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If there is ever heaven on earth, it's here, it's here, it's here! This famous sentence, quoted by Mughal Emperor Jahangir hundreds of years ago, still stands true and unfailing, albeit the time and age. Kashmir Valley is the beautiful crown adorned on top of India. Some say it is a paradise on earth, others say it is a paradise by itself, but indeed Kashmir outstand all the stunning places on earth. Srinagar, set around the infamous and magnificent Dal Lake, has house boats, Shikaras, which are one of the tourist attractions in Kashmir. Hence, Kashmir makes the idlest place for trekking.
Trekking in Kashmir gives the trekkers a feeling of sheer joy and pure calmness. Kashmir has many astounding lakes which gives an additional beauty to the valley. Few of the lakes frequented by the trekkers are Dal, Nagin, Anchar, Ganbar, Wular, Manasbal Lake and the twin Lakes Vishansar and Krishnasar.
Kashmir Great Lakes Trek is considered by far the best trekking one can experience. The trek is a seven day expedition, starting from Srinagar and ending with Naranag. The season to enjoy the trek is from June to August since the places will be filled with lush greens and covered with beautiful flowers. Day 1 starts the journey at Sonamarg headed towards Nichnai. Sonamarg is situated near the Nallah Sindh River and has some beautiful peaks like the Sirbal, Kolhoi, Amarnath, and Machoi. You can camp in Shekdur before continuing the trek to Nichnai. Day 2 you head towards Vishansar Lake. Trekking in Kashmir becomes interesting from here. This day you'll cross the Nichnai pass or the Vishansar Berry. The lake is beautiful, still deep blue in color that gives pleasant warmth in heart. Here you'll view waterfalls, meadows filled with deep red flowers and snow clad peaks. The Vishansar Lake is huge and nestled between four mountains. Day 3, you trek to Gadsar via Krishansar Lake and Gadsar pass. Krishansar Lake is a long stretch of stream, gurgling water and if you move upwards, you'll be connected to Vishansar Lake. On top of the ridge is the Gadsar pass from where you can observe the twin lakes.
You will trek towards Satsar on Day 4th. Some of the sceneries you will observe are captivating mountains and the collection of seven lakes. On Day 5, you will arrive at the twin lakes of Gangabal, situated in the foothills of Mt. Haramukh. It is a religious belief that Gangabal place is as pious as Haridwar. You'll be able to see the Gujjar huts on passing. 6th day is trekked towards Naranag, which is a steep descent. You will notice the Harmukh mount from below along with picturesque yellow flowers' meadow on the walk. Naranag is a village in Ganderbal district, lies left to the Wangath river banks. Reaching the village is last leg of Kashmir Great lake trek.
Day 1 :- Arrive at Sonamarg
Altitude: 7800 ft
90 kms drive from Shrinagar, approx 3 hours.
If booked in advance, TTH can arrange pick up from TRC at 3pm
Our campsite is near the Sindh river (Shitkadi Village).
Since there are no shops around ensure that you have all that you need already.
Remember to carry your ID proof in original and 2 photo copies as we have to submit them at the army check post.
Day 2:- Sonamarg to Nichnai via Shekdur
Altitude: 7,800 ft to 11,500 ft
11 kms trek, approx 8 hours
After the breakfast we trek to Nichnai via Shekdur.
The trail takes you through meadows, dense forests with Maple, Pine and Bhoj trees.
After approx half an hour, we get an army check post where we have to submit our ID proofs.
While you are at it, you can enjoy an awesome view of the Sonmarg Valley or the Thajiwas Glacier.
The trek from Shitkadi to Shekdur is goes through thick forests of pine trees and will take approx 2 and half hours.
At Shekdur, you can indulge in instant noodles and an omelette if you wish to.
We follow the Nichnai Stream as we trek from Shekdur to Nichnai.
We have lunch at the Nichnai stream, after Shekdur.
Day 3 :- Nichnai to Vishansar lake via Nachnai Pass
Altitude: 11,500 ft to 12,000 ft via 13100 ft
12 kms trek, approx 7 hours
Trek from Nichnai to Nichnai Pass is of approx 1 and half hours ascent.
At the top of Nichnai Pass you can get B.S.N.L network, which is the last point under mobile coverage area.
From Nichnai pass to Vishansar there is a descent.
At Vishansar campsite, lunch will be offered.
We can visit the Vishansar Lake which is just 15 minutes walk from the campsite
The first lake of the trek and one of the most beautiful ones.
If the trek is in July, the lake will be frozen. Otherwise, we can do fishing at the lake with permission from Srinagar Fishing Department.
Vishansar is visited by hoards of sheep and their shepherds are known for interesting stories.
The campsite is a unique place with an open ground and you can play volleyball, cricket etc.
Beware of dogs at campsite
Day 4:- Acclimatization + Rest Day. (Condition Apply)
You may visit Kishansar lake, which is at approx 1 and half kms from our camp site.
If the weather is not good we will use acclimatization day at vishansar or else move towards next camp site, rest day can be use at Gangbal camp site.
Day 5:- Vishansar lake to Gadsar via Gadsar Pass
Altitude: (12,000ft) to (12,000ft) via (13,750ft)
14 kms trek, approx 10 hours
We start the trek earlier than usual.
The trail passes from Vishansar to Gadsar, via Gadsar pass the highest point of the trek.
From Vishansar, the trail takes a steep ascent till Gadsar Pass.
We can see the Kishansar Lake on the way.
From the Gadsar pass till the camp site, we descend gradually.
We can spot the Gadsar lake en route.
You might also spot the Glacier of Gadsar Lake.
After the Gadsar lake, we will reach the campsite in 2 hours.
Just a few minutes before our campsite, we will have another army checkpoint and we will have to share our ID proofs with them.
Pack lunch will be provided
Day 6 :- Gadsar to Satsar
Altitude: 12,000 ft to 12,000 ft
9 kms trek, approx 6 hours trek
Mid July to mid August, the trail is laden in vibrant flowers.
We need to share our IDs at another army check post en route. .
Moving on, we see two small lakes which are often mistaken as Satsar Lakes.
We will visit the Satsar twin lakes, in the afternoon, which are approx 1.3 h
Stasar twin lakes are also known as mengen top.
Those twin lakes are between the middle of the mountain.
Day 7 :- Satsar to Gangabal twin lakes via Zaj Pass
Altitude: 12,000 ft to 11,500 ft 13000
11 kms trek, approx 6 hours
We walk on rocky paths for approx an hour and ascend till Jazz Pass.
At the pass, you can enjoy views of the 4 lakes, Mt. Harmukh and its glacier.
From the pass we descend till the Gangbal lake and camp at Nandkol lake.
We visit the Gangbal Lake, which is one of the largest lakes in the trek.
Post dinner, a team of Kashmiri staff will perform their traditional songs and dance.
Day 8 :- Gangabal to Naranag Drive to Srinagar
Altitude: 11,500 ft to 7,450 ft
15 kms trek, approx 7 hours
The trail is a descent till the last point of the trek – Naranag, so take care of your knees and ankles.
The trail will pass through pine tree forests.
On advance booking, TTH can arrange transport to Srinagar at a charge.
After the 70 kms drive, you will reach Srinagar by 6:30 pm.
* Please note that prepaid sim cards do not work in Kashmir.
Don't forget your ID proof in original and 2 photo copies.
On Day 8, you’ll reach Srinagar between 6:30 pm and 7:30 pm. You can book your travel any time after 8 pm.
Day 1 :- Arrive at Sonamarg
The enthralling expedition of Kashmir Great Lakes trek commences from Sonamarg region based at a distance of 90kms from the capital city of Jammu and Kashmir, Srinagar. From here it’s a 3 hours drive to Sonamarg nestled at an altitude of 7,800 feet. The drive can be arranged independently by booking a cab from Srinagar TRC or if the booking with TTH is done way in advance, the arrangement can be done from our side for a pick up from TRC at around 3pm. It is completely the choice of the traveler that they can drop in a day early to Srinagar and enjoy its wonderful locations in the lap of Kashmir Valley. Be it the Mughal Gardens, the royal fountain, Pari Mahal, Nishat Bag, Naseem Bag and many others. One can also take a small trip to Dal Lake if time permits. It is important to take all the necessary goods from Srinagar only as in Sonamarg there are practically no shops to even buy the necessary and immediate requirements. So it’s better to be prepared and purchase accordingly. Also do remember to carry any Government ID proof in original as well photocopies of the same as the trek passes through several army camps where it is necessary to show them for legal and authorized passes. After lunch around noon time take a drive to Sonamarg and on the way enjoy the enticing views of mountains, forest, cascading lakes and brooks. The road from Srinagar to Sonamarg is quite good without snow but filled with sharp bends and tight corners which can turn out to be a thrilling ride for the travelers. The drivers of the cabs are highly experienced and are aware of the slightest turns which make it safe to ride here. After reaching Sonamarg, our representative leads you to the campsite which is based close to Sindh River in the Shitkadi Village. Here all the arrangements are available for decent stay so setting up the camp it’s a relaxing day to enjoy the mesmerizing view of Sonamarg valley. Here the trek leaders would guide on the basic guidelines for the trek, share knowledge on how to stay warm, in line with other trackers, set up tents and other basic informations so that trekkers can enjoy the trail in a much better way. Traditional dinner is served here which is suitable in the climate and helps to remain warm and adoptable to the new climatic conditions.
Day 2:- Sonamarg to Nichnai via Shekdur.
The second day is the most refreshing and energizing day since it marks the commencement of a fascinating journey of continuous 7 days amidst the awe striking beauties of nature that will keep all captivated. The destination for the day is to reach Nichnai which is based at an elevation of 11,500 feet. The total trekking trail for the second day stretches for a distance of 11kms and takes about 8 hours to reach the final point for the day. The journey commences after having breakfast in the morning amidst beautiful scenic locations. Sonamarg ideally is the last inhabited location after which one can only get in touch with civilization at the end of the expedition in Naranag village. The road that travels towards Nichnai initially follows the Sindh River. The track after few minutes of commencing takes a steep ascend and soon after takes a turn towards fascinating greenery and lush meadows. With perfect climate and avid growth of maple and pine forest on the way one can enjoy scenic panorama at its best. The Sonamarg town can be visualized from here in full view. As the pine forest and its scintillating sweet scented air gives way to a clearing and marks the end of the forest one can enjoy the breathtaking view of Sonamarg valley with clear lines marking its geographical assets and giving way to an astonishing picture. Even the sight of one of the greatest attractions of Kashmir, the Thajiwas Glacier can also be fetched from here. While trekking in Kashmir, the travelers get to come close with the scenic beauty of the land and its changing spirits and glamour, which is believed to be one of the prettiest places on earth. Once the maple forests ends it marks the route for descending towards Shekdur which is a location filled with small peaks covered with snow. It’s a two and a half hours trek from Shitkad to Shekdur amidst dense growth of pine trees. As the meadows of Shekdur are reached, one can bask in the beautiful greenery surrounded by thick crowd of Bhoj trees. It’s a wonderful place to spend some time at the lap of Mother Nature and have some refreshments before continuing further. From here amidst silver birch trees it’s a descending till the end of the birch forest where the trekking trail gives way to Nichnai. This river on its course connects the Sindhi river flowing through Sonamarg region. Here the trekkers can enjoy lunch beside the flowing stream of Nichnai and enjoy Kashmir in a new way. The rest of the day is for rest. Overnight stay at campsite in Nichnai.
Day 3 :- Nichnai to Vishansar lake via Nachnai Pass
The third day of the expedition begins much earlier in compare to the last day since the trek trail for the day is a bit longer and will take more time to reach the destination. Inhaling in the sweet scented meadows and morning air it’s an energized beginning for a 12km trek to Vishansar lake at 12,00feet enroute Nichnai Pass at 13,100 feet, The trek for the day is a combination of ascend and then descending back to 12,000feet and it takes a total time of seven hours to complete the journey. So as the trek commences after morning refreshments it’s a challenging climb up to Nichnai Pass which takes about 1 and half hour to reach the destination. The road for Nichnai Pass initially begins by crossing the river and then walking on the banks of it and then afterwards it’s a climb up which may take almost an hour. On the way up one can see the magical scenic panorama of a deep blue lake but the ridge is actually not the pass and it twists at least two times after this location before the Nichnai pass is reached. It is a wide hollow like pass with slow clad mountains encircling the area providing quite a visual treat to the eyes. Even one can enjoy the sight of Sonamarg valley from this location. Till here one can access BSNL network as beyond this till Gangabal getting any kind of mobile coverage can be a difficult task. Since the altitude of the location is quite high, reaching Nichnai Pass one can feel health problems like headache, dizziness and shallow breathing. This happens due to the lower oxygen levels but as one descends the problem resides. From Nichnai Pass the next destination is a descend to Vishansar Lake at 12,000 feet. This is quite an undulating terrain full of rocky outgrowths that are strong and can be quite torturing for the feet. This rough and rugged terrain continues for an hour after which the soft grasslands comes in view. Colourful wild flowers and lavish green meadows encourage the spirit as one crosses the beautiful Nichnai valley. On this way one can also come across the beautiful waterfall which meets the river. One can capture some of the amazing pictures of nature in this route till the end of Nichnai Valley. From here it’s only half a km distance to the Vishansar Lake. This is the place for campsite for the 3rd day which is about 15minutes walking distance from the lake. After reaching here one can enjoy lunch and take the rest of the day for relaxing amidst the beauty of nature.
Day 4:- Acclimatization + Rest Day. (Condition Apply)
The fourth day of the expedition can be utilized as acclimatization day if the weather is not favourable or else the rest day can be shifted to the next camping area, the Gangbal campsite. However if trekkers needs to stay at Vishansar Lake campsite for one more day, there are plenty of activities that can be enjoyed here. This is gigantic lake spread over a huge area. If it is not the month of July then the waters will not be frozen and one can enjoy the cool streams and fishing in its waters after seeking permission from the Srinagar Fishing Department. One can also have the pleasure to meet the shepherds and their hoards of sheep and listen to the untold stories and facts of this region. The area is so big with large open fields that trekkers can even try out a game of volleyball or cricket in this ground and enjoy making some quick runs. The area can be hounded by wild dogs so it is always better to beware and remain in groups to scare the animal away.
The site at the Vishansar Lake is truly a fascinating destination to relax and rejuvenate the mind and make it completely stress free away from all worldly affairs. The brilliant sunset amidst the mountains is an equally beautiful in its unique crimson shades. Photography can be best enjoyed here with enough scenic panoramas to capture in.
Day 5:- Vishansar lake to Gadsar via Gadsar Pass
The trekking trail continues on the fifth day where the destination is decided at Gadsar at 12,000feet after visiting the charming Gadsar Pass at 13,750 feet from the sea level. The next leg of the trek comprises of steep ascent, sharp descends and much of greenery walks. The first stop on the way to Gadsar Pass is the Kishansar Lake which is about 1 and a half kilometres away from the Vishansar Lake campsite. This can either be visited on the day before or on the fifth day while travelling to Gadsar Pass. While visiting the Kishansar Lake and way up to the top of the ridge one can treat the eyes with the magnificent view of the enchanting twin lakes Vishansar and Kishansar. From here it’s a steep climb to Gadsar Pass which is quite challenging specially for the beginner trekkers. However though physically demanding it is not impossible and once reached it is definitely worth the effort. The Gadsar Pass is the highest point of the trek. One can enjoy enchanting views from this location and even spot small lakes in the distance. One of the unique features of Gadsar Pass is that one can find avid bloom of white and red Iris flowers in this region. The descent from Gadsar pass to Gadsar is a gradual journey where it crosses the amazing Gadsar Lake and even the glacier of it. It is one of the most sparkling and charming lakes of the region covered with blue flower beds make it absolutely eye arresting. The trekkers can spend some resting time here and enjoy the beauty of nature at its full extent. After having small refreshment its further a trek of 2 km before the Gadsar campsite is reached. Just before the campsite is reached the trekkers will come across the army campsite where all travellers need to produce their original ID cards for personal identification and authenticity before they are allowed to move in. Once settled in the campsite, all will be provided packed lunch. The rest of the day is off for relaxation. However it is not advisable to go much further from the campsite as one need to take permission from the army authorities to trek further or cross Gadsar. Overnight stay will be at Gadsar campsite before the next adventurous trek, the following day.
Day 6 :- Gadsar to Satsar
The next day of the trek is scheduled for a journey to Satsar which is again based at 12,000 feet only. Having delightful breakfast at the campsite the journey begins for a stretch of 9km which takes about 6 hours to reach the destination. From the campsite the trekkers needs to move towards the stream which is based at an elevation of 10,600 feet. Crossing the stream is the easiest way to move ahead for the next campsite but if the icy cool water of the stream really gives the scare then there remains the option of heading towards the bridge where the climb is a little steeper. After crossing the stream the trekking trail is absolutely impressive with chains of tree line that moves up to the altitude of 11000 feet. One can also view the fascinating collection of mountain flowers if the place is visited during the months of July and August On the way the trekkers may need to again show their ID proof to the authorities at the army camp of Satsar army check post to proceed further. It is the third line of defence for the country. So, necessary permissions should be taken before moving ahead. Moving on from the army camp and walking for another ten minutes will let the trekkers come across the first Satsar Lake. Satsar is a collection of multiple lakes and the place where Satsar twin lakes become visible is known as Mengen Top. Based in the middle of the mountains this beautiful twin lake is a natural beauty that fills the heart with pleasure. However this twin lake of Satsar is based at a distance of 1.3kms from the Satsar campsite so the trekkers can visit the place very well in the afternoon. The Satsar lakes are quite big and stretch over a giant area. Lush greenery borders the banks of the lakes and chilling winds can be experienced in this region during night time. This is one of the most pleasant and thrilling place to camp and enjoy good times with friends and co travellers and share the high and lows of the journey so far. Enthusiasts can also arrange for a campfire before the campsite and enjoy nature music and the fascinating beauty of night sky in the beautiful Kashmir, famed for being heaven on earth. Enjoy open air warm dinner and night stay at the camp site.
Day 7:- Satsar to Gangabal twin lakes via Zaj Pass
The next day trek can be quite tiresome as one need to travel through difficult roads to reach the destination Gangabal twin lakes based at an altitude of 11,750 feet. The journey for the day is a trek of 11kms and takes about 6 hours or more to reach the destination. The pathway for the destination is quite rocky and filled with rugged boulders making it quite difficult to cross the area. The roads go up and down and the trekkers need to do a lot of hoping exercise over the rough boulders. After the rough path comes to an end and the forest line comes in view one can visualize a ridge about 1000meters higher. To reach the top of the ridge one needs to travel through rocky hard terrain which can lower the speed of travelling. Leg aches and foot pain are quite common in this route though the scenic beauty of the lavish mountains amidst pine trees never loses the sight. From the top of the ridge one can enjoy the breathtaking spectacular views of Gangabal Lake along with Nundkol spreading an aura which speaks for its own. The location of the lakes are about 1400 feet below so one should be prepared for a sharp descent to reach the next campsite. Though descending may seem much easier from above, in contrast to the efforts already placed rising to this location, but the actual scenario is not so. Descending the terrain is equally full of hurdles one should extra precaution while climbing down the stony path. This laborious journey ends as the trekker reaches the greenery again after the rocky barren lands. After reaching the base the journey continues through pleasant greenery which rejuvenates the energy again for the rest of the path. On the way to Gangabal, while passing the green meadows the travellers also come across the sight of beautiful Nundkol Lake just below Mt Harmukh. Fascinating view of its glaciers make it more eye arresting for the onlookers. From here it’s a further descend to Gangabal Lake taking the help of the man made bridge which facilitates to reach the starting location of the lake. The much awaited campsite is based here and the trekkers can avail their deserving rest amidst scenic extravaganza that is absolutely unparallel to any tourist destination. For the enthusiast travellers, it’s a perfect location to have some nature walk or enjoy the running waters of lake. Photography is also a good pastime here.
Day 8 :- Gangabal to Naranag Drive to Srinagar
The last day of the trekking trip is scheduled for a sharp descend from 11,500 feet to Naranag at 7,450feet. The journey is quite long of 15kms which needs to be covered in an approximate time of 7 hours. Starting early, the journey continues along the stream and about an hour later one can see the signs of the mobile network being back. While going down one leaves behind the fascinating scenery of gigantic Mount Harmukh and rows of yellow flowers bloomed with passion all through the stretched fields. The region is so filled with flora that there remains always a scare of stepping and ruining the spectacular arena. As the hikers move downwards the traces of inhabitation comes into view in midst the dense pine forests. The terrain here is quite less steep which enables the hikers to move cautiously to avoid any physical harm. For 6 kilometres the gradual descending continues which hardly gives the feeling of coming down from an altitude. But the feeling gets lost in the last 4 kilometres, descending about 3000 feet, where the road suffers a sudden descent making it difficult to combat the irregular and drastic change of difficult roads, climate and altitude.
It is from here that the travellers can visualize the last location of the trip, Naranag though actually the destination is still far. The last lap of the trek again pulls one through stony roads of the Naranag village and finally to the main road. It’s a tiring and demanding trek but surely it is the most serene and blissful journey that provides huge pleasure to every heart. The seven day monsoon trek is always a pleasant memory for every trekker for lifetime.
On reaching Naranag, one can take a cab to Srinagar which is again a drive back of 70kms. If the booking is in advance, TTH will make all the arrangements but will charge for the same. The schedule time to reach Srinagar is 6:30 in the evening but the timing may change in case of road traffic or other unavoidable conditions. However it is safe to book an onward journey after 8pm to be on the safe side. Travellers can also enjoy one more night in the beautiful Kashmir valley by staying back at any hotels in the city and travel anytime the next day enjoying more of the capital city.
How to Reach
By Air :-
Most major air carriers like Indian Airlines (www.indian-airlines.nic.in) Jet airways (www.jetairways.com) and Indigo operate daily flights to Srinagar. Reaching Srinagar by flight from New Delhi is the most convenient way.
By Train :-
Jammu is the nearest railway station to Srinagar, which is at a distance of 290 km. Jammu railway station is well connected to all major cities in India by rail. Direct train services are available from Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore and Trivandrum.
Srinagar is linked by the National Highway 1A to the rest of the country. J & K state road transport operates comfortable buses from Jammu. The Journey takes about 10 hours to reach Srinagar.