Domel Minimarg, a piece of heaven in Kashmir Pakistan

domel minimarg

Domel inside Minimarg valley (2845m) is right at the Line of Control in Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK) Pakistan. Minimarg was on the ancient trade route between Srinagar and Gilgit till 1948, when it became a hotly contested area between India and Pakistan. All cross-LOC movement stopped after that.

History of Minimarg.

Our Gilgit-Baltistan Scouts handed over this territory to Pakistan, on a plate, after 1947. India tried to annex it again in 1971, but retreated. Such is the strategic importance of this valley that on one hand it leads into Kargil— the choke point between Srinagar and Leh — and on the other it is a short cut to Bandipora valley in Kashmir. We can cross over to Neelum valley from here as well to another heaven, Taobut.

Trivia on Minimarg.

The temperature and weather at Minimarg village of Astore in Pakistan is always cold, even in summers. Incase you are wondering, no, Minimarg is not a short form of mini margarita. Pictures, photos and videos of Rainbow lake , Domel and Minimarg don’t do justice to this place in Gilgit-Baltistan of Kashmir, Pakistan. The road to minimarg is potholed and muddy at places. I think only a 4×4 vehicle can get there. Hiring a local jeep from Chillum or Astore would be a good idea. I haven’t seen any organised tours of Minimarg yet, however a few do go through Chillum, Astore.

Route and Map of Minimarg Astore

As Burzil Pass (4100m) to Minimarg is only open from June-September, the Maharaja of Kashmir used Kamri Das Pass (which is close by) to reach his subjects in Gilgit.

We decided to go to Domel, which is a few hours from Minimarg because it was reachable with a 4×4 and we were too lame to hike to the place. About 540kms (17 hrs) from Islamabad, Minimarg is the ultimate cabin-in-the-woods destination in summers, when temperatures down below are 40 0 C. Even in summers Minimarg is a cool 10 0 C.

Minimarg to Taobut.

Minimarg is connected to Taobut, Neelum Valley through a mountain Pass called the Kamri Bal (4172m). People say it is the ultimate hiker’s paradise— pristine pine forest, high altitude cool breeze, and absolute quietness. If it weren’t for non-existent roads, it makes better sense to reach Minimarg from Neelum Valley.

Burzil Top Pass.

While going to Minimarg, the moment we crossed Burzil Top Pass at 4100 m, a lush green valley opened up before us, with a stream flowing across its length.

Tall mountains, with snow still on top, lined the road on both sides. The prairies, yaks grazing, and log cabins of locals looked mesmerizing.

The flora is unique to this place. Flowers are brightly colored and contrast with the green fields all around.

It was still snowing on Burzil Top in the middle of June.

Rainbow lake Domel Minimarg.

After a night’s rest at minmarg, we left for Domel, on the way were actual pine forests so dense, the light wouldn’t pass through. The mountains were covered in dense vegetation and trees— mostly because they had Indian troops lurking the valleys— that discouraged illegal felling.

Domel area of minimarg has a natural lake called the ‘crystal lake’ which fed into a man made one, the ‘rainbow lake’. Rainbow lake is also called minimarg dam, which was originally supposed to be a wild trout spawning pool, in case we hadn’t eaten the breeder fishes.

The water to these lakes came from winter ice that was still intact on the slopes of the mountains.

The rumor was that the area is still mined as Indian troops are too close for comfort. I wouldn’t let that deter me from exploring deeper.

Aansoo Lake Minimarg.

I was told there is another lake, ‘aansoo’ a few kilometers hike from Domel, but smack in the middle of kill zone. So, naturally I didn’t go there.

This picturesque route, which is more like a dirt track, also leads to Chota Deosai, which I am told is even prettier.

Road and Jeep to Minimarg.

If you pay the local Willis jeep drivers enough money, they can take you right up to the Line of Control.

We took hired a local jeep for Rs 15000 from Astore for a two-day visit to Domel and minimarg, because I wasn’t sure of the descent from Burzil. It was a good decision, some turns are tight and the decline is quite steep. These can only be engaged with 4×4 (4L gear).

The real beauty of GB-Azad Kashmir presents its self after Astore — where the population becomes scarce. Astore is where all trekkers come and stay, there is rama meadow, which is worth visiting ( you can read our blog on that)

The road from Astore to Minimarg is lovely. The air is clean and scented. The trees have not been chopped yet and the water is clear blue.

I don’t think it is a good idea to take a sedan to Burzil, because there are a few stoney stream beds on the way that would kill a luxury car’s suspension. Not to mention the sleet and slippery mud on the road.

There is no vehicle repair after Astore or any market for edibles.

The road towards Burzil from Astore is perfect for camping and fishing because of the natural terraces and streams along the road. There is less military presence here, which helps you relax.

Wildlife at Minimarg.

I couldn’t spot any wildlife except the golden Marmot but I am told Markhor, ibex, snow leopards, brown bear are present in the ravines.

Across the line of control, the mountains are heavily forested. I wish someone would STOP CUTTING OUR TREES!


Hotel at Minimarg.

To get to Domel requires permission from the army brigade so that they can lodge you inside the army mess, which is the only hotel available there. There is a small minimarg village as well, with wooden cabin houses, that can accommodate your family. For that, you have to know someone still serving in the military. Best option is to book a bed in Chillum village 3 hours from Minimarg. All this effort, I assure you, will be worth it.


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