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There are some treks that tests your endurance and then there are some that are beautiful from the top, but Tarsar Marsar Trek is the whole other level of trekking altogether. A beautiful and fulfilling moderately difficult trek in Kashmir, Tarsar Marsar Lake trek where you get to trek next to some of the most beautiful alpine lakes and also camp aside two of them that is Tarsar and Sundarsar Lake. Trekking in Kashmir is very different from trekking anywhere else in India.
No only you get to camp along the lakes but also trek to Marsar, which is known as one of the most elusive lakes in Kashmir. Camping just beside the flat, grassy grounds with an endless view of such beauty makes the trekking experience in Kashmir special as such beautiful settings do not exist anywhere else in India.
The beauty of this trek is just not restricted to the lakes as the meadows of Kashmir are something to look out for as well. Each passing day in your trek would greet you with such exquisite meadows that you would not want this journey to end ever. The woods, clearings and forests surrounding these meadows would make them alive even more and when you get to move from one meadow to another through a patch of forest, it could not get any better.
Region :- Kashmir
Max Altitude :- 13500 Ft.
Approx Trekking Km :- 33 Km.
Day 1 :-Arrive at Srinagar. Depart Srinagar by 2 pm and drive to Aru base camp (4 hrs)
Day 2 :- Aru to Lidderwat (9.5 km, 6 hours)
Day 3 :-Lidderwat to Shekwas (5.6 km, 5 hours)
Day 4 :- Shekwas to Tarsar and explore Tarsar (5 km, 4 hours)
Day 5 :- Tarsar to Sundarsar (5 km, 5 hours)
Day 6 :- Sundarsar to Marsar and back and then Sonmasti ( 7.5 km, 6 hours)
Day 7 :- Sonmasti to Sumbal. Drive to Srinagar and reach by 5 pm.
Day 1: Arrive at Srinagar. Depart Srinagar by 2 pm and drive to Aru base camp
Srinagar is the capital city of Jammu Kashmir and is also one of the most gorgeous cities of the country. The trek commences in the afternoon; we can arrive early in the morning at Srinagar so as to get a chance to peek at the city. Srinagar lies on the banks of the Jhelum River and is famous for ancient artefacts and house boats, also known as Shikara. We can always take a detour to this city before we start for the Trek.
The first destination of the day 1 is Aru base camp. There is no proper gravel road to the Aru base camp from Srinagar. Hence, we would have to enroot via Pahalgam. Pahalgam is a notified tourist place of Anantnag. It is quite a famous sight for shooting bollywood films.
The distance between Srinagar and Pahalgam is 100 kms and it is advisable to cover the area by vehicle rather than by walk. It will take 3 hours or so to reach Pahalgam by car. We should start our journey to Aru Camp from Srinagar at around 2 PM so that we can reach before night fall and camp at peace. Srinagar has two routes to Pahalgam, one through Anantnag and other through Bijbehra. We would be proceeding through the Bijbehra trail because we would experience stunning sceneries of Rural Kashmir, a series of amazing apple orchards, walnut and apricot trees on that route.
Aru would take another hour and a half from Pahalgam covering a distance of 12 kms. The place is laid across the River Lidder and words might fall short when it comes to describing this cute little of a place which lives up to its name. An array of 200 asbestos roofed huts lined perfectly well amidst the lush green meadows, adjacent to the spectacular Lidder, is a sight worth viewing.
Aru is the first place to board for the night. We would not set camps here but rather board cottages as there are plenty available at Aru.
Day 2: Aru to Lidderwat (7998 ft. – 9124 ft.)
Today, we would be covering a distance of 9 – 10 kms in approximately 5 – 6 hours. The trail on way is a pleasant one, with easy uphill ascent. We will have to follow the trail alongside the River Lidder initially, which directly connect to the village up hill. From the village, the road will follow the agricultural departmental fence offering us a sophisticated and clear view of Aru behind
The trail will lead we in to a cluster of Fir trees and thence to a large clearing, Dalla near to Gujjar huts. From Dalla, the trail is just a nice, pleasant walk on plain ground through dense pine forest. Twenty minutes into the forest, we would reach a wide fork signalling diversion to Nandkei. Nandkei is a shelter place of Gujjar huts, across the river Lidder. The same trail will continue, the forest evanescing behind and pretty little Gujjar huts and families in the view ahead. They are friendly people on horsebacks taking care of their everyday chores.
From there, the trail picks up an ascent gently. Half an hour later, we will come to two diverging clear streams, safe for drinking. Lidderwat, from here is another hour walk. We have to cross a wooden bridge over the second stream and enter into another pine trees forest. At the pine trees junction the trail upwards and intersects with the River side and the Valley bottom, a magnificent scenery.
From here, across the River side the track bends forwards and runs into a gorgeous fir forest. It will take another half an hour to clear this forest and run into another fir forest. When we finish the second section of Fir Forest line, the trail will finally reach to the lush green meadows of Lidderwat. It would take approx ten minutes for this. Gujjar huts strewn around the place will signal we the entrance of Lidderwat.
We can either camp at the stream side on the meadow or lodge at PDAs (Pahalgam District Authority) buildings. The effect of this trek would be more adventurous if we camp by the stream under the heavenly starlit sky, and that's what we would be doing. Lodging is not so much fun.
There are lot of eateries provided by the PDA caretakers that we can cherish and buy. We can rest for the night or take a long walk along the river side and then come back to the camp.
Day 3: Lidderwat to Shekiwas (9124 ft. To 10699 ft)
Today, we would cover a distance of 6 – 7 kms in approximately 5 hours. We would be doing a lot of ascending and then crossing a river in between and some connecting plain terrains. On day three, the trial starts from PDA huts in line with the river Lidder and takes us to a pine forest.
The track is in straight line, without much difficulty. After sometime, the pine cluster will open up to wide sweeping grassland intersecting towering mountains, creating a cosy valley, adorned with snow patches here and there. The trail diverts into many small valleys and converges upwards toward the Bhakarwal Shelters by the right side of the river.
The trail has many clear streams running along, a good spot to refill water bottles. From here, descend to the river bed and cross the river by hopping over few boulders and then crossing a make shift bridge. We will reach the clearing of Hamvas by following the river side half an hour later.
We shall take short break at the Gujjar huts there where tea and delicious savouries are offered. The pathway here is pleasant one; plain grassland, a beautiful comfort to the strenuous journey. The next la is in the south western direction, following a narrow valley and connecting to a river.
After this, the ascent is little steeper and as we gain altitude, by the hour, we will enter a forest of silver birch also known as Bhoj trees. These trees are considered very old in the region. And well, what can be said about the view; needless to say, it is as usual captivating that will warm wer eyes.
The Shekiwas is an undulating meadow land, reached by meandering paths crossing two green valleys and surrounded by dark snow patched mountains. This is one of the best camping sites of the Tarsar Marsar trek. We ought to have a relaxed night after the stressful hard climb to Shekwas.
Day 4: Shekiwas to Tarsar (10699 ft to 12398 ft.)
Today, we would be ascending a distance of 5 kms which would take to complete in 5 hours. The day starts from Shekhiwas Meadow and trails through snake like path in the grassland for quite some time before it reaches Sumbal leading we through a valley. Here, the path to Tarsar takes us on a ridge on top of the stream.
Two hours later, after crossing some spectacular views from different ridges in line with the western trail, we will finally arrive at a conical hill top that might guide to get a glimpse of the pretty Tarsar, the beautiful almond shaped lake. The adrenalin rush walk to reach the lake starts from here; first we would cross the stream with the help of fastened rocks and boulders and then finally on the grassland of Tarsar, the campsite of the day 4. We would find a lot of flat lands to camp by the lake side.
This is going to be our best experience on the trek. Nature can actually be magical and we will realize this at night when the lake turns into a magnificent shade of turquoise blue glistening like precious stones in the lap of snow covered mountains. That is going to be worthy of all the long hiking and walking we have done in the previous days.
Day 5: Tarsar to Sundaresar, Visit to Marsar (optional) (12398 ft. to 12998 ft.)
On day 5, we would be crossing the Tarsar pass elevated at 13, 497 ft. The distance we would cover today is 5 km and in 5 – 6 hours. The trail on day 5 will be steep ascent at the beginning, followed by a steady descent and then again an easy and gentle ascent.
A sensible way to see the Marsar Lake is to climb one of the ridges or passes on the way and get a full view of the lake. We can find the trail to the ridge on the farther corner of the Tarsar camp side. The Marsar Lake is a closed lake with rocky ground, definitely not suitable for climbing. Although as big as Tarsar, the view is not as presentable and it has only one opening which is lead by narrow streams.
The local people have horrendous and horrifying stories of how the Marsar swallows up animals and trekkers at night; therefore, the place is prohibited for camping.
To view Marsar Lake, we would take three hours to reach and getting back would take another three hours. We would camp again at Tarsar Camp site, regaling the same fresh experience.
However, sticking to our plan, we have to follow a shepherd trail that would lead us to the pass from the shelter, directly above us. Albeit being the path difficult, we will feel glorious when we see the stunning view of Tarsar before us, radiantly glowing and smiling at us. And we should not miss the outlook which is yet another attraction and a terrific sight to succumb into. We can see the depths of grass land stretching in the form of Valleys, a terrific view in par to the outstanding vision of the lake.
We have to descend down to the valley, taking the shepherd's trail and reach the bottom of the valley and thence catch up the trail that goes along the stream. 10 minutes later we would spot few Bakkarwaal Shelters to our left. The trail climbs over a short stretch of boulders to tap a knoll behind the shelter.
We should hold our breath to witness the sight that will enfold in front of us – vast expanse of meadow, strewn with pretty flowers; widening valleys of grasslands and what more, grazing on them many sheep peacefully and beautiful horses swaying to the rhythm of the breeze munching on the green grasses.
The stream flows and is fed in to a pond which is formed by accumulated melted snow from nearby mountains, also rendering a beautiful view. The trail is never a boring one from here as nature gives we reason after reason to submerge into its nourishment. The sight becomes better by the hour – green meadows, artistically laid boulders in the stream (a natures magic, again). Once we cross the stream, we will take another 15 minutes to reach the base of the ridge that separates the meadow d the valley. We will have to climb the ridge for which the trail is narrow boulder lined valley.
The view is again a delight to the poets' inspiration. One cannot fathom through words. The trail from the ridge leads us to the path into the folds of the mountains to our left. The mountains are covered with pristine snow on either sides of the trail.
Follow the trail for another 10 – 15 minutes and soon thereafter it will take us to grassy patch land exactly near to the shores of the Sundarsar Lake.
The Sundarsar lake although not as large as Tarsar, but nevertheless gives we a pretty view of nature's grace on human. The lake is surrounded by a meadow crowned by delighting yellow, white and blue flowers giving the place an eye capturing view. The camp site is to our right after the flower bed.
Spend the night amidst the scented flowers and rest at bliss.
Day 6: Sundarsar to Marsar and back to Sonmasti (12, 800 ft to 13, 170 ft)
Distance and time taken to complete this lag of the trek is 7 to 8 km and 5 – 6 hours. Marsar Lake is at the height of 11, 000 ft. On day 6 the pathway would be a steady ascent till Marsar and from there the journey is just descending back to the base camp.
The trek Starts from farther right side of the Sundarsan Lake. Two paths lead to the Marsar Lake, both passes and it is advised to choose the Boulder Laden track to reach quicker. It will take half an hour to reach the pass, which is a vast stretch of grassland, occasionally graced by thin brooks.
We have to keep going left until we arrive at a ridge; climb on top of the ridge to observe the stunning Marsar lake, just exactly 600 – 700 ft below. The beauty of Marsar is, it is hidden, as though it is being protected by cottony floating clouds and dollops of mists and surrounded by snow covered mountains. To the right, we can see the valley leading to the Dachigam National Park.
Follow the same route way back and in another hour maximum, we would reach sundarsar again.
Now, from Sundarsar stick to the left track and enter into a beautiful valley of multicoloured flowers. Cross the bed of flowers and head towards to a ridge on our left, this is also an open valley. Keep going to a diagonally right corner of the ridge until we reach the edge of the ridge.
Take in the view and observe every little detail we see here as this is just going to be amazing. Just ahead, below, we would be able to see the Sonmasti Valley and many Gujjar huts at the end. The Sonamsti valley is a steep 2000 ft down fall over a series of grassy ledges, wherein each ledge has small streams being fed by the melted snows. These streams get accumulated in to a pond before falling off the cliff into a serene water fall. The trail from here goes downwards from the valley towards the ledges. The first ledge has a pond with a kidney shaped island; we would see few horses grazing nearby. Cross the pond; the trail after this is a huge drop to the second ledge. (700 ft drop)
The route here is a steep descent on snow patches. Sure foot is must here. The ledge is a beautiful picture, grassy land with narrow waterfalls running on three sides of the cliff. We would find a water pond also and lots of grassy patches, a perfect place to take a short break and enjoy the scenic charisma.
Cross the streams and continue towards the left side, until we find the streams flowing into a water fall that looks exactly like milk seeping down the cliff. Getting down to the Sonmasti Valley is quite a terrific experience.
Getting to the bottom on the valley will hardly take half an hour to the max. The sight here is a never-ending array of pleasure to the eyes. The stream gets bigger and wider running into the Sonmasti River, connecting with which many shorter streams, locally known as Chasma. We would find lot of flater grounds as large as football field at every 10 minutes junction.
40 minutes from here we will enter the Sonmasti camping ground but do not stop until we reach the Gujjar huts at the end of the valley. The scene is picturesque, with the vast valley below and the stunning water falls behind. Sonmasti is the prettiest camping site ever.
Day 7: Sonmasti to Sumbal; Drive to Srinagar
This day will be the last leg of the trek. We would drop down to 6, 500 ft. First descent to Sumbal from Sonmasti and thence a drive to Srinagar so as to reach before dusk at around 5 pm! The descent to Sumbal is a lengthy one, therefore an early start will be much preferred. It would take around 5 hours to Sumbal.
First part is to cross the River Sonmasti; as there no bridge, we would have to hop over boulders and skip on rocks to reach the other side of the bank. The Stream gets bigger and larger by the minute and hence a sure calculation on the crossing is much advised.
The trail after crossing will turn into grazing pasture and gujjar huts from where the road would take us through a pine forest. The forest does not last long and yet again we will be met with another flowing stream which we have to cross using boulders. Across the stream the descent is steady quite steep, losing altitude rapidly.
Again we will enter another set of forests, but this time it would be of pine, maple and oak trees. After the forest line the descending path would be towards a ridge and down from there. The ridge descends to a stream yet again which can be crossed with a log bridge.
We will observe multitude of streams, long, crystal blue and getting connected to the Sonmasti river. From here, on the trail, as we get near to the local place, we would find lots of gujjar house, shops etc. A long line of gujjar huts will signal we a turn in the trek leading to the same route we had used to climb up. Take the left trail that continues upward towards sumbal and then again descend down to the river crossing which with a wooden bridge, will take we to a cluster of gujjar houses, streams and large pastures.
Finally, after crossing another bridge, we will be able to view Srinagar- Leh Highway at a distance. The track rapidly descends and ends to an irrigational canal signalling Sumbal village ahead. However, it will take another 30 minutes to the village by crossing another lap of Sonmasti river stream. Finally, a long walk through the pretty village will gesture the end of this amazing trekking expedition of flowers, Lakes, greeneries and lots of exclusive memories.
The sumbal village is a picture of apple orchards, willow and poplar trees. The mud roads of the village finally will take we to the main highway which is connected by the Sindh River side, indicating the Tarsar Marsar trek end.
Srinagar is four km away from the village and we shall hire a car from the highway to get back to the city. We can also pre book vehicles from Sumbal village. In either case vehicles are not difficult to board. Enjoy a rest at Srinagar, and then get going to the world we had come from. Trekking is one of the most pleasurable sports we can take in..
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.
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.