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The Uncommon Gems Of Jammu & Kashmir

DOODHPATHRI – A delightful 40km drive from Srinagar to Budgam district brings you to the ‘valley of milk’—Doodhpathri, an apt name it would appear for this splendid expanse of the Kashmir valley. For the rich grasses of its pastures—the Parhacemaidan and Doodhpathri, are so nourishing that the plentiful milk from the cattle gives the villagers ample reason to be happy. The pastures with their wildflowers and sweet grasses lie in the cool embrace of two rivers—the Shaliganga and the Sokhnag. The crystalline depths of the waters are icy cold but just perfect to cool off on a sunny day, before setting off on your explorations of the verdant surrounds where shepherds watch over their flocks by day. It’s not just the sweet meadow-lands and the obliging cows which give Doodhpathri its name—apparently the waters take on a milky hue as they bounce along the rocks scattered along the bed of the stream.

By night it’s just the most congenial spot for a camp-out in a tent and watching the stars light up the night —and on a full moon night pick out the surrounding hills studded with the homes of other hamlet dwellers…and further on the muted glow of the snow-mantled peaks of the Diskhil range. This vast expanse of pastoral delight is a haven for its botanical wealth and geological diversity; five very ancient underground brick kilns have been found near Parhacemaidan, making it a most intriguing find as the region was pretty uninhabited for some time, being quite remote and cut off by snow for almost half the year. One can visit the shrine mosque of Hazrat Shiekh Noor-ud-Din Wali, a mystic who lived in these parts for many years.

The darghah is sited by seven lovely springs. Engaging the services of a knowledge-able guide would add new dimensions to explorations here. The administrative office of the Doodhpathri Development Authority is a good place to explore this possibility, as there are serious plans to develop the tourism potential of the area, which still lacks basic tourist infrastructure. There are plenty of walking trails in the pastures and the nearby mountains, where a good local guide is recommended to enjoy the potential of this off-beat spot as a holiday destination.

LOLAB-DRANGYARI-BANGUS – Just 3.5 hours away from Srinagar (120km), the unspoiled vistas of the Lolab-Drangyari-Bangus region in Kupwara district are ideal for a lovely driving holiday. Bangus is a mere 50km from Lolab, from where Drangyari is 28km away. The region is accessed from Kupwara town via Chowkibal. Sheltered by lofty Himalayan peaks, the Lolab Valley (9km from Kupwara) is amongst one of the loveliest of J&K’s off-the beaten-path offerings as a tourist destination. Of archeological interest here is Satbarran, an unusual rock face protruding from a hillock skirting the outer reaches of Madmav Village, in the Kala Roos area.

There are seven doors of which one still opens on to an inner chamber in this cave-like structure. Legend has it that this secret passageway once led through the heart of the mountains to join the Silk Route. The gorgeous Nagmarg Meadow is a riot of wildflowers and sweet grasses on which the local ponies fatten themselves. Enjoy the lovely views of Wular Lake, Kaj-i-Nag, Kaghan and the Pir Panjal from this beautiful and tranquil setting. Take a guided trek from here to Bandipora. One can stay at the lovely Tourist Bungalow at Chandigam village. At Nagsari Village, one can enjoy a spot of trout fishing in the Moorki stream. Tourist accommodation is available at beautifully located Khamrial village as well.

It’s a compelling drive through the approach route to the stunning Drangyari Valley with its beautiful meadows, springs and snowmelt streams against the backdrop of the lofty Shamsabari range. Make it a day trip to the pristine beauty of the Sadhna Pass which debouches into the remote Karnah Valley. You can spend the night back in the beautifully located tourist rest house at Panzgam by the Kehmil Nallah. The superb meadows at Bangus, lying in the steady embrace of the Shamsabari and Leepa mountain ranges and Rajwar and Mawar areas, are just 13km away—perfect for guided day-treks, picnics and photo-ops.JKTDC offers a tour package of the region, which is perfect for first-time visits.

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