Transalating into the meadow of gold Sonamarg is a quiet valley carved by the Sind river and circled by placide lakes and awesome glaciers. At an altitude of 3,000 metres 80 kms northeast of Srinagar the road that leads to Sonamarg is almost like heading for an enchanted journey into a wonderland of nature.
The road that initially winds under the shadow of the mountains crosses the Sind at Wayil 27 kms from Srinagar where the valley widens. Onward past Kangan and Gund the road runs through peaceful pastoral land the snowclad Harmukh range and after a steep rise is the entrance to the meadows of Sonamarg.
Sorrounded by mountains upto 5,300 mtrs high the valley is divided by a spur of the Thajiwas range. Sonamarg carpeted with colourful flowers lies on one side drained by the Sindh which has its source in the glaciers in the Amarnath range. Meandering through the valley the Sind river is an excellent fishing preserve abounding with trout and mahseer.
On the other side of the spur is Thajiwas shaded by pine trees with fastflowing mountain streams. The spur dividing the valley is covered with fir, pine, silver birch and sycamore trees. They climb is challenging and there are many camping sites available.
Waterfalls and the Thajiwas glacier form sparkling white contrast to the greenery covered meadows. From Sonamarg trekking routes lead to the Himalayan lakes of Vishansar (4,084 mt), Krishansar (3,810 mt) and Gangabal (3,658 mt).
Other lakes in the region are Gadsar, stocked with snowtrout and Satsar which is glacier fed and sorrounded by alphine flowers and trees.A nearby excursion is to Baltal, 15 kms north of Sonamarg. This valley is at the foot of Zojila a day's journey from the sacred cave of Amarnath. Trekkers can also reach Leh the starkly splendid rooftop of the world by crossing over Zojila Pass.
Gulmarg (150 kms)
Gaurimarg was the original name of Gulmarg, the place is covered with flowers and was a favourite spot of Emperor Jehangir. Today Gulmarg has the highest green golf course in the world (2,680m) above sea level and is also one of the prime winter skii spots in India.
Apart from angling Pahalgam is also the starting point for treks to the sorrounding mountains. Camping equipment is readily available and so are porters and ponies. Walking through the scenic Lidder valley is a very rewarding experience. Trekking under the shade of forests of virgin pine, crossing crystal clear mountain streams and through meadows of wild flowers is extremely enriching.
Popular treks from Pahalgam are to the Kolahoi glacier via Aru, Satlanjan and Dudsar lake and to the high altitude lakes that dot the meadows and mountain ridges between Pahalgam and Sonamarg.
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Long before Pahalgam a village 96 kms east of Shrinagar and 2,400 metres above sea level turned into the popular holiday resort it is today. It was the preserve of nomadic shepards. The beauty of Pahalgam remains unspoilt even as the crowded main street an assorted range of tented camps, hotels and lodges have turned it into a resort.
Kolahoi is a popular destinantion via Aru a charming meadow. Pahalgam is base camp for the pilgrims of Amarnath. The large brown bear is a natural inhabitant of the thick Pine and Cedar forests.
How to reach
By Air - The nearest airport to Pahalgam is at Srinagar around 95 kms
By Rail - The nearest Rail Head is at Jammu (285 kms)
By Road - The road to Pahalgam takes from Khannabal or alternatively from Bijbehara villages from this National Highway. It Takesaround 10 to 12 hours to cross this mountaineous road which crosses some beautiful spots andthe famous Jawahar Tunnel linking Kashmir Valley with India. On Road to Pahalgam one comes across the beautiful Lidder Valley with important spots of Mattan and Aishmuqam.
Planning a visit to J&K read through travelogues to plan your trip
This period covers three seasons in Kashmir i.e., spring (March-early May), summers (early May-late August) and autumn (September-November).
The blossoms of spring, the cool weather of summer and the gold and red hues of autumn all provide the peak season for Kashmir travel. From December to early March is the winter season for Kashmir, when the entire valley wears a white blanket of snow.