The tourist movement in Gurez was not allowed until a few years ago. That is what probably makes it among the least visited areas in all of Kashmir, and that is where we were planning to go today. The plan was to drive from Srinagar to Gurez Valley, stay there for the night, and move on to Sonamarg from there.
This however was only the initial plan. When we reached Gurez Valley, so mesmerized we were by the views, that we decided to extend our stay there by another day. This day was used to ride further in the valley and get a taste of offbeat Kashmir.
If you were planning a trip to Kashmir and wanted to visit a place that is a little away from the crowd, you must include Gurez in your itinerary. Do keep in mind though that the roads here are extremely bad and the place is yet to get developed as a tourist destination. Read on to find out more.
Journey So Far
- 9 Days Trip to Kashmir – Prologue
- Delhi to Srinagar by Flight – Day 1
- Srinagar to Gulmarg – Day 1
- Sightseeing in Gulmarg – Day 2
- Enjoying the Gondola Ride – Day 2
- Alpather Lake Trek – Day 2
- Gulmarg Sightseeing in the Morning – Day 3
- Gulmarg to Doodhpathri to Srinagar – Day 3
- Srinagar to Aharbal Waterfall – Day 4
- Aharbal to Peer ki Gali to Srinagar – Day 4
- Srinagar to Yusmarg – Day 5
- Sightseeing in Srinagar – Day 6
Before I move on with our travel story of the day, below are some details on how you can travel from Srinagar to Gurez Valley by your self-owned vehicle, bus, or other means of transport. To read the previous parts of the travelogue, please click on the links above.
About Gurez Valley
Gurez is a valley located in the high Himalayas, about 140 kilometers from Srinagar City. At about 8,000 feet (2,400 meters) above sea level, the valley is surrounded by snow-capped mountains.
It has diverse fauna and wildlife including the Himalayan brown bear and the snow leopard. The Kishanganga River flows through the valley.
Razdan Pass is the only high-altitude pass between Srinagar and Gurez Valley. Due to heavy snowfall at the pass in winter, the road gets blocked and the valley remains cut off for six months of the year. At this time, you can only reach there by Helicopter service.
The valley is divided into two parts, Dawar, and Tulel (also spelled as Tilel) districts. Dawar is the central township in the area and this is where most of the development is.
Beyond Dawar, Tilel is mostly a remote and largely unexplored region consisting of small villages. For more details, please take a look at How to Plan a Trip to Gurez Valley.
How to reach Gurez Valley from Srinagar
The route from Srinagar to Gurez Valley is as mentioned below.
- Srinagar – Sumbal – Bandipora – Razdan Pass – Dawar (Gurez Valley)
The total distance between the two places is about 140 kilometers and will take you anywhere from 5 to 7 hours to complete, depending on your speed and breaks.
The drive from Srinagar to Bandipora will be smooth and eventless. On the way, you will also get to see Mansabal Lake and Wular Lake. If you had some time, I will recommend taking a break at both the lakes to get some pictures.
A little before Bandipora is where the road starts to climb up. You will drive past Bandipora town and will soon be on top of the Razdan Pass, the only high altitude pass on the route.
Until a few years ago, this road was a badly broken dirt one. But now it is a tarred road and the drive will remain to be smooth.
Once you start driving down on the other side of the pass, you will hit a badly broken stretch for about 10 kilometers. That is the only bad section of the road on this stretch for now but it may change in the coming years.
You will cross a few checkpoints on the way, register yourself and reach Dawar, the largest town in Gurez Valley.
Srinagar to Gurez Valley Bus
Reaching Gurez valley from Srinagar by Bus can be a bit tricky. There is a bus service available but the catch is that it is not all the way from Srinagar to Gurez.
Your journey will actually have to be broken into two parts – from Srinagar to Bandipore and then Bandipore to Dawar.
There are daily buses available from Parimpora in Srinagar to Bandipora. The fare per person will be approximately Rs. 100 to Rs. 125.
From Bandipora, there is no bus available and you will have to opt for a shared cab, a Tata Sumo. The fare per person from Bandipora will be approximately Rs. 350 per person.
The tourist movement in Gurez valley has increased significantly in the last few years. They are planning to start a direct bus from Parimpora in Srinagar to Dawar in Gurez Valley but it is not yet confirmed when will it happen. For now, the journey will have to be planned in the way I mentioned above.
Srinagar to Gurez Valey Taxi Fare
For a private taxi from Srinagar to Gurez Valley, the total fare would be around Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 14,000 for a round trip of 2 days. If you want to go until Chakwali, it will be an additional 7k making it a total of Rs. 21,000 for a 3 days trip.
For booking a taxi in Srinagar, talk to Faisal at 9596410670. He is a great guy and will be able to get you a cab for the lowest possible price.
If you want to stay in Gurez Valley for a day and explore it beyond Dawar, make sure you are booking either a Sumo or a Bolero. The drivers of hatchbacks and cabs like Innova will refuse to go beyond Dawar.
The reason is that the condition of the road after Dawar is extremely bad and will pose a risk of damage to the cars. Since hatchbacks and Innovas have a lower GC, the drivers will not take the risk.
While booking the cab, please make sure that you discuss your complete travel plan and places you want to explore with the driver to avoid any confusion or arguments later.
Srinagar to Gurez Valley Shared Taxi
A journey by shared taxi will be in the similar manner that I mentioned above for buses. From Parimpora in Srinagar, you will first board a shared cab for Bandipora. The fare per person will be Rs. 150 approximately.
From Bandipora, you will change cabs and board another Tata Sumo for Dawar in Gurez Valley. The fare per person will be approximately Rs. 350 per person.
Srinagar to Gurez Valley by Helicopter
The helicopter service for Gurez Valley remains available in the winter season only, until 31st March. You can board the helicopter from either Srinagar or Bandipora.
In Srinagar, you will have to visit TRC Srinagar to book a ticket. The fare per person will be around Rs. 3000. Once you have booked the ticket, you will then board the helicopter from the airport.
In Bandipora, there is an NHPC helipad where this service starts from. You will first have to visit the DC office in Bandipora and book a ticket. The fare per person is Rs. 2000 approximately. You will then go to the Helipad and board the Helicopter.
Srinagar to Gurez Valley by Bike
Our plan was however different. We had rented bikes in Srinagar and were going to make it all a bike trip to Gurez Valley.
I woke up early and first went for a ride around Dal Lake while my friends continued to sleep till late. My entire morning was spent visiting Dal Lake, Nigeen Lake, Hazratbal, and Nishat Bagh.
I was in fact in Nishat Bagh when Lavish called me from the hotel asking about when we were planning to start for the day.
I reached back the hotel and in the next one hour, we were all packed up. The plan as per the original itinerary was to reach Gurez valley today, then Sonamarg tomorrow, and then return to Srinagar the day after.
After a bit of thought and discussion, we decided to carry just as little stuff as we would need to survive the next two days in Gurez and Sonamarg, and leave the rest at the hotel in Srinagar only.
So we all packed up a couple of clothes and stepped out of the hotel at around 10 AM. The first stop was Zeenat Hotel in front of Shalimar Bagh to get a cup of tea and something to eat.
Our breakfast here was followed by an amusing and somewhat funny incident. An elderly gentleman was sitting at the table right next to us and was noticing us with a bit of interest.
This was not something unusual. Throughout our journey, people have been indeed noticing us because of the entire biker get up. So we did not really take much notice of it until the old man asked us where we were from and started to talk to us about our trip plan.
Also Read: What to See in Gurez Valley?
The Funny Old Man
We told him that we were heading to Gurez valley now and he then started telling us about the times he was in Gurez. By his clothes and entire get-up, he seemed like an educated man from a good family. So even we did not mind talking to him for a while.
During all this, Lavish had his cigarette packet in his hand which the old man noticed, and then the conversation turned into a lecture.
A lecture that continued for the next 15 minutes and covered almost all the aspects of how a cigarette kills. It then moved on to how being the young men of the society, we should stay away from such evil.
Below is how the lecture ended. I am narrating it in English but it all took place in Hindi.
“Which cigarette is it?” Asked the old man.
“Dunhill” Replied Lavish
“Can I try one? I have never smoked this brand of cigarette” Said the old man.
Lavish took a cigarette out and handed it to the old guy which he happily lit and pulled a long drag. We just looked at him in complete disbelief and with just one thought in our heads.
“Why were you lecturing us if you were going to smoke with us anyway?”
Anyway, the old guy borrowed one more cigarette after he finished his first one. We then started on our way to Gurez Valley. The route of the journey was going to be as below.
- Srinagar – Bandipora – Razdan Pass – Dawar
The total distance is about 140 kilometers but I knew it was going to take us at least 6 hours because of bad roads. The first stop of the journey was going to be the famous Wular Lake.
Wular Lake (also spelled Wullar) is one of the largest freshwater lakes in Asia. It is in the Bandipora district and is one of the 26 Indian wetlands. It is an important fish habitat that also sustains a rich population of birds.
We finally reached Wular Lake in about an hour and a half. This was my second disappointment of the day after Nigeen Lake.
Considering that it is one of the largest freshwater lakes in Asia, I was expecting something totally grand. All that we found however was water covered with so much green that it actually looked like land covered with grass.
Had it not been for the boats, we would not even have realized that it was actually a lake.
Our next destination was Razdan Pass. It is the only high altitude pass between Srinagar and Gurez, sitting at a height of 3.557 meters (11,672 ft) above sea level.
It is also known as the Tragbal Pass or the Rajdhan pass. The road over the pass, called Bandipora-Gurez highway, connects multiple remote villages with Bandipora and Srinagar.
It receives very heavy snowfall during the winter months and the road remains closed 6 months a year. It was also once an integral part of the Silk route between Kashmir and Central Asia.
The pass is quite a beautiful sight and even the drive was a very scenic one.
Some vistas en route.
Notice the Tricolor?
We continued on our way and pretty soon were climbing up the Razdan Pass. I was told by almost everyone that I spoke to that the road to Gurez valley remains in terrible condition and it is badly broken.
So far, however, we traveled on a greatly smooth road which started to deteriorate a little as we climbed up Razdan.
Smooth Road first which started to turn bad as we got closer to the pass.
And then it got really bad.
We stopped at this dhaba to get something to eat. The clock by now was showing slightly past 12 noon.
My friends making some new friends.
With our bellies full, we were back on the road which surprisingly turned good and smooth again. The drive was very scenic though.
Just before the top of the pass, we registered ourselves at the first check post along the route. A little while later, were standing at the summit.
Razdan Pass to Dawar
Just as we started to climb down the pass came the second check post. The story here however was completely different. At the first check post, they registered us using our DL but at the second one, we were asked to produce our Aadhar card.
Of the three of us, only Shoaib was carrying his Aadhar card. Lavish and I had left it back at the hotel in Srinagar with all our luggage. We were only carrying our DLs.
The soldiers however refused to accept the DL and to let us go any further. We were asked to turn around and go back.
Also Read: When is the Best time to Visit Gurez?
This was a bit of a situation. It would turn into a great disappointment if we had to return to Srinagar from here. All that we could however do was to request.
Thankfully, it didn’t take much and the soldiers agreed to let us pass after they confirmed with their CO over the radio.
Vistas continued to get better.
Road conditions got really bad after Razdan Pass, and we realized why everyone was warning us about it. It really turned into a dirt trail with so many potholes that our backs and butts started to hurt.
Check posts continued to arrive after regular intervals and we finally arrived at Dawar at around 5 PM. I think we registered at about 8 check posts before we finally made it to Dawar.
Dawar, Gurez Valley
Dawar is the largest town in Gurez valley and the only place where you can stay for the night. There is a J&K tourism bungalow here and a few other small hotels.
The tourism Bungalow was closed when we reached there so our only option of stay was at Hotel Kaka Palace for Rs. 2,500 per day. I have posted a detailed review of this hotel at Hotel Kaka Palace in Gurez Valley Review.
After we checked in, It was time to enjoy a late evening walk in the sleepy town of Dawar. We took a stroll on the banks of the Kishenganga river and under the shadow of Habba Khatoon Peak.
There in fact is an interesting tale of love related to Gurez Valley and this mountain here. To know more, please read The Love, Life, and Legend of Habba Khatoon.
This is the Habba Khatoon Peak.
Change in Itinerary
As per our original plan, we were to stay in Gurez just for the night today and be on our way to Sonamarg tomorrow. When we reached here though, I started to think about staying here for a day more to explore the valley.
My logic was that all of us had been to Sonamarg before and will surely be there again in the future on any of the Ladakh rides. Gurez however an entirely different deal.
I didn’t know if I was ever going to be here again. So I wanted to see all that there was to see while we were still here.
Shoaib however was not very keen on the idea and wanted to go to Sonamarg. So I also gave up on the thought and we remained with our original plan.
There was another group of guys that was staying at the same hotel as us. They actually had arrived the day before and have been driving around in Gurez the entire day today.
We got talking to them at the dinner table. They highly recommended another day of stay in the valley. They showed us some pictures and they were all stunning. In their words, the actual beauty of Gurez is once you drive beyond Dawar.
Lavish, to summarize it all, asked a simple question.
“Is it worth staying here for a day more?”
“Yes, Absolutely” was the immediate answer.
Another Day in Gurez
Hence our plan changed again. We decided to stay back and explore Gurez. Shoaib initially was dead set against this idea but now he too kind of gave a silent consent.
We were told by the other group, and also the owner of the hotel, that Chakwali is the last village where civilians were allowed. The road actually ends at Chakwali. After that, it is Pakistan on the left and a trail to Drass on the right.
We would also need to obtain a permit in the morning from the police station in Dawar as we were told. It would be a drive of 65 kilometers approximately from Dawar to Chakwali on an extremely bad and broken road so we were advised to start early.
- Journey Ahead: Dawar to Chakwali – Sightseeing in Gurez Valley
With all the necessary information gathered, it was time to call it a day and go to sleep. There was in fact nothing else to do for the evening but to enjoy the silence of the valley and rest. Please click on the link above to continue reading the next part of the travelogue.
I hope the information above on traveling from Srinagar to Gurez Valley was of help. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments section below. You can also follow me on Instagram and chat with me live there or subscribe to my YouTube channel and ask a question there.