WHAT NOT TO MISS IN SONAMARG, KASHMIR: A HANDY TRAVEL GUIDE

This post is for discerning travelers who are planning a trip to Sonamarg in Kashmir. It is a handy Sonamarg travel guide that will help you to plan your vacation in the most gorgeous valley of Kashmir, seamlessly.

The winding road and the changing landscape were my constant companions. The wind in my hair and the smile on my face said it all. A few raindrops on my face and breezy weather welcomed me in Sonamarg in Kashmir. Famed as the “Meadow of Golden Light”, the very first sight of the captivating valley had me hooked onto it in no time.

Me enjoying the valley of Sonamarg, Kashmir
Me enjoying the valley of Sonamarg, Kashmir

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The meandering road towards Kullan village, a few kilometers before the main town of Sonamarg, was where I was going to set my base in the valley. The simplicity on the faces of those kids running behind our vehicle, the gushing Sindh River, dotted wooden traditional houses, and lush greenery around was enough to transport me to another world that was nothing less than a dream destination. Hotel Rah Villas, a charming mountain lodge, was my abode for the next few days in Sonamarg.

Hotel Rah Villas in Sonamarg
Hotel Rah Villas in Sonamarg

I always despise the idea of staying in a city hotel in any destination. I feel that it just ruins the whole purpose of coming out of your hurried life, especially in a place like Sonamarg where nature has bestowed beauty in abundance. Therefore, the Hotel Rah Villas was the ideal choice because of its countryside location.

The View from the balcony of the Hotel Rah Villas
The View from the balcony of the Hotel Rah Villas

Imagine waking up to the lush cornfields encircled by gigantic hills, sipping a hot cup of Kawah on the balcony, with the wind caressing your face, and you are attuned to the rhythmic sound of nature. The best part of staying in Hotel Rah Villas is that it promises a blissful stay and an undisrupted holiday vibe with serenity. 

WHERE IS SONAMARG

The Meadow of Gold , the gorgeous valley of Kashmir
The Meadow of Gold, the gorgeous valley of Kashmir

Around 85 km from Srinagar Airport, it takes approximately 2 hours by car to reach Sonamarg. Tucked far away from the mainland, Srinagar, Sonamarg is a traveler’s paradise. Whether you are a solo traveler, trekker, adventure seeker, or Amarnath Yatri, Sonamarg is the perfect base for all your travel sojourns.

ALSO READ: GULMARG IN KASHMIR: THE WINTER WONDERLAND OF INDIA

Striking landscape  in Sonamarg, Kashmir
Striking landscape in Sonamarg, Kashmir

The virgin forest, swelling river, gushing water streams, snow-capped mountain ranges, jaw-dropping glacier, hidden lakes, and scenic meadows; Sonamarg will spoil you with choices.

It’s not only about Sonamarg, Kashmir can be overwhelming for first-time travelers. If you are not good at planning your own trip, you can rely on Kashmir Tour Package.

Freshwater stream in the middle of the forest in Sonamarg, Kashmir
Freshwater stream in the middle of the forest in Sonamarg, Kashmir
The famed golden light in the beautiful valley of Sonamarg, Kashmir
The famed golden light in the beautiful valley of Sonamarg, Kashmir

Hardly an hour and a half drive from Srinagar, you can reach this part of the paradise with enchanting views all around. The tourists flock here during the summer months, albeit winter is quite harsh here.

WHAT NOT TO MISS IN SONAMARG

Gateway to Sonamarg, Kashmir
Gateway to Sonamarg, Kashmir

The “Meadow of Gold” demands at least a few days to immerse into the picturesque beauty of the valley. A day trip from Srinagar cannot justify this spectacular destination. The emerald meadows and blue sky with snow-covered mountains make you high on your wanderlust.

Horse grazing in the grassland of  Sonamarg, Kashmir
A horse grazing in the grassland of Sonamarg, Kashmir

Situated at an altitude of 2730 m, Sonamarg is frequented by travelers due to its strategic location. Unlike Gulmarg and Pahalgam, the captivating valley is the base for the great Kashmir lakes trek that includes Vishansar, Kishansar, Gadsar, Satsar, and Gangabal lake. It is also a base for the holy Amarnath Yatra.

The gorgeous valley of Sonamarg, Kashmir
The gorgeous valley of Sonamarg, Kashmir

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Not just that, the Sonamarg highway connects to Ladakh via Kargil as well. Sonamarg flaunts enchanting beauty in abundance and offers some of the best immersive travel experiences. A sun-drenched valley where you can relish the delicious trout, a short hike with your travel companion, a long drive to the famous Zoji La pass, or trekking up in the mountains to explore hidden lakes, Sonamarg promises an adventure of a lifetime.

There is no dearth of mesmeric experiences that one can have in Sonamarg. Let’s find out what not to miss on your trip to the meadow of gold in Kashmir. This Sonamarg travel guide is quite handy for those who are yet to put their feet on the slice of paradise.

HIKE TO THAJIWAS GLACIER

Thajiwas Glacier in Sonamarg, Kashmir
Thajiwas Glacier in Sonamarg, Kashmir

When in Sonamarg, you can’t miss hiking to the astounding Thajiwas Glacier. It is just a 3 km hike from the main Sonamarg town which is easily doable for all kinds of travelers. Thajiwas Glacier is one of the top attractions in the valley. Located at an altitude of 9,186 feet, the striking scenic beauty of the glacier is a sight to behold.

Basharat, the horseman at the Thajiwas Glacier

The lush green meadows, Alpine Forest, rocky terrain, towering hills, and the cold breeze accompany you throughout the hike. The views it offers are breathtaking. I was informed that a few Bollywood movies were shot here. The enchanting landscapes around make your hike worthwhile.

Mostly, tourists hire a pony to get to the glacier. However, if you are an adventure enthusiast and prefer trekking, an early morning hike to the Thajiwas Glacier is one of the most beautiful walks you can enjoy in Sonamarg. Upon reaching the base of the Thajiwas Glacier, don’t be in a hurry.

The morning light on the hills make it look so beautiful in Sonamarg, Kashmir
The morning light on the hills makes it look so beautiful in Sonamarg, Kashmir

Give yourself enough time to enjoy the serenity of the place. Sit by the gushing stream, watch grazing horses on the grassland, play with the Bakarwal kids, and admire the beguiling views.

The Thajiwas Glacier is a perfect place for camping as well. One can also go for a picnic there. The summer months are the perfect time to escape from city life and enjoy the tranquillity of nature at the most charming location in Sonamarg valley.

DRIVE TO ZOJI LA PASS

SHEPHERD WITH IN SONAMARG_KASHMIR
Shepherd on the mountain road at Zoji La Pass

If you love mountain drive, then drive to the gorgeous Zoji La Pass is a must. Zoji La is a high mountain pass that connects Kashmir to Ladakh. One needs to cross this pass to reach the other side of the Himalayan region. The drive through the pass includes some of the most dangerous turns on the mountain road. The Zoji La Pass is considered one of the most treacherous passes in India. The pass is situated in the Himalayan Mountain Range on the Srinagar-Leh Highway. 

The winding road is 25.8 km long and it passes Baltal and Matayen valley on its way. The spectacular views of the valley with snow-capped mountains let you admire the scenery throughout. Don’t be surprised if you are stuck in a traffic jam caused by hundreds of sheep with the shepherd.

GET MESMERIZED BY BALTAL VALLEY

The enchanting Baltal valley of Sonamarg, Kashmir
The enchanting Baltal valley of Sonamarg, Kashmir

Another tourist attraction in Sonamarg is the amazing Baltal valley. The striking eye-arresting vistas, towering mountains, freshwater streams, and green forested hills make the valley one of the most picturesque locations in Jammu and Kashmir. The Baltal valley is quite popular amongst tourists. Located at a distance of 15 km from Sonamarg, this valley serves as a perfect camping spot for adventure enthusiasts.

During Amarnath Yatra, the Baltal valley becomes the camping base for the pilgrims on the bank of the Sindh River. The sacred Amarnath Caves are located just 15km from Baltal Valley. The tourists as well as the pilgrims can hire ponies from Baltal valley to reach Amarnath Caves.

GO SLOW AND ENJOY THE SERENITY BY THE SINDH RIVER

The gushing Sindh river in Sonamarg, Kashmir
The gushing Sindh river in Sonamarg, Kashmir

The best way to admire the ethereal beauty of Sonamarg valley is to take it slow. The valley demands you to take a pause from your routined life to stare at its stillness. The best way to do that is to sit by the Sindh River, sip a hot cup of Kawah, and do nothing. If you love camping, then pitch your tent anywhere near the swelling river, enjoy the bonfire under the star-studded sky with the cold breeze, and create some of the most cherished memories.

MEET THE BAKARWAL COMMUNITY

The herd on the way back home, Sonamarg, Kashmir
The herd on the way back home, Sonamarg, Kashmir

If you yearn for an offbeat experience in Sonamarg, you must include the experience of meeting the nomadic community, known as the Bakarwals. They are a wandering community that moves from one place to another in search of grassland for the herd.

ALSO READ: HOW IT FEELS TO LIVE WITH THE CHANGPAS OF LADAKH: FIND OUT

The Bakarwal women inside their hut
The Bakarwal women inside their hut

They have their stone dwellings in the hills, located far away from the public eye. The flat-roofed small huts serve as a summer house for them where they spend 4 to 5 months with their family.

I was fortunate enough to get glimpses of their nomadic life when I visited their huts deep in the forested area up in the hills. Even though they live in those tiny huts in harsh weather conditions, but the hospitality they offered to me was priceless.

Bakarwal woman making Nun Chai
Bakarwal woman making Nun Chai
Doodh Roti (Milk Bread) being offered to me by the Bakarwal Community
Doodh Roti (Milk Bread) being offered to me by the Bakarwal Community

Whether it was having “Doodh Roti” (Milk Bread), Nun Chai (Salt Tea), or sharing a laugh with them, it was nothing but one of the most exclusive travel experiences I had in Sonamarg.

GO ON A VILLAGE WALK

Kullan Village in Sonamarg, Kashmir

ALSO READ: WHY I CHOSE HIMALAYAN FARMSTAYS IN PHYANG VILLAGE IN LADAKH: FIND OUT

Taking a village walk in Sonamarg is one of the must-do things. It allows you to get a fair idea about the local lifestyle. Since I was there in peak summer, the cornfields were in full bloom. The never-ending cornfields with humongous hills with dotted houses make the prettiest travel postcard.

Dotted houses in the middle of a cornfield in Kullan village
Dotted houses in the middle of a cornfield in Kullan village

If you are a morning person, do go on a morning walk along with the river Sindh. It is very refreshing to be part of the local daily life where you get to see them busy with their morning routine in their respective homes in those most picturesque villages.

A Traditional house in Kullan village, Sonamarg, Kashmir
A Traditional house in Kullan village, Sonamarg, Kashmir

Whether it is exchanging smiles with the children, those innocent faces of the beautiful girls, or the adorable elderly people sitting idle in their courtyard, the idea of a village walk is to introduce you to their way of life quietly.

RELISH TROUT DELICACY

Grill Trout Fish
Grilled Trout Fish

Relishing Trout fish in Sonamarg should be on your list if you are a foodie. You get the best fresh Trout in Sonamarg valley. Don’t forget to savor grilled Trout fish while enjoying a warm bonfire in the valley.

MEET LOCALS AND HAVE NUN CHAI

Meeting locals is always a great way of knowing the people of that destination. Striking a conversation often leads to a prompt invite, especially in Kashmir where the hospitality of the people is always a high point of their culture. Don’t be surprised if you are invited by the locals to their home and they host you with their traditional Nun Chai and Girda (Local Kashmiri flatbread). I had a great opportunity to share some quality time at a local’s house in Kullan village of Sonamarg.

Kashmiri flatbread called Girda served with traditional Nun chai (Salty Pink Tea)
Kashmiri flatbread called Girda served with traditional Nun chai (Salty Pink Tea)

I loved how they served us tea from Samovar, the traditional kettle, along with their homemade bread. What I admire about their hospitality is that they never hesitate to invite a stranger to their home where they allow you to share their space with laughter and meaningful conversation. The culture of sitting on the floor and having the meal together as a family makes all the difference.

ACCOMMODATION IN SONAMARG

Hotel Rah Villas in Sonamarg, Kashmir
Hotel Rah Villas in Sonamarg, Kashmir

I would recommend the Hotel Rah Villas in Kullan village, situated in the most idyllic location facing the Sindh River amidst a cornfield with towering mountains as a backdrop. This mountain lodge is one of the preferred accommodations among tourists, adventure seekers, pilgrims, and discerning travelers who stop en-route to Ladakh.

The luxury suite of Hotel Rah Villas, Sonamarg, Kashmir
The luxury suite of Hotel Rah Villas, Sonamarg, Kashmir

The property has 24 well-appointed rooms and suites with expected amenities. The Hotel Rah Villas is one of the best accommodation options you can find in the “Meadow of Gold” in Kashmir where it promises an intimate affair with nature. While enjoying your vacation at this mountain lodge, you can indulge in various activities like village walks, trekking, hiking, mountain biking, camping, fishing, horse riding, etc. 

The Cornfield in Kullan village, Sonamarg, Kashmir
The Cornfield in Kullan village, Sonamarg, Kashmir

ALSO READ: NUBRA VALLEY: 3 DAY ITINERARY AND TRAVEL GUIDE FOR SIGHTSEEING

The multi-cuisine restaurant, Jamawar serves the best of vegetarian and non-vegetarian food along with traditional Kashmiri cuisines as well. I highly recommend having grilled Trout Fish at Jamawar because they taste heavenly. During the Amarnath yatra, the hotel takes pride in serving ONLY VEGETARIAN MEALS.

GETTING THERE

On the way to Thajiwas Glacier, Sonamarg, Kashmir
On the way to Thajiwas Glacier, Sonamarg, Kashmir

There are daily flights to Srinagar from major Indian metros. Rah Villas is only 85km from Srinagar airport and it takes approximately 2hrs by car or tempo to reach there. It is 1hour 45 minutes from Srinagar city, and only a 90min drive from Rah Bagh, Srinagar.


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The reproduction of any of the content, including the photographs without prior consent/permission of the writer, is strictly prohibited and a violation of the same will attract legal action.

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