Kashmir Great Lakes Trek

The Most Beautiful Trek In India

Dates Full? Check out the Pin Bhaba Pass Trek instead. The most dramatic crossover trek in India!View the trek here

TREK DIFFICULTY

Moderate-Difficult

TREK DURATION

8 days

HIGHEST ALTITUDE

13,715 ft

SUITABLE FOR

12-62 years

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 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!

Kashmir Great Lakes: Complete Trek Information

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.

Kashmir Great Lakes Videos

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. 

Expert Speak

Sandhya UC, Co-Founder, COO

Sandhya UC, Co-Founder, COO

Sandhya is a founding partner at Indiahikes. Over the past ten years, she has explored and put on the map a few of the greatest Himalayan treks in India, including Kashmir Great Lakes and Kedarkantha. She is a TedX Speaker and has been awarded the Women of Worth Award by Outlook Business in 2017.

Here’s Sandhya talking about the most beautiful trek in our country.

What I Like and Don’t Like About the Kashmir Great Lakes Trek

What I Like About the Kashmir Great Lakes Trek

Sandhya UC, Co-Founder, COO

Sandhya is a founding partner at Indiahikes. Over the past ten years, she has explored and put on the map a few of the greatest Himalayan treks in India, including Kashmir Great Lakes and Kedarkantha. She is a TedX Speaker and has been awarded the Women of Worth Award by Outlook Business in 2017. Here’s Sandhya talking about the most beautiful trek in our country.

1. The magnificent mountain scenery on the trek

Most treks in the Himalayas are very scenic. But Kashmir Great Lakes is on a scale of its own. In fact, the mountains of Kashmir are like that. They have a larger-than-life presence around you. I would not be exaggerating too much if I say that a trek in Kashmir is like watching on an IMAX screen while everywhere else is on a normal TV screen. Kashmir — you feel it everywhere.

The larger-than-life scale of the mountains, meadows, and lakes on the trek of KGL. Picture by Rajshree Sarada

2. The variety of the valleys and meadows

The Kashmir Great Lakes trek has 7 trekking days. And coincidentally you are also trekking in 7 different valleys.  What’s more, each of these valleys, spread themselves out each day of the trek. Every valley gives hard competition to the valley before and the valley after.

Trekkers rejoice trekking through the meadows after crossing Nichnai Pass and going through the wide valley. Photo by Rajshree

3. The unforgettable walks in the meadows

Among the 7 different valleys you trek, 6 happen to be distinct grasslands or meadows. These high altitude meadows and grasslands are connected to one another via high passes. One would expect the meadows on either side of a pass to be similar. But they aren’t.  Each one of them is a world of its own and has a charm of its own.

The Shekdur meadows also known as table top set amidst Maples and Birch trees is where you start. Nichnai grasslands show you how massive and rugged meadows can be. Just cross the Nichnai pass and you enter a meadow that you don’t want to end.

A wide grassland, descending gently laden with wildflowers, a gentle river flowing in the middle is what the Vishnusar grassland is all about.

The Gadsar meadow is more dramatic. It is narrower with more jagged mountains lining on either side. A big Gadsar occupies the central landscape but leading to it are many smaller lakes. Flowers bloom in the entire valley in wild abandon.

Climb up from Gadsar valley and you get transported to the “windows wall paper” valley of Satsar. Smooth green grass, almost manicured, a few lone maple trees and a few horses enjoying the graze is what Satsar meadows looks like. I have never seen greener grass anywhere else.

The final grassland is the Gangabal expanse. When you see the valley below from Zaj pass, you are almost looking at the world map in green. Gangabal in blue looks like Africa! Nandkol lies by its side. 4 other lakes also dot the green landscape.

Personally for me, it is the meadows on the trek that take the cake and are my top reason to love KGL.

The Meadows on the last day of the trek after the Gangabal campsite. Photo by Vishwajeet Chavan

4. The lakes

You cannot talk about Kashmir Great Lakes Trek without mentioning the lakes. When I saw one or two pictures of the lakes before my exploration, I thought they were photoshopped pictures from some Scandinavian country. I did not believe such lakes existed in the mountains of our country. These crystal clear high altitude lakes change colours all through the day.

Starting from clear at dawn to sea green to light blue to inky blue by evening. The twin lakes Vishnusar and Kishansar, the sea-green Gadsar with ice floes, the sight of gigantic Gangabal along with its twin Nandkol are some of the best lake scenery you will see in the world.

The twin lakes of Gangabal and Nandkol taken from Zaj Pass on a clear day. Photo by Prasanth Premchandran

What I Don't Like About the Kashmir Great Lakes Trek

1. The dhabas on the trek

In the last 4-5 years a lot of dhabas have sprung up on the trek. Especially in the beginning and towards the end. My ideal trek is away from civilization. I go out to getaway. Even a hot cup of tea on a tiring trail will not make me root for a dhaba on a trail. Thankfully they are only on the periphery of the trail.

2. The garbage on the trail

This is a total bummer on the KGL trail. For a very long time, the campsites around the first and the last lakes on the trek are littered with camping leftovers. No matter how many sacks of litter our trekkers pick from Gangabal and Nandkol or Vishansar, these camps get littered by the short campers who come to the lakes.

The trail to Vishnusar around Nichnai and the trail down to Naranag in the pine forest are also littered. I sincerely hope better sense prevails in those who come to these lakes.

3. Unexpected challenges on the trek

Thanks to the lovely green meadows, trails lined by mountain flowers and the aquamarine lakes, everyone assumes the Kashmir Great Lakes trek is a walk on the grass. The reality is far from it. It is a moderate-difficult trek.

Long trek days and high passes to cross are a reality every day. There are quite a few rocky sections to negotiate too. You get them 3 or 4 times on the trail when you least expect them. I would say these unexpected challenges make the trek even more spectacular.

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

Picture Perfect

Trek Trivia

Things Nobody Tells You About Kashmir Great Lakes Trek

Naranag Temple

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.

Leaving Mountains Better

Green Trails is our promise to leave the mountains better. We have removed over 1 lakh kilos of the waste left behind by others on trekking trails. Yet this is a small percentage of what we do. Green Trails dives into reducing the use of resources, reducing our carbon footprint and bringing about a change in the daily practices of our trekkers too.

5 Reasons Why Indiahikes

We are India’s safest trekking organisation

When we brought out new trails in Indian trekking, safety came with us. Back in 2012, we were the first to introduce microspikes, and two years later, pulse oximeters became standard thanks to us. Nobody does safe treks like Indiahikes. In the mountains, emergencies don't care who you're with – everyone knows that when trouble hits, you look for the yellow tents of Indiahikes.

We are pioneers of treks in India

We are pioneers in trekking. Since 2007, we have brought out treks that have become India's most famous treks: Roopkund, Rupin Pass, Buran Ghati, Kedarkantha, Kashmir Great Lakes, Tarsar Marsar, Brahmatal, Phulara Ridge—the list goes on. In 2023 alone, we brought out five new treks in Indian trekking. We know treks better than anyone. This comes directly from the reason why Indiahikes was born: to bring out trek information and enable trekkers to trek on their own.

We are India’s largest trekking organisation

More than 25,000 people trek with us every year. We are the largest trekking organisation in India. 24% of our trekkers come back to trek with us every year. Over 4,000 students from the top educational institutions trek with us every year. Aside from this, families with children choose to trek with Indiahikes knowing that our treks are the safest. We have taken over 8000 children trekking so far, and the number continues to grow.

Our treks are transformative

We focus on designing transformative experiences. Our trek leaders conduct thought-provoking exercises that help you reflect and contemplate. This impact stays with you for a long time. Trekkers return feeling energised, more confident, or developing abilities to deal with difficulties. Many have changed careers, rethought their core values, become more humble, shown gratitude to others, or started a new fitness journey.

We are India's most sustainable trekking organisation

Since 2012, we have pioneered sustainable practices that have become standard in trekking. Using eco-bags, our trekkers have cleared over 120 tonnes of litter from the mountains. We do not carry packaged foods; instead, we serve freshly made food. We do not light campfires; we carry coal to light angethis to keep you warm. Our bio-toilets not only keep our toilets odour-free but also enrich the soil. When you trek with us, you leave mountains better.

Indiahikes Features

You’re guarded with our trek again philosophy

If you are unable to complete a trek, or if you love a trek, you can repeat it with us anytime. You don’t have to pay us for it. See our thoughts behind this here.

Daily 3-time health checks keep you safe at any altitude

Our thrice-a-day oxi-metre checks keep altitude sickness at bay, never allowing you to reach a point where you need evacuation.

Join any group, they are all women-friendly groups 

With around 30% of our trekkers being women, all women, including those travelling solo are comfortable to join any of our groups.

Request Jain/Vegan-friendly food

Our kitchen teams understand your needs as a vegan (or a Jain). We will take special care of your food, even in the remote Himalayas. 

Be comfortable and sustainable with bio toilets

We have specially designed bio toilets to ensure you have no sight or smell in toilets, at the same time making sure the toilets cause no harm to the fragile ecosystem we trek in.

Fresh, nutritious food at every camp

We’ll admit it. Our love for food surpasses our love for minimalism. Expect freshly cooked, multi-cuisine food at all camps, designed to meet your nutritional requirements and keep your taste buds happy!