About Kashmir Great Lakes Trek
The Great Lakes of Kashmir include the Sonamarg-Vishansar-Naranag in an alpine Himalyan high altitude environment. The Kashmir Great Lakes Trek is considered to be one of the prettiest treks in India, with a front row view of five alpine lakes, with each lake having its own unique beauty and serenity.
Base camp: Sonmarg
Highest altitude: 4,200 m
Difficulty Level: Moderate
One of the most astounding views is that of the snow of the adjacent mountains sliding off the slope and floating on the blue waters of the lake as small ice blocks, making the lakes looks more beautiful than ever. The lakes are surrounded by lush green grasslands on all the sides, giving the image of a true heaven to the nature lovers.
Best Time to do Kashmir Great Lakes Trek
The Kashmir Great Lakes Trek goes through the meadows. Thus, ta good time to go on this trek would be from June to September, when the snow is yet to settle in and the scenery is still filled with a lot of lush green trees and blooming flowers. The best months for this are July and August, during which it doesn’t rain much in the area.
How To Reach the Base Camp
To undertake the Trek, one has to first reach Srinagar. To reach Srinagar, one can avail the air, road or rail transport
1. VIA AIR
Srinagar has an International Airport, names Named Sheikh ul Alam Airport and there are regular flights from Delhi and Mumbai to Srinagar.
2. VIA RAIL
To reach Srinagar via train, one has to get down in Jammu Tawi or Udhampur railway station. From there, they can avail private or public cars to reach Srinagar.
3. VIA ROAD
The city of Srinagar is well connected with some of the major Indian cities such as Delhi, Jammu and Chandigarh via bus service. One can also avail the cab service.
The base camp is located in Sonamarg which is around a four-hour drive from Srinagar. Taxi fare for just Sonmarg drop one-way is Rs 2400 as per taxi union rates of 2018.
Route and Itinerary
Day 1: Sonamarg to Nichnai via Shekdur (2,377 m – 3,505 m; 9 Km, 6 hrs)
Kashmir Great Lakes Trek starts from Shitkadi, slightly outside of Sonamarg on the Srinagar road. Then from Shitkadi the trek continues to a higher elevation through a green meadow which overlooks the town of Sonamarg.
The meadow is filled with different species of maple and pine trees and streams. At the top of the meadow, you will be able to see snow clapped mountain peaks, which marks Shekdur. Shekdur is considered to be a campsite, surrounded by trees. It takes an estimated time of 3 hours to reach Shekdur from Sonamarg.
The next campsite is Nichnai and it is about 2 hours away from Shekdur. To reach Nichnai, follow the descending trail till you reach a wide valley, surrounded by Mountains on all sides
Day 2: Nichnai to Vishansar/Vishnusar Lake (3,505 m – 3,700 m; 12 Km, 6 hrs)
The Trek continues through the green meadows with the scenery changing for the better. First, you will have to cross the Nichnai Pass or the Vishansar Berry. The trail then slowly ascends to a higher elevation. From the high altitude, you will be able to see a small lake at the bottom of the Mountains. The Nichnai Pass is like a wide tunnel with snow covered peaks on the left hand side.
The trail then starts to descend to a blooming flowery meadow, which opens up to a waterfall. The meadow continues to the end of a valley and there you will find a stream which originates from the Vishansar Lake. The Vishansar Lake is located on your left side, lying between four mountains.
The unique feature of this Lake is that the Kishansar Peak is reflected on the waters of this lake. Also, the Lake changes colours, reflecting the situation up above in the sky. Trout fishing is popular in this Lake, but a fishing permit needs to be obtained for this purpose from Srinagar. The entire hike will take about 6 hours to complete.
Day 3: Vishansar Lake-Gadsar via Gadsar Pass (3,700 m – 3,800 m via 4,200 m; 10 Km, 5 hrs)
The trail continues to the Kishansar Lake which is a picturesque view. The trail takes you to the top of a ridge, where you will be able to find the Gadsar pass which is the highest point of this Trek at 4,206 m.
On descending, there is the Yamsar Lake on the left. Soon, you will reach an opening covered with blue iris flowers and here you will find the most beautiful lakes of this trek. Further down the trail, there is the Gadsar army camp for which permit is required to enter.
Day 4: Gadsar to Satsar (3,810 m to 3,658 m; 12 Km, 6 hrs)
A stream needs to be crossed in order to continue with the Trek. From the Gadsar Army camp, Satsar is almost 10 kms. Once the trail leaves the river valley, the scenic meadow appears again.
This place is known as Maengandob. This landscape is breathtaking with mountains in the front and a small ridge on the right. Beyond the ridge is Satsar; Satsar is a collection of seven lakes. Satsar also has an Army Camp with the same prerequisite of a permit. This hike takes an estimated time of 6 hours to complete.
Day 5: Satsar to Gangabal Twin Lakes (3,658 to 3,500 m; 9 Km, 6 hrs)
Half an hour away from the Camp, you will find the biggest of the Satsar Lakes. The terrain is a bit rough with large boulders and rocks. The trail continues further and requires a lot of climbing on ridges. From the top of the third ridge, you will be able to cast your eyes on two lakes, lying adjacent. The biggest among them is known as Gangabal, and the one beside is is known as Nundkol. Both the Lakes are known for trout fishing. It takes around 6 hours to complete this journey.
The Nundkol lake lies at the base of the Harmukh Peak, whose glacier hangs on the side of the mountain, giving a spectacular view to both the Peak and the Lake.
Day 6: Gangabal to Narang and then to Srinagar (3,500 m to 2,270 m; 11 Km, 6 hrs)
One of the trademark of this Trek is that the descent from Gangabal to Narang is not truly a descent, but it maintains the same elevation level for about two-thirds of the journey. After that, the descent is steep and within 6 hours, you will reach the main road of Narang.
After the trek one can leave for Srinagar same day.
Cellular Connectivity and Last ATM for Kashmir Great Lakes Trek
At the top of Nichnai Pass you can get B.S.N.L network, which is the last point under mobile coverage area. After crossing Gangabal and heading towards Narang, the Aircel Network picks up. In Leh and Srinagar major networks would work only if you have a pospaid sim.
Last ATM is at Kanchan, on way to Sonmarg from Srinagar. It is not always working and hence it’s best to withdraw cash from Srinagar.
Cover pic credits: Azrin Irwan (azrinirwan)
Click on Jazza Bortz’s Trek blog to read his experience when he did the Kashmir Great Lakes Trek during his visit to India.