Visitors flock to J&K’s Bangus Valley to beat COVID blues

Jammu and Kashmir’s Bangus valley has become the favourite getaway for people who have been feeling down being under lockdown for months due to surging coronavirus cases in the country.
Surrounded by Shamsbery ranges and Leepa valley, Bangus valley is a unique ecological combination comprising a mountain biome, which includes grassland biome with flora at lower altitudes and coniferous forests.
“Since the lockdown, this place has seen a rush in visitors. People don’t want to be in the city because the number of COVID-19 cases is rising and it is far away from nature. Here, the air is fresh and cool, the water is sweet and we are free of the Coronavirus,” Hafiz Manzoor, a frequent traveller to Bangus Valley said.
The valley, often known as the hidden paradise amongst locals, lies at an altitude of around 10,000 feet above sea level in the northern part of district Kupwara within the Handwara sub-district. Bangus is spread over an area of about 300 sq. km, comprising mountains and grassland- a picturesque station for a quick distraction.
“It is too much to be in lockdown for so long. How many days can we just stay at home? There are restrictions wherever we go and people are really struggling with their mental health. We want to be free so we come here to breathe the fresh air. Usually, around this time people go for picnics so we decided to visit. Coming here distracts us from the stress we go through back home,” said Anjum Jan, a local visitor.
When the country went in for a lockdown, the usual tourist destinations in Jammu and Kashmir were shut out and Bangus Valley became an easy, accessible choice when restrictions eased up.
“I have just come here to visit as I was getting very bored due to the lockdowns that have been imposed. This is a beautiful place, surrounded by nature. Breathing in the fresh air and feeling the cool breeze really helps with the COVID-19 stress. Srinagar and Pahalgam are in lockdown but here, we are free,” said Ishfaq Ahmad.