W e asked our trekkers on social media to vote for their favourite lake on the Kashmir Great Lakes trek. This is a bit of a hard task. It’s called the Great Lakes trek for a reason! Each lake has its own special charm.
The waters of the lakes change colour every moment. They are colourless where the water is shallow, greenish-blue when it is cloudy, and a brilliant azure when the sun is out.
But vote they did. Of the 6 main lakes on the KGL trek, here are trekkers’ favourites, in reverse order:
Satsar is a collection of 7 lakes scattered around an isolated valley. These lakes face strong competition from the other lakes on the trek, but they are still some of the most beautiful you’ll see in the Indian Himalayas.
The Satsar lakes have a mysterious, almost theatrical air. Their colours are not the usual bright blue. There is mist floating above the water, and you can clearly see red stones at the bottom of the lakes.
There are a waterfall and a small glacial pool on the hill above the Satsar campsite. This water then goes underground to feed the Satsar lakes.
Nandkol is the smaller twin of the Gangabal lake. It feeds the Wangath Nallah, which joins the Sindh river.
This lake is generally a calm blue, and is quite famous for trout fishing. It is only a day’s hike from Naranag, so many people visit over the weekend.
Nandkol is nestled against the intimidating Mt. Harmukh. Harmukh stands tall at 16,870 ft. The story goes that the existence of K2 was discovered from atop this mountain. A team from the Great Trigonometric Survey led by Thomas Montgomerie sketched this peak for the first time when they summited Harmukh. In most other places, K2 is hidden behind other mountains or glaciers.
Kishansar is the second lake you will see on this trek. It is around 500 ft higher in altitude than Vishansar, its twin lake. Little rivulets run from Kishansar to Vishansar.
It is framed by large mountains on the left and a meadow to the right. Directly ahead is the ridge that leads to Gadsar Pass. In July, you’re likely to see Kishansar partially frozen.
Spend a while at the glades of this lake, watching the colours change as the sun and clouds work their magic.
Gadsar might be the most untouched lake of the lot. A good number of trekkers make the weekend trip from Sonamarg to Vishansar and Kishansar. Even more trek from Naranag to Nandkol and Gangabal. But this pristine lake is a little harder to reach.
The Gadsar lake is your reward after climbing to the highest point of the KGL trek – Gadsar Pass at 13,800 ft. It is in an expansive valley with no one but the occasional shepherd in sight.
‘Gadsar’ means ‘lake of fishes.’ It has plenty of trout and other fish. From certain angles, this lake looks heart-shaped.
Gadsar is nestled against an enormous glacier that feeds the lake. This lake often has ice floes on its surface. It is surrounded by an enormous meadow full of wildflowers. The deep blue-green of its waters complements the colours of the valley perfectly.
We don’t have a lake placed second, because we have two lakes jointly tied for first place:
Vishansar was neck to neck with the other winner of this trekkers’ poll. It’s not surprising. Vishansar is the first of the great lakes on this trek, so it leaves a lasting impression.
After crossing the Nichnai Pass, a day’s trekking will lead you to Vishansar. It is at the end of the valley, just past a small hillock down which a stream flows.
This enchanting lake presses against the sides of a mountain and seems to ripple out from its corners. Its waters are the deepest blue imaginable. They lighten when the sun is out, and turn green when there are clouds overhead.
You can see perfect reflections of the peaks above the lake in its surface.
Gangabal is the largest of the great lakes. A walk around the lake will easily take an hour. It is fed by glaciers. In turn, it feeds the Nandkol lake just on the other side of the mound to its left.
Gangabal is somehow one of the lightest blues. The water glints in the sunlight, and ripples as the wind blows. You can sit on one of the large rocks scattered around the lake and watch the water change colours.
This lake actually used to be the site of the Harmukutaganga pilgrimage undertaken by Kashmiri Pandits. The bones of their dead were immersed in the lake during that annual pilgrimage.
So there you have our (by no means definitive) trekker’s rating of the lakes on the Kashmir Great Lakes trek! Of course, they are all of incomparable beauty. You’ll also find many more lakes on this trek, most of them unnamed. Each adds to the thrill of the experience.
Whichever lakes you like the best, make sure to spend enough time at the glades. You’ll find something new to appreciate each minute.
Which lakes on the Kashmir Great Lakes trek do you like best? Tell us in the comments below.
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