Kashmir combines nature and the local culture. As the
trekker climbs higher, both the landscape and the
people change. Fruit orchards and paddy fields are
replaced by alpine meadow carpeted with wildflowers.
The poplar and the majestic chinar trees give way to
fir, pine and oak. The simple villagers of the plains
are replaced by migrant families of Gujjars: herdsmen
who cross the high mountain passes with their cattle
in search of greener pastures, living in primitive
stone huts that often date back centuries.
The main areas of attraction for the trekker in
Kashmir are the Lidder and Sind valleys, which support
a number of high altitude meadows, or “margs” as they
are locally known. The townships of Gulmarg, Sonmarg
and Pahalgam are the main trekking
Sonmarg is also the staging point for some of the most
popular treks to higher altitudes. A pleasant one-day
excursion from Sonmarg is to the Thajiwas glacier 8km
away, approachable by a pony over a well-maintained track.
The most popular trek originating from Sonmarg is the
Kashmir Lake Trek. It covers the lakes of Gangabal,
Vishansar, Kishansar, and goes close to the Harrnukh
peak. The trail first crosses the Nichinai Pass (13,387
ft) and then enters the alpine valleys that eventually
lead to the Gangabal Lake. Vishansar (Vishnu’s Lake)
is at just over 12,000 feet and slightly larger than the
12,500 feet Kishansar (Krishna's Lake). Gangabal Lake is
the highlight of this trip. Protected by the three peaks
of Mount Harrnukh, Gangabal is 5 miles in circumference
and offers the finest trout fishing anywhere in Kashmir.
Kashmir Lake Trek is one of the most popular in
Kashmir. The trail follows the traditional route of the
Gujjars (the nomadic shepherds of Kashmir) from Sonmarg to
Harmukh, passing four picturesque high altitude lakes with
spectacular mountain scenery, flowered campsites and trout
fishing. The first day brings the trekker to the meadows
of Shok Dharan, with panoramic views of Zozila and Sonmarg.
Then the trail climbs to the Nichinni Bar at 4,000 metres,
where the reward for hard work is uninterrupted views of
the Baltoro Glacier in the region of K2. From there the
trail descends through lush meadows covered with
wildflowers to the glittering Kishensar Lake. The lake has
excellent trout fishing. From Kishensar, the trail climbs
to the Vishensar Lake through open marshland to a pass at
On a clear day a
magnificent view of the Nanga Parvat is possible from
here. The trail descends to the town of Gadsar and
trekkers can spend the night in one of the Gujjar
encampments that spring up here in the summer. After
crossing over a permanent snow bridge, the trail winds a
tough climb along the Satsaran ridge and down through open
pastures to the village of Jowdor. This is the only
permanent settlement in the area and the villagers
(migrants from Gurais) depend on agriculture for their
livelihood. The rare Musk deer and the Kashmir stag are
regularly sighted nearby the village. From Jowdor the
trail climbs steeply to Megandob and then descends to the
lakes of Gangabal and Nudhkhol. The pass at 5,755 meters,
just before the descent to Gangabal, offers a spectacular
view of Mount Harmukh. Gangabal is the best lake on this
trek for trout fishing. The 9th century temple at Naranag
is worth a visit. From here to Wangat is a 6 km easy walk.
Wangat is connected by bus to Kangan and from there to
Season: June to October.
Duration: 7 days.
Stages: Sonmarg to Nichinni (13 km), Nichinni to
Kishansar (13 km), Kishansar to Gadsar, Gadsar to Megandob,
Megandob to Gangabal, Gangabal to Naranag.
The Pahalgam-Kolahoi Glacier-Pahalgam trek takes 6 days
and covers approximately 70 km. At the Kolahoi glacier the
trekker can catch a glimpse of the Kolahoi Peak and see
the source of the Lidder River. Excursions to the Tarsar
and Marsar lakes in the Upper Dachigam area can also be
made from here if the trekker has an additional two days.
The first stage of this trek, from Pahalgam to Aru, can be
done by vehicle. It is, however, recommended that the
trail be walked to acclimatize ahead of the tougher routes
to follow. This trail follows the Lidder River to the open
meadows at Aru, where excellent campsites as well as
private hotels are available. The short trek from Aru to
Lidderwat runs through thick pine forests to undulating
meadows where the trekker can see the local shepherds
grazing livestock. From Lidderwat the trail follows the
west bank of the Lidder through Gujjar encampments to the
largest nomadic village in the area at Satlanjan. The
Kolahoi peak (5,734 metres) is usually clouded over by
midmorning, so it is wise to start early from Satlanjan.
The trekker does not have to go to the glacier to view
Kolahoi; you also have the choice of ascending the ridge
opposite Kolahoi, or climbing to Dodsar after fording the
Lidder stream. You can return to Lidderwat the same day,
or leave the next morning for Aru and then Pahalgam.
Season: May to October.
Duration: 6 nights. Grade: Moderate.
Stages: Pahalgam to Aru (11 km), Aru to Lidderwat (11 km),
Lidderwat to Satlanjan (4 km), Satlanjan to Kolahoi to
Lidderwat (14 km), Lidderwat to Am (11 km), Aru to
Pahalgam (11 km).