It is apt to confess that you might struggle to find words while describing the beauty of Pahalgam, in Kashmir’s Anantnag district. This small tourist town is surrounded by snow clad mountains, crisp conifer forests, cool blue mountain lakes and green meadows. It is no wonder than that Pahalgam is a crown jewel of Kashmir tourism. Situated at a height of 2200 meters above sea level, Pahalgam is India’s answer to the Swiss Alps!
Here nature is abundant with beauty and silver lined by the diversity of its flora and fauna. The town has something for every travelers and most tourists visiting Srinagar decide to check out Pahalgam during their stay in Kashmir. There are of course great sightseeing scopes, but you can also enjoy adventure activities such as river rafting, fishing, golfing, temple hopping or trekking. So, let us start the exploration of Pahalgam, J&K tourism’s must visit attraction and a must add destination when you are in Srinagar.
How to reach Pahalgam?
The best way to reach this wonderland would be hiring a cab from Srinagar. The journey between Srinagar to Pahalgam would take about two and a half hours, but you will not be bored for a second. Such is the beauty of the roads!
Places to visit in Pahalgam
#1: Aru Valley
This beguiling village in Kashmir, lies on the shores of the Aru River, and is 12 KM away from Pahalgam. Situated on the foothills of the Himalayas, you can get majestic views of the snow covered Himalayan peaks from most parts of the Aru Valley. Filled with lush pine and conifer forests that are interrupted by the beautiful meadows; Aru Valley is indeed blessed with heavenly beauty. To amplify the beauty of this village further, there are beautiful glacial lakes surrounding it. The people here are no less loving. They will win your hearts with their warm hospitality. They will be generous in offering you a warm cup of Kahwah (Kashmiri version for tea). Spend some time talking to the locals and you will have many hilly tales to carry back home!
Like other reputed Kashmir tourist places, there are different activities that tourists can engage in based on the time of their visit. During the summers, you can take walks, horse rides or treks up to higher altitudes by treading across portrait perfect landscape. While in winters, the valley adorns a thick covering of snow, making it a skiing paradise. A single visit to Aru Valley is often not enough to soak in the beauty of this valley!
- Tip: Camping in Aru Valley is a great experience, so you might want to take a day’s off from your Pahalgam and spend a night under the stars!
#2: Betaab Valley
This photogenic valley has a special connect with the Bollywood. Earlier the valley was known as Hagoon, but after 1983 it derived its name from the Bollywood blockbuster – Betaab! Numerous memorable movies have been shot at this beautiful valley. There is a “Bobby Hut” where Bollywood classic Bobby was shot.
The Lidder River flows silently past the Betaab Valley. The valley is also decorated with lush meadows, pine and Deodar forests. During the Amarnath Yatra, Betaab Valley becomes a camping site for the pilgrims. But in other times of the year, you can find the tourists selecting picturesque locations to set their camps. The merits of camping in Betaab Valley are many. You would be woken by the chirping of birds, venture out of the camp and you would have a feast for eyes ready outside. If you are a photography enthusiast, you are bound to have sore fingers just by capturing the beauty of Betaab Valley. There are beauties in every nook and corner of this picture perfect valley! If you want to flex your muscles, trek or walk up to the higher altitudes amidst beautiful settings.
- Tip: Ask the locals or guides and they will conduct a complete Bollywood tour of Betaab Valley. Here every corner seems to have featured in some Bollywood blockbuster or the other.
#3: Kolahoi Glacier
Kolahoi Glacier is a must visit if you are touring Pahalgam during the summers (till October). This glacier is known as the “Goddess of Light” by locals, this glacier is the prime source of water to major rivers Jhelum and Lidder. But to reach this valley you have to trek from Aru Valley. Though this a difficult trekking route, but the tiredness is overcome by the beauty. You trek past the green meadows, move past the banks of Lidder River, through the remote hamlets and beautiful coniferous forests to reach the Kolahoi Peak (situated at an elevation of 5425 meters). On the North flank of this peak lies the 5 KM long Kolahoi Glacier. If miles of walk are not your cup of tea, then you can complete a part of the journey on pony back.
- Beware: The Kolahoi Glacier is in a fragile state due to Global Warming. Trying to get too close to the glacier is not safe. Watch and admire the beauty of this glacier from a distance.
#4: Lidder River
If you like fishing or simply viewing the splendors of nature than you should definitely visit the banks of Lidder River. The river gets its water from the Kolahoi Glacier and curves its way past Pahalgam. The banks of this river are filled with lush green forests and meadows. You can either carry a basket full of goodies and sit with your loved ones to spend some quality time or if that looks too boring then there are other scopes. You can hone your angling skills sitting on the banks of this river. And Lidder River will not disappoint you as it has a population of fishes like Brown trout, Rainbow trout, Shuddgurn, etc.
Seeking some more adrenaline rushing moments? Well, you can go white river rafting along the Lidder River. When the sun is about to set take a leisurely stroll along the banks of the river and experience the tranquility far away from chaotic city lives.
- Tip: If you want to fish in Lidder River do care to bring your own angling equipment.
#5: Chandanwari Valley
Chandanwari is a 15 KM ride from Pahalgam, and what a journey it is! The route takes you past Old Pahalgam town filled with well decorated traditional Kashmiri houses. Lidder River remains as your constant companion, on the right hand side, as your cab bends and turns through the hilly roads. Though the journey takes about 4-5 hours, but you will not feel a pinch! On the way ahead you will come across the idyllic town of Hajan. As you scale upwards you reach Chandanwari.
This place is well known as the starting point of the popular Amarnath Yatra and gets buzzing with pilgrims between the months of July-August. While at Chandanwari, do hike up to Sheeshnag River. The sheer force and clarity of the waters here will leave you awestruck. Also visit the sacred Amarnath Caves, which believed to be the residing place for Lord Shiva and his consort is Goddess Parvati. The specialty of this cave is the presence of an ice Shiva lingam (ice stalagmite). Once you have taken the divine blessings it is time to enjoy on the ice. At the end of the Chandanwari Market, there is a big ice glacier which usually has a thick ice covering. Skating on the local made sledges is a popular (and must do) activity here.
- Tip: As a trip to Chandanwari would require a fair bit of trekking and walking, you should keep a backpack with all the basic needs as well as wear comfortable shoes made for tough terrains.
#6: Pahalgam Golf Course
This nine-hole golf is not only meant for the Golfing enthusiasts but nature lovers as well. Situated at an altitude of 2400m above sea level, it called ‘Plateau’ by the locals here. Pahalgam Golf Course is decorated with giant pine trees and views of snow covered peaks. Keeping your concentration high can be a tough ask for the players, as there are so many beautiful distractions all around!
- Timings: 9 AM – 8 PM
- Entry fee: INR 1200 per person.
- Tip: There is no need to carry your own golfing equipment. Equipment are readily available for rent at this course.
If you want the best mountain views, experience on the ice and photogenic experience then Pahalgam is your go to destination.