Pahalgam, also known as the valley of shepherds, is located on the banks of river Lidder at an altitude of 7,200 ft. above sea level in the state of Jammu & Kashmir. The only way to reach this town is via road or rail. The closest airport to Pahalgam is at Srinagar, which is around 96 kms away (approx. 3 hrs drive). Various private and public (run by Jammu & Kashmir State Road Transport Corporation) buses and taxis are available to reach this town from Srinagar. The closest railway station is at Jammu Tawi, Jammu. The train covers a distance of approx. 275 kms, close to an eight hour journey.
If you have always dreamt of visiting Jammu & Kashmir, then this beautiful, world renowned hill station full of cedar and pine trees, surrounded by soaring bare or snow capped mountains, away from all the chaos, is a must-visit to exhilarate your senses. An all time favorite location of movie makers, from Bobby (1973) to Rockstar (2011), Indian cinema has captured its beauty over decades and mesmerized the viewers, tempting them to pack their bags and travel to one of the most therapeutic places for mind, body and soul. Like one of the tourism agencies say, “Come to this place and see what wonders solitude can do for you”. Its serenity works like a charm.
Best time to visit the valley is from March to November when the weather remains cool and pleasant with scanty rainfall. There’s no snowfall in this period, but snow can still be found at high altitudes. Apart from the fresh intoxicating air, the places to see are a mind-balm. The way to Chandanwari, a 16 km drive from Pahalgam, is one such journey of breath taking view. This place is the starting point of the famous Amarnath yatra where every year in the months of July to August, thousands of pilgrims come to offer their prayers at the holy cave. Most of the tourists, who come to Pahalgam, always drive towards Chandanwari for the beauty of its path. The pine covered, snow capped mountains on one side of the road and Lidder River flowing on the other side makes you forget everything. A long drive set in the backdrop of gorgeous hills cannot be more enchanting. At Chandanwari, people either enjoy the view drinking tea or by snow sledging, and return back feeling completely joyous and at peace.
On the way to Chandanwari, there’s another spot, one that comes earlier, called Hajan valley and was later renamed as Betaab valley because of the movie with the same name that was shot there. It is at a walk-able distance from Pahalgam and is a delight to witness because of the combination of trees, mountains and the rhythmic sound of the river that follows you around like a hauntingly beautiful song.
When in the valley, one must try the delicious Kashmiri cuisine – a simple meal or wazwan, a multi course meal in which most of the dishes are made from meat. For non- vegetarians, a variety of finger licking choices are available like Rogan josh (lamb cooked in spicy red gravy), Yakhni (lamb cooked in curd based gravy), Goshtaba (extra-minced meat balls cooked in creamy sauce) etc. Vegetarians can gorge on Dum Aloo, Rajma chawal and mixed vegetables. The whole cuisine would remain incomplete without tasting the refreshing Kahwah, a green tea made with saffron, spices and almonds or walnuts.
Pahalgam can be considered as the base camp for many adventurous trekking expeditions. One such trek is to Aru valley. It is a small charming village, 11 kms away from the town. Although people can travel by taxi or pony, but to enjoy the scenic beauty of the valley, it is recommended to avoid these modes of transportation and explore the place by walking along a mountain path. Enthusiasts can also travel further towards Lidderwat, a lovely camping site amidst dense forests (11 kms from Aru), take rest and then trek towards Kolohoi glaciers (36 kms, 3400 meters altitude) for the magnificent view of nature. Another trek from Lidderwat is towards the Tarsar & Marsar twin lakes, which are amazing high altitude river bodies that refresh the sight and makes the long trek, worthwhile.
Another attraction is the Tulian Lake that remains frozen most of the time at an altitude of 3,353 meters above sea level. Picture a beautiful, frozen lake situated at a very high altitude, surrounded by mountains (some of them snow capped) and you can understand how great it will be to be there and feel the air. To add to the whole excitement, one can travel by a pony and reach its destiny i.e. pure bliss.
There are a lot of other meadows and trekking options apart from the ones that are mentioned, but what remains the same is the feeling that takes your breath away at every single moment, and lingers for a long time in your mind as the picturesque poetry one must see at least once in a lifetime. A tourist may leave Pahalgam but the effect of nature, at its virgin form, will linger on his senses stay forever.
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