Nestled amidst the Himalayas lies the dreamland of Kashmir Valley. Known for the trekking opportunities that are offered here, people visit the valley to take in nature which forms a blend of limitless beauty, serenity and provides the proof of the reason why it is called the Paradise on Earth.
Within Kashmir Valley lie the Kashmir Great Lakes. While in Jammu and Kashmir is a must-have experience for anyone who loves trekking, the treks in the Kashmir great lakes is the most fantastic on offer. With hints of adventure and fun, it is possible to lose yourself in the world of adventure and focus on the immensity of the experience on offer before you. The rest of the world’s mundaneness is not found here, and it offers an experience that one cannot forget soon. It is beautiful beyond imagination for those who have not laid their eyes on the jewel of the country. The trek to the lakes is such as that of a dream, surrounded by the natural splendour that cannot be compared to anywhere else in the world. The trek to the Kashmir Great Lakes offers an experience that is completely unimaginable and promises a memory for the trekkers to hold close to their hearts for the rest of their lives.
The area is surrounded by a flowery valley, lush green meadows, snow-capped mountains, and some of the best scenery available anywhere in the world. The adventure is worth the experience as it leads you through mountains and paths that seem lost to civilization. The path, which many would think would be tiring would energize you due to the sublime nature in which you are present.
The Himalayan range that extends itself in India provides the Kashmir Great Lakes trekkers with an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness the unparalleled charm of it from close quarters. The trekkers do need to be physically fit as the trek is eight days long and is graded to be of moderate difficulty. However, the charm of the valley, the scintillating views, and the overall experience more than makeup for the hard toil.
Kashmir Great Lakes Trek
The eight-day long trek starts in Sonamarg and ends in Naranag. A three-hour drive will take you to your base camp in Sonamarg from Srinagar, from where you will set off for a long journey ahead of you through thick woods of maples, pines, birches. Sometimes the path will be rough and rocky beneath your feet, sometimes soft and muddy, and sometimes lush green grass of alpine meadows with the abundant blossom of colourful wildflowers will carpet your trail moving forward. You can expect a fair amount of mountainous fountains and streams accompanying you on your walk, some of which you will have to cross at certain points of the trek to stick to the route. Be prepared to dip your twinkle toes into the icy cold water of the crystal-clear rivers and rivulets.
On this trek, you will be visiting seven prominent lakes of Kashmir Valley – Vishansar, Kishansar, Gadsar, Satsar, Yamsar, Gangabal, and Nundkol. There is not much of a steep gradient in the trek that you will need to overcome, with the only difficult ascent being on the fifth day on the way to Gadsar Lake via Gadsar Pass. At 13,700 ft, the top of Gadsar Pass will gift you with an ever-memorable view of the road you have left behind, as well as previously visited Vishansar and Kishansar Lakes. As it is evident from the name of the trek, most of your camping sites will be either on the bank or in the near vicinity of the lakes. While the day’s trek will tire your body and drain your energy, the stunning ambience of the heavenly water bodies at the end of the day will be as rewarding and rejuvenating it can get for the mind. Your trek will end after you come down to Naranag from your campsite near the Gangabal Twin Lakes, from where a drive will take you back to Srinagar.
Best time to Visit
The best time to visit Kashmir Great Lakes is during the months of July and August. During these two months, the temperature is at its highest in the sky at its bluest to allow the trekkers to have the most satisfaction out of it. From after September till April, the region stays covered in thick layers of snow, which makes it quite impossible to walk through, let alone camp at night in that cold. July and August being the peak summer season are the only time Kashmir Great Lakes can be trekked perfectly. The average temperature during this time stays around 17-20°C during the daytime, while at night it can drop to 3-5°C. June and September are the marginal months when treks are still possible, but trekkers must be prepared for sub-zero temperatures after sunset and the possibility of some snow.
In any case, carrying warm clothes and staying prepared for the harshest of climatic conditions would be wise.
Weather round the year
The average temperature in Kashmir ranges from 17-20 degrees Celcius in the daytime, while it can drop to 3-5 degrees Celcius at night. With proper clothing and boots, a trekker can easily overcome the obstacles that the temperature provides. There is however a lot of difference in Mountain temperature, and it can take some time to get acclimatized to such situations. Warm clothes help to take it in. There is usually some rainfall after August that should be avoided.
The highest altitude in the Kashmir Great Lakes trek is at 13,700 feet at the top of Gadsar Pass. You can get to the maximum altitude, but it depends largely on your endurance as well as external factors such as the weather. At that height, the trek opens up to a mesmerizing view of the Valley, one that you would take back from the trip and keep with you forever.
As it is so high, having proper medication is essential to the trek. It helps the body to be medicated as getting used to a different altitude might take some time. The other main thing to remember is to drink a lot of water as hydration is important at such a higher altitude.
Is the trek safe?
The trek is categorized as a moderate trek, so it is largely dependent on the physical fitness of the person in question. If a person is physically fit, then it can be recommended for even first-time trekkers. There are some tricky patches that are slightly more difficult to overcome, but with a well-planned itinerary, they too can be overcome and won’t be too tiring.
For children, the recommended age of the child is above 15 years due to the difficulties encountered.
How to reach Kashmir Great Lakes
To reach the basecamp of the trek which is in Sonamarg, you first have to reach Srinagar. The easiest way to reach Srinagar is by airway since there is no direct bus or rail route from Delhi or anywhere else.
- By Air: There are flights to Srinagar’s Sheikh ul-Alam Airport from almost every major Indian city on a daily basis. From Delhi Airport, there are daily nonstop flights that reach Srinagar within 1 hour 15-30 minutes. The commercial carriers with easily available flights would be Air Asia, SpiceJet, IndiGo, Air India, GoAir and Vistara. This is by far the easiest and fastest way to reach Srinagar from Delhi.
- By Train: The nearest train station to the base camp is in Jammu. It is nearly 300 km away from Srinagar, which has to be covered by car or bus. Jammu itself can be reached from major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, and Chennai via train. There are around 35 trains leaving from New Delhi Railway Station for Jammu Tawi, including Jammu Mail and Delhi-Jammu Rajdhani Express. From Jammu, the distance to Srinagar is 320 km by road, which can be traversed cheapest by the direct State Transport Buses in 7 hours and 15 minutes. However, there are also 35-40 minutes quick flights from Jammu to Srinagar by IndiGo, GoAir, SpiceJet or Air India, which is a much faster alternative.
- By Road: National Highway 1A connects Srinagar with the rest of India. There is no direct bus route between Delhi and Srinagar, and Jammu is the most convenient place to get public transport for Srinagar. But you can hire a car from Delhi if long drives suit you. The fastest route from Delhi to Srinagar is nearly 18-20 hours on an average. It can vary depending on your driving speed and number of pit stops. The most common route goes through Panipat, Karnal, Ambala, Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Pathankot, Jammu, Udhampur, and then to Anantnag via Jawahar Tunnel and finally to Srinagar. Because of the long journey, people usually take a break for the night at Jammu and restart their drive for Srinagar the next morning. The total distance covered is around 900 km. From Srinagar, you will be driven to Sonamarg on the very first day of your trek.
- Region: Pirpanjal Range, Jammu & Kashmir
- Duration: 8 days
- Difficulty Level: Moderate
- Maximum Altitude: 13,700 ft
- Total Distance: 72 kilometres
- Base Camp: Shitakadi in Sonamarg
- Lodging type: Camping in tents
- Starting and End Points: Sonamarg to Naranag
- Nearest airport: Srinagar Airport
- Nearest Rail Station: Jammu
Health and Safety
- For any Himalayan Trek, Ideal BMI for a trekker should be 18.5 to 24.9
- To keep a check of this please calculate BMI here
- Below given Safety checks should be done to get prepared for any Himalayan Trek.
- Balance : As well said a balanced mind and body gives out best in every condition and that too works in Himalayan treks as well.
- Legs Strength : Body and Legs Strength is required to carry body weight as well as the backpack while trekking in uneven multi terrains. Generally, a good strength on legs works out good in any Trek. One can gain legs strength by doing simple Squats.
- Muscle Flexibility : While trekking in Trans Himalayan region with a flexible body one can easily achieve full range of movement and this can be really helpful for trekkers as well as trek leads. A good flexible will be an advantage while walking on trails, climbing and river crossing etc. Flexibility can be achieved by simple stretching, yoga etc.
- Cardiovascular Endurance : Cardiovascular endurance is defined as the ability of lungs and heart to transmit oxygen to the body muscles. All Himalayan treks are basically ascending descending the slopes and for this trekkers should be having a good cardiovascular endurance. Anyone planning for a Himalayan trek can attain this capacity by doing any cardio exercise like running, swimming, cycling etc.