Pahalgam : Adventurous soul of Kashmir
Updated: Mar 2, 2022
If you have heard about the famous “Amarnath Shrine” then you might have heard about Pahalgam, as it is the base for Amarnath shrine visitors.
All the way:
When you start your journey from Srinagar, before you reach Pahalgam you will find many hidden gems en route. Starting with the Saffron land of Kashmir. You will cover the infamous Pampore district which is the Saffron capital of India, in the Summer months you can see Saffron flowers in the laid out fields clearly but winters are for sowing and preparing for harvest.
Just after crossing Pampore, you will cover Avantipore, which hosts temple ruins dated 9th century – “The Avanthiswami Temple”. These temples are easily accessible by road and they are magnificent even today. From the temple ruins, you can easily imagine how grandeur these temples would have been in their time. The entrance of the temple is the majority of the structure standing as of today and these temple structures are completely different from what we have seen anywhere else in India. Generally, these temples are not visited that frequently so you can cover them very easily in less than 45 mins.
After you have crossed Awantipore, another destination with a similar vibe is Anantnag Martand Sun temple, and you can reach it by taking a very small detour (approx. 5-6 km). Martand temples date back to the 8th century. In case you are short on time, prefer Martand Sun temple over Avantipore.
The Lidder Valley is also en route to Pahalgam and it runs parallel to the highway to Pahalgam. For those interested, one can take a short break and spend some time on the curves of the river.
Pahalgam : Chapter I
Your vantage point in Pahalgam is the local taxi stand. Hotels, local viewpoints, restaurants are all located near to it.
As you start your journey to a tete-a-tete with nature in Pahalgam, you will see there are about 8-10 places that you can visit, if you want to cover them on foot it is a mixture of trekking and lots of walking on a treacherous path, so if you are a trekking junkie this is nothing short of small heaven for you and it will take an almost full day to explore all the places. Yes, you will be elbowed and forced by horse/pony owners to go for a ride rather than walking and it will take a lot of willpower to say no to them all. They can be very persuasive and sticky. Now if you choose for a horse/pony ride, then again it will take 5-6 hours to cover all the places, and though you can pick and choose your locations, at the least, covering important ones is going to take 3-4 hours.
One place that you should not miss in Pahalgam is Baisaran valley, locally known as “Mini Switzerland” it’s like as shown in the photograph below with endless valley with pine trees as boundary and shadows of faraway mountains.
If you choose for pony/horse, you will experience the same thing as all other places, prices quoted by them, irrespective of viewpoints (valleys), will be exorbitant and you will sarcastically laugh for sure. So go by the rule of 50%, where at the very least you should ask for a 50% reduction in the price. If you bring prices lower than 50% that means you have good negotiation skills. Now pony ride in Pahalgam is one adventure sport with little risk involved, so trust your guide and follow their instructions for a safe and happy trip.
Pahalgam tourist spots are very beautiful when they are snow-laden. In absence of snow these locations come out generic and not worthy, so we will suggest in case there has been no snowfall at the time of you reaching there, do not take the pain of covering all the spots. Pick one or two and that will be enough to experience Pahalgam.
You will not find any public convenience in any of the tourist spots here so again be sure that you have done the bladder check before embarking on the journey ( some restaurants or public conveniences can be found at the start of the journey)
Eating joints are very limited here, you can try Punjab restaurant which offers quick service and average food. Or you can try Maggi/Tea from the small temp outlets at tourist spots on your tour.
Pahalgam: Chapter II
From Pahalgam taxi stand, You can further visit Aru valley, Betaab valley, and Chandanwari ( another base camp for Amarnath yatra). If you are traveling via a private vehicle then you are permitted to take your vehicle however if you are on a commercial vehicle then you will have to hire a new commercial vehicle from Pahalgam Taxi Stand. A Commercial vehicle with the least price here is Maruti Omni and then it goes till tempo traveler depending on your group size. Prices are standard for these hired vehicles, it is recommended to hire from taxi stand only.
Chandanwari and Betaab valley are on the same route whereas Aru valley is on a different route. Due to time constraints, and failure in our planning we had to drop Aru valley and we went ahead with Betaab and Chandanwari.
Chandanwari came across as one of the exquisite locations of our trip as we encountered snow and very low temperatures, though we did not reach the main entrance of Chandanwari as the road was slippery with snow so we took a short walk till there and had some good time enjoying the valley and snow. On our return, we observed Betaab valley from a height and as there was snow fall in the Betaab valley it looked like an exotic garden our tuning with Betaab did not set on the same frequency so we dropped it as well ( it was around 6 PM and the sun was setting so did not make sense for us to visit Betaab late in the night).
Though we were not able to visit Aru valley, we recommend that you visit this valley. In our research, we found Aru valley as a must-see place owing to its beautiful landscape and picture-perfect environment.
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