Gurez valley is famous for its beauty, its vast forests, pastures, and green meadows with a serene environment. The picturesque valley, hidden among the high mountains, was once the gateway to the famous Silk Road from Europe to Kashgar in China.
Located 123 kilometers from Srinagar and 86 kilometers from north Kashmir’s Bandipora district, Gurez is situated at an elevation of 8,000 feet.
Most of the residents of Gurez continue to live in wooden houses because of the harsh weather conditions. Some of them even travel to different districts in winter for survival as the whole area gets cut-off from the rest of the world.
This place is an enticing attraction for visitors as they get to see the real village life of the locals. There is a scarcity of electricity, and each village has a generator that provides electricity 5-6 hours a day.
The valley is magical, and one cannot help but take hundreds of photographs of its beautiful environs. The fresh air brings the upswing which gives solace, hope and healing to the soul. It is a lifetime relishing trip for a visitor. A trip to Gurez is a bit long but is totally worth it.
The Kishanganga river (Neelum) and a must-see Habba Khatoon peak and spring will help you forget about the noisy city and its bustle. The mountain and the spring are named after the well-known Kashmiri poetess Habba Khatoon.
Razdan Pass, which boasts of rolling meadows, can be reached while travelling from Bandipora after a 46-kilometer journey from the main town. It passes through the highest meadow on the journey and is a great spot for picnic, with tall pine trees towering majestically on the ridges. At the top you simply get overwhelmed by the beauty and magnificence of the view.
The famous mountain Harmukh is easily visible from the Razdan Pass, and on a clear day, it is said that one can also see Nanga Parbat from that place.
There are a few tea stalls on the way to Gurez where visitors can stop for Kashmiri Namkeen tea, Kehwa, bread-omelette, and other meals.
The journey forward from Razdan Pass is downhill, with an entry into Dawar village of Gurez Valley, which is a flat area surrounded by mountains on the three sides.
The Dawar village will give you a taste of real village life; the houses are mostly made of large logs, and most households have cattle. It is the only place where the visitors can fill up their petrol tanks.
The residents are ethnic Dards, Shin who live very close to the Burzil Pass, which leads into the Astore district of Gilgit-Baltistan. In addition to Kashmiri and Urdu, they speak Shina.
They dress and live in the same way as their kinsfolk in Pakistani-administered Gilgit-Baltistan. The Kishanganga river runs through the village and is a popular rafting destination.
Gurez Valley has its own market, where a few hotels have recently opened.
Traveling, driving, trekking, rafting, cycling, photography, camping and local traditional and cultural values must all be experienced during a visit to Gurez Valley.
Gurez is a picturesque destination but taking photographs in many areas of the valley is still prohibited for security reasons. No permit is required but at the army checkpoints an identity proof must be shown.
Located about 20 kilometers from Dawar's main town, Chorwan is a valley with a confined space. From here, one can see the checkpoints of both the Indian and Pakistani sides. Photographs are not permitted for visitors. The location is breath-taking, and the people are amazing and friendly.
In the midst of mountains, Izmarg is a flat valley. Children and adults alike can be seen playing cricket, football, and volleyball. Beautiful meadows and awe-inspiring streams run across the area.
Chakwali is the last town of Gurez, located nearly 65 kilometres from Dawar. It is also the end of the road. After that, one must engage in off-roading, which leads directly to Drass. Travelling from Chakwali to Drass requires special permission.
Gurez valley is still a less explored place, but the govt. of J&K is vigorously promoting it on many fronts. They have organized festivals like Gurez festival to showcase the heritage and culture of the region.
Sub-Divisional Police Officer (SDPO) Gurez Sheikh Aadil said they started the ‘Go Gurez’ campaign to promote the valley which was an offbeat tourist destination.
“Last year the total number of tourists who visited Gurez was between 180-250 and this year it has already crossed 12,000,” he said.
He added, “Visitors who used to go to the other places are now giving preference to Gurez. It proved to be beneficial for the socio-economic conditions.”
They also started the hashtag on social media as #gogurez, launched the websites like gogurez.com and gurezvalley.in and used merchandise car stickers, caps, and banners for its promotion.