Once you have crossed the mighty Pir Panjal range and entered the beautiful valley of Kashmir, there are two things that occur. You are at first overwhelmed by the abundance of life-giving earth and the absolute and enchanting beauty of your surroundings, secondly, you will note the distinct cultural & physical shift that occurred, until you could almost be mistaken in thinking you have reached central Asia.The landscape of Kashmir is stunning and thus has been captivating Kings, Travelers, Scholars & Saints for lifetimes. As a destination, it has been entertaining tourists for nearly 200 Years. But, Kashmir has much much more to offer beyond the famed Houseboats & Shikaras (traditional Kashmiri water transport) of Dal Lake, the ski slopes of Gulmarg, and the pleasure gardens of Mughal Kings. The “old town” of Srinagar is a virtual open-air museum of architecture and material culture. The Bazaars are filled with copper smiths, cloth merchants, spice dealers, halaal butchers, traditional wood-fired bakeries, tailors, and embroiders. Situated around the river Jhelum, the mighty river which flows into Pakistan, are Mosques, Shrines, Temples & Tombs indicative of the rich religious heritage of Srinagar. Head out of the city and into the mountains you will find small gorgeous villages, nomadic people life-giving glaciers running into life-sustaining rivers, high altitude meadows, world-class ski runs, wild animals, and mighty peaks waiting to be summited. if you locate Kashmir from a geopolitical perspective the history of not only India but the entire Central Asian region can be meditated through her. The history of Kashmir, with its subsequent layers of rites, rituals, and rulers has created the culture of today. In the time of methodology, Kashmir was an enormous lake, and the first dwellers were people of water. No religious history is at this time. But what is recorded is that located near the Wular Lake (about 2 hours drive from Srinagar) which is considered the contemporary remain of the first giant, there are giants iron hooks solved into the sides of the mountains that were used by these first water dwellers to Moore their boats; dwelling in the mountains that surrounded the lake was Naga Tribe, worshipers of the serpent. As the lake drained due to conflicts between the Gods and Men, Rishis, and Bhramens came from the Indus Valley to live there and reclaimed the land. It was here Hindu Religion 1st came to Kashmir like neighboring Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Buddhism became the next religion to captivate the people and to flourish. King Ashoka “The Great” was responsible for the propagation of Buddhist belief (around 250 BC.) at first named Ashoka “the cruel” for his predilection of torture and violent solitary, he reperformed his ways after a particularly messy battle which saw him embrace the teachings of non-violence and respect for all parts creatures. Hindu religion popped up again with the reigns of his son and grandson, but Buddhism returned for the next 200 years with the Kushan empire (1st/2nd century A D) the Kushans were a collection of people from the very west of china who swept through Central Asia, down into India and across to the Bay of Bengal. They created to trade with the “Silk Route”, peace with Buddhism, and stability with coin. Kashmir and its surroundings became the seat of Buddhist learning and religious scholarship. Shaivism worship of the God Shiva and a form of Hinduism dominated the valley after the decline of Buddhism. In Kashmir Shaivism all things are manifestations of universal, consciousness and the goal of Kashmiri Shaivism is to merge in Shiva or universal consciousness or realize one’s already existing identity with Shiva. The most famous Shaivite of Kashmir was Lalleshwari, (Lal Ded). She was a mystic and poet and she created some of the earliest compositions in the Kashmiri language which now hold an important position in the canon of Kashmiri Literature. she inspired many of the later Sufis of Kashmir including the patron saint of Kashmir, Nundrishi. Islam came to Kashmir in the very beginning through the Ladakhi King Rinchen (widely known as Rinchen Shah) who was ultimately impressed by the simple teaching of Sufi Islam from Bulbul Shah, beloved poet of Kashmir and the first Muslim faqeer to visit the valley, converted to Islam to consolidate his reportedly otherwise week position as a foreign ruler of the kingdom of Kashmir. The Sufi teachings which were spreading east from Persia through modern-day Afghanistan, Pakistan, and into India, resonated with the local Buddhist and Hindu populations. They taught that man should strive to be with God (Experience God directly) and have no attachments to this world. Sufism became the common ground between all, promoting the unity of all being and all religions. If were to be a single man that influenced the culture of Kashmir and Kashmiri Islam it would be Mir Syed Ali Hamadani. The Persian Sufi, to avoid persecution in his homeland, move to Kashmir with 700 followers during the reign of King Shahab-uddin (1354 to 1373). in Kashmir, Hamadani started to preach Islam in a peaceful and organized manner and with his followers built many Mosques in the Valley. The beautiful Papier Mache, mosque Shah-i-Hamdan, in the old town is dedicated to his memory. Islam continued to separate through the mouths of a holy man in the valley, and a series of great Islamic Kings from Sultan Zain-Ul-Abidin in 1420 to the famed Mughal rulers who reigned throughout northern India from 1586 to 1753, consolidated Islam as the state religion. After the Mughals, the Afghans (1762–1819), the Sikhs (1819–1846), and then the puppets rulers of the British, the Dogras from the next Kingdom of Jammu ruled Kashmir, until the time of the partition of India in 1947. After 1947 Kashmir’s status remained disputed with the UN. the 2 newborn states, India and Pakistan claimed it to be theirs. this led to 3 wars and later in 1990, a mess uprising took place which claimed thousands of Kashmiri Lives. This political uncertainty over decades severely impeded Kashmiri's development and unbelievably it still remains a seriously electricity-deficient region though situated in a hydropower potential zone. The dispute over Kashmir has been the cause whether directly or indirectly of all major conflicts between the 2 countries with the exception of the Bangladesh war of 1971. Up to the present Kashmir remain a major Muslim State, Administrated by 2 states Pakistan and India. the conflict over Kashmir remains unresolved. not only was Kashmir’s religion imported and molded through various rulers over the centuries, but particularly influential has been Persian Culture which is still obvious from such examples as the sweet and spicy Kehwa Tea to guests to the majestic chinar trees living in the valley. Among the 700 followers who accompanied Mir Syed Ali Hamdani to Kashmir, many were men of the arts and crafts. They popularized shawl making, Carpet manufacturing, cloth weaving, pottery, and calligraphy. from the 1400 century, the Persian Language exerted enormous influence on the intellectual elite and was the official court language. For 500 years hereafter Persian was a primary medium for literary production in all fields of learning and poetry. Continuous efforts to develop Persian at that time the availability of locally produced, high-quality paper and the constant influx of Iranian Scholars earned Kashmir the title Iran-E-Sagar “Little Iran”. Persian was replaced by Urdu in 1889, and Urdu remains to this day as the official state language.
It may be possible to take a tourist map of Kashmir and replace it with a picture of Gulmarg. Gulmarg is the Kashmir valley’s most famous and primary tourist destination, especially in the winter when the temperature is low and the snow is soft and powdery. Gulmarg is the location for all the adventure activities from skiing, heli-skiing, and snowboarding, to high-altitude golf, trekking, and riding the world-famous gondola.Gulmarg is an open meadow surrounded by lovely thick pine forests and in the spring the grassy slopes are covered with wildflowers, bluebells, daisies, forget-me-nots, and butter cups. Gulmarg lies under the majestic Mount Apharwat (4511m) in the northeast of the Pir-Panjal range about 55 km from Srinagar. The beautiful valley of Gulmarg is about 3km in length (meaning you can easily walk to most places), crescent-shaped, and just less than 1km wide. The drive to Gulmarg itself is beautiful, passing through avenues of poplar trees and rice fields until you begin your steep ascent through majestic pines. Gulmarg can be enjoyed on a day trip with a picnic and a ride in the gondola. Or come here to relax and ski, and with the opening of the second phase of the gondola in 2005, it is now a world-class destination for skiers of all abilities. Others come to hike from Gulmarg to other lush locations in the Kashmir valley such as the famous and most beautiful meadow of Tosamaidan. When both stages of the gondola are operational you can journey up to the Apharwat station for amazing views and photo opportunities of the valley and the Kishtwar and Himalayan ranges. The French firm Poma designed the gondola and at 12992ft is considered the highest in the world. The beauty of all the white snow piling up around the trees and hills is a beautiful sight and should not be missed if you are in Kashmir in the winter. Gulmarg Sky Gondola By far and away the most famous attraction for tourists is the Gulmarg gondola taking you through snow and magnificent forest to the top of the world. Prices for the first phase are INR 740 per ticket and INR 940 for the second phase, INR, 1690 for both. Winter Activities The best months for skiing in Gulmarg are December to February. Although snow does come from mid-November and can last to the first weeks of April. The G4 station of the cabal car (gondola) takes you up to the height of 3850m. From here you can either ski down to Gulmarg or Tamgmarg. The Indian Institute of Skiing and Mountaineering offers 14-day ski courses in the winter for INR 10,000 Heli Skiing in Gulmarg Started in 2010, heli-skiing in Gulmarg can become a lifetime experience, taking you anywhere in the 20000 sq. km of the Pir Panjal range of the Himalayas. The freshest and most daring adventure in the Indian Himalayas awaits you! There is only one company operating at Gulmarg and all the information is on their website. www.kashmirheliski.in Hot Air Ballooning The Indian Institute of Skiing and Mountaineering also offer Hot Air Ballooning packages for INR 9000. Summer Activities Hiking to frozen Alapathor Lake, Alapathor Lake is around an hour’s uphill climb from G4 station, (the top of the second stage of the gondola), situated at the foothills of the majestic Apharwat peak (4500m). The lake remains frozen till the end of June, so the best time to visit the lake is from July to early November, an early encounter is not recommended. The turquoise blue color of the lake under the blue sky is a jewel and looks simply divine. Up at this altitude with the wind, snow, and looming mountain peaks, you are simply left in awe at the beauty of God and nature. Khilanmarg Located 6.5 km from Gulmarg, there is another beautiful meadow, Khilanmarg, lying at 2000ft higher than Gulmarg at the foot of Mt Apharwat. During the ascent, you will be greeted by fresh wildflowers the small beauty welcoming you as you walk. From this place, the magnificent panorama of the inner Himalayan range can be enjoyed. To the north the colossal Nanga Parbat, the east Mt Harmoukh, and Mahadev, the mighty guardian of Srinagar. You will also be able to spy Kolohai rising over the Lidder Valley and maybe even the royal couple of the Suru Valley, Nun, and Kun. Golfing Golfing was brought to Gulmarg by the British, who used this location as a summer getaway and you can feel their influence even today. See Golf in Kashmir’s section. You can reach Gulmarg directly from Srinagar airport by taxi (INR 4000). Trekking in Gulmarg Tangmarg to Tosamaidan (12 km) and Poonch Duration: 4 days Grade: Moderate Highlights: Beautiful meadows and landscapes Best Time: June to October Day 01 Srinagar to Drung (average driving time of 2 hours) Drung can be reached by taxi or bus from Srinagar. Buses usually stop at Tangmarg and from here you can take a shares taxi for both Gulmarg and Drung. It is advised to visit the tourism office in Gulmarg for permission and assistance for the Trek’s Drung has a beautiful camping ground near the stream. Day 02 Drung to Danwas (average walking time of 2 hours) The trek starts by walking along the Ferozpore Nallah from Drung, past the army camp where you need to show your identification. After crossing the stream, the trail takes you up through a gentle walk and this same track leads to the camp at Danwas. It is a beautiful green ground that is used as grazing ground by the Gujjar shepherds in the summer ideal for camping. Day 03 Danwas to Basam Gali to Tosamaidan (Average walking time of 5 ½ hours) The morning walk starts by walking towards the Basam Gali (13000 ft). Strictly follow the beaten trial as there can be unexploded shells if you walk away from the trial. Head towards Jamiya Wali Gali or Chor Panjal Pass which are near the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. After crossing the Basam Gali you reached the beautiful meadow of Tosamaidan. Tosamaidan is one of the biggest and most beautiful alpine meadows of the Kashmir valley. It is covered with colorful wildflowers and it also has a water channel on its north. It is also one of the best sources of medicinal herbs in the Kashmir valley. The meadow provides a magnificent view towards the east. From here, one can reach the Poonch district of Jammu and it is also said that the famous Chinese Traveller Hieun Tsang took the same route to visit Poonch in 633 AD. Day 04 Tosamaidan to Chinnag Gali and Poonch (average walking time of 8 ½ hours) From here start walking toward the southwest. Near the Chinnag Gali, there are a few beautiful lakes to admire and enjoy. After crossing the Gali. The trail takes you directly to Poonch. There are guest houses and hotels in Poonch where one can stay overnight. From Poonch, you can go to either Srinagar via Mughal Road or Jammu.
One of the most famous and beautiful destinations in all of Kashmir Valley is Pahalgam “the Village of the Shepherds”. It is located 96km (about 3 hour’s drive) from Srinagar.Originally a sleepy wee village of Shepphards (more rumors abound that Jesus passed some time here amongst his flock!) Pahalgam has exquisite scenery of majestic pines, and blossoming high-altitude meadows looking up to snowy peaks and down into beautiful blue rivers. It is possible to enjoy a day trip to this location to get out of noisy Srinagar but the beauty of Pahalgam does not lie around the small bazaar, hotels, and parks of Pahalgam town but in the mountains past Aru. Pahalgam Town The journey from Srinagar itself gives- you a taste of what lies ahead. Noisy congested streets give way to poplars and rice fields, where flashes of color from the pink or green of a woman’s head scarf to the golden grain reflect the sunlight. You know Pahalgam is approaching when you spy the rushing and refreshing Lidder River starting to turn and gurgle. When you hit Pahalgam town, there is quite a noisy bazaar reminiscent of Dal gate selling the usual Kashmiri handicrafts and shawls. If only stay for the day there is a number of parks where you can relax and enjoy a picnic. You can also take a pony ride or a small walk up the hillsides. The best option would be to take the beautiful drive from Pahalgam to Aru (11 km). Shared jeeps leave the main bazaar frequently to Aru and the drive is simply stunning as you slowly wind your way up the mountain, the lush green valleys, snowy mountains, small villages, and that ever-ravishing Lidder calling you to come and explore. To reach Pahalgam take a shared taxi to Anantnag (Islamabad) taking around 2.5 hours from the Dal Gate Taxi Stand located between the Dal Gate Bazaar and the Petrol Pump. From Anantnag Taxi Stand (the first taxi will drop you here) take another shared taxi to Pahalgam, around 1 hour costing INR50, this will drop you in the main bazaar, Pahalgam. You can also take the SRTC Bus leaving from the TRC at 8:30am every morning in the summer, and returning in the evening. The ‘deluxe’ 19-seater costs INR369 and the ‘high-tech’ 36-seater costs INR289. You can also hire a private taxi or take the local bus leaving frequently from the Batamaloo Bus Stand (again first to Anantnag/Islamabad then Pahalgam). Pahalgam is another tourist destination with a wealth of hotels and guesthouses for every budget. There are plenty of big hotels in the main bazaar and many gorgeous small guest houses on the Lidder River about 2km on from the main bazaar on Chandiwari Rd. If you wantbudget accommodation in a beautiful location right next to the Lidder, make your way to Chandiwari Rd, and you will find rooms for INR500–1500. There are also some beautiful guesthouses in Aru where it is recommended you stay if you want less bustle of the main town and a beautiful calm surround. You can also camp in Pahalgam and Aru. As usual, prices vary with occupancy and season. Aru It is from Aru that you can begin to glimpse the real beauty of the area. Aru is the last stop of supplies, restaurants, tea stalls, and guest houses before you begin the trek into the mountains. You can also pass time happily here with walks, pony rides, and lunch if just stopping for the day. If you leave the main hustle and bustle of Aru Village and venture over the ridge on foot or by pony you will find Gujjar Huts built into the mountainside, and if you are lucky, you will also see the Gujjar men and women attending their flocks and daily chores. It is in Aru that most people will first see Gujjars in their natural habitat. If you are in Srinagar at the right time of year, you may have already glimpsed the strange sight of shepherds herding their flocks of sheep down Boulevard Road early in the morning. These are the Gujar the “Shepherds of Paradise”. Willows grow around the Gujjar huts surrounded by branch fences. Their fields produce buckwheat, maize, and potatoes. You can camp just above Aru under huge shady fir trees, next to the beautiful flowing stream. There is a legend that in the Amin Valley, the mountain flanks give rise to three springs, the water clearer than glacial water, which, when drunk in moderation under the midday heat of summer, provides a “natural champagne”. Aru Wild Life Sanctuary Aru wildlife sanctuary is situated in one of the most beautiful parts of Kashmir. It has got stunning mountain ranges, beautiful meadows, deep valleys, silver line river, and streams. Spread on 32 sq. It is home to many exotic species of animal birds and medicinal plants. Mammals like Leopard cats, Musk deer Himalayan black bears, Hangul, etc. Can be spotted in this area. Gujjars and Bakerwals The Gujjars and Bakerwals are the nomadic and semi-nomadic tribal peoples of Jammu and Kashmir (they are also found in Pakistan). They spend the winter months in Rajouri and Poonch on the western flank of Jammu and in the first weeks of April pack up their families and houses onto horses and begin the long walk-through valleys and over treacherous mountain passes to the high-altitude meadows of the Kashmir Valley to graze their cattle. “The Bakerwals move in extended family units and set up camp in tents, staying in places for one to two days, and in some others for weeks. They do not wander randomly; their path is well-defined based on hundreds of years of experience moving through the mountains. The huts that you see as you walk through the mountains around Pahalgam belong to the Gujjars, in these huts, the family sleeps alongside the cattle. The Line of Control running between Kashmir and Pakistan has sliced their grazing lands in two reducing their ability to graze their flocks competently, this has resulted in the overgrazing of meadows in the Valley, it remains to be seen what kind of impact this will have on the herders. They are recognizable by their colorful headgear; the men wear long beards dyed with Henna and Khan dresses with checked turbans and generally a blanket draped over their shoulders. The women wear a simple salwar kameez, a large shawl, and large silver jewels, particularly big nose studs, and the Gujjar women wear a colorful woven cap. Both men and women are recognizable by their hardy mountain appearance and dark eyes. Like all traditional tribal people, the younger generation is restless after being introduced to the desires of the modern world. As grazing lands, forests, and water quality in the mountains diminish, formal education is becoming more relevant for children. Lidderwat From Aru, begins the trek to Lidderwat, a stunning natural meadow home to the Gujjar and Bakerwal tribes. It’s from Lidderwat that one can make treks to the Sonmarg, Tsar Mar and Kolohai glaciers. Crossing the ridge from Aru, you begin to experience softness and silence of the mountain air, and begin to feel amazing sensations as if you are entering into God’s own private garden. Dark green luscious pine forests close over you as you follow the well-worn path of many Travellers over the many years. The path then opens out as you cross meadows dotted with horses, huts and human life and you look to the snowcapped mountains around and to the rushing river below. It is actually glorious. The walk to Lidderwat (11km) is straightforward and moderate, it is entirely possible to do this walk without horses or a guide. If you are wanting for anything once you reach the Lidderwat Valley you only have to communicate with the Gujjar folk and you can buy or trade with them, or send one of the more ambitious young boys back to Aru to bring you supplies. The path to Lidderwat runs along the left bank of the Lidder, and a bridge across to the right bank leads to a tourist hut for the weary traveler, who wants a solid roof of tin over their head for the evening. Lidderwat itself is green and open, surrounded by majestic trees and stately peaks, it is a place of incredible beauty, relaxation and rejuvenation. Lidderwat is the junction of three roads, on the west to Sonamarg, the east to Kolohai and the south returning to Pahalgam. It is entirely possible to spend a week camping at this location and each day completing small hikes to various destinations of your choice. The other option is to camp here for the night and then continue. Trek from Pahalgam to Tar-sar and Mar-sar Lakes Duration: Min 5 and max 7 days Grade: Moderate Best Time: June to October Highest Point: Mar-Sar Lake Major Highlights: Beautiful meadows, shepherds and shepherds’ huts, snowcapped mountains, colorful wild flowers and high-altitude lakes. Day 01 Srinagar to Aru valley, Pahalgam Pahalgam can be reached by share taxi which leaves from Datgate petrol pump to Islamabad/Anathnag from here you have to take another share taxi to Pahalgam. There is a bus that leaves from the SRTC bus stand near the TRC Tourist Reception Centre. The drive to Pahalgam is 3.5 hours drive from Srinagar. On the way you pass through Pampore saffron city. 20 minutes after Pampore, you reach Avantipur the grand stone temple built by ancient King Avantivarman, the ruins of which are still standing. On the way, you can also get a glimpse of Aishmuquam Ziarat high on the mountainside and the final resting place of one of Kashmir’s greatest saints The drive from Aishmuquam Ziarat to Pahalgam is very pleasant, as you drive parallel to the lively Lidder River. Pahalgam is situated at the junction of the Seshnag and Aru rivers. The last village in the valley is Aru, 11 km from Pahalgam at an altitude of 7900 ft. Overnight stay in Aru, either camping or staying in one of the many lovely guest houses available. Day 02 Aru to Lidderwat (Lidder Valley) After breakfast, you can go look for a pony man or arrange your trek through a travel agency (Ahanger HOBO is recommended). The charge of a horse or pony for a day is INR900. Take all your ration from Aru. The trails take you up a ridge that is steep and tiring once you cross it the rest of the trail to Lidderwat is flat through a deep enchanted forest, dancing silvery streams, and Gujjar (nomadic) settlements. Aru to Lidderwat is 11km, and is situated on the junction of three roads; the east goes to Kolohai, the west to Sonamarg and south goes to Pahalgam. After walking for 3 to 4 hours, cross the wooden bridge to reach the beautiful camping side in Lidderwat. There are two small alpine huts here with basic accommodation if you don’t feel like tenting for the night. Day 03 Lidderwat to Tar Sar Lake Today we have to cover around 16 km (10 miles) and a river crossing. Tar Sar is a calm and quiet place that gives a sharp edge to the appetite. Start the day by climbing the small ridge which is the backdrop of the camping site. Once you cross it you reach a plain ground that will take you near the Gujjar huts at Sekiwas. Cross the River from a convenient point to reach the other side of the river. From Sekiwas, the trail on the right side takes you to Yamhar Pass (4091 m) into Kulan Sonamarg. Keep the trail on the left side until you reach another Gujjar hut situated on a slope. From here the trail becomes a little steep and tiring. Follow the trail across and it will take you to the top from where you get the first glimpse of the crystal-clear water of the lake. There is a wonderful camping site on the shore of the lake. Overnight stay in a camp on the banks of Tar Sar Lake. Day 04 Tar Sar Lake (3849m) to MarSar lake (3995m) Just two hours walk from Tarsar lake is Marsar Lake. The silvery streak of water from Tarsar goes to Dachigam valley. There is also a trail from the meadow around the lake which goes all the way to Dachigam valley and into Srinagar. You need a special permission from the Wild Life Department to go beyond this point. You can camp here or go back to Liddarwat via the same route. Day 05 Lidderwat to Aru and Pahalgam Start the walk from the beautiful Lidderwat via the same route you reached Aru. Either stay the night here, or take a shared taxi to Pahalgam, and from there you can take a taxi or bus to Srinagar the left side trail from Lidderwat takes you to Sat Lan Jan, and from the base of the Kolohai glacier one trail takes you over Kolohai pass to the village of Sarbal in Sonamarg and the other takes you to the main Kolohai glacier followed by the Kolohai climb. Aru to Sonamarg Trek (Sindh valley via Yamhar Pass) Duration: 4 days Grade: Moderate Best Time: June to October Highest Point: Yamhar Pass Major Highlights: Beautiful meadows, Lidder river, nomadic life, mountain peaks, lush valleys. Day 01 Srinagar to Aru valley, Pahalgam: Pahalgam can be reached by share taxi which leaves from Dalgate petrol pump to Islamabad/Anatnag from here you have to take another share taxi to Pahalgam. There is a bus that leaves from the SRTC bus stand near the TRC tourist reception center. The drive to Pahalgam is a 3.5-hour drive from Srinagar. On the way you pass through Pampore saffron city. 20 minutes after Pampore, you reach Avantipur — the grand stone temple built by ancient King Avantivarman, the ruins of which are still standing. On the way, you can also get a glimpse of Aishmuquam Ziarat high on the mountainside, and the final resting place of one of Kashmir’s greatest saints. The drive from Aishmuquam Ziarat to Pahalgam is very pleasant, as you drive parallel to the lively Lidder River. Pahalgam is situated at the junction of the Seshnag and Aru rivers. The last village in the valley is Aru, 11 km from Pahalgam at an altitude of 7900ft. Overnight stay at Aru, either camping or staying in one of the many lovely guest houses available. Day 02 Aru to Lidderwat (Lidder Valley) After breakfast, you can go look for a pony man or arrange your trek through a travel agency (Ahanger HOBO). The charge for a horse or pony for a day is INR500. Take all your ration from Aru. The trails take you up a ridge that is steep and tiring once you cross it the rest of the trail to Lidderwat is flat through a deep enchanted forest, dancing silvery streams, and Gujjar (nomadic) settlements. Aru to Lidderwat is 11km, and is situated on the junction of three roads; the east goes to Kolohai, the west to Sonamarg and the south goes to Pahalgam. After walking for 3 to 4 hours, cross the wooden bridge to reach the beautiful camping side in Lidderwat. There are two small alpine huts here with basic accommodation if you don’t feel like tenting for the night. Day 03 Lidderwat Yamhar Pass Base Start the day by climbing the small ridge which is at the backdrop of the camping site. Once you cross it the valley broadens and you will reach open ground taking you near the Gujjar huts at Sekiwas. From here the right trail takes you to Yamhar pass (4091) and the left takes you to Tarsar lake. Continue walking on the right-hand trail before you reach the pass. Overnight camp near the base of the pass. Day 04 Camp to Zaiwan (4091) We start the morning by climbing the pass. The climb is stiff and tiring so fill your water bottles from the stream before approaching the pass. The view from the top of the pass is mesmerizing. Descend to reach Khemsa, from here the trail gets divided into two trails. The left goes to Gund and the straight trail goes to Ziawan and then into Kulan. An overnight stay can be done in Kulan or you can drive to Sonamarg — there are frequent sumo and bus services to Sonamarg and Srinagar from here. There is an alternative route on Day 03… Halt at Sekiwas and camp there for the night. Day 04 Sekiwas to Sumbal (average walking time 7 hours) In the morning, leave west for Sonmoos pass. The ascent is steep and takes time. Once you reach the top and descend, you cross Surfarow and then to Sumbal. Sumbal is in Sonamarg. You can take a shared taxi from here back to Srinagar. Kolohai Glacier Another trek leaving from Lidderwat is to the Kolohai Glacier. From Lidderwat camping ground, walk on the right-hand side valley for three hours, just before you reach Sat Lan Jan you have to cross a stream at seven points. At Sat Lan jan there are Gujjar huts, where you can camp. The next morning follows the trail straight for around 2 hours walk from Sat Lan Jan (seven small streams), crossing the Kolohai valley is the mouth of the Kolohai glacier, the major source of river Lidder. Once you reach Kolohai glacier, on the left side a well-defined trail takes you up a path and after a steep climb you reach the top. Once you reach the top walk straight and you will get the top view of Doodh Nag. It is a circular shape lake with milky-colored water. On one side there is a cliff above a glacier that feeds the Doodh Nag. The other side of the lake is covered in beautiful wildflowers and herbs of different kinds. There are another two trails from the base of the Kolohai glacier. One trail takes you over the Kolohai pass to the village of Sarbal in Sonamarg and three other takes you can go to the main Kolohai glacier followed by the Kolohai climb. The Beautiful Ice-bound Lake of Tulian, Pahalgam Duration: 1 night 2 days Grade: Moderate Best Time: June to September Highest Point: Tulian Glacier Ridge at 3700m Major Highlights: Beautiful meadows, shepherds and shepherd’s huts, snowcapped mountains, and a high-altitude lake. Day 1: Pahalgam to Tulian meadow (Average walking of 6 hours) The morning starts with walking towards the taxi stand. Just ahead of the taxi stand is the stand for horses where you can hire horses for the trek, usually, they charge INR1000 INR per horse per day. Don’t be surprised if you get bombarded by twenty to thirty horsemen, trying to convince you to hire his horse. Go with your instinct and choose your horseman who can also be your guide for the rest of the trek. Once you know them, then it’s very interesting to travel with them. Get all your rations from the market because you don’t get any ahead, though there is a small restaurant at Baisaran 5km ahead, your first halt after you start from Pahalgam. Once you cross the horse stand, you walk up into the forest on a very well-defined footpath taking you to Bhaisaran. It is a huge flat charming grassy glen in the middle of the pine forest. The view of the surrounding mountains is phenomenal. You can take tea or snacks here and plan the further trek.
AchabalAchabal is a quite possibly the most gorgeous of the Mughals gardens and it was said to be Empress Noor Jehan's favourite pleasure retreat. Like other Kashmiri gardens, it is located on a hillside with its water source at the top but unlike other Kashmiri gardens it is the only Mughal Garden which is situated as an extension of the forest, it is located in the middle of the tiny Achabal town near the taxi stand, 64kms from Srinagar and 10km from Verinag. In the days of Noor Jehan, she had kept hamam on the back terrace of the garden, which was always warm and filled. After the Mughals, the people were unable to fathom the mechanism for keeping it warm so they opened the hamam and found a huge candle, which, in their clumsiness, extinguished and never relit. Today, only ruins remain. The garden is well laid out and houses the ubiquitous yet majestic Chinar. Cascades and fountains erected by Mughal Emperors enhance the beauty of the spot. A mosque standing in the garden believed to have been constructed by Mughal Prince Dara Shikor. You first must reach Anatnag by bus or sumo and then take a taxi to the garden. It is not recommended you stay here but continue further up the road to Verinag. Kokernag This charming lake, located at about 70kms from Srinagar (between Achabal and Verinag), is shaped like a right foot - with five toes and a heel and thus in ancient times was given the name of Vishnu Pad. In the distance you can spy the sacred Brahma Shakri peaks, and at the same time enjoy the beauty of the water, which is said to have healing and digestive properties. "Koker", in Kashmiri means chicken, and as the water pours forth from a forested hill and divides into channels, it is said to resemble a claw-foot of a chicken, thereby giving it its more modern name of Kokernag. Trout fishing in Kokernag is the most popular activity. Verinag Lying at the north-western foot of the Banihal pass is Verinag, the largest spring in Kashmir (78kms from Srinagar), which is said to never dry up or overflow. It lies in a beautiful and peaceful garden with an octagonal pool in the middle, which Emperor Jehangir had converted from a circle to fit with the Mughal style. It is said he would rest here for weeks after crossing the Pir Panjal from the Punjab. And it is indeed a place to relax and enjoy, the most perfect picnic spot in the Kashmir Valley. The pool which emits a clear sparkling stream is said to be Nila Nag the son of Kashyap Reshi, who was made King of the Kashmiri Nagas (nag snake worshippers). There are beautiful carvings on stones in Persian on the walls surrounding the spring tellinghow this great source of underwater spring is contained. There are guest houses here and also a tourist bungalow in which you can pass a relaxing night, before returning to Srinagar or continuing back over the Pir Panjal to Jammu. There is a Shaivite shrine located just outside the complex that draws pilgrims every year who come for a ritual dip on the first day of the year according to the Hindu lunar calendar. Verinag is also said to be the source of the Jhelum River, the blood that flows through Kashmir's body. To reach Verinag, first you must take a shared sumo from the Dalgate petrol pump to Anatnag (Islamabad) from the jeep stand here take another car to Verinag.