Call it Jannat or Heaven, its all here at Gurez, Kashmir


This post is in continuation of series my blog Bangalore - Kashmir - Bangalore and I encourage you to read the earlier posts if you want to enjoy the full drive and experience the beautiful vistas of Kashmir, our jannat on earth. In this post I'm covering our journey from Dawar to Check-wali and back to Dawar town or Gurez valley.



Beautiful Gurez valley

This morning when we woke up, we got ready for our trip to Check-wali and started a bit early around 7AM as we wanted to finish that in one day. Our caretaker suggested that we do not delay and to come back we will need at-least 3-4 hrs as the road is not in a very good condition. So we didn't want to take risk and decided to start as early as possible.

So we went to Kaka palace to grab some breakfast before the drive to fill our tummies. As it was Ramadan time we knew that we won't get anything on the way so I went to buy some bread and biscuits, wafers and some nick knacks for the trip for our lunch. The Dawar market is close-by if you need any groceries or knick-knacks.. anyway so I bought the bread from a bakery and then we proceeded to our further trip after finishing the breakfast at Kaka Palace.

Kaka Palace Hotel


Maggie and eggs were the only breakfast things available so we quickly had that and continued our journey to the most awaited place of our trip and the drive.

Maggie, the breakfast meal.



Bakery from where I could manage to get some bread and cookies for the day trip today. The guy had a bread which was baked few days back as is the norm there.. bit was not bad and was edible. I asked him to cut the bread into slices so that we can have it easily and he happily did it :)

For the permits to Check-wali, you need to go to the local police station and make a request. When I went there, the local police officer there was very helpful and asked me to submit the documents and IDs so that he can prepare the permits. I provided all of that and within one hour the permits were ready that I collected in advance so that we don’t have to waste any time today.

The permit is mandatory for the drive from Dawar to Check-wali and is checked every few kilometres (yes every few kilometres). The Army folks here are very sweet and do not harass like the police folks generally in metros :) They just are very strict in terms of checking and what's your purpose of visit. For Tourists (who're very very rare here) they're very cooperative. SO at every check-post they do a thorough checking of your vehicle and then give you clearance to go further. They also check with the check-posts you've crossed on your movement and then also inform the folks posted further for the safety and tracking I guess.

One of the shops selling local clothes at the main market, Gurez

The drive to check-wali starts with a very nice scenery through the narrow mountainous region and the river flowing alongside the road. The road starts with a decent tarred road but quickly becomes a broken mud and gravel road with many water crossings and slushy patches. This is one road where we really appreciated the capabilities of our vehicle as the terrain really demanded 4x4 capabilities and without that it would have been extremely risky to drive on these roads.


Look at that scenery our there. .we were stunned by the beauty and the rawness of the place. The weather was cold but sunny as well.

One of the waterfalls on way ..



Beautiful scenery all the way

Beautiful scenery all the way. Look at those trees on the right.. breathtakingly beautiful

One of the many bridges we needed to cross on the journey

Picture perfect wallpaper material.. Isn't it?

Picture perfect wallpaper material.. Isn't it? ...If you need a high resolution image of this for a wallpaper, feel free to write to me.

Lovely river that travels with you all the way till check-wali


See the drive..

See the quality of the roads.. certainly better here compared to namma Bengaluru


Look at those mountains ..


This is where the roads started getting worse


Picture perfect wallpaper material.. Isn't it?


The entire drive was extremely scenic and we had to stop almost every 200 meters for a pic 😀 but we were very careful as to not invade the privacy of the Armed forces and didn’t capture any of such establishments.


Beautiful valley


Lovely .. breathtaking views ..

Look at that gushing water down the river


Please note all the pictures on this blog are copyright protected and should not be used without prior permission for personal or commercial purposes. In case you like a picture and would like use it, feel free to write to me and we can work out a good deal. Thank you!



Apologies for the poor quality of some of the pictures as they were taken through the windscreen on a running vehicle..


The rocky mountains and the roads full of loose gravel



Video of the Drive @ Gurez valley

Video of the amazing drive


Look at that bridge connecting the village to the main road.. awesome views of the village



One of the schools in the valley.. good to see the schools functioning even at the remotest places like this.

The natural pool :)

School building at Gurez

Lovely scenery

Amazing views . .isn't it?

Houses at the village

Look at that amazing view..

From here the roads were just mud trails and all loose gravel.. it was very very dusty that we were forced to close our windows for most of the drive wherever it was like this.


Some villages on the way


Local farmers working on their fields.. passed smiles at us when we looked at them for a pic. Thank you for the shot :)


Believe this is what the villagers survive on here as there's no other source of income other than working at the Dam or in Armed forces.

Switzerland of India.. I can bet that if India develops this place and removes the risk of traveling for general public, this can be better than Switzerland for sure.. BUT :)


The valley


There are multiple check-posts on the way and you have to stop at all of them, make an entry and then proceed. Many of the places, you’ll have to explain and answer many questions and we cooperated with the Army folks as it’s for our own security. The Army folks keep a full track of you and the vehicle when you’re on these roads. Every check-post ahead and behind you would know of your whereabouts, who you are and what you’re doing throughout the drive. We heard in many of the places that there’s a lot of militant movement here, so we need to be careful and stay on the main road and avoid any adventures.




One of the shops on this route selling some general merchandise

Lovely views all the way.. superb valley


See the river flowing all the way.. was great to drive along the river with that gushing sound of water




Brilliant views..

Brilliant views..

Brilliant views..

Lovely villages



Picture perfect valleys of Gurez



Amazingly beautiful Villages

Another shop selling some groceries etc..


The fields..


Look at the roads here .. this was still better.. wait for more to come :)

Brilliant views..

Brilliant views..

Awesome views.. aren't they?


Sheikhpora .. we got confused here as to if we need to go straight or turn on that bridge.. Some locals who were sitting at far told us carry on straight for Check-wali.

The mud roads begins

and the views get more and more beutiful

Lovely .. isn't it..


The truck guy in front of us didn't let us pass so we maintained some distance as it was spreading too much dust..

Beautiful valley with a lovely house.. I wish I could stay there :)

Another village on the way

Some locals who saw us in a pvt car here were very surprised and gave us strange looks. We kept moving and acknowledged their surprise by eye contacts and smiles.. at no place we felt unsafe here but at one moment..

Some kids who were excited to see us started running behind us so I stopped, chatted with them, gave some stuff and carried on..




River flowing through a group of houses .. lovely and my dream to build a house at a place like this with a river flowing through ..

One of the bridges we crossed.. there were a plenty on the way

Look at the kids playing in dust and mud.. who cares about anything.. this is what a life is.. bindass and care-free



See the slush on the mud roads of Gurez Valley


Government medical centre

One of the many water-crossings



The slushy drive to Check-wali


Lovely isn't it..


The roads were so bad here that we started feeling torture but we still didn't gave up and continued our drive



Drive video


Amazing views of the village and the valley.. look at that tall mountain beauty




Please note all the pictures on this blog are copyright protected and should not be used without prior permission for personal or commercial purposes. In case you like a picture and would like use it, feel free to write to me and we can work out a good deal. Thank you!



It was good to see students at a School playing

Views.. Views and Views..

Guess the women have to walk several kilometers here to get their household stuff..

Local surprised and curious kids .. were feeling shy to get clicked.

Look at the window and the structure of the houses here

The houses were made of pure tree wood logs and then covered with mud for making them waterproof.. there was no use of cement or sand anywhere


Another bridge crossing


Beautiful Valley views





and then this guy won't let us pass .. so we had to crawl till we found some space to overtake him..


Look at the construction of the houses here.. no cement at all and then they use these interlocking for making them.

Only at the bottom we could see some concrete for the levelling I guess


A local mosque

I was amazed at the vastness of this place.. it was so wide and surrounded by mountains.. lovely

The weather was cold here as well and had an awesome feel to it..



Villagers working in the field

Local sheep on a walk :)

Another bridge crossing


Awesome place .. loved it


Scenery.. scenery .. and scenery





Was a bit let down to the fencing everywhere but I guess thats for the safety of villagers from our neighbourhood friends..


Another school



Lovely village



Crossing the village


Curious local kids


Beautiful homes of the valley had a character of their own.. amazing!



River crossings

Look at the dust here.. we forgot to close our window couple of times and the result was that the entire dust storm came inside the vehicle when we stopped...


The nature

Look at the dust on the dashboard console


See the roads


Cutie pie's .. were happy to get clicked :)

Views of the valley

Passing through the narrow village lanes was fun

Beautiful.. isn't it..


Lovely views..

Lovely views..

One of the check-posts



Just 1km from Check-wali




amazingly stunning views of the mountains

This place was awesome and vaaaaast.. with a river flowing in between


So we continued further on the heavenly drive route enjoying the beautiful vistas of this valley. It took us almost 4hrs to reach a point where we were just a kilometre from Check-wali which is the last town on this belt and we hit a roadblock which was a deep water crossing. We weren’t sure if we can cross it’s and how deep is it? It looked deep enough and had some big rocks blocking the way. So we decided not to risk crossing the steam and get stuck or damage the vehicle as we had a long way to go and in these isolated areas we just wanted to play safe.


So we stopped here, had our lunch and started return journey.

Some clicks at this beautiful place..



Please note all the pictures on this blog are copyright protected and should not be used without prior permission for personal or commercial purposes. In case you like a picture and would like use it, feel free to write to me and we can work out a good deal. Thank you!


So we parked the vehicle here and had our lunch which was the bread we bought along with butter, jam and aloo Bhujia. We also had hot water with us so we made coffee and enjoyed the moments.



Our beast posing for us :)

My son


That was the water crossing .. though it didn't look deep from here but when we went closer we saw that it was a bit deep but had some BIG rocks that could have made it difficult to cross or we would have gotten stuck. So we just didn't feel like taking the risk as we had a long way to go back..

Some shots here

My second half making lunch for us. .Bread with butter and Aloo Bhujia.. it's awesome and specially when you have hot coffee in this cold climate. Loved it!

Some panorama shots of the place

Some panorama shots of the place


Anyone?

From the water crossing

Selfie to banti hai bhai :)



Our innovative Bread sandwich

good shot .. I liked this ..

The water-crossing just before Check-wali





After spending around 30 mins here, we started our return journey to Dawar as we didn’t wanted to get delayed and driving after sundown would have been very difficult and risky here.


On our way back, we collected our IDs from the Army that they took while we were coming here at the check-post and then proceeded to Dawar. It took us almost 3hrs on our way back due to the road conditions and now we stopped a little bit lesser compared to while we were coming here for the pictures.




Beautiful houses.. don't know if anyone was living in these though..



Local village farmers

On our way back to Dawar


On the way back




Return drive


I guess Students have to walk to their schools which might be few kilo-meters from their houses.. we saw many kids doing this

These people were very curious and stopped us to chat with us. They insisted that we stay here at the village but we politely told them that we need to go back and stay at the Dawar tourist bungalow as per the permission given by the Army folks. Maybe next time we may plan to stay with locals here and experience the place..


Drive back to Dawar





Please note all the pictures on this blog are copyright protected and should not be used without prior permission for personal or commercial purposes. In case you like a picture and would like use it, feel free to write to me and we can work out a good deal. Thank you!




Lovely drive back to Dawar



Lovely drive back to Dawar





Look at the curves of the mountains here .. and the colors .. amazingly beautiful





Lovely drive back to Dawar

This was a picture perfect drive



Habba - khatoon.. now we were back to the Gurez town




Beautiful views


Back to tarred roads



One of the temples.. or I should say the only Hindu temple we saw here.

There was no idol inside this temple


Driving back to Dawar.. It was getting a bit dark as well as it was almost 5:30pm I guess



Another Waterfall


Look at the roads. .lovely scenes



Please note all the pictures on this blog are copyright protected and should not be used without prior permission for personal or commercial purposes. In case you like a picture and would like use it, feel free to write to me and we can work out a good deal. Thank you!


Dawar valley


Village limits .. mostly everything was closed here


We reached the tourist Bunglow around 7pm and then just relaxed for the night. It was a great day today and we saw some awesome vistas of the Gurez valley today. We drove on some very broken roads but enjoyed every bit of the drive, saw some very beautiful vistas and drive on some of the best of off-road terrain of this area. In short we just loved it!


So around 8pm we went for the dinner again at Kaka Palace and had the dinner there. Today we asked for a different menu so they made us Rajma rice, Chicken and some mix veg which was ok to fill tummies. We finished our dinner and went to the tourist bungalow to sleep for the night.


Next morning we woke up around 6AM, got ready and then got moving for our further journey to Sonamarg today. So we thanked our care taker for whatever helped he provided and his hospitality at the Kaka Palace hotel which we came to know is run by his own son. So we thanked him, gave him a token of appreciation from our side and bid good bye to him after settling the bills etc.

Me with our care taker at the Gurez tourist bungalow.


Vistas on the way back

River flowing in its full glory

Another wallpaper shot.


The signature of Gurez, Habba Khatoon.

Our Raakshas, al set for the return drive.


Return drive




We stopped here for a couple of shots and then moved forward


Lovely views.. isn't it?

look at the beauty of this place..

Lovely, isn't it?

Gurez, dam site

Lovely view of the Gurez Dam

The return journey

While returning back, we took a detour to another valley called Markoot Village. This place is also breathtakingly beautiful but we were warned to stay on the road as there was some shoot out going on in the valley as there's some militant on the run. We decided to just go till where we can and then return..

On the way to Markoot village

The village


Look at the colorful houses here


Local houses

Local houses



Lovely views


locals on a stroll

Again, look at the houses and the construction is so unique to this place.







One of the house windows

So after a short drive, we were told to return as the militant fight was going on and we could hear some gun shots as well. We decided to return from there immediately and not cause any distractions to the aRmy personnel our there.


One of the lovely waterfalls




Back to Razdan pass

Waterfalls on the way



Lovely views..


We stopped here for some fun shots and relax a bit as well..

Look at the snow cave :)




Breathtakingly beautiful, isn't it?



Lovely views


See the beauty.. amazing..



Another wallpaper shot..




Razdan Pass..


At Razdan Pass


The solo tree :)

Look at the drama in the skies.. lovely scene


Driving through the Razdan Pass on the way to Sonamarg





As we crossed Razdan pass, we were told to make another entry at the check-post that we have returned and then only we were allowed to pass.






So our destination for today which was Sonamarg was 140kms away and we were I guess at this place around 1pm or so..

Awesome views of the valley



Descending Razdan Pass.. loved the drive in rain


We stopped again at this place where we halted while coming to Dawar, Gurez for lunch. We had maggie, egg omelette and some hot hot chai..


Me relaxing after a tiring drive


It was raining outside and was biting COLD as well.. so we camped here for 30-40 minutes, had some stuff and then proceeded further.

HUKKA :)

Our chef's on their job


Our beast waiting to roll



Beautiful valley view while coming back



It was raining all the way back until we reached Sonamarg



Thank you for your hospitality :)


Look at the greenery here

Awesome view and the weather

Mansabal Lake

Mansabal Lake

We decided to go to Mansabal Lake just for a drive and also to grab something to eat or have some hot chai. We were unlucky today and didn't find any restaurant or hotel that could serve a hot chai. We then decided to go straight to Sonamarg.



Around Mansabal Lake

Mansabal Lake

We stopped here at this restaurant to see if he had anything to eat which was around Mansabal Lake.. but guess what he didn't had anything as well.


Anyway so we continued further..Sonamarg was around 50kms from here and the roads were superb. We thought we should be there by evening and continued our journey..




One of the mosques on the way

Some town area on the way.. we stopped here to see if we can grab something to eat but no luck specially as it was Ramadan

On our way to Sonamarg

Lovely views

Lovely views


So we stopped here for our lunch and ended up having some snacks (Pakodas) as they were looking amazingly yumm. We were pretty tired as well so relaxed here for some time before continuing further to Sonamarg.


It was raining continuously since morning

Garam garam Pakodas in making..

Lovely views

Lovely views.. the drama in the skies was superb..


Lovely views


Lovely views

Lovely views


amazing views.. loved every moment

See the layers of mountains.. uff can't wait to get there now but this lockdown is now killing me :(



26 more kms to go..


Lovely roads here


9 more to go....

Brilliant roads of Sonamarg


Lovely views


Lovely views

Lovely views

See the amount of snow here.. last time when we came, it was summers so we didnt see any snow here. This was a treat to the eyes to see and cherish..


Typical Traffic jam of this area with Sheep blocking the roads.. :) :)




just 4 kms to go.. we were so excited to reach here as was very tired..

Here this person gave us a ticket for entry to the Sonamarg valley which was around 50 rs I guess. We paid and continued further

Hey finallyyyyyyyyyy

Sonamarg, At last we were close to our destination for the day.



See the clouds and drama in the skies here..

Lovely views..

Sonamarg main town

So we stopped here at Hotel Glacier Heights which was just off the main road. We went to this hotel as was recommended by one of the taxi drivers we met us at Tangdhar. He really recommended this hotel to stay and he was right, the hotel was small but had good management and had good food. The only problem was that this was full and crowded and noisy with a tons of small kids shouting at the top of their voices... Anyway so we were not in a mood to go and waste more time and struck a deal with the owner for 2 last rooms at Rs. 2500 each.

Anyway so we checked-in here and relaxed for the rest of the day. My daughter had some health problem so me and my son went to the nearby market to buy some medicine and also enjoy the stroll in the drizzling weather out there. Because of Ramadan, even the medicine shot wasn't open so we struggled to find one but finally we got one where we bought our medicine and returned back to the hotel. It was fun and we enjoyed the stroll.


I would recommend anyone and everyone to stay here if you're visiting Sonamarg and are looking for a night stay in a budget category. This is a B&B type of hotel so don't expect any luxuries but they have good staff, positive attitude and good chefs to treat you all day.

At night we ordered some food at the hotel like chowmien noodles, friend rice, chicken gravy etc. it was yummy. We also tried some Chicken snacks and they were amazing as well. Anyway, so we had our dinner and went to sleep as we had another long drive next morning to Drass or Parkachik. Good night!



Views from the room

Views from the room


Views from the room



Stay tuned for the next episode of this blog where I will be narrating our journey from Sonamarg to Parkachick via the world famous and most dangerous road in the world called Zozilla Pass.




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