Chakwali- the last village near the LOC

A young girl, in Chakwali, Gurez or Chak-I-Bahaar, which was it’s original name.

The Shina speaking Dard couple, in front of their house in Chakwali, the last village of the Tulail Valley, just a few kms away from the LOC.

When you cross the check points from Bandipora, towards Dawar, don’t forget to mention that you are there to visit Gurez Valley and not just Dawar, otherwise access will be denied. Though, special permissions are no longer required to travel to Gurez, the checkpoints are very much there and the Army and JKP are keeping a close watch. The road to this remote village is horrible, filled with back breaking potholes and the old fashioned speed breakers, without any markings on them and which are big enough, to ruin your car’s suspension. Between one village and another, truly there isn’t much difference, therefore, don’t take everyone’s advice who says they visited this place and you must too. I was there to find out about the state of affairs of the local school. The short interview will be uploaded on this post later. Until then take my word, this is the land of the Dards, the last village of the Tulail Valley, where there is extreme poverty, which hardly has any visitors and is closed for the majority of the year, due to the terrible climatic conditions.

A few quick answers before my next update-

What are the permissions required? None.

What is the procedure? Carry your identification and passport size photos (just in case).

Is it safe to travel alone? I wouldn’t recommend it, at all. No one will do anything to you, but you can get stuck due to climatic conditions or just a breaking down of your vehicle. Transportation is not easily available and neither are basic amenities. Your phones will not work, either.  There are way too many checkpoints and to get access alone, to these places by yourself will be very hard. A lot of people lie about visiting Chakwali, as most of the villages on the way, look very similar. So don’t tread there by yourself, believing any random person.

Is it a safe place to travel? Of course, it’s safe and gorgeous. Roads are some of the worst one’s I’ve driven on. But Bandipora isn’t safe right, now. There was an encounter going on when I was coming back to Srinagar. Plus, grapevine has it, shit is going to hit the ceiling very soon. There may be months of curfews so keep it off your travel list, this year.



It was a tedious, trying, tiring trip. But so worth the effort. There is a lot of misinformation that gets spread about traveling to this part of Kashmir because who the hell, is going to to go there and check, right? But I will try to be as honest as possible.

Let’s start from the beginning, first. Having covered the Mughal Road (which I will share in a later post), I spent a night in Srinagar and the next day I was on the way to Dawar. Driving as much as I do, does get exhausting but thankfully this time around, I was with a local, who couldn’t drive but was fabulous company. Anyone who tells you it’s safe or pleasant to travel to Gurez by yourself, whether you are a man or woman is making stuff up. I don’t take other people’s word for anything. Only once I had travelled to Kashmir by road a number of times with a maid, a cook, an assistant and my cousins did I start driving down by myself and even now, in December/ January I think a million times before doing so. Kashmir, IS A CONFLICT ZONE! Please, don’t listen to a sales pitch right now and think it’s all hunky dory.

Having warned you, let me also tell you, Kashmiri’s are lovely as are the Dard’s , the Shina speaking tribe of Gurez. They are warm and hospitable and they make great company. To reach this lovely, secluded area, you will have to first go to Bandipora, which is a couple of hours and a little more than 60 kms away from Srinagar. This is the dodgy area. The encounters and search operations in Bandipora, make it difficult for people to travel to Tulail.

Beyond this point, it’s totally militarised. There are multiple check points, where I hear people are turned back from, especially foreign nationals. In the past, I was turned back, but this time around, from the Army, to the JKP to the BSF, all seemed very friendly. Honestly, I was shocked at how, polite they were. Since, I was driving, I thought I would be asked to get off the car at the check points but they just asked my companion to take my ids with him, while they chatted (checked on me) with me.

Is it safe? Well, on the way back, in Bandipora, there was an encounter going on due to which they were redirecting the traffic. It’s safer to be a tourist in Kashmir, than to be a local!