Moderate-Difficult | Level 2
TREK STARTS FROM
Shitkadi, Jammu & Kashmir
The Most Beautiful Trek In India
Kashmir Great Lakes is one of the most beautiful treks in India. No question. It validates Kashmir’s mythical status as heaven on earth.
This is because the trek is set on a canvas that’s larger than life. It is situated 75 km northeast of Srinagar. Every day is a 360° panorama of wild, rugged mountains, rolling meadows, and turquoise alpine lakes. And you get more than six of these lakes and five very different valleys to explore!
The range of landscape makes it a moderate-difficult trek spanning over six days. This means it has long trekking days with steep ascents and descents with no easy exit points. So, it’s not meant for a beginner who hasn’t been exposed to high-altitude treks.
Having said that, the challenges are worth it. Each day is postcard-perfect, with a new alpine lake to look forward to. What makes these lakes even prettier are the snow patches that feed these lakes. You see them sliding off the serrated mountains into the lakes. Sometimes you’ll see milky white icebergs floating on the lake’s inky blue surface.
And then there are meadows of Kashmir. These meadows come in every shape and size, sometimes many in a day.
After this trek, every other trek feels as though it is a movie on a small screen. Kashmir Great Lakes, however, is an IMAX 3D experience – such is the grandeur of the trek. If you have not done this trek, put it on your bucket list!
Kashmir Great Lakes Videos
Watch these videos to prepare well for your trek.
Trek map of the Kashmir Great Lakes trek
Drive from Srinagar to Gagangir.
Drive Duration: 3-4 hours | Drive Distance: 83 km | Pick-up point for Indiahikes trekkers: Sheikh Feroze Tours & Travels, Sathu, Barbara Shah Chowk, near Flourmill, Srinagar
Transport will be organised at 8.30 am from Sheikh Feroze Tours & Travels, Sathu, Barbara Shah Chowk, near Flourmill, Srinagar. The cab cost is Rs 600 per person and needs to be paid directly to the driver.
Drive from Gagangir to Shitkadi. Trek to Nichnai
Trek distance: 11.6 km | Trek duration: 6.5 hours | Altitude gain: 8,625 ft to 11,607 ft
Trek from Nichnai to Vishnusar via Nichnai Pass
Trek distance: 13.5 km | Trek Duration: 7 hours | Altitude gain: 11,607 ft to 12,011 ft via 13,229 ft
Trek type: Moderate. 1.5 hours of gradual ascent followed by an hour-long climb to the pass. A steep descent from the pass for about an hour easing off into a flat walk.
Trek from Vishnusar to Gadsar via Gadsar Pass
Trek distance: 16 km | Trek Duration: 7.5 hours | Altitude gain and loss: 12,011 ft to 10,706 ft via 13,715 ft
Trek type: Moderate difficult. 1.5-2 hours of steep ascent followed by 1 hour of steep descent, easing off into level walk.
Trek from Gadsar to Satsar
Trek distance: 11.5 km | Trek Duration: 4.5 hours | Altitude gain: 10,706 ft to 11,985 ft
Trek type: Moderate. 1.5 hours of steep ascent followed by a level walk.
Trek from Satsar to Gangabal via Zaj Pass
Trek distance: 9 km | Trek Duration: 6 hours | Altitude loss: 11,985 ft to 11,486 ft via 13,276 ft
Trek type: Difficult. 30 minutes each of gradual ascent followed by steep ascent for about 45 minutes and then a steep descent. Similarly ascending and descending trail all through.
Trek from Gangabal to Naranag. Drive to Srinagar
Trek distance: 13 km | Trek Duration: 6 hours | Altitude loss: 11,486 ft to 7,800 ft
Drive Distance: 2 hours | Drive Duration: 50 km
Trek type: Moderate. A mix of ascents and descents for 6 km followed by a very steep descent all the way down. You should reach Srinagar by 5 pm.
Please note: The distance between campsites may vary by 100 meters depending the weather conditions and the route you take. The altitude may also vary by 100 feet for similar reasons.
If the buffer day is used, you have to pay us Rs 1,800 per day + 5% GST. The money will be collected by the Trek Leader only if we use the buffer day.
➤ Special Cancellation Policy for Kashmir Treks: Because of a govt. order in Kashmir, we have extremely limited slots for the Kashmir Great Lakes trek. This has increased the demand for the trek. Which is why we have a special cancellation policy for this trek. It is designed to help trekkers take an early call about their trek.
If you cancel your trek between 60 days to 1 day of the trek, you do not get any refund or a voucher. You forfeit your entire trek fee.
If you cancel the trek over 60 days before the trek date, you get a refund with 10% cancellation charges.
➤Advisory Note: There are often uncertainties regarding trekking in Kashmir. If you're planning any trek in Kashmir, ensure you book flexible flight tickets that allow you to reschedule your flight at no added costs. These are readily available with most airlines.
➤Unforseen Changes: In case of emergencies, we will reroute treks to other trails. Please ensure you're mentally prepared in case such situations arise.
For all your travel plans, include a buffer day to accommodate bad weather on the trek/political instability. This depends entirely on the circumstances of the trek and the situation in Kashmir.
➤Documents required: It is mandatory for trekkers to carry a photocopy of their photo id along with the mandatory documents of the Medical Certificate and Disclaimer form. This is required for trek permissions before and during the trek.
➤Stay facility: You will be staying in tents (3 sharing) on all days of the trek. Trekkers must make arrangements to stay in Srinagar before and at the end of the trek.
Please note: You will have to reach Srinagar a day before and meet the Indiahikes team and the trek leader at 5 pm. The process of your registration, health screening, and document verification will take place at Srinagar in a common space, close to Dal Lake. This is the same place where your rental gear collection will happen.
Trek map of the Kashmir Great Lakes trek
Booking Flexi Flight Ticket - There are often uncertainties regarding trekking in Kashmir. If you're planning any trek in Kashmir, ensure you book flexible flight tickets that allow you to reschedule your flight at no added costs. These are readily available with most airlines.
Download the GPX file for your Kashmir Great Lakes Trek
We go to great lengths to ensure you have a safe trek. So here’s a GPX file to help you navigate without getting lost.
Lakes at a Glance
The Kashmir Great Lakes trek is synonymous for its 6 famous alpine lakes. Each day has a new alpine lake to look forward to. What makes these lakes even prettier are the snow patches that feed these lakes. You see them sliding off the serrated mountains into the lakes.
A trekker enjoying the view of Vishnusar lake. Image by Padmanabha K G
Gadsar Lake. Image by Ankit Patidar
Vishnusar Lake. Image by Veera Pendyala
Campsites at a Glance
At Indiahikes, we are very particular about choosing terrific campsites. For the Kashmir Great Lakes trek too, after a lot of back and forth, we have settled on these terrific campsites, which trekkers have come to love.
Smooth green grass, almost manicured, a few lone maple trees and a few horses enjoying the graze are what Satsar meadows look like where your campsite is. Picture by Sachin
Sonarmarg is right next to the NH1 highway. You get to see the Kolohoi glacier in the backdrop with the Sindh river flowing right next to you. Picture by Nimesh Mittal
Your first campsite would be the Nichanai campsite. Nichnai grasslands show you how massive and rugged meadows can be. Picture by Sachin
Why I Believe Everyone Must Trek: A Note from the Founder
Trekking transforms lives. It has completely changed my life. When I see my colleagues at Indiahikes, all of them have been impacted greatly. The transformations have been profound and irreversible.
I see it in our trekkers too. I have seen them change professions, careers or start a new life. I have seen them get in and out of relationships, and start new projects. These are life-changing experiences.
I have seen children building resilience. I have seen families come together. When I see those above 55, I see them rediscover passion and a sense of purpose. These are not small gains.
In the mountains new professions, new economies and new businesses have opened up. Our staff no longer go to cities to earn their living. Their income has increased. Above all, they are happiest working in this world. Trekking has been truly transformative.
Everyone must trek. It transforms lives far more than you imagine.
What I Like and Don’t Like About the Kashmir Great Lakes Trek
What I Like About the Kashmir Great Lakes Trek
The setting of meadows, horses grazing beside you and the glacier waters flowing is a set taken for endless wallpaper moments.
Picture by: Suresh Kerkatta
Know Your Trek
We have always wanted trekkers to be well-informed before they go on a Himalayan trek. Knowledge is the difference between a safe trek and a dangerous one. It’s also the difference between a wholesome experience and a superficial experience.
Use this section to learn about the Kashmir Great Lakes trek. It has in-depth information about each day of the trek, what to expect, and how you need to prepare for it. Many years of expertise have gone into this content. Trekkers find that extremely useful.
Drive from Srinagar to Gagangir
Drive Duration: 3-4 hours | Drive Distance: 83 km
Your pick up will be arranged from Sheikh Feroze Tours & Travels, Sathu, Barbara Shah Chowk, near Flourmill, Srinagar at 8.30 am. It will take around 4 hours to reach Gagangir, the basecamp of the trek. Your cloakroom, rentals and trek briefing will happen at Gagangir post lunch.
Day 2: Drive from Gagangir to Shitkadi. Trek to Nichnai
Trek distance: 11.6 km | Duration: 6.5 hours
Altitude gain: 8,625 ft to 11,607 ft
Trek gradient: Moderate. 3 hours of steep ascent followed by descent for an hour. Final 2 hours, a gentle ascent to Nichnai.
Water sources: Carry sufficient water from Sonmarg. You will find sources along the trail to refill your water bottles.
Today you will drive till Shitkadi. The drive will take around half an hour.
The trek starts 3 km out of Sonamarg, on the Srinagar road from a place called as Shitkadi. Exactly at the 3 km mark, you will spot a lone Dhaba on the right. The place sells packaged water, biscuits and other edibles and is your last place to pick up short eats. The next trace of civilization is only at Naranag, where the trek ends. Today's trek consists of a 3 hour ascent followed by a 1 hour descent and finally a gentle 2 hour ascent to Nichnai. A jeep track diverts to the right off the main road at the shop. The track goes down to the level of the Sindh river which flows in between the mud track and the main road. The trekking trail starts along the track but quickly diverts higher up. 10 minutes into the trek, the trail bends left and enters a green meadow. This directly overlooks Sonamarg town.
In half an hour you are at the top of the meadow where Maple and Pine trees start. At the tree line, the trail quickly descends to a tiny brook and then climbs again. What follows next is a lovely dense forest of Maple trees. Walking on the green bed of grass amidst the Maples is an experience unique to Kashmir in India. For the next hour and a half, the trail winds up through the Maple trees. Stick to the trail heading uphill as the one going down heads to some of the nearby villages. The trees give way to clearings in between. Turn around and see the view of the Sonarmarg valley which gets better and fuller as you gain height. The Maple forest ends at the top of the ridge and, on the other side, a meadow gently slopes down. Spend a few moments at the ridge grasping the Sonarmarg view and its neighbouring valley. The streams, the meadows, the pines and the town nestled in them make a wonderful picture.
The climb is now over and the trail slopes down into a meadow. The meadow is lined on the left by Silver Birch trees and a few shepherds' huts. The carpet of green rolls down from the trees to the end of the 40 feet wide meadow. Small brooks which cross the meadow serve as water sources. On the right are small peaks with snow powdered tops. This is Shekdur.
Shekdur is a beautiful meadow surrounded by Bhoj trees. Have lunch here before moving ahead to Nichnai. The meadow of Shekdur stretches for half an hour. The gentle descent on the meadow ends in a forest of Bhoj or Silver Birch. Take the trail that goes in the middle of the forest and continues to descend gently. Watch out for the sun rays making their way in between the thick foliage giving out beautiful light and dark rays. In 45 minutes, you reach the end of the Birch trees and the trail goes down and climbs back into a river valley. The river valley is the beginning of Nichnai.
The trail now is along the right bank of the river going upstream. Look behind to see snow-clad peaks from Sonarmarg valley. You are now in a wide valley but enclosed by mountains on either side. The river, which joins the Sindh eventually, flows in speed through the valley. The first 30 minutes is over the rocks and your mules will walk very slowly over here. An hour into the river valley, green patches devoid of rocks open up. The river valley widens and you can see the green meadow widening in between the two mountain ranges. Far ahead lie triangular twin snow-clad peaks. Choose a flat ground to pitch tents and end the first day's trek.
Day 3: Trek from Nichnai to Vishnusar via Nichnai Pass
Trek distance: 13.5 km | Trek Duration: 7 hours
Altitude gain: 11,607 ft to 12,011 ft via 13,229 ft
Trek gradient: Moderate. 1.5 hours of gradual ascent followed by an hour-long climb to the pass. A steep descent from the pass for about an hour easing off into a flat walk.
Water sources: Carry sufficient water from Nichnai. You will find sources along the trail to refill your water bottles.
The day's trek is a long walk on meadows with the scenery changing for the better all along. Start by 8:00 am to give yourself enough time en route to enjoy the meadows. Your first milestone for the day is the Nichnai pass or Vishnusar Berry. The pass is visible at a distance from the camp site. It lies just to the right of the twin snow-clad peaks. After half an hour of walking along the river, cross the river to move to its left bank. For the next hour, walk on the left bank. Notice that the trail slowly starts ascending as you traverse through the meadow. The following one hour is a climb to the pass. It is a medium climb to Nichnai pass, 13,500 ft, followed by a small descent followed by a long flat meadow walk ending near Vishnusar Lake. As you climb, notice a small lake at the foot of the mountains. It is a deep blue lake and you can sense your expectations rising with regards to the lake.
The pass is deceptive such that the ridge seen from the meadow below is not the pass. The trail turns inwards twice and only then does the Nichnai pass come up. From the Nichnai pass, observe the Sonamarg valley and the trail you came on. BSNL phone networks tend to work here most of the time. This is the last point on the trek where you get a phone network. The next sign of network is only when you move beyond Gangabal.
The Nichnai pass feels like a wide tunnel. On the left stand a series of snow-clad peaks. There are no peaks on the right but the land raises on the right too. Nichnai pass is at an altitude of 13,229 ft. You are just into your second day of the trek and this, by any standard, is a very fast ascent. It is not uncommon for people to feel the altitude on the climb to Nichnai pass. The good news is that the trail descends from here. The rocky trail descends rapidly. In the next hour, the rocks give way to grass. Red flowers spring out next to your feet. What you see ahead is a wide green meadow stretching for miles with mountains lining the sides. A new river flows down from the pass into the meadow ahead.
Stop here and take a view of the peaks, the river below and the flowery meadow. Notice to your left a big waterfall splashing down the mountain cliff and joining the river. From the waterfall, the rapid descent ends and you are now walking through the flat wide meadow. On the left are the classic snow-clad Himalayan mountains but notice on your right, grey and barren mountains resembling the Ladakh ranges.
Walk along, in between the two ranges, over the lush green carpet of grass. Two main streams flow through the valley. Stick close to the stream on the left. In half an hour, brace yourselves for another stream crossing. The water is icy cold.
Continue in the meadow for an hour and a half until you reach the end of the valley. Another stream flows perpendicularly from your left to your right. This stream originates at the Vishnusar lake which is a bit higher on your left. The lake is not seen yet and cannot be seen from the camp site. Pitch your tents anywhere besides the stream coming from the lake. There is ample camping space.
If you get some time you can explore the twin lakes now.
The Vishnusar lake lies 0.5 km to the left and 100 feet above the camp site. Head left and follow the stream without crossing it. The lake is two mounds away and takes about 7 minutes to reach. The first impression you get on seeing the Vishnusar lake is that it is big. It lies nestled below 4 mountains. The Kishansar peak though 0.5 km away, reflects in the lake. The reflections are wonderful when the lake is still. The colour of the lake depends on the time of the day and the clouds in the sky. Early in the morning, before the sun really shines, expect clear colourless water. The lake starts getting its colours when the sun shines. On a clear sunny morning, the water is absolutely blue. Clouds and the evening sun make it look greenish blue in the later half of the day. Whatever be the colour, the lake looks wonderful and it is worth catching a glimpse of the lake in all its hues.
Day 4: Trek from Vishnusar to Gadsar via Gadsar Pass
Trek distance: 16 km | Trek Duration: 7.5 hours
Altitude gain and loss: 12,011 ft to 10,706 ft via 13,715 ft
Trek gradient: Moderate difficult. 1.5-2 hours of steep ascent followed by 1 hour of steep descent, easing off into a level walk.
Water sources: Carry sufficient water from Vishnusar. You will find sources along the trail to refill your water bottles.
The next part of the trek is from Kishansar lake side to the top of the ridge. You see a pencil thin line traversing through the mountain side. That is your track to follow. Always stick to the one going higher though any of them will take you to the top. It is an hour and a half climb to the top of the ridge at a moderate pace. 45 minutes into the climb, you will be treated by one of the loveliest views you can ever imagine. Both the Kishansar and Vishnusar lakes, in full view, together.
The view of the twin lakes lasts till you reach the ridge top or the Pass. This is called the Gadsar pass – altitude 13,800 ft – the highest point on this trek. The trek is a steep 2-hour ascent followed by a steep descent followed by a gentle walk in the meadows. On the other side of the Gadsar pass stretches a long valley with 2-3 small lakes visible. Far in the distance lie a series of snow-clad peaks. The peaks lie outside our Line of Control. It is not uncommon to find snow at the Gadsar pass and also in the initial parts of the descent to the other side.
The descent is straightforward. The first small lake that is seen on the left is the Yamsar lake. The locals believe that Lord Yama has some association with the lake! Beyond Yamsar is another nameless lake. An hours descent leads you into flat meadows again. This valley is narrower with two ranges running on either side. Notice the multi-coloured flowers growing up, out of the green grass. It starts with red and moves on to blue and purple Iris flowers.
When you are in the blue Iris area, you are almost at Gadsar – one of the prettiest and most pristine of the lakes on this trek. Gadsar is at the base of snow-clad cliffs. Blue flowers spring up on one side and snow slabs fall into the lake from the mountain on the other side. Look ahead to see the green-blue valley gently slope down. The Yamsar, the nameless lake and Gadsar are all connected by a stream of water that flows from the higher lake to the lower. Gadsar is again at 12,500 feet.
Choose to make Gadsar your camp site for its sheer beauty but only if you can vow to leave the ground as neat as you found it to be. Usually no one camps at Gadsar. There is a small abandoned army shelter near Gadsar.
If you choose not to camp next to Gadsar, the next place to camp would be the Gadsar army camp. Continue on the downward trail from Gadsar and in half an hour the valley widens up. Spot another blue lake on the left of the valley. Notice the snow clad mountains now give way to lower barren mountains. You have lost considerable altitude again. In another half an hour down the trail, a few shepherds' huts come up. Continue downhill and at the end of the third half hour, the army camp comes up. Gadsar army camp is just a small hut housing 5-8 army men.
To move beyond the army camp, one needs permission from their Headquarters. The Headquarters is 4.8 km further away down into the tree line near a village. The Gadsar camp communicates with the HQ through walkie-talkies. The HQ is equipped with a satellite phone for the army. If you are near the Gadsar army camp, it is best to report to them as soon as possible. It takes 2-3 hours for their green signal to come through. All details of the trekkers and staff, including original identity cards, are recorded, collected and checked.
Day 5: Trek from Gadsar to Satsar
Trek distance: 11.5 km | Trek Duration: 4.5 hours
Altitude gain: 10,706 ft to 11,985 ft
Trek gradient: Moderate; 1.5 hours of steep ascent followed by a level walk.
Water sources: Carry at least 2 litres of water from Gadsar. You will find rivulets along the trail but the water might not be suitable to drink.
After crossing the stream, take the trail that goes up the mountain. The trail now looks like a typical western ghats trail. The terrain feels very similar. You are just above the tree line. Trees and the river valley are visible below you. The hour and a half long climb takes you up by 1,100 feet. Once beyond the 11,500 feet altitude, the climb graduates to a traverse. The trail bends round to the left and leaves the river valley. You are now walking on a flat trail surrounded by mountains on a meadow. To your right are a few deep craters. This place is called as Maengandob. The landscape ahead is captivating. Isolated mountains stand in front. Towards the right is a small ridge. In between is a flat green bed with a stream flowing through. Choose to camp here if Gadsar lake was your last camp. If the army camp is where you started, it makes sense to cover a little more distance today and camp near the first of the Satsar lakes. Satsar is actually a collection of 7 lakes. You can find 4 or 5 lakes with water, depending on the season. Beyond the ridge, on the right, is the Satsar army check post. It is the 3rd line of defence from the LOC. The same process of identity checking, collection and questioning repeats here. Finish this today so that tomorrow is a clean day of trekking. Ten minutes out of the army camp is the first of the Satsar lakes. The lake is pretty big and looks picturesque in its green setting with mountains in front. Choose a place to camp here for the day.
Day 6: Trek from Satsar to Gangabal via Zaj Pass
Trek distance: 9 km | Trek Duration: 6 hours
Altitude loss: 11,985 ft to 11,486 ft via 13,276 ft
Trek gradient: Difficult. 30 minutes each of gradual ascent and descent followed by a steep ascent for about 45 and then by a steep descent. Similarly ascending and descending trail all the way through.
Water sources: Carry 2 litres of water. You will find a stream mid way during the descent to refill your water bottles.
Mild ascent followed by gradual descent followed by a long steep ascent and long steep descent followed by gradual up and down walk. The day's trek goes up and down replicating the trek as a whole which mostly goes up and down. Trek up half an hour out of camp, to reach the biggest Satsar lake. The terrain is bouldery and it is more of a boulder hopping exercise than anything else. The biggest of the Satsar lakes is also the last in the sequence. After the last lake, the trail starts to descend. Continue for half an hour on the main trail until you see the forest line ahead to your left. The right side is a ridge line, about 1,000 ft higher. It is time to gain height again. The altitude at the base of the climb is 11,800 feet. Take the zig-zag pony track to climb up to the top of the first ridge. A 45-minute trek with limited breaks will see you on top of the first ridge. Once on top, you see two more ridges to climb. The trail from the base to top is barren and rocky. Looking behind at the opposite mountains, spot the Gujjar huts amidst the tall pines. You will not fail to notice the bareness of the mountains here and the greenery on the other side.
A total of two-hour ascent brings you to the top of the 3rd ridge. The altimeter reads about 13,400 feet. The best part, however, is the surprise view you get from the ridge top. The two lakes lie next to one another. A stream takes water from the higher lake to the lower. If you look keenly, two more blue lakes are seen, one on either side at a distance. The smaller lakes are nameless but the biggest amongst the set is the Gangabal. Its companion is the Nandkol. You now know your destination. It is 1,400 feet below you. The route descends a bit more and ascends again to the lake. Take pictures of both sides and brace yourself for a steep stony descent. Your destination is either the Gangabal or the Nandkol. The ascent is dry but on the descent, you cross a stream mid way. Fill your empty bottles with cold water and move on. An hour and a half steep descent brings you to green meadows again. The meadow is not too wide but stretches from your right to left. A kilometre down left, you see the tree line again. Once at the base, the lake shore is still a good distance. The destination is seen but seems far away. A quick climb, a shorter descent and a stream crossing over a wooden log bridge brings you to the shores of Nandkol lake. Notice that this lake is not as pristine as the other lakes you saw on the trek. Remnants of camping are all around. A lot of people trek up from Naranag to Gangabal and go back as a weekend outing. You will wish they spared time and thought to clean up the mess they created by these beautiful lakes.
The Nandkol lake lies at the base of the Harmukh peak. The Harmukh glacier hangs on the sides of the rocky edges of the mountain. Both the Gangabal and Nandkol are famous for trout fishing. The Gangabal lake is about 20 minutes away from Nandkol. A fiery stream flows on the right of the two lakes connecting them. The stream has to be crossed to go to Gangabal from Nandkol. Do not try to cross the stream at the lower levels but go all the way to the bank of Gangabal and on the right you find a good man-made bridge laid out. Gangabal is huge. A parikrama of either of the lakes will easily take an hour.
Day 7: Trek from Gangabal to Naranag
Trek distance: 13 km | Trek Duration: 6 hours
Drive Distance: 2 hours | Drive Duration: 50 km
Altitude loss: 11,486 ft to 7,800 ft
Trek gradient: Moderate. A mix of ascents and descents for 6 km followed by a very steep descent all the way down.
Water sources: Carry sufficient water from Gangabal. You will find sources along the trail to refill your water bottles.
The day's trek is a killer on your toes and knees, it is a gradual descent followed by a steep descent. From the Gangabal camp site head down along the stream towards the tree line. Don’t walk beside the stream but walk along the ridge on the right. 30 minutes into the trail, your Aircel phone could catch network, just enough to inform home that you are alive! The ridge ends and you descend to a green and a flat meadow on the right.
The Harmukh peak looks impressive when you look back. The green meadow has little yellow flowers growing all over and you start walking gingerly to avoid stepping over them.
An hour out of the camp site, you hit the fringes of the tree line. Pine trees line the meadows and you also see traces of civilization with the presence of a log hut. Do not walk into the forest directly but stick to its fringes and walk towards the right. As a trademark of this trek, you don’t lose altitude now but start to climb up a bit. You drop to 10,800 feet at the tree line but climb again to 11,000 feet. For about 6 km you never really lose altitude and you are forever around the 10,800 feet mark, making your way in and out of the Pine forest and finally entering it fully.
Only after walking for 2/3 of the distance does the true descent begin. The descent is now really steep. The trail is a well-trodden, muddy one through the thick of the pines. The last 4 km see you dropping more than 3,000 ft. It is not rare to spot a lot of people trekking up here from Naranag, headed to Gangabal. Naranag slowly comes in sight at around 8,500 ft but there is quite a bit more to go. The last stretch of the last day does become an endurance test but soon the stone-paved village track comes up and in no time you enter the main road of Naranag. Drive to Srinagar and reach by 6.30 pm. Stay overnight at Srinagar.
Day 8: Buffer Day
For all your travel plans include a buffer day to accommodate bad weather on the trek/political instability.
This depends completely on the circumstances of the trek and the situation in Kashmir.
If the buffer day is used, you have to pay us Rs. 1,800 per day (INR) +5% GST. The money will be collected by the Trek Leader only if we use the buffer day.
Moderate-Difficult | Level 2
Suitable for Experience Trekkers
At Indiahikes, while rating a trek difficulty we consider a number of factors. These include, altitude gained every day, length of trek everyday, highest altitude, nature of the terrain, weather etc. Base on this we rate a trek as easy or difficult or somewhere in between.
Kashmir Great Lakes trek climbs to 13,715 feet and we rate it as a moderate-difficult level 2. A moderate rating refers to long trekking days with steep climbs in between.
Though most pictures of Kashmir Great Lakes trek show you meadows and lakes, the trek is no pushover in terms of difficulty.
Coming to the details, you cover a total of 75 km in six days. On average you will trek 12 km every day. The trek also makes you climb 1500 feet and descend 1500 feet every single day.
There are 3 difficult sections on this trek:
1. The challenging climb to Nichnai Pass
2. Steep climb to Gadsar
3. Tricky, boulder section after Satsar
The challenging climb to Nichnai on the first day of trek:
This is the only trek with such a challenging first day. You gain more than 3,000 ft in a span of 6-7 hours.
Apart from testing your endurance, it can also give you symptoms of altitude sickness. So, watch out for any symptoms.
Climb to Gadsar Pass:
This is a steep one and can leave you winded if you have not prepared well for the trek. The climb is steeper, arduous, on the stark landscape of the Kashmir Valley. Although you climb in a series of switchbacks, to keep going requires physical as well as mental toughness.
Boulder section between Satsar to Gangbal:
On this day, you will come across a 40-minute long section filled with big boulders. There is no trail here. You will need to hop skip and jump on this section to cross it.
It could get difficult if you are not nimble on your feet or are not mentally prepared for this.
Trekkers often worry about the safety of trekking in Kashmir. This article will help throw some light on that aspect.
The Kashmir Great Lakes trek by itself involves some risks.
The trek is 75 km long and goes deep into the valley. You have to cross 3 high passes. The highest altitude you go up to is 13,715 ft. There are several streams to cross and boulders to negotiate.
At Indiahikes, we believe that if you are well-informed and well-prepared, you can tackle high-altitude treks without much ado.
To prepare you effectively, we will touch upon the following aspects of the Kashmir Great Lakes trek below:
The mountains are well shielded from even the worst of the unrest. While the trekking trail is safe during times of unrest, getting to the base camp or onto the trail might get difficult.
So, here are certain pointers to keep in mind when you are travelling in Kashmir:
- If you’re staying overnight at Srinagar, stay in touristy areas like Dal Lake or Lal Chowk.
- Blend in with the crowd in terms of dressing and behaviour.
- Avoid going to downtown areas. Stick to tourist spaces as they tend to be safer and well-protected during times of unrest
- Don’t panic if there is a curfew. Keep indoors and wait for it to pass.
- If you need to move to the basecamp on days of unrest, our Indiahikes pickups happen in the early hours before dawn.
Concerning terrain, the Kashmir Great Lakes trek is rugged. You need to have good fitness to do this trek. The entire route is marked with:
- Steep ascents and descents
- Long trekking days
- Intense boulder section after Satsar
- No easy exit point after Vishnusar
To be safe, being prepared is the key.
For steep ascents and descents: Target to jog 5 km in under 32 minutes. Do this consistently for a couple of months to be well-prepared for the long climb. Also, strengthen your glutes and the muscles around your knees. It will help in easing the ascent and the descent.
For the boulder section: Go for hopping exercises that help you think on your feet. Hop, skip. If there are any such sections near your city, spend some time there to get comfortable with such terrain.
As discussed in the above section, you are exposed to the risk of AMS when you cut the itinerary short. But if you are trekking on your own, and are short on time then pay close attention to your body for any signs of altitude sickness.
As a precaution, choose to stay at Sonamarg before starting your trek to ease into the altitude gain. Going on a precautionary course of Diamox for the initial days is also advisable.
In case you feel sick or not at ease, do not ignore it or take it lightly. Attend to your uneasiness and take curative measures. Check oxygen levels, go on a curative course of Diamox, drink water and rest. If you do not feel normal after a few hours or overnight, do not proceed further on the trek.
Here’s a Complete Guide to Acute Mountains Sickness:
- What Is Altitude sickness? A Quick Look At AMS, HAPE, and HACE
- How To Treat Altitude Sickness – AMS, HAPE, & HACE
- How To Prevent Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), HAPE and HACE
- 3 Life Saving Drugs You MUST Have To Tackle Altitude Sickness – AMS, HAPE, and HACE
While on the trek, if you experience any symptoms of AMS even in the slightest start taking steps to treat the sickness.
If you are trekking with Indiahikes, your Trek Leaders are trained and equipped to take care of any emergencies like these.
There are no easy exit options on this trek since it goes through several high passes and valleys. Hence evacuation in case of an emergency can take time. The narrow and steep trails make this slower than a normal descent.
Protip: If you’re struggling to cope with the first two days of the trek, it is best to turn around from the Vishansar lake campsite. Moving further to Gadsar will make evacuations and exits very hard.
Closest Hospital To Kashmir Great Lakes
In case of a medical emergency, the closest hospital will be found around Sonamarg, at Baltal or Kangan. If you need serious medical attention, head to Srinagar for better facilities.
Khyber Hospital, Srinagar - Ph: (0194) 2455130, (0194) 2455119
Florence Hospital, Srinagar - Ph: (0194) 2440860, (0194) 2440760
In case of a medical emergency, the closest hospital will be found around Sonamarg, at Baltal or Kangan. If you need serious medical attention, head to Srinagar for better facilities.
Khyber Hospital, Srinagar - Ph: (0194) 2455130, (0194) 2455119
Florence Hospital, Srinagar - Ph: (0194) 2440860, (0194) 2440760
The best time to be on this trek is from the beginning of July to the middle of September. That’s the only time you can trek here. In all the other seasons, Kashmir trails are buried under snow.
This season brings up many questions in the mind of a trekker. Primarily because it is monsoon in the rest of the country. Will it rain heavily on the trek? Well, most trails in Uttarakhand are shut during this time. But things are different in Kashmir.
If you observe the map, you see the Pir Panjal range separating Kashmir from the rest of the Indian subcontinent. This range is 288 km long and 40-50 km wide. It blocks most rain clouds from crossing over into the Kashmir Valley.
This divide determines the nature of precipitation and the vegetation in this rainshadow area. All of which stand very different from the rest of the country.
July to September happens to be peak summer transitioning to Autumn and the best time to trek in Kashmir. The landscape comes alive during this window. And even though the window is tight, you notice the landscape changing colour and texture as the months proceed.
Kashmir Great Lakes in early July
Day time temperature: Between 15 °C and 20 °C | Night time temperature : Between 2 °C and 7 °C
Presence of snow: Snow remains at higher altitudes, at Nichnai Pass, and towards Gadsar. But the trek is more or less accessible. As the snow melts, colourful flowers start appearing on the meadows. You see flowers throughout the Kashmir trekking season. But the colours of these flowers vary based on the month. The landscape has lush green meadows punctuated with alpine lakes that are still frozen in parts. Caution: It’s risky to attempt a pass crossing when there’s too much snow. So hold back and exercise safety. Horses too cannot continue under such conditions.
No. of warm layers required: 3-4 warm layers
This is peak summer in Kashmir. The upper reaches of the trek start crawling out of the snow blanket in July. It’s warm and you experience light evening showers during this month.
The trail to Kashmir Great Lakes opens in the first week of July. Snow remains at higher altitudes, at Nichnai Pass and towards Gadsar. But the trek is more or less accessible.
As the snow melts, colourful flowers start appearing on the meadows. You see flowers throughout the Kashmir trekking season. But the colours of these flowers vary based on the month.
The landscape has lush green meadows punctuated with alpine lakes that are still frozen in parts.
Kashmir Great Lakes from mid-July to third week of August
Day time temperature: Between 15 °C and 20 °C | Night time temperature : Between 4 °C and 8 °C
Presence of snow: Most snow has melted by now. Frozen chunks of ice in most lakes on the trail would have melted. But you will still find ice floes on the green Gadsar lake.
No. of warm layers required: 3-4 warm layers
After mid-July, a robust trekking season begins on the Kashmir Great Lakes trek. Expect bright sunny mornings with some evening showers. Rains although, are still mild when compared to rains in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
The trail is carpeted with green meadows everywhere. The Gadsar meadows earn a special mention here. They look dramatic in contrast with the rugged, grey mountains around them. The best part is, that these meadows are densely dotted with wildflowers!
Protip: You might experience evening showers on certain days during this time of the year. This is why it is a good practice to cross the pass early in the day and reach the next campsite by 4 PM.
Kashmir Great Lakes from Aug-end to second week of Sept
Day time temperature: Between 14 °C and 18 °C | Night time temperature : Between 0 °C and 5 °C
Presence of snow: You can expect snowfall during the second week of September
No. of warm layers required: 4 warm layers
After the end of August, cold sets in. Rains reduce giving way to one of the best times to do the trek. The clouds part during this time of the year and you witness brilliant blue skies. Their reflection deepens the blue of the alpine lakes.
| Photography Point: It's a sight to behold from Gadsar Pass. You can catch the twin lakes Krishansar and Vishnusar in one frame. They sparkle and are deep blue under a clear sky.
Another stark change that happens in early September is the change in the colour of the meadows. The grass no longer retains the soft, fresh green tinge. The flowers change. And yet, there’s a beauty to this change of tone.
We usually stop our trek after the second week of September. It turns colder and chances of snowfall increase. That raises the difficulty of the trek and it's no longer possible to cross the pass. The trail on the other side becomes inaccessible.
It is great to see you going on the Kashmir Great Lakes, one of the most beautiful treks in India. While it is a great trek to do, you need to get your travel plan worked out perfectly.
Here is a step-by-step guide on what to do next. Use this guide and nothing else to plan your travel.
1. Here’s a quick view of how to plan your travel
Day 0: Book your air ticket to Srinagar.
Day 8: Book a return flight ticket from Srinagar. Do not book plane tickets to your hometown from Srinagar on Day 8.
- While getting to Srinagar, we recommend you arrive a day earlier and stay at Srinagar. Staying at Srinagar gives you a well-deserved rest for the night. Plus some bonus sightseeing.
- On your return, your trek ends at Sonarmarg. We again arrange for transport for trekkers to reach Srinagar. You reach Srinagar between 6.00 and 7.00 pm.
Buffer Day: Keep a buffer day for emergencies. Your trek is 6 days long, but keep an extra 7th day as your buffer day. This is outside the itinerary. You cannot predict bad rain, landslides or a political situation on a trek. If you don’t use the buffer day on the trek, you can always use it for sightseeing in Srinagar.
Always book your return flight/train tickets after including the buffer day in your itinerary.
2. Planning your onward flight/train booking
If you are travelling from Bengaluru, Chennai, Pune, Mumbai or any other city, book your air tickets for Day Zero, which is the day before Day 1 on the itinerary. If your trek start day is 24 July, book your air tickets for 23 July to Srinagar.
There are two options.
Option 1: Fly directly to Srinagar
We recommend this. It gives you an added rest day at Srinagar or even better if you can head towards Sonamarg.
You can travel to Sonamarg if you land at Srinagar before noon.
Option 2: Taking a train/bus to Jammu and reach Srinagar
(This option is not recommended during the pandemic. There are many roadblocks en route from Jammu to Srinagar that take as long as 24 hours to open. If you opt to travel via Jammu, keep at least 2 days in buffer)
If you are taking a bus to Jammu, then you have multiple options to take. There are two gates outside Jammu ISBT. You will get shared cabs from both these gates.
If you are reaching the Railway Station, the share cabs to Srinagar will cost between Rs 700 to Rs 1000.
Tip: Shared cabs are more from the Jammu ISBT compared to the Railway Station. You can travel from the Railway station to the bus stand. They call it “Bus Adda”. The cost of the bus will be Rs 10. The auto will charge around Rs 80 to 120.
Pro Tip: Go to Banihal and catch a train to Srinagar (Naogaon) (Reaching Banihal will be again via shared cabs, which cost Rs 500 to Rs 700)
Auto from Srinagar Railway station to Dal Gate, around Rs 150 to Rs 200
This is faster than coming by cabs directly to Srinagar.
3. Planning your return flight/train booking
Booking your return tickets requires some thought. First, always book your return ticket keeping in mind the buffer day.
The drive to Srinagar from Sonamarg is about 4 hours. You will reach Srinagar by 6.00 pm. There are no flights from Srinagar late in the evening. So you need to stay in Srinagar. Take the flight the next day. You can book your flight tickets at any time on Day 8. The buffer day must be included in your itinerary. Day 7 is your buffer day. So plan your return journey for Day 8.
Note: The security check at the Srinagar airport is quite stringent. You will have 3 rounds of security checks. To reach the airport at least a couple of hours before your departure time.
Option 1: Flying out from Srinagar
Book your flight out from Srinagar.
Option 2: Taking a train/bus from Jammu
If you are taking the option of moving from Jammu, you will find shared cabs from Srinagar TRC to Jammu. The share cabs to Jammu will cost between Rs 700 to Rs 1000
| Pro Tip: Go to Srinagar (Naogaon) and catch a train to Banihal
From Banihal, you can take a shared cab to the Jammu bus stand or Railway station. The cost will be around Rs 500 to Rs 700
4. Planning your hotel/stay
While booking hotels on your return, always book your rooms assuming the buffer day is not being used. Assume the trek is going to run without any hiccups. So what happens if you use your buffer day on the trek? Unfortunately, then you’ll probably lose your hotel booking. So book hotels where you may not have to transfer money in advance. Even if you do, consider it better than missing out on the trek. In Srinagar, it is difficult to find last-minute hotel bookings when you finish the trek.
Hotel options at Srinagar
Hotel Chinar Inn is close to the pickup location. It has clean rooms with good amenities.
If you are trekking with Indiahikes, the cost will be Rs 1,500 per person for a stay and meals (dinner and breakfast). This is for a twin sharing room.
For a single person per room, it costs Rs 2,300 per person for a stay and meals (dinner and breakfast)
Contact Number: 7006608852 (Firoz)
Royal Athena Houseboats is another option. In addition to good amenities, it gives you the experience of staying in a boathouse.
If you are trekking with Indiahikes, the cost will be Rs 1,750 per person including dinner and breakfast.
Contact Number: 7006608852 (Firoz)
Alhamra Retreats is a guest house with good facilities available.
If you are trekking with Indiahikes, the cost of a twin-sharing room is Rs 2,100. For an extra bed in the same room, it costs Rs 700 extra. Triple sharing is Rs 2,800 and four sharing is Rs 3,500.
Contact Number: +91 95965 56700 (Rehan Bakshi)
These are documents required for legal purposes by Indiahikes and the forest department. Without any of these, you will not be allowed to trek.
- Original and photocopy of government photo identity card. Either having an Aadhar card or passport will do. This is required by the forest department for your identification.
- Medical and Disclaimer certificate. There are two sections to this. One is to be filled by a practicing doctor and the second is filled by you. The disclaimer certificate is a legal requirement.
Download the PDF, read carefully, print it back to back, and sign it. This must be handed over to your Trek Leader during the registration at the base camp. This is a requirement by both the forest department and Indiahikes – Download the PDF
Note: Please carry the above document with you. The document needs to be downloaded (PDF), filled in, signed, and handed over to the trek leader at the base camp. Please print these back-to-back on two sheets. Do not print separately and help in reducing paper usage.
Keep important documents in a clear plastic cover and slide them into the inner pocket at the back of your backpack. This keeps them from getting wet. You need to show your ID card even while trekking at a couple of army checkposts.
1. Trekking Shoes:
Kashmir Great Lakes requires sturdy trekking shoes, has good grip, has ankle support and can handle snow. You have a long distance to cover every day. Also, there is a bouldery section to cross after the Satsar campsite along with a few stream crossings. Here is a quick video on how to choose your trekking shoes.
| Buying Tip: The Trek series and MH series are good options by Decathlon. They are tried and tested. There isn’t any necessity to buy the higher-priced models. Here is a list of other budget shoes that trekkers are using.
| Rental: We have the Trek series and the MH series by Decathlon available for rent from the Indiahikes store. They are already broken into and in good condition. Rental shoes are not dirty or unhygienic. This is how they are kept clean.
For a trek like Kashmir Great Lakes, you need a 50-60 litre backpack. Make sure your backpack has good hip support, shoulder support and quick access pockets. Here is a guide on how to choose a backpack.
| Buying Tip: Wildcraft, Decathlon and Adventure Worx usually make good backpacks. While Wildcraft has more expensive ones, the other two brands have budget-friendly backpacks to choose from.
| Rental: The 48-litre backpack by Adventure Worx is available for rent from the Indiahikes store. They are custom-made for our Himalayan treks. Rent them if you don’t have a backpack.
Wearing layers is the mantra in the mountains. Layers give you maximum protection from all elements. And when the weather changes in the mountains (as it happens every few hours), you take off or put on layers as required.
Wear one T-shirt and carry two. Carry full sleeve dry-fit T-shirts (preferably collared). These prevent your arms and neck from getting sunburnt. In the rarified air on the trek, especially at high altitudes, UV rays can burn you in no time.
Dry-fit T-shirts quickly dry your sweat, they are easy to wash and in case of a rainy day, they dry quicker. Round neck T-shirts are ok, but collared ones are better.
| Cotton or Synthetic? As Indians, we love cotton. Down in the plains when the heat is blistering 40°C it makes sense to wear cotton. But it takes a long time to dry when it gets wet. In the mountains, where it is cooler, synthetic is what you wear. They wick sweat rapidly and keep you dry. (But they do tend to smell quickly, so carry a roll-on deodorant with you.)
| Pro Tip: If you are extra susceptible to cold, you could get a set of thermal inners. In our experience, wearing two T-shirts over another works as a better thermal. And they save you weight and space since you’re already carrying them.
3 Insulation Layers:
The highest altitude you reach on this trek is 13,850 ft. At these altitudes, it can get cold even in the middle of summer. You will need at least 3 insulation layers for this trek.
You will need 2 light fleece layers and 1 full-sleeve light sweater. Do not get your grandma stitched sweaters, which can be very heavy. You need sweaters and fleece jackets that can fold into compact rolls.
1 Outer Layer:
A padded jacket serves the purpose here. You don’t need a water-resistant material. But you need an outer padded jacket that keeps the wind and cold out. Ensure your padded jacket has a hood as well.
| Do you need a down/feather jacket? Not really. A regular padded/shell jacket will do. This video here will help you to learn more about the difference.
Note: Down/feather jackets are not available these days. Many jackets masquerade as down/feather jackets. They are essentially fine polyester-filled jackets. They mimic the function of a down jacket but are usually expensive.
| Rental: Padded jackets made by Fort Collins are available for rent at the Indiahikes store. They are custom made for Indiahikes and trekkers find them terrific, even in winter.
Two Trek Pants:
Two pairs of trek pants should suffice for this trek. Wear one pair and carry two just in case it rains. Trek pants with zippered cut-offs at the thighs are very suitable for treks. Also, choose quick-dry pants over cotton. They dry up soon in case of small stream crossings/rain.
| Buying Tip: Go for pants with zippered pockets. They come in handy to keep your phone, handkerchief, or pocket snacks.
| Track Pants or Trek Pants? Stretchable track pants make a good backup and can double up as your thermal bottoms. But track pants are not trekking pants -- so don’t use them as your main outerwear. Keep them only as a backup.
Mandatory Accessories, without these too you won’t be able to do the trek.
These accessories are mandatory. Don’t go to Kashmir Great Lakes without them. Trekkers generally put off purchasing / borrowing the accessories for the last minute. We suggest the opposite. Start gathering these accessories first.
Sunglasses are to prevent snow blindness. On a trek like Kashmir Great Lakes, you trek to the Gadsar Pass. Expect to walk on stretches of snow, especially during July. A small overexposure to direct sunlight on snow can lead to snow blindness (about a half hour’s exposure). That’s because fallen snow is like thousands of mirrors that reflect direct UV rays. So you need sunglasses with UV protection.
| Tip: Try getting sunglasses that wrap around instead of those that have openings on the side. Even peripheral UV ray exposure is not a good idea.
Wear sunglasses if the trekking day is bright and sunny (on open sections, meadows). On a snowy section, you must never take off your sunglasses until the section has been fully crossed.
| If you wear spectacles: If you wear spectacles, you can get oversized sunglasses that you wear over your regular glasses (available at Decathlon). If that is cumbersome, photochromic lenses work equally well. Here’s a quick guide on managing sunglasses with spectacles.
| Contact lens users: If you use contact lenses, you can use them on the trek too. The lens solution will not freeze. You will also not face any problems in changing your lens in your tent. Just carry enough cleaning solution with you to clean your fingers well. Wear your sunglasses over your contact lens.
A sun cap is mandatory. Trekking without a sun cap can lead to headaches, sunstrokes, quick dehydration and a sharp drop in trekking performance.
| Tip: In the mountains, the general rule is to keep your head covered at all times. During the day a sun cap protects you from the harsh rays of the sun (it is doubly stronger with naked UV rays). A sun cap keeps your body temperature in balance. In the evening/early morning, the reverse is true. Your head loses your body heat quickly. A woollen cap prevents heat from dissipating from your head.
| Pro Tip: Sun caps with flaps are a blessing for trekkers. They cut out almost all UV leaks. They prevent sunburns in every possible way. They are a lot more effective than sunscreen lotion. A wide-brimmed sports hat also helps to prevent sunburn in a big way.
3. Synthetic Hand Gloves:
On a trek like Kashmir Great Lakes, you are going to be handling snow quite a bit during July. You’ll need gloves to grip something or to steady yourself in snow. More than snow, the evening cold winds through the wide valley will give you the chill, especially at the campsite of Satsar. You also want the gloves to keep you warm. Get synthetic hand gloves that have waterproofing on the outside and a padded lining on the inside. If you find the combination difficult to get (not likely), wear a tight-fitting fleece hand glove inside a synthetic hand glove. Hand gloves are mandatory on this trek.
4. Woollen Cap or Balaclava:
Ensure these cover your ears. In the cold mountains, you lose maximum heat from your head, not from your hands, feet, or the rest of your body. This is why you need to keep your head protected, especially when the sun is down. Early mornings, late evenings, and a cold trekking day are when you must use your woollen cap.
Your ears are sensitive too, so a woollen head cap that covers your ears is essential. A balaclava is a modern version of the woollen cap. It covers your ears, neck and parts of your face as well. Do not get a woollen cap that only covers your head.
5. Socks (3 pairs):
Apart from two sports socks, take a pair of woollen socks. Sports socks give you cushioning plus warmth. Again the mantra is to wear synthetic socks or at least a synthetic blend. Cotton socks soak in water and sweat. They are very hard to dry. As for woollen socks, they help you to keep warm and snug at the night. If you cannot get woollen socks, wearing two sports socks serves the purpose as well.
Trekkers are often confused about whether they need to get a headlamp or a handheld torch. You need to get a headlamp because it leaves your hands free to do other activities. On the Kashmir Great Lakes trek, you’ll need your hands free to wash dishes, pitch tents and hold your trek poles.
| Buying Tip: Ensure your headlamp covers a wider area and is not too focused as a single beam. On a trek, your headlamp must help you see around you as much as ahead of you.
7. Trekking Poles (a pair):
Trekking poles give you stability and balance. They reduce your energy consumption by almost 40%. On the Kashmir Great Lakes trek, there are steep ascents and descents. A pair of trekking poles will make the difference between a comfortable and a strenuous trek. In India, we tend to use a single trekking pole. However, two trekking poles give you greater stability and balance. They also increase your walking pace.
| Rental: Imported side-locking trekking poles are available for rent at the Indiahikes store.
On a trek, the weather can change quickly. A bright sunny day can turn into a downpour in a matter of minutes. Carry a poncho or a rain jacket to tackle this. A poncho is a big rain cover with openings for your arms and your head. It is extremely effective because it covers both you and your backpack. It is extremely light and weighs next to nothing.
Rain jackets are more streamlined and less cumbersome but weigh more. Rain pants are not required. Dry fit trek pants dry quickly even if soaking wet.
| Rental: High-grade ponchos are available for rent at the Indiahikes store.
9. Rain Cover for your Backpack:
Backpacks are your life. You carry all your dry clothes and your warm gear in your backpack. Your backpack must stay dry at all times. Modern backpacks usually come with built-in rain-covers. If your backpack does not have a rain cover, ensure you get a rain cover by either (a) buying a rain cover or (b) or cutting a large plastic sheet to the size of your backpack. You can roll the plastic sheet around your backpack and keep it in place with a string or elastic.
| Pro Tip: It's good practice to compartmentalise your clothes, accessories and other things in plastic covers inside your backpack. That way, even if it rains and your backpack gets wet, your things are water-proof inside the backpack.
10. Daypack (20-30 litres, optional):
In your daypack, you carry essentials like water bottles, rainwear, emergency medicines, a headlamp, some snacks and a warm layer. Your main backpack that carries most of your equipment is accessible only at the campsites.
A day pack is a smaller backpack that is usually of 20-30 ltr capacity. Laptop bags are not day packs. Do not get them.
Other mandatory requirements
1. A Toilet Kit:
Keep your toilet kit light. Carry just the basics -- toothbrush, toothpaste, small soap, toilet tissue roll, a small moisturiser, lip balm, and a roll-on deodorant. You will not be able to have a bath on the trek, so don’t overload on soaps and shampoos.
| Pro tip: Carry miniature-sized items. You will not need more than that. If you’re travelling in a group, share one toothpaste for all.
Avoid getting large toilet rolls. The smallest size roll is more than enough for a trek like Kashmir Great Lakes.
| For women: If you are likely to have your periods on your trek date, don’t worry about it. You can use your pads, tampons, or menstrual cups on the trek. There will be toilet tents where you can get changed. Make sure you carry ziplock bags to bring back your menstrual waste. Don’t leave behind any waste in the mountains. Watch this video to learn how to dispose of your sanitary waste.
Carry a lunch box, a mug, and a spoon. Your lunch box must be leakproof. You are expected to wash your cutlery. Trekkers often expect Indiahikes to wash their cutlery. When you allow Indiahikes to wash your cutlery, your cutlery becomes part of a mass washing system. You immediately invite germs, and bacteria to settle on your cutlery. The incidence of stomach disorders rises exponentially.
| Pro tip: Carry stainless steel cutlery. Avoid fancy high-grade plastic cutlery. Stainless steel cutlery is infinitely easier to wash in cold water. Grease is easier to remove and hygiene is at its highest. Watch this video on why steel cutlery is better than plastic.
3. Plastic Covers:
Carry 3-4 old plastic covers to keep your used clothes. You could use them even for wet clothes. Re-use old plastic bags for this and do not buy new ones.
Carry these medicines with you, easily accessible at all times. Do not take any medicine unless you have consulted your trek leader.
- Diamox (1 Strip): Be on a course of a half tablet of Diamox starting from Delhi every 12 hours (125 mg). Carry on the medication until you descend to Naranag. Being on a preventive course of Diamox greatly reduces the chances of Acute Mountain Sickness on the Kashmir Great Lakes trek.
- Dexamethasone (1 Strip): This is part of the Live Saving Drugs kit. Do not take this on your own. Your trek leader will inform you in case the need arises.
- Nifedipine (5 tablets): Again part of the Live Saving Drugs kit. Do not take this on your own. Your trek leader will inform you in case the need arises.
- Dolo 650 (5 tablets): This is a paracetamol. It helps to tackle fever, mild pain
- Avomine (4 tablets): Carry this especially if you are prone to motion sickness. Pop one-half hour before the start of your road journey.
- Combiflam (5 tablets): Take a combiflam if you get a sudden twist of the leg or a muscle strain. It is a pain reliever. It also contains paracetamol.
- Digene (4 tablets): Take it if you feel the food that you’ve taken is undigested. Alert your trek leader immediately. It could be a sign of AMS.
- ORS (6 packs): Consume a pack of ORS water at least once a day, usually the mid-day when you are in the middle of your trek. It replenishes essential salts lost while trekking. Tip: It also makes cold water easier to drink.
- Knee Brace (optional): Carry this if you are prone to knee injury or have known issues of knee pain.
Our trek leaders carry a high altitude medical kit with them which also consist of Life Saving Drugs. If there is an emergency our trek leaders know how to tackle it. Meanwhile, contact your trek leader before consuming any of these medicines listed here.
Pro Tip: We find that these medicines by trekkers are rarely used. But you cannot do away with them. At the end of the trek please donate unused medicines to your trek leader. Some of these medicines get distributed to villages on the trek and some are added to the Indiahikes medical kit.
On the Kashmir Great Lakes trek, you cover 75 km in 6 days (7 days including the drive to and from the trek). The altitude ranges from 6,175 ft in Srinagar to Gadsar Pass at 13,715 ft. You’ll trek long distances around 10-11 km on an average every day. This is why the Kashmir Great Lakes trek requires good preparation.
The Kashmir Great Lakes trek is one of the prettiest treks in India. Yet, you’ll get to enjoy its rewards only after a bit of hard work and toil. The trek is not as easy as the pictures make it look. It is of moderate-difficult grade. And there are mainly three factors that make it difficult.
- Three strenuous pass crossings – Gadsar Pass, Nichnai Pass, and Zaj Pass.
- Long hours of trekking every day. Each day involves around 8-9 hours of trekking.
- Considerable altitude gain every day, of around 1,500 – 2,000 ft.
A Himalayan trek like Kashmir Great Lakes requires a really good fitness level. The trek has long climbs and steep descents daily. As a measure of your fitness, we need you to:
Run at least 5 km in 32 minutes before your trek. Consistency of your workout also matters, so aim to jog 25 km a week or 100 km in a month. It's a minimum mandatory requirement if you wish to trek with us.
Alternatively, cycle for at least 25 km in 60 minutes. Aim to cycle 125 km a week or 500 km in a month. However, running is better suited for your trek preparation.
After you register, you will be sent a questionnaire about your trekking experience and medical history. Additionally, you must attach a screenshot of a 5 km run under 35 mins only to get approved for the trek.
High-altitude trekking experience of above 14,000 ft or at least moderate-difficult trek experience is a preferred requirement.
Once you get confirmed for your trek, we will diligently follow up on your fitness routine. Our team will also assist in putting you through a fitness plan. It will ultimately help you have a safe trek experience.
The Kashmir Great Lakes trail is safe. It is in the remote regions of Kashmir, away from the hotbed of turmoil. It is towards the more touristy Sonamarg region. There are also 3 army camps on the trekking trail. And we camp close to them. So the trekking trail itself is completely safe.
However, political unrest, curfews and clampdowns have occurred in the past during our trekking season. We have tackled these efficiently, never compromising on the safety of trekkers. We travel during non-curfew hours and take measures to safely pick up or drop trekkers at the airport.
Sometimes, we call off treks if the situation is too serious (for instance when Burhan Wani was shot and the political situation in Kashmir was out of control). Calling off a trek is a worst-case scenario and has not occurred too many times in the past.
Keep in mind that if we are running the Kashmir Great Lakes trek, you can assume that it is safe. We would not compromise on anyone’s safety and run it during dangerous times.
The Kashmir Great Lakes Trek (KGL) has a narrow window for trekking. It is possible to trek in Kashmir for only 3 months in a year. The season starts in July and goes till the middle of September.
But the Kashmir Great Lakes trek is one of the most popular treks in our country. Trekkers eagerly wait to do this trek.
This is why when we open groups for KGL early in the year — by end of February-early march they get fully booked within 2 weeks.
Pro-Tip: We post regular updates on KGL through our social media and newsletter. Make sure to follow it!
You will get mobile connectivity only till Srinagar. After that the network is sketchy and almost non-existent.
Make sure you finish all your important telephone calls before starting your travel to the basecamp. Inform family members about poor connectivity during the trek.
Note: Prepaid SIM cards do not work in Kashmir.
As for electricity, you won’t have access to electricity or charging points anywhere during the trek
We have a cloakroom facility available at Srinagar for extra luggage. It costs Rs 200 per luggage. You can keep up to 10 kg.
Please do not leave behind any valuables.
(The luggage could be a backpack/suitcase/duffel bag or anything similar.).
This is a tough one! The treks are so vastly different from each other despite being in Kashmir. A basic way to make your decision would be based on your fitness. Kashmir Great Lakes is a lot tougher than the Tarsar Marsar trek. It involves crossing three mountain passes, long distances every day, and a longer duration of being in the wilderness.
Tarsar Marsar is the easier sister trek of Kashmir Great Lakes. The trekking days are short and friendly, and you have long leisure time at the campsites. So the trek is very beginner-friendly.
I would recommend reading this article where our co-founder Sandhya beautifully compares the two treks in terms of the scenery, variety and difficulty.
Before you register for the trek, we would like you to understand the challenges, and the fitness required.
If you are above the age of 58 years, your Experience Coordinator will need a detailed account of your health. If you have done a Himalayan trek in the past or they have an active fitness lifestyle (marathons/cycling expeditions), we’ll need to see your Treadmill Test and fitness proof (Fitness proof: 5 kms in 38 mins).
But if you do not have any experience, we strongly advise you to start with an easy-moderate trek.
Having more footprint through porters, mules or horses on any trail isn’t good for the ecosystem. This is why, at Indiahikes, we do not encourage offloading. A trekker carries his/her own backpack in the true spirit of trekking.
But if — due to a medical condition — you are unable to carry your own backpack, you may offload your backpack.
The cost of offloading on the Kashmir Great Lakes trek is Rs 3,675 including tax for the trek.
We recommend jogging as the best routine to get fit for a trek. It works on the same muscles that you use while trekking — your calves, glutes and hamstrings. It helps increase your stamina day by day. It is also an easy routine that does not require any equipment or tools.
To do this trek comfortably, you must be able to cover 5 km in under 32 minutes. This is the minimum fitness required for this trek.
How to achieve this fitness?
- Start jogging at least 4 days a week
- If you cannot run 5 km immediately, start with 2 km and increase to 5 km over 2-3 weeks.
- Once you’re able to run 5 km, increase your pace day by day.
- Gradually increase your pace and bring it down to 5 km in less than 32 mins.
- You must be able to run 5 km in 32 mins consistently for at least 2 weeks before the trek.
This trek requires at least 6-8 weeks of preparation. The longer, the better. So plan your trek soon and start preparing.
Strength training tips:
How to get Fitness Approval from the Indiahikes team:
Every trekker needs fitness approval from the Indiahikes team 20 days before the trek date. Without this, you will not be allowed on the trek.
What to upload?
- A minimum of 3 screenshots of your runs/jogs/walks/cycling
- Monthly summary of your routine
Why fitness matters:
Every high-altitude trek comes with a set of challenges. Steep ascents and descents, uneven terrain, snow walks, stream crossings, pass crossings, and summit climb. Even the easiest of treks have some of these challenges if not all of them. Without fitness, trekkers struggle, get injured easily, lag behind, or simply fail to complete the trek.
At Indiahikes, we take pride in the fact that our trekkers are among the fittest in the country. Those who do not meet the fitness requirements are often sent back. Our philosophy is that trekking and fitness go hand in hand. Without fitness, there’s no trekking.
Things Nobody Tells You About Kashmir Great Lakes Trek
The Naranag temple was built by Lalitaditya Muktapida of the ancient Kayastha Naga Karkota Dynasty. It is believed to be built in the honour of Shiva. Multiple carvings which can be linked to Shiva are found here, and so is the Shivaling.
Another field of study also believes it to be dedicated to the Nagas (divine snakes in Hindu mythology). These Nagas were widely worshipped in ancient times in the region which is now Kashmir. These were also said to be the primary religion during that time. The Karkota dynasty members were religious devotees of the Nagas.
One of the most famous archaeological sites in India, it is built with the characteristic Aryan style of the 8th century. Now lying mostly in ruins, it is still a beautiful archaeological and religious place.
Trouts, the only Life in Kishansar and Vishansar Lakes
Vishansar translates to ‘The home of Vishnu’ and Kishansar means ‘the lake of Krishna’.
Something a lot of people don't know is that the Kishansar and Vishansar lakes are connected. The same water flows in both.
Interestingly, no algae formation can be found in these two lakes. As we know, algae play a significant role in supporting plants and other life in lakes. However, the lack of this algae means that nothing can grow in this lake. Only one life-form has made the exception! Even without algae, trout fish can live perfectly well here.
Gadsar lake, on the other hand, due to the algae growth, always appears green.
In recent years, fishing for these trout grew into a famous activity. However, because of this, the population in the lakes is depleting.
Harmukh, the Home of Lord Shiva
As per some local mythology, it is said that Shiva resides at the top of the Harmukh mountain, at a height of more than 16,000 feet.
The myth goes that once, a saintly man tried to climb this mountain to meet Lord Shiva. He met with harsh conditions on this powerful mountain, and yet tried to reach the peak. His efforts continued for a long period of 12 years. However, he was unable to achieve this, but during his efforts, achieved nirvana and disappeared from there.
A Yatra (pilgrimage) takes place up this mountain in honour of the god. The pilgrims climb up to 14,000 ft to worship Shiva.
The first known expedition led to Harmukh was in 1856 by Thomas Montgomerie for the Great Trigonometric Survey. What is interesting about this, however, is that the world-famous K2 was first discovered on that expedition.
A mountain is as massive as K2 is hidden from many of the local villages, which is why no one around knew of its existence. It turned out, unlike the other mountains in the region, this one, therefore, didn’t have a name. The survey team named it K2 to later change it to the local name. However, the lack of such a name is why the mountain has ever since been K2.
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