Srinagar is an ideal travel destination for tourist during the heavy summer months. The pleasant atmosphere of Kashmir provides ample relief from the sweltering heat of the rest of the country. And when you visit Srinagar, Sonmarg is a must visit on everyone’s itinerary. Its enchanting beauty attracts people from India as well as the rest of the world. Tourists flock to this small hill resort in heavy numbers to see the enthralling natural beauty and snow clad peaks. Sonmarg which translates into the meadows of gold, is set amidst a valley of abundant flowers and serene lakes. For all those adventure loving people who wish to enjoy camping at a hill station, Sonmarg is where you’ll find your thrill. Near Sonmarg is a famous iconic place called the Zoji La pass. A high mountain pass between Srinagar and Kargil, Zojila pass or simply Zoji pass is termed as the gateway to the majestic Ladakh. There is a panoramic view of snow-clad peaks from the top of this pass. This towering pass ranks second in terms of high altitude passes in India as Zojila lies at a height of around 11,500 ft from the sea level. Visiting Sonmarg and missing out on seeing the white beauty of Zoji la is simply a disappointment. It is a distance of about 20 kilometers from Sonmarg on road. While driving towards Zojila, travelers are expected to be centered between Kashmir basin on one side and Dras on the other. It gives you picturesque scenery to marvel at as you leave the golden meadows behind. Besides the lush green Dras valley, Zojila also overlooks snow capped summits and dense jungles.
Zojila, like the rest of the Kashmir, is something out of a dream. The famed Zojila pas runs for miles through barren rocky mountain, sparsely inhabited at places where water could be found. The rugged road is chiseled out on a steep rocky mountain and is one of the most narrow and difficult passes in India. The mountains soar as bare rock and rubble while the river valleys are simply gravel and mud. Yet the clarity of the air and the nature of the countryside compel one to have a closer look and see the life, which is everywhere. Vegetation of different kind can be seen growing on almost every slope. Even the smallest trickle of snow melt will have an accompanying flash of green and off in the distance one will see herds of goats that blend perfectly into the color of the mountainside, tended by local herders.
The way to the Zoji La is paved with rocky roads. But even more astounding than that are the rates that the local taxi drivers charge for a journey from Sonmarg to Zoji La pass. When you reach Sonmarg, you’ll be recommended by the local guides to definitely visit Zoji La. But the local car union here tries to wrangle so much cash from you and their demand can even go as high as 17,000 rupees! This is where your bargaining skills will come in handy. All this is because only local cars are allowed to go up to the pass. You have to leave your car behind at Sonmarg. So beware such tourist scams!
While passing through the Zoji la you’ll pass by many local small eateries. You can make a stop at any of those and enjoy a warm cup of Kahwa, which is a famous Kashmiri drink. It is an aromatic drink made up of a blend of green tea enriched with spices such as cinnamon, ginger, garlic, cloves, etc. While there is not much in terms of menu, you can enjoy a plate of Maggi (though after the ban, it will be hard to find even at these remote place) or rajma rice. You’d be hard pressed to find a decent restaurant here, but these local eateries thrive at the harsh conditions of Zoji la, from which they provide a gentle respite.
Zoji la is closed during the winter months due to heavy snowfall. There are also instances of avalanches. These treacherous mountains are barely functional during summer months when the roads are cleared by BRO (Border Roads Organization). But to navigate them during the winter season when heavy snowfall covers the entire area is not a civilian’s task. Zojila is a perfect backdrop for candid shots with friends and family when you come here for vacations. This exotic landscape cut in a little corner of Himalayas is a calm beast which should be admired for its strength and beauty. Here away from the busy life of city you can let your thoughts free and wonder at your leisure.