Memories From Pahalgam: A Beautiful Town In Kashmir

Kashmir is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places that I’ve travelled to. There’s so much I’ve missed and yet there’s so much I’ve experienced on each travel. Each time that I’ve been to Kashmir, I was always in for a new experience and abundant beauty to feast on. The people I’ve met, have always been so kind and friendly and listening to them has always given me new, fresh perspectives, much different from what is perceived otherwise .

Lidder river in Pahalgam

Before I headed for the gorgeous Kashmir Great Lakes Trek, I decided to explore Pahalgam, as it had been on my mind for the longest time. And though 2 days aren’t enough to really ‘explore’ any place, I tried to take in as much as I could. My brother, who was joining me for the trek, agreed to also join me at Pahalgam. And so we landed in Kashmir a couple of days before the trek began.

Also read: Traversing the Great Lakes of Kashmir

Reaching Pahalgam

After some 3ish hours of driving past the city, dusty highway, saffron fields, apple and apricot orchards, we arrived in Pahalgam around late afternoon. As we were inching closer to the town, the landscape changed. A roar of Lidder and surrounding beautiful mountains were our constant companions. Our accommodation was located closer to the river and we had the best of the time listening to its gurgling.

Chai with a view, Pahalgam, Kashmir

It was cold, not biting cold but pleasantly cold and that definitely called for hot chai. We set out for a walk through the town and across the river to reach the opposite bank. The weather just kept getting pleasant and the views around just kept getting better. I stopped every now and then to talk to the locals, posing kids and to try and capture the beauty of the place in my camera. It was a walk without any plan, any destination in mind, which is why I probably don’t have much to say about it except that it filled me some kind of unexplainable joy of walking in this charming town of Pahalgam in Kashmir.

Pahalgam is quite a popular place given that the Amarnath yatra – a spiritual journey to the Amarnath caves starts from here. There are a number of scenic places to visit in Pahalgam such as the Betaab Valley, Aru Valley, Tulian Lake, and the temple ruins of Awantipora are some attractions close by from Pahalgam. Awantipora, Tulian Lake and Lidderwat especially, still remain on my list and I will have to come back here again, some day.

Walking towards Baisaran meadow

Following morning, after a hearty breakfast we decided to hike to some nearby places. Our hotel manager had connected us with a local guide with whom we started walking. The first spot was Baisaran meadow. Located about 6ish km from Pahalgam, one can also take a pony ride to reach here. The weather was lovely and the trail passed through thick pine forests. Fresh forest smell filled our lungs. Numerous freshwater streams snaked through the forest.

Walk through beautiful forests of Pahalgam, Kashmir

A little over an hour later we were at the beautiful Baisaran meadow. As it wasn’t really a peak tourist season, there was no crowd here. In fact we had the whole place to ourselves. There are a few touristy things to do here, like zorbing, but we just walked around the place, sipped the hot kehwa, chatted with the few locals and simply enjoyed the place.

Kashmir Valley
Baisaran Valley

Next, we started walking towards the Pahalgam Valley. Because we were able to keep a good pace, (and by now our guide was friends with us), he offered to take us back through a path that was used only by locals & shepherds and not going back the same way as we came. This needed us to walk some extra kilometres, and we were totally game for it. After all, why would we give up an opportunity to walk some offbeat paths?

The path, as was obvious, lacked humans, all we saw was a few livestock and some shepherd huts – everyone busy and away. It was a different thrill to walk this part of Pahalgam and we thoroughly enjoyed it. The guide bid a farewell a few kilometres before the main town area as he stayed somewhere in the outskirts. We walked back a kilometre or two to reach the main market area.

Shepherd’s hut near Pahalgam

After feasting on a nice lunch, as my brother decided to take a nap, and I thought of visiting the Lidder again. When I told the young Kashmiri boy at the reception that I was going to the river, he gave me details of a shortcut to reach there. He promptly offered to guide me when he saw my confused expressions. He was a no-nonsense person, after guiding me to the river and some small talks, he went and sat away as if he knew I needed to be alone and undisturbed. He offered to wait so as to make sure I reached back safely, but since I was kinda confident to find my way back I politely told him he could leave.

Dandelion in forest, Kashmir

I sat by the Lidder absorbed in its beauty until the dusk. The sunset was obstructed by the tall mountains but the changing colours of sky, the rhythmic gurgle of Lidder and this strange kind of silence added such dramatic effects to that evening. Soon, it got dark and not really wanting to leave such a setting, I half-heartedly made my way back to the hotel. The Lidder roared silently behind me and the tall mountains watched over me.

Monsoon Trek To Kalsubai – The Highest Peak In Maharashtra

Emerald hills of Western Ghats

Come monsoon and the Sahyadris of Maharashtra get a stunning makeover. Emerald hills, roaring waterfalls, sprawling valleys enveloped in mist – its all just too irresistible! Here’s an account of one such gorgeous monsoon trek that I went on – Kalsubai – the highest peak in the Western Ghats of Maharashtra.

We clubbed a long-due plan of bike ride on kid brother’s new bike with a hike to Kalsubai peak. We started sometime in the afternoon from Pune, it took us around midnight to reach the base village near Bhandardara given the long route plus the incessant rains. A few friends had travelled from Mumbai and had reached there around evening. Our host, a local, was waiting for us with hot dinner of bhakri and bhaji – the yummiest, simplest and healthiest food one can find in the Maharashtrian villages.

Next morning we started for the Kalsubai shikhar. It was drizzling so we had geared up in our raincoats and jackets. To my horror, the trail was infested with tiny blood-sucking insects, something similar to ticks/flea. And try as much as I did, I couldn’t completely avoid them (and so yes came back with several itchy bites & marks adding to the leech marks from Sikkim and tick marks from Nagarhole forests ) That’s the worst part for me about any monsoon treks, though I love the rains, the trails and the experience, this is one thing I hate the most. And maybe coz I hate it, I end up getting bitten too I guess.

Kalsubai peak engulfed in clouds and mist

The hike was a pleasant one, except at one point. almost near the summit. One needs to climb an iron ladder installed here, which gets really tricky and kinda slippery in rains. My bunch of adventurous friends decided to go around and climb the cliff on the side of the steep rock face. I was convinced because after all, a little adventure would make these memories more stronger and last forever 🙂

Ditched the ladder and climbing the rock face against the crazy wind!

A little temple stood undisturbed in the crazy wind at the summit. We were completely bowled over by the powerful wind and the rain drops that were now capable of hurting us. We were literally shouting at the top of our lungs to talk to each other as the sound of the wind and rain was deafening. After spending a few minutes (trust me you just can’t stay there for long in that kind of rain and wind) we started the descend.

After spending the remaining day and sleeping to the soothing sounds of rain and quiet wind in a makeshift hut that night, we bid farewell to our hosts the following morning. There are a number of homestays in the base village that provide food, accommodation and a guide. Our host had arranged for us to stay somewhere up the hill, closer to the trail so we had a different kind of experience.

Drop me a message if you wish to trek with the same guide, he is honest and his family will host you very lovingly.

Monsoon treks are my favourite (except of course for the part where I have to deal with leeches/ticks/ etc). Do you like monsoon treks too? Which ones have you been on? Tell me which is your favourite one?