Bangus valley is one of the unexplored areas of Kashmir with vast tourism potential. Lying within the Trans-Himalayan area, Bangus is a unique ecological combination comprising a mountain biome, which includes grassland biome with flora at lower altitudes and coniferous forests.
Bangus is one of the relatively unexplored grasslands and unknown tourists paradise situated in the North Western periphery of Tehsil Handwara of District Kupwara, 72 Kms away from Srinagar, summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir (India). The said grass land is at an altitude of about 10,000 ft above sea level. Occupying an estimated area of 300 Sq Kms. Bangus is surrounded by Shamsbery ranges and Leepa valley.
Word “Bangus” is derived from Joining two words “ Ban “ derived from Sanskrit word “ Van” meaning “ forest” and “ Gus” meaning “ Grass”. So it is a meadow with lush growth of wild grass. The Bangus valley has variety of flora, considered ideal for cattle grazing. The area is supposed to have been discovered by an unknown nomad, while grazing his cattle.
This is by far the most productive land in this area as it provides a largest niche for producer-consumer relationship. In the summer season numerous cattle and sheep are seen grazing in these meadows, which are sent from the adjoining areas by the locals.
Bangus valley is surrounded by Chowkibal Mountains on the northern side, Qazinag and Shamsbery Mountains on the western side. Besides other hills also seem to provide protection to the grassland namely; Meeldar, Nastichavan and Yaddil etc.
Bangus comprises a mountain biome which includes grassland biome with flora at Lower altitudes and coniferous forests at a higher altitude. An area of 300 sq. Km is proposed to be protected biome under the name of Bangus valley.
In the deep valley is a marshy type grass land which is traversed by a small stream.There is no accommodation like hotels and guest houses for visitors. The visitors, who are often from different parts of Kupwara district, get tents along for night stay. The night stay is only possible when a visitor gets permission from army whose camps dot the tourist spot.
There are two roads leading to Bangus. One passes from famous Mawar area of south of Handwara and another from Chowkibal area of Kupwara. The road from Mawar side passes along the Mawar River to the Nowgam army camp – the Brigade Headquarters manning the Nowgam Sector.
Another road that passes through Chowkibal also gets connected to Bangus through Drangyari army camp. At both the places the visitors are asked to show permit from the District Magistrate Kupwara. After getting the clearance, the visitors from both the sides have to trek through thick deodar forests.
To get a permit to trek in the Bangus valley, the visitor must send an application in advance to the District Magistrate in Kupwara, along with two photographs and a copy of ID proof. It takes about two days to get the document and the visitors can get help from the Tourist Reception Centre at Kupwara.
In the wake of the Kargil War, the army set up permanent positions in the pastures. Although stringent restrictions on the herders are still in place – each Bangus resident must report her or his presence to the soldiers and the use of weapons to kill predators feeding off the herds is prohibited.
From Mawar side, Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Development Corporation (JKTDC) has constructed a beautiful guest house located on the banks of the Mawar River at Reshwari. This is the main place of stay near Bangus.
From Chowkibal side, the Roads and Buildings department has constructed a guest house in Reddi Chowkibal. However, the guest house is losing its sheen because of non-maintenance of the structure.
In the summers, Bangus is a trekkers’ paradise as it is surrounded by the Shamsabari and Leepa mountain ranges and the Rajwar and Mawar areas. Its lush pastures are a heaven for the nomadic Bakarwals.