navigated this formidable and extremely dangerous pass even during the most risky period in the late autumn or early spring. When the whole region 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 trade in this region that goes back to the heyday of the Pan-Asian trade.
The town of Drass is very small and will not take travellers more than about 15 minutes to cover the whole town. The whole town covers not more than about 150 meters of the highway, with houses and shops lined up on either side of the road. The houses and shops in Drass are mostly made of wood and brick, while only the front entrance of the shops are painted in bright colors. Walking is the best way of exploring this small town of Drass.
The local language of the people in Drass is Shina a language from the Dardic people of the Indo-Aryan descendant. The people of Drass are believed to have migrated to this region hundreds of years ago from central Asia. Most of the people in the village are dressed in traditional Muslim attire and the women are always with their heads covered. A few of the younger generation boys are seen in jeans, trousers and T-shirts. The inhabitants of Dras can well be described as the guardian’s of the Ladakh’s gateway.
Drass does not have much to offer from the point of view of a tourist but it has plenty to offer for the trekkers and hikers, since this town is the base for several high altitude Himalayan treks that go through the surrounding regions. Like most of the villages and towns in this part of the Himalayas, Drass also has its own mosque which can easily be spotted from anywhere in the town.
Accommodation options in Drass are surprisingly on the higher side since there are only limited guest houses and a few better looking guest houses which claim to be hotels. Drass is a place where very few people opt to spend the night as most travellers just stop here for lunch en-route to Kargil and explore the lanes and by-lanes while the food is getting cooked.
There are plenty of dhabas and small restaurants that serve really good food at very economical prices. Drass is also the best option for anyone travelling towards Kargil to grab a bite if they are vegetarian because finding a pure vegetarian place to eat in Kargil is near impossible. There are also a couple of bakeries selling biscuits and local sponge cake which is a must have.
The town of Drass is a must stop place for all travellers en-route to Kargil because it is not very often that a traveller can lay claim to have travelled and had lunch if not spent a night in one of the coldest places inhibited by humans. Drass is a place that will be liked more by the traveller and less by the tourist.