Making memories in mountains: Gurez Valley

Discovering hidden paradise for trekkers in Kashmir


December 31, 2022

/ By / Gurez

Making memories in mountains: Gurez Valley

The serene beauty of Gurez Valley in Kashmir captivates visitors and their memories

The serene beauty of Gurez Valley, surrounded by the snow-capped mountains in Kashmir, calms the eyes of the visitor. An added attraction is the local population, that has maintained its traditional ways of living and its notable hospitality.

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Going on unexplored journeys can make for most memorable happenings that stay with one through the life. Moreover, to go on such a journey with close friends turn these memories sweeter still.

Discovering the offbeat town of Gurez in Bandipora in Kashmir is one such memory that will continue to enrich my life for a long while yet. Though not very popular yet with tourists from other parts of India, Gurez has been attracting visitors, locals and foreigners, for a few years now.

Located about 130 km north of the capital Srinagar, Gurez Valley presents one of the most enchanting landscapes in a place that is already known as the Paradise on the Earth. One can imagine, exactly how attractive it is.

Driving to Gurez on a sunny June morning, with the music from the car stereo forming a perfect rhythm with the cool, fresh mountain breeze that comes in through the windows, the entrance to Gurez valley is almost like entering a land belonging to the fairytales. Silver white waterfalls tumbling down through slopes, which are dusted with emerald grasses and capped by rocky crags. Up ahead, just a bit away, snowy mountains tower high above.  Hand-tended fields of maize, fringed by dazzling wildflowers, cover the floodplain.

As the winding road weaves circles around crooked wooden villages, surrounded by decorous meadows, dot the landscape, creating the impression that the valley has been plucked straight from a Lewis Carrol tale.

Being a mountain road, it takes close to four hours to cover the 120-odd km. Enroute one crosses the 3558 m high Razdan Pass before you descend, almost vertically into Gurez Valley. Along the route you also traverse the Kishanganga Dam, a 330 MW hydel power project located on the Kishanganga River, a tributary of the Jhelum.

Though the route has some option in terms of eateries, one of the most highly recommended places is Dawar, which is also the main town of Gurez Valley. Here, the locals welcome the visitors straight into their homes that are sprinkled around the main road. One can have not just lunch but also stay there to have an experience of the local life. The hospitality of the people here becomes evident from the moment one sees their warm and welcoming smiles.

While having a meal or just strolling around, one can see low clouds that seem to be hung like a shawl over the shoulders of Habba Khatoon, the graceful pyramid-shaped peak, that seems to keep a watch over Gurez from its peak at 4000 m, mesmerising the soul as if pulling the viewers towards it.

While roaming around the small town, one can see the locals, typically dressed in woolen cloaks. Most of the men were bearded and the older women wore the traditional local headdress, or an embroidered felt skullcap, called a khoi and the younger women and girls simply wore a head scarf.

Peek into the experience

Walking around the place, it is obvious that the discussion turns towards mountains and adventure and to the immense pull of the nature over humans.

“Since childhood I have been fascinated by the beauty of mountains and carried the thought of climbing all the summits of the world. I started with short treks which amazed me the most and since then I never looked back and never stopped scaling the summits,” says Aga Ashtar Malik Kashmir, a mountaineer from Srinagar.

“I have been travelling and climbing mountains at different places of Kashmir since past few years along with my friends. I have experienced both good and bad memories while climbing and travelling which has become a part of my life. I can keep sharing them without forgetting a single detail in it,” Kashmiri adds.

Joining, or almost cutting in the conversation, Noorail Syed, another mountaineer from Srinagar asks what you liked in Gurez Valley the most.

“What I liked the most in Gurez is that it has remained the same all these years and are following the same old traditional living and that is what attracts me towards it and the hospitality is remarkable,” Kashmiri says.

“Living with unknown people at a strange place may be uncomfortable for many, but for me it is a very good gesture most of the times. It feels one is out of their comfort zone because if we remain cocooned in our comfort zones then we are missing many lively moments and unique experiences of our lives,” he adds.

Much as we would have loved to stay not just the night, but many nights at Gurez, the setting sun and the rapidly advancing dusk was a signal for us to end our walks and talks and begin the preparations for our return journey.

But, the heart wasn’t in it and by the time we reached back to Srinagar, it was already past midnight. Enroute, no one talked. We just enjoyed the soft music, playing inside and outside the car. Inside, on our stereo and outside the soft breeze that seemed to be telling us many more tales to ensure that we returned here soon.



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