Bandipora: The scenic Gurez Valley located on the Line of Control, 85 km from Bandipora district headquarters, may soon get a major tourism boost as authorities are considering opening the traditional Gurez-Kargil road via Kaobal Gali.
The Gurez valley, which has witnessed a surge in tourist arrivals from far and wide in the past few years, offers new opportunities for local stakeholders to promote their businesses as homestays while hotels are mushrooming. To keep its eco-friendly nature intact, some local entrepreneurs have opened accommodations for stay in tents.
Surrounded by lush green landscape, the valley also offers a breathtaking view of Kishanganga River cutting across the valley with majestic pyramid shaped Habba Khatoon mountain in the backdrop.
Meanwhile, the administration has also been taking measures to develop new tourist spots within the valley and showcase its natural beauty and cultural heritage.
The road which connects last of the twin villages of Chakwali and Abdullan in Tulail region of Gurez via Kaobal (Kabul) Gali to Mushko Valley in Drass, Kargil had been closed for decades due to security reasons.
The authorities and locals believe that the restoration of the road would allow the tourists to explore new destinations and landscapes in the region.
So far, only a handful of people have had the opportunity to travel on the road, which is nearly inaccessible given its condition.
Local political representatives believe that it would also revive the traditional trade practices and bridge the gap between the regions that had long shared common cultural and linguistic traits.
Deputy Commissioner (DC) Bandipora, Owais Ahmad said that there was an existing track road connecting Kaobal Gali in Gurez to Drass in Kargil, but so far only 4x4 vehicles could ply on it.
“Now we are exploring opening it for the tourists,” he said.
Ahmad said that for it the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) had been taking steps to repair the road and make it commutable.
He said that even though the road might not be all weather they expect that in the near future, it would enhance the tourism potential of the region and attract more visitors.
Ahmad said that the potential circuit road would help tourists enjoy the beauty and diversity of Kashmir as they could travel from Srinagar to Ladakh and Kargil via Chakwali and then to Bandipora via Gurez.
He said that they can also experience the charm of Wular Lake and other tourist attractions along the way.
DC Bandipora said that the tour operators could also have better options to make the experience of tourists memorable.
He said that as of now the road was not open to everyone but as and when the road repairs are completed and it is deemed safe, it would open for everyone.
Ahmad said that for domestic tourists within Kashmir and those from all over the country, there was no restriction or formal permission required visiting Gurez Valley and its areas around the centrally located tehsil of Dawar.
District Development Council (DDC) Tulail member Raja Aijaz expressed happiness over the development and said that this had been a long-pending demand.
“Opening of Kaobal Gali-Drass road has been a long-cherished dream and it will not only boost tourism but also facilitate trade and commerce and open new opportunities for development of both the valleys,” he said.
Abdul Raheem Lone, a local, said that the road would revive the old bond between the two regions.
He said that decades back, the people of Gurez Valley would use the track to travel to Ladakh for trade on horses and the closure had affected lives on both sides.