Sonmarg – land of glacier and golden meadows

Sonmarg is one of the most popular and sought after tourist destinations of Kashmir. Sonmarg, literally meaning “meadow of gold’ is an alpine valley nestled within the imposing peaks of the mighty Himalayas. Breathtaking glaciers, serene lakes, snow covered beautiful flower-laden meadow and the majestic Himalaya are some of the snapshots that best describes Sonmarg. Adventure lovers adore Sonmarg for it offers tourists with activities like trekking, sledging, angling, alpine skiing, white water rafting and that to at an altitude of 3000 meters!

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View of Snow covered peaks of Sonmarg

Where is Sonmarg?

Sonmarg is at the base of Zojilla Pass at a distance of about 87 Km north-east of Srinagar. It lies on the road (NH 1D) that connects Leh and Srinagar.

About Sonmarg

Situated at an altitude of approximately 2800 m above sea level, Sonmarg is indeed a paradise for tourists. Though Sonmarg is not an all season tourist destination as it remains closed during winter months due to heavy snowfall, yet this small paradise of Kashmir attracts tourists from all over the globe because of its majestic and serene beauty. This high altitude alpine meadow, apart from being renowned for trekking and hiking trails, is also visited by tourists to witness the serene beauty of nature.

Situated on the bank of Nallah Sindh, the largest tributary of the Jhelum River, Sonmarg is in close proximity of the two great Himalayan glaciers of Kashmir Valley namely Kolhoi Glacier and Machoi Glacier. Often known as the gateway to Leh and Ladakh, this beautiful hill resort remains covered with snow almost throughout the year. Sonmarg is also the base camp for pilgrims who can reach the holy cave of Amarnath in just one day trekking.

Sonmarg remains inaccessible during winter months from December to April due to heavy snowfall and avalanches. NH 1D, the highway that connects Srinagar and Sonmarg is being closed in December every year; the local traffic is permitted only up to Gagangear village, which is the last permanent settlement of this area. Only the Choppers of Indian Army lands at Sonmarg during winter carrying essentials for the army personnel, who are the only people who stay at Sonmarg during these harsh weather conditions. After Kargil war, Sonmarg have seen heavy deployment of Indian army.

Sonmarg Sightseeing

Most of the tourists visit Sonmarg on a day visit from Srinagar or while going to Leh from Srinagar or from Srinagar to Leh. For tourists who make a day tour of Sonmarg, mostly hire Ponies for the trip up to Thajiwas glacier a major attraction during the summer months. A close by excursion is to Baltal, 15 km north of Sonmarg, a little valley at the foot of the Zojilla Pass.

But tourists who prefer to stay at Sonmarg, there are quite a few sightseeing spots that are unique in their natural beauty. Sonmarg is indeed a trekker’s paradise as it is the starting point of several trekking routes leading to the Himalayan lakes of Vishansar Lake, Krishansar Lake, Gangabal Lake and Gadsar Lake.
Some of the most prominent sightseeing attraction of Sonmarg are discussed below:

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Famous Thajiwas glacier of Sonmarg

Thajiwas Glacier

Just about 3 Km from the Taxi stand of Sonmarg lies the most popular sightseeing spot of Sonmarg, the Thajiwas glacier. To reach this glacier, tourists need to hire pony, but if you are trekker or love to trek, you can also opt for trekking. Located at an altitude of about 3000 m above sea level, Thajiwas remains covered with snow almost all the year round. It is also the place where tourists can experience sledge ride.

Nilagrad

Located at a distance of about 6 Km from Sonmarg, Nilagrad is another popular sightseeing destination for tourists visiting Sonmarg and for locals as well. It is the place of confluence of a mountain river and river Indus. The amazing thing about this place is that the water of the river here is of pure red colour, which makes for a colourful sight. It is believed that water has a curative power and specially cures skin ailments. On Sundays people from distance places gathers here to take a dip in the water.tourists can experience sledge ride.

Zojila Pass

Another important sightseeing destination from Sonmarg, is Zojila Pass at a distance of about 9 Km from the taxi stand of Sonmarg. It runs at an elevation of approximately 3,528 metres above sea level, and is the second highest pass after Fotu La on the Srinagar-Leh National Highway. The pass links a basin of Kashmir with Ladakh and receives heavy snowfall during winter months. Considered as one the most dangerous passes in the entire Kashmir Valley, Zojila witnesses violent breezes because of its conical shape and severe snowfall.

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Important Zojila pass near Sonmarg connects Leh with rest of the country

Almost throughout the year, the place remains covered with snow and hence attracts tourists from round the country. The place remains enclosed by the Drass Valley, snow-capped peaks, Valley of Kashmir and dense forests.

For a virtual experience of a journey through Zojila Pass, click HERE.

Visansar Lake

This high altitude alpine lake with clear water having a maximum length of 1 Km and maximum width of 0.6 Km is another popular tourist attraction of Sonmarg. The crystal clear water of the lake with ice flakes all through creates an appealing view. The water of the lake freezes during winter. During the summer season, the lake is surrounded by green lush meadows, creating a beautiful view of the lake and its surroundings.

The gorgeous views of this scenic eye catching lake can be experienced from Nichnai Pass. Trekking freaks can get into their trek to this lake from Sonmarg. To reach Vishansar Lake by road, tourists can take NH 1D till Shitkadi Village from where ponies can be hired for covering another 20 km.

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Twin lake of Vishansar and Krishansar near Sonmarg

Krishnasar Lake

This beautiful high altitude lake is very close to Visansar Lake and extremely popular among tourists and locals alike. Situated at an altitude of 3801 m above sea level, the lake is dedicated to trout fish conservation. One can enjoy trout fishing in the lake at an expense of Rs.200 for an hour. This picturesque lake can be accessed through the Nichinai Pass which is at an altitude of 4084 m. Best time to visit the lake and its surroundings is during mild summer from April to June.

Gangabal Lake

Another well known high altitude lake which is extremely popular among tourists is the Gangabal Lake, also known as Harmuk Ganga. This alpine lake situated at a height of 3570 m on the peak of Harmuk mountain ranges has a maximum length of two and a half kilometres and maximum width of one kilometre. The crystal clear water of the lake is home to many species of fish, including the brown trout and rainbow trout. Gangabal Lake is one of the sources of the River Jhelum and is considered holy by the Kashmiri Hindus. An annual fair organised in the 3rd week of August draws tourists from far and near.

One way of reaching Gangabal Lake is via Narang. One can reach Narang by road and from there one has to hire a pony or has to trek the rest 16 Km to reach the lake. The lake can be reached from Sonmarg via Krishnasar and Vishansar, through Nichani pass, after an enjoyable trek through beautiful backdrops. The trekking season is from July to October while the fishing season extends from March to October.

Yousmarg

Another important and popular sightseeing destination of Sonmarg is Yousmarg. Yousmarg is basically a grassy meadow stretching to acres of land at an altitude of 7,500 ft above the sea level in the Pir Panjal mountain range. A beautiful view of the snow capped mountains, dense forests full of pine trees, endless green valleys and variety of flowers is all set to mesmerize you and leave you speechless. The place also encompasses some of the highest peaks of the Himalayas, such as Tatakoti and Sunset Peak, which are 4,725 m and 4,746 m high, respectively. The mighty river Doodh Ganga makes this destination more thrilling.

In the last few years of large inflow of tourists into Kashmir valley, there has seen the diversification of tourism to this wonderful destination. Most of the travel agents include Yousmarg as a destination of one day trip in their packages.

How to reach Sonmarg?

By Air

The Sheikh ul Alam Airport (code – SXR) of Srinagar at a distance of about 65 Km is the nearest airport of Sonmarg. In cases where convenient flights are not available for Srinagar Airport, one can opt for airport at Jammu as well. The Satwari Airport (code – IXJ) at Jammu is at a distance of about 190 Km. Both the airports are well connected with important Indian destinations such as Shimla, Chandigarh, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore and Delhi. Tourists can hire taxis and cabs of his or her choice from outside the airport to reach Sonmarg.

By Rail

The nearest railhead to Sonmarg is Nowgam Railway Station, also known as Srinagar Railway Station, at a distance of about 70 km from Sonmarg. But it is not well connected with the rest of the Indian rail network. Jammu Tawi Railway Station at Jammu is the nearest major rail link to Sonmarg. It is well connected with all the important Indian cities. Tourists can hire taxis or cabs from outside the railway station in order to reach Sonmarg

By Road

Sonmarg is very well connected to nearby important places like Jammu and Srinagar. National highway, NH 1A connects Jammu and Sonmarg via Jawahar Tunnel, while national highway NH 1D links Srinagar and Sonmarg. Tourists can avail J&K State Road Transport Corporation (J&KSRTC) bus services to reach Sonmarg from Jammu and Srinagar. If budget is not a constraint, tourists can hire taxi and cabs of his or her own need to reach Sonmarg from Jammu and Srinagar.

Where to stay at Sonmarg?

As most of the tourists visits Sonmarg either on a day trip from Srinagar or while moving to Leh from Srinagar, there are not many hotels in Sonmarg and the options with the tourists is limited. The fact that Sonmarg remains inaccessible for at least four months of the year due to heavy snowfall and below freezing temperature is a major reason behind lesser number of good hotels in Sonmarg.

Hotel Glacier Heights

Located at a distance of just 0.5 km from Sonmarg bus stand, hotel Glacier Heights is one of the most popular hotels of Sonmarg. With 12 Luxurious Rooms having attached bath with running hot & cold water, this hotel offers comfortable accommodation accompanied by modern amenities at pocket friendly budget rate. To book accommodations in this hotel, contact at –0194-2419224. For further information and to avail on-line booking system please click HERE.

Hotel Snowland

This star category hotel is a favourite of foreign and affluent tourists visiting Sonmarg. Ideally located at Srinagar-Leh National highway, this hotel offers captivating views of mighty Himalayan mountain ranges and beautiful valleys. With deluxe and standard rooms having attached bath with 24 hours running hot & cold water, 24 hours power backup, this is one of the most sought after hotels of Sonmarg. To book accommodations in this hotel, contact at – 0194 -2417262, 2417223, 2472591. For further information and to avail on-line booking system please click HERE.

Paradise Camping Resort

It is another unique staying option of Sonmarg where tourists can enjoy the closeness of nature inspte of enjoying modern amenities. The Resort offers 2 categories of accommodation i,e the Swiss cottage tents and Deluxe Tents. Facilities like 24 hours availability of hot and cold water with flash system toilet, colour dish TV, evening get-together with camp fire and music makes staying an event to remember all throughout the life. One must book this resort well in advance and for booking the phone contact number is – + 91-9419074182, + 91-9906710008. For further information and to avail on-line booking system please click HERE.

Sonmarg Nature Resort

This is another unique staying option of Sonmarg which is situated at just 12 Km before Sonmarg. This is a luxury camping resort is an ideal staying option, especially for those who wish to soothe and rejuvenate themselves in this natural paradise. The resort provides 15 Luxury Royal Shikar Tents, built on raised marble platforms that have been specially designed so that the guests can experience Kashmir’s thousands and one night’s comfort and splendour amidst the natural beauty of Kashmir. Comfortable twin bedded Swiss cottage tents. List of facilities are unending and includes common toilets with showers, roof top restaurant with Indian menu, round the Clock services, electricity and generator backup, hot water bottles at night, laundry services, etc. To experience the uniqueness of staying in such a great resort, please book well in advance. For booking, contact at – +91-9810807925, +91-9873782099. For further information and to avail on-line booking system please click HERE.

Hotel Rah Villas

This is a boutique hotel situated very close to the Sonmarg bus stand. The hotel offers a unique combination of enjoying unspoilt natural beauty offer without compromising on style and comfort. Each room has a private balcony with amazing mountain or river views. Each room comes fully outfitted with flat screen television, high end bathroom fittings, and imported luxury mattresses to ensure a good nights’ sleep. For booking accommodations in this beautiful, contact at – +91-129-4117492, well in advance. For further information and to avail on-line booking system please click HERE.

JKTDC Hotels

Jammu Kashmir Tourism Development Corporation (JKTDC) offers two staying options in Sonmarg. The first one is the JKTDC Hutments near main market and at second one is Tourist bungalow at Thajiwas. The huts are well furnished with luxury bedrooms with attached bathrooms and kitchen facility. Tourist bungalow at Thajiwas offers panoramic view of Sonmarg valley. For booking accommodation contact at – 0194 – 2457927, 0194 – 2457930. One can also visit the JKTDC website at: http://jktdc.co.in/ for on-line booking and further details information.

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About the Author: Hi! friends, travelling is my passion and my only hobby. High mountains to deep seas, lush green forests to barren deserts, holy places to sites of historical importance, - every beautiful place attracts me the same way. I want everyone to feel the same and so through my writing I intend to take you all to a virtual trip to all those lovely places that I have visited.

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