The town of Dras is located in a relatively flat and open space. It has extensive willow groves along the river. Insummer this town presents a pleasant look while in winter it discovered under a thick blanket of snow. Dras experiences the lowest temperatures in the valley and with its altitude of3,300 m, this town is said to be the second coldest inhabited place in Asia. The mercury may drop to as low as 40 degrees Celcius below freezing point. Often the small huts are covered by snow and communication with the outside world is cut off.
The Dras Valley is an enchanting valley formed by the Dras River which rises in the Machoi glacier near the famous Zozila Pass. The river is joined in its course by many other rivers and streams flowing in from snowfields in the nearby mountains.
Drass (3230 m), 60 km west of Kargil on the road to Srinagar, is a small township lying in the centre of the valley of the same name. It has become famous as the second coldest inhabited place in the world by virtue of the intense cold that descends upon the valley along with repeated snowfalls during winters. Winter temperature is sometimes known to plummet to less than minus 40 degrees.
The Drass valley starts from the base of the Zojila pass, the Himalayan gateway to Ladakh. For centuries its inhabitants are known to have negotiated this formidable pass even during the most risky period in the late autumn or early spring, when the whole sector 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 carrying trade during the heydays of the Pan-Asian trade. A hardly people enduring with fortitude and harshness of the valley’s winter, the inhabitants of drass can well be described as the guardian’s of Ladakh’s gateway
The river Shigar flowing in from the north drains an adjoining part of the Dras Valley. In summer, as the snow in the upland smelts, the volume of this river rises considerably. It meets the Suru River near Kharul a short distance away from Kargil.The terrain is characterized by rock and stone with the occasional greenish patch formed by willow and groves.There is a short summer season in the Dras Valley. It begins inMay, when the snows begin to melt. Crop sowing activities startlate, while harvesting is done early so that the crops arebrought in before the beginning of snowfall.Barley and other coarse cereals are the main crops grown inthis valley. Agricultural production is hampered due to thepoor and unproductive soil and the short growing season. Moreover, there is a lack of irrigation facilities in many parts of the Dras Valley.
As a result, agricultural yields are not enough to meet theneeds of the people living in this valley. Food grains have tobe imported from the Kashmir Valley. Fuel too is a scarce commodity and has to be brought in from across the Zozila Pass.Brokpas are the people living in the Dras Valley. They probably migrated to this tract from Gilgit several centuries ago.
Drass is a convenient base for a 3-day long trek to Suru valley across the sub-range separating the two valleys. This trek passes through some of the most beautiful upland villages and flower sprinkled meadows on both sides of the 4500 mts high Umbala pass, which falls enroute. The trek to the holy cave of Amarnath in neighboring Kashmir, which stars from Minamarg below Zojila, takes 3 days and involves crossing of 5200 mts high pass. Drass also offers numerous shorter treks and hikes to the upland villages.