STOP crowding Kashmir Great Lakes and Tarsar Marsar: Here are 7 Terrif...

STOP crowding Kashmir Great Lakes and Tarsar Marsar: Here are 7 Terrific Alternatives within J&K

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By Swathi Chatrapathy


I’m writing this post with a bit of exasperation. 

These stats will explain why: Out of the 260 calls we receive every day, at least 40 are about the Kashmir Great Lakes and Tarsar Marsar treks, requesting slots in full groups. 

Most of our KGL and Tarsar Marsar groups were filled last year. Even after opening new groups, we are left only with the last few slots. The trek doesn’t have a higher carrying capacity. 

But here’s something most trekkers don’t know. 

We have seven other equally fantastic treks in Jammu and Kashmir. Most are on par with the beauty and adventure of the Kashmir Great Lakes and Tarsar Marsar. 

Given that these are new treks, trekkers don’t know them yet. But give it two years, and you’ll see these treks with a rush similar to KGL and TM. 

As a subscriber to my emails, I hope you use this information well and plan treks to other Kashmir treks instead of waiting on the most famous (and crowded) ones. 

Here’s the full list of 7 other great treks in J&K. 

1. Nafran Valley 

If you have the Kashmir Great Lakes in mind, then Nafran Valley is a trek that makes the best alternative. I strongly recommend it. 

There are three reasons it makes a great alternative to KGL 

(a) The beautiful lakes of Harnag and Harbhagwan. 

(b) The golf course-like grasslands  

(c) The adventurous pass crossings

Here’s a fact. This trek is so picturesque that it has been featured in our Mountain Lovers Gold Calendar since we discovered it. Only a handful of treks are chosen to be featured here, yet we can never ignore this trek. 

The big bonus is that you camp right next to the famous Kolahoi glacier.

Harnag Lake is the biggest and the most beautiful lake on the Nafran Valley trek. You get to walk beside this lake for two days! Picture by Bijju Shekar.

Bhaj Margi meadow is the grandest meadow of the Nafran Valley trek. If you are blessed with the clear weather, the morning or evening sunlight hitting the meadows is a stunning sight to witness. Picture by Diptarka Gupta.

Explore Nafran Valley Trek

2. Bodpathri Meadows 

Here’s the ultimate grassland trek in Jammu and Kashmir. Trekking from one valley to another, you will be treated to some of the region's most expansive grasslands. By now, trekkers know that if any grasslands come close to the Swiss Alps, they are the grasslands of J&K. That’s what you see on this trek. 

Yet, the grasslands are just one of the highlights of this trek. You also see around seven beautiful lakes on this trek, which gives you a classic Kashmir experience. 

The sunset from the Ashtaar Valley campsite makes you never want to leave this campsite. In fact, this is the case with almost all the campsites on the Bodpathri meadows trek. Photo by Nitesh Kumar.

A 10-minute gradual ascent from the Ashtaar Valley, you'll view the Tatakooti mountain. The sunrise from here is majestic, making the valley below, look magical. Picture by Pritish Bhanushali.

Bodsar lake is arguably one of the most beautiful lakes on the trek. You keep seeing the lake for hours even after you start ascending to Gadtar, you just have to turn back to take a look every now and then. Photo by Pritish Bhanushali.

Explore Bodpathri Meadows Trek

3. Brammah Valley 

This is the rarest of the treks you can do in J&K because it is our only trek in the Kishtwar region. Kishtwar, in the south of J&K, has some of the most beautiful valleys you can see. 

The Brammah Valley is no ordinary valley. Rising at the end of the valley is a peak that betrays most mountaineers who attempt to climb it: Brammah Peak, a most sought-after summit to climb, but very few mountaineers have scaled it. It is among the most beautiful 6,000-metre summits in our country. On the Brammah Valley trek, you see the full face of the mountain from bottom to top. But two more towering peaks exist in the valley: the Brammah Wife and the Eiger.

On the other hand, this is the culture trek of the region. Much like how Har Ki Dun in Uttarakhand is teeming with culture, history and mythology, Brammah Valley gives you a wonderful cultural immersion. You see something rare in this isolated valley: a beautiful blend of Hindu and Muslim culture in this region: With mixed traditions, architecture, rituals and festivals, it’s a rare amalgamation of cultures, which is heartening to see. 

PS: This is the only J&K trek you can do in May and June. This is a great option if you plan to trek in the summer and want to avoid the Uttarakhand rush. Most treks in J&K open only in July and August. 

The grand Kiddhar Maidan, which is also a delta with backdrop of Mt. Eiger, Mt. Tarparan, and Brammah glacier. Picture by Nitesh Kumar.

The Mighty Mt. Brammah I (left) and Mt. Brammah Wife (right). Picture by Nitesh Kumar.

You will trek for long days in the forests in Brammah Valley. But they don't feel monotonous. Trekking under the shade of tall pine trees next to the gushing Nath River is an experience cherished by everyone to date. Picture by Nitesh Kumar.

Explore Brammah Valley Trek

4. Pir Panjal Lakes 

I’m almost hesitant to announce this trek because we feel it is too good to be true. With an astounding 8-10 lakes, multiple meadows, and endless jaw-dropping moments, this trek will likely be the greatest trek in Jammu and Kashmir. Our team explored, designed and documented this trail in 2023 and has been making outrageous statements like “It’s better than Kashmir Great Lakes” or “It’s better than Warwan Valley.” 

On Day 4, during the trail from Khuan to Neelsar, you will come across the pristine Sarota meadows. During dawn and dusk, the grass in these meadows turns golden to the human eye. Picture by Nithyam Nachappa.

The mesmerizing lake of Neelsar. Imagine camping with such setting and the blue color. This is the first lake that you get to see on the trek. Photo by Nitesh Kumar.

The meadows in the Pir Panjal trek are so huge that even an entire day is not enough to explore them completely! Picture by Nitesh Kumar.

Explore Pir Panjal Lakes Trek

5. Warwan Valley 

Our founders have always maintained one thing: you would never do a trek like Warwan Valley. The grandeur, the remote setting, and the uniqueness of this trek are so rare that even Kashmiris have not seen something so terrific. 

There are some unusual highlights on this trek: 

  1. The dramatic crossover from the bone-dry landscapes of Ladakh to the luxuriant grasslands of Kashmir. It begins in trans-Himalayan settings, among barren, purplish mountains around Panikhar. The trail goes through an oasis, river deltas, wildflower meadows, and glaciers—all among these stark mountains. It makes for hauntingly beautiful settings. After spending two days encircled by desert mountains, the effect is striking as the trail gradually enters the lush greenery of Kashmir.
  2. Traversing the Bracken Glacier: It is on very few treks that you see glaciers; most of the time, you see them from far away. It is on even fewer treks that you get to walk on a glacier. If you do, it’s usually a hurried 10-15 minute walk across the glacier. This is the only trek we’ve come across where you traverse along the entire length of a glacier, for hours together! With gaping crevasses beside you, the gurgling of a river deep beneath you, and the roar of car-sized chunks of ice falling down, it’s a sight that will stay with you for life.
  3. The luxuriant grasslands of Warwan Valley: The setting of villages in Warwan Valley is too perfect, even for pictures. Fences border the trail you walk on. Willow trees jut out between houses. Mud-baked lanes crisscross the village. Flower beds line the hills around the houses. To top it, a clear stream runs through the village! All in a way that distinctly resembles the Gaulish village from Asterix comics. This setting is unique to this part of Kashmir.
  4. The alpine lakes: You cannot talk about the Warwan Valley trek without mentioning the two alpine lakes formed by melting glaciers. Starting from clear at dawn to sea green to light blue to inky blue by evening. The two lakes on the pass crossing day will blow your mind away and make you grateful to witness this spectacular sight in front of your eyes.
Warwan Valley - Kalapari - Alpine Lake - Glacier Kashmir Trek - Indiahikes

The glacial lake above Kalapari often takes trekkers by surprise. You go here for an acclimatisation walk and also, pass the lake the next day of your trek. Picture by Nitesh Kumar.

Warwan Valley - Bracken Glacier - Kashmir Trek - Indiahikes

The bracken glacier is massive. What makes this special is you rarely see such huge glacier in its original form on any of our other treks. Picture by Nitesh Kumar.

Warwan Valley - Villages of Kashmir -Meadows - Kashmir Trek - Indiahikes

Basmina is a village surrounded by farmlands. This is on the Jammu and Kashmir side. Picture by Nitesh Kumar.

Explore Warwan Valley Trek

6. Gurez Valley

India ends at Gurez. The significance of this is enormous. If you look at our country as a whole, we travel upwards from Kanyakumari. There comes a point where we cannot travel any further north. That part of our country is Gurez.

The significance is that the Gurez is the last latitude of India. The Razdan pass you cross to get to Gurez pushes you into a very different landscape. The topography changes, even though it is only 6 hours north of Srinagar. In fact, our trek in Gurez reminds us more of our treks in Kyrgyzstan and Georgia than they do of our treks in Kashmir -- so different is the landscape. 

The cherry on top is the appearance of two massive lakes: Patalwansar I and Patalwansar II. Though the names are similar, these two lakes are radically different from each other. You get to camp right beside one of the lakes. 

Note: This trek will be run in our Do-It-Yourself (DIY) style. Which means trekkers, along with a trek leader, are going to be doing the trek all without a support system. You will be helping to carry a few of the gear and equipment as a team. So we expect your backpack to weigh about 12 kg per trekker.

This is Patalwansar II, a huge circular lake at 12,795 ft. Notice how tiny the explorer standing at the edge of the lake looks. Picture by Nitesh Kumar.

Your first campsite of the trek is Disson campsite. From here you will see clear views of Mt Habba Khatoon and villages in PoK. Picture by Nitesh Kumar.

Explore Gurez Valley Trek

7. Tulian Lake 

Kashmir treks are synonymous with lakes and meadows. With treks like the Kashmir Great Lakes, the Tarsar Marsar, the Bodhpatri, and the Nafran Valley already in the picture, it’s hard for any trek to match them. Yet, we have another terrific trek in Kashmir—the Tulian Lake trek—that does equal justice to these great treks. 

Along with stunning meadows and an alpine lake, the Tulian Lake trek has something that our other treks in Kashmir do not: the famous flora of Kashmir. There are pine, fir and spruce trees. You may think you have seen these trees before, but you have not. These forests differ significantly from those in Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, or Sikkim. They resemble European vegetation more than our Indian forests.

The turquoise blue Tulian Lake at 12,000 ft, with icebergs floating on it, is unlike our other Kashmir lakes. Beyond the 8-shaped lake, snow-capped peaks tower to over 15,000 feet. It’s among the easiest treks you can do in J&K. 

Tulian Lake is an alpine lake at 12,087 ft, shaped in the figure of 8 and is surrounded by high mountains. What makes this trek special is you trek 3 days to get to this stunning lake. Picture by Amit Fatnani.

On the Tulian Lake trek, you trek in the dense coniferous forests for 3 days of the trek. This is what makes Tulian Lake stand out from other Kashmir treks. It helps you experience the flora of Kashmir like never before. Picture by Lucas Bragagnollo.

Explore Tulian Lake Trek

In conclusion: 

That brings me to the end of this list of alternatives for Kashmir Great Lakes and Tarsar Marsar. 

Indiahikes has particularly documented and stitched together five of these routes. Our sole aim is to diversify trails as much as possible and avoid overcrowding a handful of trails. 

As I said earlier, these treks are not likely to remain isolated and quiet for more than a year or two. Grab your opportunity now to be among the first trekkers on these trails. Our dates for 2024 are open and available on this page.

If you have any questions about these treks, drop them in a comment below. We are right here to help you out. 

Swathi Chatrapathy

Chief Editor

About the author

Swathi Chatrapathy heads the digital content team at Indiahikes. She is also the face behind India's popular trekking video channel, Trek With Swathi. Unknown to many, Swathi also writes a weekly column at Indiahikes which has more than 100,000 followers.

A TEDx speaker and a frequent guest at other events, Swathi is a much sought after resource for her expertise in digital content.

Before joining Indiahikes, Swathi worked as a reporter and sub-editor at a daily newspaper. She holds a Masters's in Digital Journalism and continues to contribute to publications. Trekking, to her, is a sport that liberates the mind more than anything else. Through trekking, Swathi hopes to bring about a profound impact on a person's mind, body and spirit.

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