Time of Travel: July 2021
We bring to you yet another adventurous family trip we had recently. After having bitten by trekking expeditions in Parashar Lake/Tirthan Valley, it was time to explore Pahalgam, Kashmir. We had our flights early in the morning which brought us to Srinagar, the capital of Jammu & Kashmir. On reaching, we had to undergo Rapid antigen test for Covid-19 for the entire family. It didn’t take long for the process to finish after having provided all the information to the Srinagar airport authorities.
- The pre-paid SIM cards doesn’t work in Kashmir.
- Do carry an activated post-paid sim when you are visiting Kashmir to ensure connectivity.
We quickly went to the pre-paid taxi booth and booked a cab to Pahalgam which did cost us Rs.3720 including toll charges. Please do ensure that you don’t end up booking Maruti Omni Van/Echo as we found these vehicles very uncomfortable to say the least. Few extra bucks would save you the trouble of having ridden in dilapidated vehicles in this heavenly abode.
It took us nearly 3 hours to reach Pahalgam for having Maruti Omni at our disposal and yes, there were few instances of traffic jams amidst heavy military movement. The entire highway from Srinagar is in a very good condition but heavily guarded by army/CRPF/BSF and Police forces.
Almost after two and a half hours, we entered Pahalgam where we were tested again by Medical Authorities for Covid-19 test. This time, our daughter, Sarah wasn’t tested though. We asked for report this time but were informed that our hands would be inked ‘SAMPLED’ which would avoid any further re-tests. The officials were courteous, and the process was again very smooth.
Finally, we reached our place of stay in Pahalgam named, ‘The Alpine K2 hotel’. It was a pleasant stay location on Chandanwari Road at 1.3 kms from Pahalgam city center/market.
- For bachelors, couples, friends, it is still doable to find a budget stay on Chandanwari Road, but if you find it difficult to walk, we suggest staying at the Pahalgam road/market city centre hotels. The market vibe is so good, and one would literally feel like being in a hotchpotch of all kinds of folks.
- Budget homestays/hotels with local eateries/dhaba joints can be found along Chandanwari road while the Pahalgam road is full of shops and restaurants and mid to high end hotels.
One thing which startled us was that though the people are aware about Covid-19 but few seem to care about it. You would not find many people wearing masks except for tourists. And if asked why, the locals here feel strong enough to tide over such menaces.
Day 1 – Exploring Pahalgam:
After having rested for a while and having our lunch, we asked the hotel manager, Mr. Abid about suggestions for the day. We were advised to see the local place Pahalgam by visiting the nearby fisheries, Lidder Park by the side of Lidder River and see the marketplace.
We had amazing time sitting in the lap of nature and enjoyed roaming around in the park and walking by the heavily flowing Lidder river. Here are few pics:
Day 2 –Visit to the Aru Valley, Chandan Wari & Betab Valley:
The next day was the day full of excitement for three of us. We decided to visit all the three famous valleys of Pahalgam for which we booked a cab through taxi stand. We asked for Etios but ended up getting Tata Indica for Rs.2600. Please note that there are two kinds of cabs you can book for visiting these valleys. One is a 5-hr cab in which you would get 1-hour each for each valley and 2 hrs to go and come back. This one is a fixed time book which would cost you Rs.1800. The other one is without any time limit which shall cost you Rs.2600. We went with the 2nd option as we were in no rush to come back and with our 6-year-old daughter, wanted to keep it slow and steady.
Tip : You can book the cab from Taxi stand or call Abdullah – 9419454473
Aru Valley: This was the best valley to visit amongst all the three valleys. The enroute journey is mesmerizing and you would feel the nature literally holding your hand and welcoming you. After having parked here, we had a choice between hiring a pony to reach the Valley or trek all the way up. We decided to trek as we were full of energy and three of us have undertaken comparatively difficult treks in the past and the trek is approx. 2km only. We started our ascent and in 30 minutes approx. we were at the entrance of the Aru Valley. We paid Rs.20 per adult for the entry and enjoyed picnic/lunch here. Here pony owners/horse riders may tell you that they will show you different points, but it’s not required. The only thing to see is natural valley which you will see in abundance here.
Entire Kashmir is quite famous for locally baked vanilla/chocolate cakes. We bought few in the morning to savour later during the day and Aru Valley proved out to be the perfect place for the same. Here are few pics:
Chandanwari Valley: Our next stop was Chandanwari Valley. By the time we reached here, it was past lunch time. So, we decided to have Maggi and Rajma Rice (red beans lentils) before beginning the ascent. This was comparatively a lot easier, and we got to see the snow bridge here. We sat by the side of the heavily flowing river and played in water.
- Do not buy a pony here, it would cost you Rs.400 but not worth it considering the walk is approx. 15min (300metres) and on a flat horizontal surface which is easily manageable.
Betab Valley: Betab Valley is famous for the Bollywood movie ‘Betab’ being shot here. This place is quite crowded, and it is a huge park in the middle of the mountains well maintained. The entry fee would cost Rs.100 per adult. It is a nice park, but we didn’t find much to do here. You would fine toilets at the entrance and on the right after the bridge inside( the later one is properly maintained)
We took tea, coffee and ventured around the park for sometime. Unlike the other 2 places, this place is properly maintained and there is artificial river flowing through the valley.
Day 3: Tulian Lake Trek or Mini Switzerland/Baisaran Valley
Tulian Lake is around 13 to 16 kms from Pahalgam. Though this trek can be done within a day also (you need to start as early as 6 in the morning as this may take 13 hours to complete). It is highly recommended to do this trek as a 2-day trek to truly soak in the beauty of this place. If you go by Pony, it will charge you Rs. 5000 per Pony. We somehow found it difficult to do this trek with Sarah considering it rained since morning. We instead decided to visit Mini Switzerland (Kashmir Valley or popularly known as Baisaran Valley).
This Valley is accessible by foot and by horse/pony ride. The trek from Pahalgam market area is 4.1 kms. There are three patches of 300mts approx. which are quite steep and rest of it is easily doable. We decided to hire one pony for Sarah while we both decided to trek particularly because it had rained whole day and the entire ascent was full of wet sand/mud. It took us 65 mins to finish the trek and believe me, you do not need any special skills to do this trek! The only thing needed is shoes with a good grip.
On the way you will wish to stop at various places just to admire the beauty of the surroundings. The whole area goes through thick forest with tall Pine & Christmas trees which give you a very refreshing feel. Occasionally you will see river passing by where you can stop and rest for a while before you decided to ascent further.
There are no markings/display boards for the route, but you would see many horse riders/tourists all the way going up & coming down along the path.So a guide is not required.
Once we were at the valley, there were three small shops that served snacks, Rajma/Rice, Maggi, tea coffee, pakodas etc. and you can sit there and enjoy here and in a certain subtle way, it did feel like being in Switzerland (if you would like to read about our Switzerland trip, please click here).
Cost of Pony for Baisaran Valley is Rs 1500/pony ( you may negotiate it to Rs1000)
Day 4 Shopping and return to Srinagar:
On day 4, we decided to visit the local market and do some shopping of cardigans, shawls, suits etc. It drizzled for most of the day, and it was a beautiful sight. The best part was when the hotel manager decided to lend his geared bicycle. We ended up buying suits & shawls and walnuts here.
After having done our shopping, we hired cab for Rs.3000 and came to Srinagar. More about Srinagar in a separate post.
- For pure vegetarians, do visit ‘Dana Pani’ restaurant. It is a little cosy restaurant on the Pahalgam road and nice place to have food.
- Hotel Alpine K2 was a nice hotel for which you would find description in a separate Youtube video. The best part about this hotel was the staff comprising of Ubaid, Abid and Ishfaq who cooperated and provided hospitality in every way possible. They also let Minal cook few meals as per our choice/wish.
Weather in Pahalgam in July
As one of the horse riders said “Mumbai ka Fashion and Kahmir ka weather ka kuch pata nahi chalta” meaning, the weather in Kashmir is as unpredictable as the fashion in Mumbai streets!!! In July, it is monsoon season, and it can rain any time. So do carry a raincoat, umbrella, bag rain cover, waterproof shoes unless you are ready to spend time at hotel and enjoy the weather. Also carrying a thermos is highly recommended as most of the hotels here do not provide the same unless you ask for it.
Cost of Trip to Pahalgam
|Particulars||Stay||Food||Cab||Pony||Flights||Shikara Ride||Grand Total|
Taxi Owner in Pahalgam – Abdullah – 9419454473 . He was very nice guy.
Hope you enjoy reading the post and the post helps you to plan your trip accordingly. Till then take care and stay safe.