How We Explored the Tarsar Marsar Trek in Kashmir

I first started hearing about the Tarsar Marsar trek in 2011 from our staff in Kashmir. They told me about this beautiful trek to some lakes near Pahalgam. They told me it was even prettier than Kashmir Great Lakes trek that we had just started to run.

I almost pooh-poohed them. I couldn’t imagine another trek in Kashmir that could beat our Kashmir Great Lakes trek.

They told me there were three lakes in a series. Tarsar, then above that Marsar and then further above Sundersar. I imagined the lakes were in tiers. One level after another.

Trekking with indiahikes - Tarsar Marsar - Lone tent beside Tarsar - Arjun Majumdar_
One of the advantages of exploration is you can pitch a lone tent next to a lake. Nobody and nothing else is around. PC: Arjun Majumdar

The hype around Tarsar Marsar

Our Kashmir staff continued to gush about the trek almost every other day. I thought they were being a bit pushy. I felt they just wanted Indiahikes to open another trek in Kashmir. The economic benefit was there for everyone to see.

Yet, at the back of my mind, the thought of these lakes nagged me. What if they were indeed prettier than our great lakes?

Finally, one day I decided to end the conflict once and for all. I asked Rahul, at that time our senior most trek leader, to lead a small exploratory expedition to these lakes.

During a break in our trekking season, Rahul set off with a motley group of our Kashmiri staff to explore the lakes.

A week later I heard from him. They were extremely tired. They had taken a difficult route on the return. They had made their way through unknown jungles, rough terrain but found a shortcut to reach our base camp.

In the excitement of describing their adventure somewhere the trek was lost.

When I asked Rahul about the trek, he said it was a wonderful, beautiful trek, but he hurried back to tell me how they had walked almost 25 km to reach camp.

Trekking with indiahikes - Tarsar Marsar - at the top of Tarsar Pass - Arjun Majumdar_
Sitting on the rock at the Tarsar Pass I was overwhelmed at the scenery that stretched below me. And the magnitude of the occasion. We had just discovered a new trail to this valley below.

Rahul also told me about some of the local shepherds who he met on the way. They had warned him that this trail was not very safe. That infiltrators with guns frequented the trail. Some foreigners were abducted some years ago. He said it would not be wise to run the trek, and even in our documentation we must put up a cautionary.

I was left with a mixed feeling about the trek. First, I couldn’t figure out how beautiful the trek was. With bad weather Rahul didn’t have many pictures either. His adventure on the return trail overshadowed the goodness of the trek.

A month or two later the documentation of the trek was up on the website — it came along with a red box that cautioned trekkers against doing the trek.

That was the end of Tarsar Marsar.

After we put up the documentation of Tarsar Marsar on the website, we didn’t think to open it up to trekkers. Not for the next few years until another exploration. PC: Arjun Majumdar

A few years later…

Until few years later the nag returned. Even though we had a new team of local Kashmiri folks there was a constant buzz about Tarsar. The topic would come up whenever we were in small informal chats.

Somewhere in all this, a comment that Rahul made kept coming back to me. He had said, “Tarsar Marsar is even more beautiful than KGL.”

At that time he had made this comment almost in passing. The implication of which had escaped me. With the local buzz that I was hearing, his comment was becoming increasingly significant.

Taking the plunge to explore

Something else happened around the same time. On a working holiday with my family, we went to Aru, the base of the Tarsar Marsar trek. I wanted to see first hand what the start of the trek looked like. I was bowled over by the stunning meadows and pine forests that surrounded Aru. This looked too idyllic to believe. I had to find out more.

Our base camp at Aru looked almost like a small European village. It was too idyllic to be real. Picture by Sudheer Hegde

The next day, along with my 3 year old daughter riding on my shoulders I went to Lidderwat, the first camp of the trek. I had never seen such wondrous grassy clearings in the midsts of forests on my treks. I was palpably excited when I returned to Aru the same day. I had no doubt by then that this was going to be one of the best treks in India.

The grasslands of Lidderwat did it for me. It already made me feel like this could be one of the best treks in India. Picture by Sudheer Hegde

Back in our office, we quickly made plans to explore the trek fully. We didn’t know much about the route. We didn’t have GPS readings to go by either. We decided to take a local shepherd along to help with directions.

In July 2014 my partner Sandhya, our Chief of Operations, Manish and I formed a three member team to explore these exciting lakes of Kashmir. The terrain was desolate; our destinations sketchy. We were rather nervous, but the chance to discover something new in Indian trekking filled us with excitement.

Trekking with indiahikes - Tarsar Marsar - looking for Tarsar Pass - Arjun Majumdar_
We kept pushing for a new trail up this saddle without any idea what lay beyond. But if we could find a path through this col, it could herald a new trail to Sundersar. PC: Arjun Majumdar

I cannot remember spending more happier moments than we did exploring Tarsar Marsar. The trek turned out to be spectacular. I had never imagined this side of Kashmir could be so pretty that it defied any description. But there it was — a trek that in every way matched our Kashmir Great Lakes trek.

Trekking with indiahikes - Tarsar Marsar - exhausted after a hard day - Arjun Majumdar_
Exhausted after a hard day of exploration and setting up camp PC: Arjun Majumdar

Soaking in the beauty

We were bowled over by the vast grasslands, the sunlit clearings, the pine trees, the rivers and streams. Closer to the lakes the mountains took on grand imposing shapes with snow patches at their crowns.

The Tarsar Marsar trek had it all going on. Pine trees, clearings, grasslands, lovely mountains and valley. Picture by Sudheer Hegde

Then the three lakes. They were much bigger than we imagined them to be. Tarsar on its own was around a kilometre long. The lake was a magnificent royal blue, pearly white snow patches surrounded it. We camped besides the shores of Tarsar and Sundarsar. We thought we had attained nirvana.

The dreamy Tarsar Lake. It was a surreal experience taking in the view of the lake in its entirety. Picture by Sudheer Hegde

Unlike my previous impression, the lakes were not in levels, but in three different locations, forming a triangle of sorts. There were multiple trails to access the lakes. We forced a new route over a saddle that connected Sundarsar with Tarsar. The saddle also gave us a commanding view of the flower strewn Jagmargi valley.

Jagmargi Meadows a new discovery -- Tarsar Marsar Trek
The meadows of Jagmargi strewn with countless flowers! PC: Arjun Majumdar

Forcing our way through another little known trail past a col behind Sundarsar got us to a overhang above Marsar. I couldn’t have imagined a better viewpoint than this to see the grandeur of the lake.

Tarsar Marsar-Indiahikes-brijesh tiwari-Marsar lake
The clouds revealing the Marsar Lake PC: Brijesh Tiwari

When I look back at some of these discoveries that we made, I am sometimes astonished at the permanent mark they have left in Indian trekking. The great campsite of Shekawas. The new route to Sundarsar over the Tarsar pass. Camping at Sundarsar. The trail past the col at Sundersar to Marsar. All of them have now become de rigueur of trekking to Tarsar Marsar.

The Sundarsar Lake. Camping beside this was unreal. Picture by Sudheer Hegde

Sometimes I do feel very nice about our work at Indiahikes.

What you should do now

1. If you’d like to read more about the Tarsar Marsar trek, head over to this page.

2. To see the five biggest highlights of the Tarsar Marsar trek, click on this link.

3. If you’re inspired by this story and want to work with us: Head over to our careers page. We have lots of positions open. We also have lots of applications coming in. So the sooner you apply, the better.

4. If you ended up here by chance and were actually looking for treks to do: Then head over to our upcoming treks page. You’ll find all our Himalayan treks there.

Arjun Majumdar

Arjun Majumdar

An entrepreneur by profession and a trekker by passion, Arjun started Indiahikes in 2008. With a vision to explore and document new trails, solve problems in the mountains and implement sustainable ways of trekking. Arjun leads Indiahikes, a community that has changed the face of trekking in India. He has written extensively for Discover India magazine and is a TedX speaker. He frequently talks at institutions about his entrepreneurial journey, but his favourite topic is always the impact of trekking on the mind, body and spirit. Read Arjun's other articles. Watch Arjun's TedX talk. Watch Arjun speak about our trekking trails. Learn from Arjun about what it's like to work at Indiahikes.