Sonmarg, Jammu and Kashmir
Sonmarg or Meadow of Gold is a hill station in Ganderbal district in the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir. Sonmarg is a trekker's heaven that has adventurous routes with beautiful green water and frozen lakes around. Owing to its high altitude, 2740 metres above sea level, the place is cold even during summers. About 3kms away is the Thajiwas glacier which offers great opportunities for sledging even during mid summers. The Sind river flowing nearby is great fun for angling as well as river rafting. The place serves as the starting point of many important treks passing through many mountain lakes and leading all the way to the Amarnath caves. It is also the last halt on the Kashmir side for the drive from Srinagar to Leh.
The nearest airport is the Srinagar airport which is about 70kms away and is well connected with all the major cities of the country. Cabs and buses are available from the airport for Sonmarg. The nearest railhead is Jammu with good connectivity from the rest of the country. One needs to take a bus or a cab to reach Sonmarg. One can also choose to drive from Jammu to Sonmarg. The distance is about 400kms, approx 10-12 hours journey with some breathtaking views of the snow capped mountains and countryside. Cross the famous Jawahar tunnel which connects the Kashmir valley with the rest of the world.
The place allows one to experience different types of weather in a single day. The best time to visit Sonmarg is in summers from May to November. The place experiences extreme winters from December to April where the temperature can dip below zero degrees.
Thajiwas, is the everlasting glacier, that provides a chance to enjoy sledge ride on the snow even in mid-summer. Ponies are available up to the glacier from Sonmarg. Superb camp sites in Thajiwas area, makes it a prime location for school camps and trekkers in summer.
5km from Ganderbal is the shrine of Kheer Bhawani at a village called Tulmul. An annual festival, Jesht Ashtami, is held during May-June, when according to beliefs, the Goddess changes the colour of the water. A trip to this temple will be worthwhile.
Mansbal Lake is famous for water nuts, lotus roots nadru and lotus flowers that blossom. This lake serves as home to many aquatic birds, making it a bird watchers' paradise. It is considered the deepest lake in Kashmir as deep as 12.8 m at some places. The beautiful shikaras floating over the lake offer a wonderful ride. A well laid park in front of the lake makes it a pleasurable picnic spot for locals and tourists alike.
Gangabal Lake, 15 km from Sonmarg, will certainly make you stop at the first visible campsite in the area. Passing via Vishansar Lake at 3680 m and further to Krishansar Lake at 3819 m, a marvellous campsite urges you to stop overnight. A 23 km trek to Gadsar Lake, appears, mostly full of broken glacier masses. A trek of 17 km via Satsar Lake, 3600 m, passes through Gangabal valley, where the view of Harmukh Peak is breathtaking.
Amarnathji Yatra the meandering trek of 14 km from Bal Tal, leads to the Holy Cave. One can easily return the same day by early evening to Baltal where ample tents are available at affordable cost. Medical facilily, telecommunication and other necessary amenities are available at Bal Tal during the yatra period organized efficiently by the concerned State authorities.
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