Sheer heaven on earth is the phrase that will come to your mind while undertaking the Kashmir Great Lakes trek, for the state is a land of divine beauty. When the starting point of your excursion is a bewitching place like Sonamarg, you know that you are in for a world of excitement. As you walk along the trails, you get to witness almost the entire range of ecological zones in the Himalayas. When you start the hike, you are amidst thick temperate forests of pine. You then gain altitude and enter jungles of morinda spruces, pindrow firs, and deodar trees, which disappear as you reach altitudes of over 11000 feet. Here you are greeted by expansive meadows of lush grass and shrubs, and they are easy to trek through due to their comparatively flatter terrain. From these grasslands, you will be able to see crystal-clear lakes and snow-covered mountain peaks in the distance.
Post beginning from Sonamarg, this spellbinding Kashmir trek will first get you to Nichnai. The journey takes you along hissing streams, numerous enchanting valleys, and forests of maple. You will relish lunch at a high viewpoint called Shekdur and then travel through rough, rocky terrain; and on wide, gentle valleys to reach Nichnai. The place gives an amazing view of three mountain peaks, all buried underneath mounds of snow. At dawn, you cross a pretty brook, ascend through picturesque Himalayan meadows and go past a scenic alpine lake before reaching the Nichnai Pass. The way to Vishansar Lake from here goes through more grasslands, which are covered with flowers of iris. After resting and acclimatizing by the lake for a day, you resume your excursion and make for Gadsar.
This day your Kashmir trekking will take you first to Krishansar alpine lake, and then to Gadsar. The path again offers bewitching views of the surrounding mountains, and of the lush greenery covering their lower sections. From Gadsar, hike through more mountain grasslands, and reach Satsar lakes. As you start descending from here, you will once again find yourself in the middle of scenic coniferous forests. Then you reach Nundkhol Lake, and later walk further to reach Gangabal Lake. Your journey will end in the picturesque village of Naranag, from where you will drive back to Srinagar. In Sonamarg and Naranag, you will be treated to scrumptious Kashmiri dinner, which will give your naturally magnificent trek a rich cultural aspect.
Day1 – Srinagar to Gagangir (Drive - 70kms/ 1hour 30mins)
Reach Srinagar on your own and assemble with the rest of the team. From here you can book a vehicle straight for Gangangir by your own.
Day 2- Gagangir to Shutkadi to Nichnai (drive- 10 km/ 45mins) to Nichnai (trek – 9kms/ 6hours)
Start your day with a small drive to Shutkadi. It's a drive of about 45 minutes to reach the starting point of the trek. From there, you ascend for a few hours to reach the tabletop. You need to keep your ID cards handy at all times. 20mins into the trek, you will reach the first army checkpoint where you need to halt for the general checks. Post that, you can continue your trek to reach Shekdur top/tabletop. Rest for a while, soak in the beauty and click some amazing pictures. Experience mind-blowing views of the Sonamarg valley along with Thajiwas glacier. There are tea stalls that serve Maggi's along with tea and coffee on sunny days. After a short break, walk on flat terrain for about 15 mins to climb a steep patch of 150 to 200 meters. From here you will enter the dense forest of the Himalayan birch trees. Another 40 minutes of walking through this dense forest and you will reach the stones and boulders right at the water source. This running water comes from Nichnai and is termed as the Nichnai naala. Stop for lunch at this beautiful spot. Post lunch, follow the river and head up towards the Nichnai camp. After a couple of hours, you will reach Nichnai. You can camp here and look at starry night with your group of friends, your love or your family.
Day 3 – Nichnai to Nichnai pass to Vishansar lake (7 hours / 12.5kms) (11,840 feet – 13000 feet – 12,000 feet)
Start your trek early, as you cross the first pass of the trek – Nichnai Pass. It would take you 3 hours to reach the pass. Ascend for about an hour and a half followed by an additional straight walk for an hour and a half to reach the Nichnai pass. At 13,000 feet Nichnai pass is quite windy. From the pass, you can see both the valleys; the one from you came and the one you will be entering. In the early season of May mid onwards, you can slide on soft snow from the pass. Without snow, you can descend gradually and for about an hour and reach the even land. You will then hit straight at the boulders and towards your left, you will spot a beautiful waterfall. This spot is perfect to have lunch. After a hearty lunch with breathtaking views, you can continue your trek. There onwards it is a straight trek for about an hour before you get to a gradual ascend on your left. Right after the ascend of 15 to 20 minutes, you will spot your campsite. Reminisce about the beautiful views of the day and have a great sleep.
Day 4) Vishansar to Kishansar and back (rest day/ acclimatization day)
This day, You have a short trek to Kishansar lake which is just 30 mins from Vishansar lake. From Kishansar lake, you can see the Gadsar pass and its route. Spend some time there and return to Vshansar lake. This day is your rest day and an additional day to acclimatize.
Day 5) Vishansar lake to Gadsar campsite via Gadsar pass (12kms/ 7 -8hours) (12,000 feet – 13,800 feet – 12,400 feet)
This day is going to be a long day. Start from the vishansar lake to Kishansar lake and reach the foot of the Gatsar pass in about an hour's time. On a day with clear skies, it takes about 2 and a half more hours to reach the Gatsar pass. This is a moderately steep climb with zig-zag routes to the pass. Spend about 15 to 20 mins and descend to the other side. From the pass, you can see a couple of lakes that are sourced from the melting ice patches on the left ridge. A steep descend for about 30mins followed by a gradual descend to reach to the Gatsar lake. Stop at the lake for lunch and enjoy the beauty. This is one of the most beautiful lakes of the seven lakes on this trek. Many times many bakerwals (gujjar nomads) can be spotted with their families, cattle and a shepherd dog. These dogs generally are aggressive in nature and we suggest staying away from them. Post lunch, continue your trail and after a couple of hours and a ridge crossing, you will reach the Gadsar army check-post. Your camp is very close to this check-post. Relax your mind to the beautiful environment and prepare yourself for the next day with restful sleep.
Day 6) Gadsar to Maingan top via Satsar check-post (7.5kms/ 4-5hours) (12,400 feet – 12,300 feet)
Today is one of the shortest days of the trek. Start post-breakfast at about 8.30 am from Gatsar. You will cross a small ice patch to climb the next mountain with a gradual ascent of about 35mins. From there, you have a small steep ascend of about 45mins and you reach the trail back. This trail is very beautiful and looks like a postcard. As you continue your way forward, you will approach the top where the surface is flat and you will cross a small patch of a running stream. Here, the winds are high and you will feel the cool and refreshing breeze. Another 20 minutes gentle ascend and you will reach the Satsar check-post. Enjoy your packed lunch for the day either here or after a 20-minute walk further from the Satsar check-post. The walk after this post is beautiful and that of a muddy trail and boulders. You will cross about 4 to 5 small lakes of the satsar before reaching the Satsar camp – Maingan top. You will reach by 3 pm and relax for the rest of the day. This campsite is extremely beautiful. Some of the locals say that during monsoon season, clouds rest over this cradled top and is a spectacle sight. Soak in the beauty, as you are sure to never forget this.
Day 7) Maigan top to Nandkol, via Zach pass (9.5 km/ 6 to 7hours) (12,300 feet – 11,600 feet)
After a hearty breakfast, start your day early today. You will cross the small stream over stones and enter into a boulder section. This could be a challenging task as the boulders are big in size. About 45 mins trek over the boulders followed by a gentle ascend of 15mins, you will reach a tabletop which is right at the foot of the Zach pass. Ascend gradually for about 40 mins and reach the zig-zag route that leads straight to the pass. On reaching the pass, you will get to see the mount Harmukh right in front of you. Just below the Mount Harmukh you can see the Nandkol lake. Generally, the Nandkol lake is covered over with clouds adding to the beauty of the view. Towards the right you will see the Gangbal lake. Gangbal is the largest of lakes we spot on this trek. You can enjoy a 360 degrees view of the Pir Pinjal range which is a beauty. After spending some time at this pass, you can continue your journey forward. The route from Zach pass is that of gradual descend followed by a steep descend. About 2 hours and 30mins of a trek, you will reach the Nandkol campsite. After a challenging day, ensure a good night’s sleep to feel rested.
Day 8) Nandkol to Naranag (10 km/ 6hours) (11,600 feet – 7,600 feet)
Start by 8am for your descend to Naranag. Start with a river crossing and trek down to reach a beautiful ridge. From this ridge, you will see a beautiful house in the meadows which is a perfect dream house. Reach this house with a gradual descend and continue trekking. You will then enter into the forest of silver birch and deodar trees and trek at a muddy trail. Halt at a small settlement for some tea before taking your final descend into the forests to reach Naranag. On reaching Naranag, stop for some light meal and take the vehicle down to Srinagar. Go back with a camera full of pictures and a heart full of memories.
Max Altitude: 13750 ft.
Approx Trekking Km: 63 km
Best Time to go: April to October
1. Meals - All the meals from Gagangir to Gangbal
2. Accommodation - 1st night at Gagangir in local home-stay
3. Camping on a triple sharing basis
4. Basic medicines and oxygen cylinder
5. One guide for a group of maximum 08-10 trekkers. All our guides and trek leads are professionally trained/ skilled and have many years of relevant 6. Experience in guiding and leading treks.
7. Clean sleeping bags
8. Camping Mattresses
9. Toilets – clean and hygienic (traditional pit style)
10. Camping & trekking permits and permissions from the local administrations/authorities
1. Transport - Srinagar to Gagangir - Naranag to Srinagar. An approx. of INR 2500 per person would be the transport cost.
2. GST 5%
3. Porter/mule charges to carry your personal bags/ offloads. INR 350 per day, per person, would be charged for offloading.
4. Any meals/services not mentioned above
5. Any costs arising out of unforeseen circumstances like landslides, roadblocks, bad weather, etc.
7. Alcohol, soft drinks, beverages, etc.
8. Personal expenses like tips, telephone calls, laundry, etc.
9. Any charges for video cameras, still cameras, etc.
We had the greatest of time ever on Kashmir Great Lakes Trek. Kashmir is truly heaven on earth. The experience on mountains was simply beyond our imagined expectations. The beauty, serenity and love of nature was completely out-of-world feeling. Within 2 days, I had forgotten where I belonged, who I was or there is a world down below somewhere from where I come. By third or fourth day, I had lost track of time, date and day; which is such a wonderful experience - being kid again in the laps of nature and not bothering a bit about anything. We realize when we are on mountains that we live such an artificial and superficial life. One tends to wear off the artificial mask on mountains and one sees one's own true reflection. Communing with self, with nature. Regarding the services, I'd say they were perfect. I had never expected in my wildest dreams that I'd be served bed-tea every morning in my tent. The staff was very cooperative, kind and caring. Soon they had identified each of ours habits and choices and provided services accordingly. They also got along so well that we were almost a group. The team leader was very helpful in every little problem faced and guided us through well even during bad weather. It was always a pleasing experience to talk with him. The trek leader was a very charming person who had led the trek with much enthusiasm and made our trip simply memorable. Overall experience has been totally invigorating and we were left captivated and spellbound with the enchanting beauty of Mother Nature. Thanks for making the trip unforgettable.