Sonamarg, literally "the Golden meadow" is 8,750 feet
above sea level and is about 89 km from Srinagar. Baltal
at the foot of the zogila (11570 feet) is a gate way of
Ladakh. It has a long motor able road with Srinagar, and
is a close rival to Gulmarg in beauty, grander and
picturesque scenery. Here one finds forests of silver fir
and blue pine. The slopes and meadows are covered with
varieties of flowers. The sight of glaciers covering
Thaiawas range is breath taking.
At a height of 2,740m, Sonamarg is the last major point in
the Kashmir valley before the Zoji La pass into Ladakh .
At the pass the green, lush Kashmiri landscape abruptly
switches to the barren, dry landscape of Ladakh. Sonamarg
is thus not only a good base for treks but also a jumping
off point for trips into Ladakh.
Sightseeing in Sonamarg
The name means 'Meadow of Gold' and although this could be
due to the profusion of flowers that carpet the meadow in
the spring it is also possible that the name derives from
Sonamarg's strategic trading position in the days when
this was a major route into central Asia. The Sindh River
meanders along here and abounds with Trout and Mahseer.
Walks From Sonamarg
Oneof the most popular short walks from Sonamarg and a
major attraction during the summer months is the 4-km
route to Thajiwas, a small valley at the foot of the
Sonamarg glacier. A path leads up to the Shakhdar hill,
overlooking the glacier from the northeast. It is
dangerous to climb the steep slope leading up to the
glacier. Ponies can be hired for the trip up to Thajiwas
glacier. Often in early summer one will meet groups of
Gujar passing through Sonamarg on their way to the alpine
meadows for the summer.
A mountain river meets the Indus at the Baltic colony,
Nilagrad, 6-km away from Sonamarg. The water of the river
is reddish in colour. The Baltic thinks the water has
curative power of many diseases. Inhabitants of the colony
visit this place every Sunday to bath in the river.
Bisansar Lake & Krishnasar Lake
There is a lake in every corner of the Himalayas and
there is one at Sonamarg also. The road proceeds from
Sonamarg to Bisansar Lake via Nichinai Pass. Crossing the
river at Nichinai Pass stands the Bisansar Lake at an
altitude of 4, 084m, with its its lovely natural beauty.
Beside the lake is the Krishnasagar Lake at an altitude of
3,801m, popular for Trout fishing.
This beautiful meadow is right at the foot of the Zoji
La pass and thus is the final place in Kashmir. The river
from the foot of the Amarnath glacier meets the Indus near
Baltal. It stands at a height of 2,743m and during the
Amarnath pilgrimage there are tents set up here. It is
possible to walk to the Amarnath cave, more usually
approached from Pahalgam, in one day. Check about
conditions before departing, though. The weather can be
treacherous and at other times melting snow and ice make
the route very dangerous. There's now a jeep road most of
the way to the cave. The turn off to Baltal is at 94-km on
the Leh road, and then it's 3-km or so downhill.
If one can take some time out, then take tour of Yushmarg
in daytime. Buses on conducted tours run to Yushmarg
thrice a week. 47-km southwest of Srinagar amidst pines
and firs lies the vale - Yushmarg (2,700m) at the slope of
the Pir Panjal ranges. Its is a beautiful pasture as well
as a nice picnic spot.
HOW TO REACH THERE
Air: Sonamarg is in Srinagar District on the Srinagar
Leh Highway, 81-km from Srinagar. The nearest airport is
in Badgam District, connecting the capital city with all
the major cities in India.
Rail: The nearest Railhead is at Jammu and from
there National Highway NH1A connects the Kashmir valley
Road: Every sort of transport to suit every budget
from Buses to Taxis ply on National Highway NH1A. It takes
around 10 to 12 hours to cross this mountainous road,
which crosses some beautiful spots and the famous Jawahar
Tunnel linking Kashmir Valley with India.
Bus : Bus service is
available from Srinagar and Anantnag, which leave at fixed
time from the Bus stands. Taxis and other sort of
transport can be hired from Srinagar at pre-fixed rates.