At an altitude of 2,130m and about 95-km from Srinagar, Pahalgam is probably the most popular hill resort in the Kashmir valley. Since it is rather lower than Gulmarg the nighttime temperatures do not drop so low and it has the further advantage of the beautiful Lidder river running right through the town. Pahalgam is situated at the junction of the Aru and Sheshnag Rivers and surrounded by soaring, fir-covered mountains with bare, snow-capped peaks rising behind them. The Aru flows down from the Kolahoi glacier beyond Lidderwat while the Sheshnag from glaciers along the great Himalayan.
Around Pahalgam, there are locations which are about a day’s trip away. Some of the popular ones are:-
A small village, 11 kms upstream the Lidder River, is a beautiful locality. The route is picturesque with ample campsites. This village is the starting point for treks to the Kolahoi glacier. This charming meadow can be reached by walking along a mountain path. The river Lidder disappears at Gur Khumb and reappears after 27 mts.
Situated 16-km from Pahalgam, Chandanwari is the starting point of the Amarnath Yatra, which takes place every year in the month of Sawan (Rain). It is famous for snow sledging on a snow bridge. Taxi cabs can be hired from Pahalgam for a roundtrip. The trip takes about four-five hours on a semi-road that has the Lidder river meandering on the one side and lofty, snow-capped mountains on the other. Some people prefer to do a day hike to Chandanwari. At Chandanwari, the Sheeshnag river is captivating with its sheer force and clear waters. You can get an opportunity to do sledge riding and get up to some heights, up to the fifth point which is also a route that yatris take to reach the Amarnath Cave. “Snow fights” is what people generally indulge in here before they sledge back down. Many prefer to sip a cup of tea of snack at the near by dhabas. Hajan, on the way to Chandanwari is an idyllic spot for a picnic. Filmgoers will recognize it instantly as it has been the location of several movie scenes.”Betaab Valley” is the place where they shot the famous scenes from movie Betaab.
Situated 16-km from Pahalgam, Chandanwari is the starting point of the Amarnath Yatra, which takes place every year in the month of Sawan (Rain). The destination is the Amarnath Cave, believed to the abode of Lord Shiva. Although the road from Pahalgam to Chandanwari is on fairly flat terrain, and can be undertaken by car, from Chandanwari onwards the track becomes much steeper, being accessible on foot or by pony. Located 11-km from Chandanwari is the mountain lake of Sheshnag, after which 13-km away is the last stop, Panchtarni. The Amarnath cave is 6-km away from there. During the month of ‘Sawan’, an ice stalagmite forms a natural Shivling (also spelt as Shivlinga), which waxes and wanes with the phases of the moon. The state government makes extensive arrangements every year for the successful completion of the pilgrimage, registering each one of the over one lakh pilgrims, pony owners and Dandi Walas, providing camps en route, and ensuring safe, comfortable and speedy progress of the Yatris. Even if one’s visit to Pahalgam is not during the period of the Yatra, one can still take a pony ride up to Sheshnag Lake, returning late evening.
5 kms from Pahalgam is a lush meadow surrounded by hills and covered with dense vegetation. This region looks very similar to European resorts and is a good campsite. Pine forests dot this meadow which presents a picturesque view of the snow-clad mountains. The snow covered Tulian lake at an altitude of 3353 m is 11kms from Baisaran. The most beautiful of these is the huge, undulating meadow of Baisaran, surrounded by thickly wooded forests of pine.
The lofty plateau, on which the remains of the ancient temple of Martanda stand, overlooks the modern village of Matan, located at its foot.
Only a few km beyond Anantnag, on the Pahalgam road, Mattan is an important Hindu pilgrimage point due to its fish filled springs. A complicated legend relates that the springs were created when Lord Shiva broke open an egg, which had been thrown there, the egg being the reincarnated form of a forgetful boy, who had been cursed by a wandering sage and that’s only half the story! On a plateau above Mattan and 3-km to the south, stands the huge ruined temple of Martand. Built by Lalitaditya Mukhtapida it is the most impressive ancient ruin in Kashmir and beautifully sited. The ruins are 67m by 43m and consist of a portico with a small-detached shrine on both side and a quadrangular courtyard. The courtyard was surrounded by 84 columns – the multiple of the number of days in the week by the number of signs in the zodiac. From here to Pahalgam the road follows the course of the Lidder River, past some good trout fishing stretches.
The road to Pahalgam starts out towards Jammu but later branches off to the east at Anantnag. There are a number of points of interest along this route including several Mughal gardens(Achbal, Kokernag, Verinag) – indeed if one take a bus tour to Pahalgam one’ll be thoroughly saturated with Mughal gardens by the time one arrives.
Pahalgam is one of Kashmir’s popular trout fishing beats. Kashmir is famous for its trout although they tend to be rather small. Additionally, fishing licences are hard to get and rather expensive. A compulsion is to keep a guide and one is also permitted to catch six fishes, which is the daily limit.
Located upward on the Lidder Valley and below Mount Kolahoi, this is a hanging glacier which is now hollowed due to global warming, the Asian brown cloud, and local factors related to the mountain hydrology. The mountaineers of the Jawahar Institute of Mountaineering (JIM) in 2008 have recorded its recede by 50 percent since 1985. Its hollowness and its 200 deep crevasses have imposed dangers on its study. One can still hear the sounds of cracking from either side of the ice field signifying its impending collapse. It is recommend to view it by taking the right side. This trek can make you feel fortunate enough to spot occasional horse or cattle herder and to share their cheese and Kashmiri tea. This adventure of reaching Kolahoi after trekking the Lidder Valley offers some of the most difficult trails in the western Himalaya, but you are truly rewarded for your efforts.