Cradled in the lap of ravishing Himalayas, lies the crowning glory of India, the land of Kashmir, which is proudly denoted as paradise on earth simply for its serene pristine beauty that till date remains unmatched to any location across the globe. The Kashmir Great Lakes in the Kashmir Valley is one of the most sought after trekking destinations as it simply unwraps the mesmerizing beauty of the region filled with sparkling high altitude lakes amidst alpine meadows and beautifully dotted with amazing colorful orchids. Covering a total distance of 72 kms the challenging trail starts from Sonamarg at 7,800 feet and reaches to a maximum elevation of 13,750 feet at Gadsar Pass and then descends back to Naranag at 7,450 feet. The trekking route majorly comprises of mountain walking and is considered as moderate difficulty level trekking which can be done by first time trekkers too. So not only for the adventure seekers, the charismatic Kashmir Great Lakes trek is ideal for the nature lovers who wishes to bask in the charming beauty of lush landscapes, verdant meadows, fresh water lakes and myriad collection of wild flora at the backdrop of stunning peaks.
The Kashmir Great Lakes trek is a trekking journey of 8 days and the trekking is best done during the period of July till September when the meadow track remains filled with blooming flowers and verdant greenery. After this period, touring the valley in the Sonamarg region may not be that pleasant as rains and snow may hit anytime as change of weather is pretty much unpredictable in the high altitude regions. The temperature in Kashmir Valley in July stays from 15C to 20C and in the night drops to a minimum of 1C. But if the trek is done in September, the weather can be cooler with day time temperature hovering between 15C to 10C whereas in the night it may fall to a minimum of -3C. It is one of the best monsoon treks of the country.
The beautiful Kashmir Great Lakes trek is a pulsating escape from the hustle bustle of the city life and it enables the travelers to explore some of the sacred, untouched and blissful vision of undisturbed nature. The trek requires a minimum fitness level though advance knowledge of trekking is not mandatory. Any person above 14 years of age is eligible to participate in the hiking though the maximum age is depended on the fitness level of the individual. Although the trekking trail crosses through meadows and passes there are some steep ascents and sharp descents which makes it challenging for the inexperienced trekkers.
Great Lakes trek is a high altitude trekking in Kashmir and risk pertaining to the altitude is always there which should be noted specially by the beginner trekkers. One of the most common problems faced is Acute Mountain Sickness where a hiker may feel nausea, headache and uneasiness in the body. However this is usually a temporary problem and can be solved with correct measures. Also the air in the high altitude gets lighten and with decreased air pressure there remains possibility of breathlessness and dizziness. However if the fitness standards are maintained the trek can be done without any major health issues.
About the trek
Going by the name itself, this particular trekking expedition is a journey showcasing amazing views of some of the fascinating lakes in the Himalayan Kashmir region. Initiating from Sonamarg the trekking route passes through several waterways like Gadsar, Kishansar, Vishnasar, Satsar, Gangabal, Nundkol Lakes along with some unknown smaller lakes too which happens to only accentuate the beauty of the roads. The trekking trail concludes at the Naranag village and all through it guarantees a pleasant experience that remains imprinted in the minds of hikers forever. Sonamarg is based at an altitude of 7,800 feet at a distance of about 3 hours drive from Srinagar. The first campsite is based near Sindh River in Shitkadi Village and here only one can fetch a hint of all the wonderful things that can be enjoyed by the trekkers in this trip. Passing through thick forest of maple trees it’s a wonderful journey enjoying the pictorial beauty of Kashmir valleys. The next day the trek continues to Nichnai which is based at an elevation of 11,500 feet and covers a distance of 11kms. Enjoying the mesmerizing view of verdant Sonamarg Valley one passes through Thajiwas Glacier which is one major attractions of this region. Silver birch trees and thick maple forest all provides a refreshing and rejuvenating feel that energizes the mind and body to continue further and explore more, the beauty of nature.
From Nichnai at 11,750 feet, the next destination is Nichnai Pass which is nestled at an elevation of 13,100 feet and from there it’s a descent to Vishansar Lake at an altitude of 12,000 feet. The total trek for the day is a cover of 12kms and takes about 7 hours to complete the whole journey. The campsite for the third day would be at the banks of Vishansar Lake where one can plenty of activities at the backdrop of scenic extravaganza. In July however sometimes the lake turns frozen but otherwise its apt for fishing. The next destination is Gadsar Pass at an altitude of 13,750 feet which is the highest point of the trek. The trail can be quite challenging with steep ascents, winding roads and sharp turns. The trail passes through Gadsar Lake on its way and can savor the beauty of Gadsar Glacier. From Gadsar it’s again a 9kms trek to Satsar where one can enjoy the sight colorful wild flowers marking the way with amazing and unique fragrance. The sight of Satsar Twin Lakes is truly beautiful here. From here it’s a trek of 11kms to reach Gangabal twin Lakes via Zaj Pass. It’s a rocky terrain of an hour to Zaj Pass from where one can enjoy the awe striking views of Lakes, Mt Harmukh and the glacier. The day ends after visiting the Gangbal Lake and camping on the banks of Nandkol. The last day of the trip is a sharp descent from 11,500 feet to 7,450 feet to Naranag crosses stretches of deep pine forests. From Naranag it’s a drive back to Srinagar for an onward journey. In a whole it’s a physically demanding and laborious trek but with the treasure of the pristine beauty it is effort worth taken in every sense.