Sonamarg Travel Guide: The Land of Glaciers and Meadows in J&K (2023)
Sonamarg, also known by the name Sonmarg, is a town in the state of Jammu and Kashmir in India. The word Sonamarg translates into ‘the land of gold’. It is one of the most beautiful places in the entire country and specifically in the state. This small town is situated 9,000 km above sea level at the bank of the gushing Sindh river. This picturesque town is located in the Ganderbal district of Jammu and Kashmir and is just 70 km away from the Srinagar International Airport. From Sonamarg, you will be able to see beautiful snowy mountains as its backdrop. Image Source
Sonamarg valley is the connecting point of several Himalayan peaks like Kolhoi peak, Amarnath peak, Sirbal Peak, and others. The beautiful view of the place is even more attractive with the wide varieties of flowers and alpine trees covering the entire beautiful town. You also have the option to hire ponies to trip up to the Thajiwas Glacier. The Thajiwas glacier is situated at an altitude of 9,186 feet and is one of the top tourist attractions in the area. Sonamarg is a picturesque landscape covered in emerald meadows and blue sky and is an all-time favorite place among the community of mountain photographers. Sonamarg is the base of a major trek that passes along several mountain lakes Vishansar, Kishansar, Gadsar, Satsar, and Gangabal. It is also a base for the holy Amarnath Yatra.
During winters Sonamarg valley is covered with snow and offers an opportunity for the tourists to enjoy sledding or skiing. Many tourists come to Sonamarg during winters especially to practice Skiing.
The tourists can also enjoy fishing. One of the most popular dishes found in the area is trout and there are other species in Vishansar Lake, Krishnasar Lake, Gangabal Lake. If you like water sports, you will have the opportunity to do white water rafting in Sonamarg. You can also chill here and enjoy the true natural beauty of Kashmir and enjoy sightseeing here.
Places to See and Things to do in Sonamarg
Thajiwas Glacier is situated at a distance of 3 km from Sonamarg. It is a very famous tourist spot in the city. It is located at a distance of 3000 m above the sea level and is famous for sightseeing and is also very famous among the tourists in the area. The glacier is covered in snow around the year and is a very beautiful spot to see when around. It is also considered one of the biggest assets in the state of Jammu and Kashmir and a famous spot to be seen. It is also a great spot for adventure seekers as people like to trek to this place from Sonamarg. If you want to see the glacier without trying to hike all the way, there is an option to hire a pony as well that can take you to the glacier. The way to the glacier is even more beautiful as you will get to see the frozen lake and the flora and fauna all around that add to the beauty of this place. There are alpine meadows all around in the Thajiwas Glacier along with numerous waterfalls. This view makes you look like you are in heaven on this earth. It is as beautiful as it gets. You would not miss your home. The memories of this place are to behold for a long time in your brain and heart. This makes the glacier one of the most famous and most visited tourist attractions of Sonamarg. The tourists get to sled here during the summers. It is also a perfect spot for trekking as well as camping. Another interesting fact about this area and the beautiful landscape is that you get to see the horses grazing on the green grasslands as you would imagine in dreams. Visiting this place is nothing less than living your dream for a day or two. Make sure you do not miss visiting Thajiwas Glacier when you are in the area.
Zoji La is a mountain pass in the Himalayas in the Indian union territory of Ladakh. Zoji-la pass is located in the Dras and is a very beautiful location. The pass connects the Kashmir Valley to its west with the Dras and Suru valleys to its northeast and the Indus valley further east. Zoji La is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 3.528m above sea level, located in the Kargil district in Ladakh. Although you must be aware that this pass is not a leisure weekend drive. This pass is supposed to be one of the most treacherous passes in the world and one must be aware of the risks of going here too. If you are traveling on a bike, this pass will check your mental capacity and your riding skills to test. Rest assured, this is one of the most adventurous places for the adrenaline junkies to be.
Zoji-La pass sits on the way from Baltal and Matayen. The road leading to this place is 25.8 km long. It is so narrow that a car can fit through and heavy vehicles find it difficult to maneuver their way through because it is uphill, and the incline is extremely steep, and the road is also very narrow. The drive is a bit nerve-wracking, but it is worth it. But it is not an easy drive. The pass links Amid Leh in the Western Himalayan Mountain Ranges and Srinagar and provides an important link between Ladakh and Kashmir. But one must always check the road conditions before planning your travel because if the roads are closed you will be stuck on the way for hours. Because of the extreme conditions, it is advisable to drive a 4WD on these roads. The zone experiences high winds and heavy snowfall, which render it impassable for much of the winter. Even when the sun is shining, the roads are narrow, the drops are steep and there is no barrier between you and the abyss. The pass remains closed half of the year because of intense snowfall. It opens in the spring season, but the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) is working to extend traffic to most parts of the year. Do not miss visiting this place if you have a daring heart.
The Vishansar Lake is an extremely beautiful lake located at a height in the majestic mountains in the valley enhancing the beauty of the area. It is an alpine high-altitude oligotrophic lake situated in the vicinity of Sonamarg at an elevation of 3710 meters. It is a very famous tourist spot around Sonamarg and is visited by thousands of tourists around the year. The Vishansar Lake is 1 kilometer long and has a maximum width of 0.6 kilometers. There is a famous trek of Vishasar and Krishansar lakes in the Kashmir valley. The place is still not commercialized, and this fact makes it even more interesting since the beauty of the place is still unadulterated. These lakes are also a part of the famous Great Lakes trek and a very beautiful spot to visit in the area. The outlet of the famous Vishansar is in the Neelam River. The lake is enveloped by green rich dales where close-by shepherds bring their sheep and goat to graze in the pre-summer season. You will also find horses grazing in the nearby area making the place very interesting. This beautiful and serene lake surrounded by snowcapped mountains adds to the beauty of this place. The beautiful landscape of this place attracts tourists and especially the trekkers here. Trekkers generally camp at the lakeside that makes this place even more interesting and famous. The Neelum River streams northwards up to Badoab and after that westwards through Gurais. The Gadsar Lake lies roughly 18 km in west convergence of Gadsar Pass. You will get to discover many other spots while visiting this lake. Do not miss it while you are in Sonamarg.
White Water Rafting
White Water Rafting is one of the most famous activities to be enjoyed by the tourists in the area. One can go for a long rafting expedition starting from Baltal and ending at Shutkari Bridge at Sonamarg. This is an extremely adventurous sport to try. There are several stretches available that make rafting even more fun here. It is assured that you will have a pleasure and fun rafting trip, whether you are a beginner, first time, or even a professional or advanced level rafter.
Nilagrad river is located at a distance of about 6 km from Sonamarg and is an extremely beautiful and serene spot to enjoy your time here. You will see many people visiting this river on the weekends. An interesting fact about the river is that it has reddish water, and it is believed by the locals that the water in this river has medicinal properties. You will find many people taking a dip or two in the river on the weekends. You can also make the most of it and do not shy away from taking a dip in the river and enjoy the chilly water amid the majestic snowcapped mountains. The river further merges with the Indus river at the Baltic Colony. Tourists visiting this place can also see Krishnasar Lake and Vishansar Lake, which are located close to Sonamarg.
Great Lakes Trek
Great Lakes is one of the most famous treks in Sonamarg area. You cannot imagine the beauty of this place unless you visit this place on your own. No photos or videos on the internet can do justice to the place and it is extremely beautiful when you are looking at the landscape with your own eyes here. The best part is that the trek begins in Sonamarg and the trekkers arrive here and start their journey for the trek from this place.
The extraordinary and beautiful Baltal Valley is nestled along the banks of the Sindh River near Sonamarg. This valley lies on the foot of Zoji La mountain pass in the Himalayas of Kashmir valley. The reason behind the popularity of this valley is that it is a major camping ground for pilgrims of the famous Amarnath Yatra. It provides a shorter and alternate route to the sacred Amarnath Cave, which is why many base camps are set up at this site.
Baltal Valley is also blessed with water from the Sindh river and has sprawling greens all around with traces of snow. Baltal Valley is considered a paradise for nature lovers. It offers a beautiful and wonderful panorama of the distant mountains that are enveloped with snow and is a very nice place to spend time in the area. A little distant location and unusual terrain of Baltal have contributed to making it a frequented trekking and camping site. Several treks are organized to this valley from Sonamarg and other parts of Kashmir.
Best Time to Visit Sonamarg
April to June is the best time to visit Sonamarg . However, every season has its charm in this town that invites you to visit at any time of the year. Another famous time to visit Sonamarg is during July and August when the visitors are allowed to go for Amarnath Yatra. Many tourists come for the Amarnath yatra also to Sonamarg during the season. The place receives heavy snowfall during the winters and hence it is closed for tourist visits during the winters. As the summer starts, when the snow starts to melt, you will start seeing the greenery and flowers all around which makes the place look like heaven. You can enjoy paragliding and skiing also early in the summers at Sonamarg. The weather is pleasant in summers and is considered the ideal time to spend in the lap of the Himalayas.
There is a huge rush of tourists to Sonamarg from March to May and the temperature is pleasant compared to other parts of the country where it is brazenly hot. You can decide when you want to get away from the hustle-bustle of the city and want to stay and rejuvenate your cluttered mind in the lap of the Himalayas. It experiences rains between July and September.
How to Reach Sonamarg?
Sonamarg is well connected and can be reached easily from all major cities. There are several means of transport available to travel to Sonamarg. You can choose from air travel, trains, buses, or taxis to reach this heavenly town in this beautiful valley.
Air Travel to Sonamarg:
The Nearest airport is Sri Nagar airport and is connected to most of the major cities in India. The local airlines and carriers like Air India, Jet Airways, Indigo, Spice Jet, and others have direct flights from Delhi. You can take a taxi to Sonamarg which is around k70m from Sri Nagar airport. To reach Sri Nagar, you can also take connecting flights from other local airports in India if a direct flight is not available from your nearest airport. You can hire a taxi from the airport to reach go to your destination in Sonamarg or the nearby cities if you are planning to go anywhere else.
Rail Travel to Sonamarg:
The Nearest railway stations are Udhampur railway station which is 250 km from Sonamarg. There is a train specially named after the station. The railhead is connected to most of the major cities in India. The railhead is connected to most of the major cities in India. Udhampur railway station is directly connected to prime cities of the country, including Delhi, Bhatinda, Jaipur, Ahmedabad and Jodhpur via several superfast, express, and mail trains. You can take a taxi or take a shared cab from outside the railway station to reach your destination. Public transport is also readily available outside the railway station. You can take a taxi or take a shared cab from outside the railway station to reach Sonamarg.
Road Travel to Sonamarg:
This is the best but might be the hardest way to reach Sonamarg as you will have to take a connecting bus from the nearby cities like Jammu, Sri Nagar, or Anantnag. One thing is sure that you will be able to enjoy the views on your way to the city while traveling by road. Sonamarg is connected through all major cities nearby to all major cities by a network of roads to Chandigarh, Jammu, Sonamarg, Delhi, and Patnitop. Bus service is also available from all the nearby major cities in the north that connect to Sonamarg via Jammu and Sri Nagar.
Places to Stay in Sonamarg
You can find places to stay in Sonamarg for all budgets. There are both luxurious and budget hotels you can choose based on your pocket size. Sonamarg has many homestays that have been hosted by the locals and built especially for tourism here. A vacation to Sonamarg is the ideal way to unwind and relax in the lap of nature away from the city crowds. There are many warm and cozy places to stay in the town for all budgets including hostels, resorts, homestays, etc. There are luxurious 5-star hotels, mid-range hotels, homestays, bed and breakfast, and other budget hotels in the main town and nearby places. Make sure you book your accommodation before visiting the place as the possibility of finding a good or any accommodation gets difficult during the peak season if you just drop by. You can also find many homestays which are quite famous among families as well as young people and adventure seekers as you can have the entire area to yourself and enjoy there as per your comfort. And if you are staying with a landlord at your homestay, you get to enjoy the local Kashmiri food that any restaurant in the city would not do any justice to. Some of the luxurious hotels and budget hotels you can choose from are Hotel Village Walk, Green Glamping Resort, Hotel Glacier Heights, Imperial Resorts, Namrose Resorts, The Sultan Resorts among many others.
Things to Eat in Sonamarg
You will get to eat the best food from one of the best cuisines in the world here in Sonamarg. Kashmiri cuisine is the local cuisine here with some of the most delicious dishes you would eat in your lifetime. There are many restaurants, luxury properties serving local to multicuisine food for you to relish. Make sure you visit these places and enjoy your time eating the best food while you are here and discover more cafes and restaurants to enjoy good food and time. Some of the famous dishes in the area are Syoon Olav which is a type of meat with Potatoes cooked in spicy gravy, Marcha-Wangan korma, Nadir-Haaq/Gogji/Monji which is the famous lotus stems cooked with Spinach or Radish, Muj Gaad is Fish with Radish, Modur Pulaav is Sweet Pulao and is usually eaten as a dessert, Kaanti is lamb pieces in red hot gravy, usually eaten as a snack and not part of the main course and Matschgand is minced lamb meatballs in spicy red gravy. There are other popular food items also available in the area including the street food that includes Kaladi Kulcha that is popular in the area. Make sure you do not miss eating these scrumptious dishes while you are here.