Here are some great treks to do in Sept, Oct and Nov
Arguably The Prettiest Trek in India
Tarsar Marsar is arguably the prettiest trek in India. This is a title we do not give treks lightly. Especially when its formidable sister trek, Kashmir Great Lakes, is in the picture.
However, Tarsar Marsar is a trek where alpine lakes take a life of their own. It is not just the fact that you get to camp beside these royal blue, snow-fed lakes (you don’t get this camping chance even at KGL). Or the secluded nature of these campsites (a Godsend in today’s trekking scenario!).
You get to circumvent the entire perimeter of Tarsar and Sundersar, offering you multiple perspectives of the very same lake!
Then there is the elusive Marsar, almost always hidden under a shroud of clouds. We see this lake from an overhang, sitting 600 – 700 ft below. It is a perfect spot to witness the grandeur of the lake, with the sun rising right above it. This is until dollops of clouds waft their way through the U-shaped valley and settle above the lake. The lake disappears from view within seconds!
The Tarsar Marsar trek takes you right to the heart of Kashmir. From the quaint village of Aru to the clearings of Lidderwat. From the rolling green mountains of Shekhawas to the massive alpine lakes. The setting of Tarsar Marsar is such that it leaves you visually stunned for weeks together!
What I like about Tarsar Marsar Trek
1. Intimacy of the Lakes
I loved the intimacy of the lakes on this trek that I didn’t get on the Kashmir Great Lakes trek. I was right on the edge of the shores of the Tarsar and Sundarsar, my tent on the grassy glades of these lakes, watching the dark blue aquamarine waters being fed by snow patches.
The sight stayed with me. I went on long walks all alone along the shores of the lakes, my thoughts to myself. These were rare moments on a trek, which I didn’t get elsewhere. Tarsar always gives me these moments.
2. Marsar Lake
From Sundarsar there is a secret passage over a Col that led me to a cliff over Marsar. I timed it right twice, an hour after sunrise, to see something spectacular. Rushing down the valley that leads to Marsar, huge columns of clouds rolled in towards Marsar.
Sunlight glinted over the top of the clouds throwing wonderful shadows as they rolled in at an angle. The sight was so spectacular from my vantage point above the cliffs, that I almost wanted to applaud. Within fifteen or twenty minutes the clouds blanketed Marsar, taking the lake out of sight.
Even without the rolling clouds, the sight of Marsar took my breath away. Easily, it was one of the largest lakes with the deepest blue waters that I had seen in Kashmir.
3. Tarsar Lake
The sight of Tarsar as I climbed to the Tarsar pass is one of my favourite sections. I think the best photos of the lake come from this section. I just loved sitting on a ledge, high above the lake, watching the long stretch of blue waters of Tarsar as the morning sun catches it at its best. Every time I do this trek I take out those few minutes to do this. I think most trekkers enjoy this bit a lot.
4. The Plains of Jagmargi
My favourite top secret section of the trek are the plains of Jagmargi. You get them an hour or so before you reach Sundarsar. I suddenly found the rushing stream going dead quiet, forming giant crystal clear pools. On my left were vast grasslands, stretched out in a big oval arch.
Somewhere in the far distance, like a western movie, the grasslands touched the foot of rugged hills — a sight I have not seen on any other trek before — an entire big sweep like this.
Sheep, horses grazed peacefully. As I passed by I caressed some of the sheep and they didn’t move an inch. But what stunned me were the flowers. It was a carpet of wildflowers, purple, white, blue and yellow, nurtured by the abundance of water. I couldn’t trek. Because every step I took would crush flowers under my feet. It took me a long while to cross this section.
5. Shekwas Campsite
Give me Shekwas campsite for a day and I will trade two campsites from any other trek. I just love the setting! Nestled in the junction of three green valleys (name another trek where you see three valleys intersecting — it is very rare!), a ridge climbs right outside the camp.
I remember I took off my shoes and climbed, and climbed and climbed on those soft grass. I climbed endlessly until the camp was a dot below, perhaps a thousand feet, yet the ridge had a long way to go.
From this viewpoint, I saw what we call Kashmir, a heaven on earth! Sweeping mountains, great grasslands in the valleys, and an undulating landscape that can only be made by a divine source. To top it each of these valleys had a river running through them with the sun setting on its glinting surface. I sat on a small outcrop of a rock for a long time until it was dusk.
6. The Variety of the Trek
For me, the Tarsar Marsar has tremendous variety everyday of the trek. They are closely packed and come one after another. Take the first day for example. I remember, we started the first day outside the pretty village of Aru, which till date is the prettiest mountain village I have stayed in.
Then I climbed into one of the loveliest coniferous forests, tunneling through to get into pretty grasslands on the other side. The green grasslands were dotted with the white blobs of sheep everywhere. The blue Lidder flowed next to me. Grey cliffs climbed from beyond the grasslands. The colour contrast was striking.
I trekked from one grassland to another, each uniquely different, some with clumps of forest on one side, others with hills rising out of them. There were times when I had to get down to the Lidder — its waters swishing around my ankles. Finally, I climbed a hump getting into the grand clearings of Lidderwat.
I could not believe my eyes. Here was a long grassy clearing surrounded by ancient coniferous trees. It was like a wide highway of grass with trees on either side. Sitting down at the camp I reflected. I had experienced all this in one day in under 11 kilometers. That’s how the whole trek is — everyday packed with tremendous variety.
What I don’t like about Tarsar Marsar
This is a hard one. In every trek I can pick flaws, but Tarsar Marsar is a trek that is absolutely flawless. It is not hard on the legs, it has a lovely drive getting to the base camp. The base camp is worthy enough for a few days of stay! The trek has tremendous variety.
It shows you Kashmir for what heavenly it can be. Plus three beautiful lakes, where you camp next to two of them! All in all it is a complete package. To me it edges out even the Kashmir Great Lakes trek. Not by a lot, but surely by a wee bit.
Tarsar Marsar is Best Discovered Through Pictures
Intimacy of High-Altitude Alpine Lakes
Camping on the Green Meadows
A Common Sight: Horses Grazing in the Lush Meadows
Lush Grasslands in Monsoon
Sprawling grasslands, grand mountains
Golden Sunrise Over the Valley
DAY 1: Drive from Srinagar to Aru at 12 pm
It is a 3.5 hour journey from Srinagar. Transport will be arranged at 12 pm from Sheikh Feroze Tours & Travels, Sathu Barbara Shah Chowk, Srinagar. You will reach Aru by 4 pm.
Cost of cab – Rs 3,000 per cab (5-6 seater). You have to pay the driver directly.
DAY 2: Trek from Aru to Lidderwat
Trek distance: 10 km | Duration: 6 hours
Altitude gain: 7,958 ft to 9,131 ft
Trek type: Easy-moderate. Initial gradual ascent for 30 minutes followed by gentle undulating walk.
DAY 3: Lidderwat to Shekwas
Trek distance: 5.6 km | Duration: 5 hours
Altitude gain: 9,131 ft to 11,039 ft
Trek type: Moderate. Continuously ascending trail for the first 2 hours with a few short level walks. River crossing just before Homwas followed by gradual ascent.
DAY 4: Shekwas to Tarsar
Trek distance: 5 km | Duration: 4 hours
Altitude gain: 11,039 ft to 12,449 ft
Trek type: Moderate. Continuous ascent, mostly on gradual inclines.
DAY 5: Tarsar to Sundersar
Trek distance: 5 km | Duration: 5 hours
Altitude gain: 12,449 ft to 12,946 ft
Trek type: Moderate. Steep ascent in the beginning to the pass, followed by a descent and then a gentle ascent to Sundarsar.
DAY 6: Sundersar to Homwas via Marsar
Trek distance: 9 km | Duration: 7 hours
Altitude loss: 13,201 ft to 11,500 ft
Trek type: Moderate. 40-minute ascent to Marsar. Gradual descent all the way to Homwas.
DAY 7: Homwas to Aru drive to Srinagar.
Trek distance: 13 km | Duration: 6 hours
Altitude loss: 11,500 ft to 7,958 ft
Trek type: Easy. Gradually descending trail all the way.
It costs Rs 3,000 per cab (5-6 seater). You have to pay the driver directly.
You are expected to reach Srinagar by 8.00 pm. Cost will be Rs.3,000 per cab (5-6 seater).
Know Your Tarsar Marsar 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 surficial experience.
Use this section to learn about the Tarsar Marsar 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. Don’t miss the ‘Frequently Asked Questions' section. Trekkers find that extremely useful.
How Does Each Day Look Like
Day 1: Getting to the base camp - Aru
Pahalgam is about 100 km from Srinagar and Aru is 12 km away from Pahalgam. Pahalgam is a more familiar place around Srinagar so if you are reaching on your own, take a shared vehicle from Srinagar to Pahalgam. It takes about 3 hours to get there.
There are two lovely routes to Pahalgam; one through Anantnag and the other through Bijbehra. The Bijbehra route is a tourist trail where you will drive through excellent rural Kashmir scenery. What tops it is the abundance of apple orchards, walnut and apricot trees along the way.
From Pahalgam, Aru is right across the Lidder River. It takes another half an hour to cover this distance. Today, after a 3.5 hour drive from Srinagar you reach Aru by 6.30 pm. There are plenty of places to stay at Aru, though they are a tad expensive. Indiahikes trekkers will stay in a homestay at the campsite.
- Altitude: 7,958 ft (2,426 m)
- Time taken: 3.5 hours drive. Pick up from Srinagar at 12.00 pm.
Day 2: Aru to Lidderwat
- Altitude: 7,958 ft (2,426 m) to 9,131 ft (2,783 m)
- Time taken: 6 hours, 10 km
- Trek gradient: Easy - moderate. Initial gradual ascent for 30 minutes followed by a gentle undulating walk.
- Water sources: Carry sufficient water. You can refill your water bottles from streams, a few hours into the trek.
It is a gentle but long climb from Aru to Lidderwat, covering a distance of 10 km in 6 hours. The trail to Lidderwat starts to climb straight out of the village, following the course of the Lidder River. Follow the wide trail past the agricultural department’s fence.
Look back to take a commanding view of the entire region of Aru.
The trail gets into a cluster of fir trees and continues to climb. Half an hour later, the trail pops out at a clearing called Dalla, near Gujjar huts. At Dalla, the trail is no longer a climb, but a gentle undulating walk through thick pines. 20 minutes later, a wide fork in the trail under a giant fir tree signals the diversion to Nandkei.
Nandkei is a cluster of Gujjar settlements across the Lidder. Continue on the trail with the forest thinning out progressively. Half an hour later, the trail leaves the cluster of trees completely and threads through open grasslands. Spot Gujjars and their families criss-crossing the meadows on horsebacks. The trail climbs over so gently that it is hardly noticeable.
Another half-hour later, the trail crosses two clear streams – the second one over a wooden bridge. The streams are clear and the water is safe to drink. It is another hour’s journey to Lidderwat from the bridge. Soon after the bridge, the trail climbs into another small cluster of pine trees.
Sometimes, during peak season, there’s a tea stall on the right – it serves as a good place catching your breath over a cup of tea. Out of the pine trees, the trail gently climbs a mound, from the top of which is one of the most fascinating sceneries of the day. The Lidder River meets with the trail at the valley bottom, spreading out in springs. Next to the river are grassy glades where the trail runs. Beyond, the Lidder rushes out of a curve around more gorgeous fir forests.
It takes about half-hour to cross this lovely section of the trail and enter the cluster of firs once again. Across the forest and ten minutes later, are the superb meadows of Lidderwat. There are a few Gujjar huts that signal Lidderwat.
A sensible option is to drop down to the wooden bridge, climb out of the meadows on the other side and camp anywhere. On the other side are lovely clear streams running across the meadows – this is vitally important if you are camping for the night. There are PDA (Pahalgam District Authority) huts for accommodation.
There are also plenty of places to pitch camp. The PDA caretaker runs a private shop and there are quick bites to eat here. The Lidderwat camping site is a dream. Clear streams run across the meadows. Spare time to take long walks that stretch to either ends of the meadows. It is a delight that you will rarely come across.
Day 3: Lidderwat to Shekwas
- Altitude: 9,131 ft (2,783 m) to 11,039 ft (3,365 m)
- Time taken: 5 hours, 5.6 km
- Trek gradient: Moderate. Continuously ascending trail for the first 2 hours with a few short level walks. River crossing just before Homwas followed by gradual ascent.
- Water sources: You can refill your water bottles at any of the several streams that you cross.
The trail to Tarsar starts to climb right behind the PDA huts – following the course of the river flowing alongside. It leaves the river below and climbs very quickly into the pine forest above you. The trail is straightforward and does not pose any challenge.
Continue to climb past clusters of pines and clearings for an hour and a half, until a stunning view opens up before you. The narrow valley of Lidderwat opens up to tracks of wide sweeping grasslands. The grasslands merge with the towering mountains, with snow patches in their folds. It is no longer a single valley but many valleys that converge together. The trail ahead converges upwards and to the left past the Bhakarwal shelters, sticking to the right of the river.
Clear streams run down and cut through the trail many times. There are good spots to fill water.
Avoid taking the upward trail. Drop down to the river and cross it, first hopping over a few boulders and then crossing a make-shift long bridge. Follow the river and continue to climb the trail. Half an hour later, the trail around a bend opens up to a wide clearing of Homwas.
There are a few friendly Gujjar huts where you can stop for tea. It is a delight treading on the trail after Homwas. It is mostly on grass and feels lovely under your feet. The trail, now in a south-westerly direction, enters a narrow valley with blue waters of the river as constant company.
The climb continues to gain altitude. An hour later, you will pass a very old cluster of Silver Birch (Bhoj) trees, and the view opens up to another stunning scenery. This time, a possibly wider grassland leads to two wide green valleys. It stretches out vastly in front of you. Undulating meadows on your left reach out for the sky. Beyond the meadows, tall, dark, snow-patched cliffs shadow the landscape. The trail climbs swiftly past a few Gujjar huts to the camping grounds of Shekwas.
For those on the Tarsar trail, Shekwas is a logical and extremely pretty camping ground. It is a good break after the hard climb.
Day 4: Shekwas to Tarsar
- Altitude: 11,039 ft (3,365 m) to 12,449 ft (3,794 m)
- Time taken: 3-4 hours, 5 km
- Trek gradient: Moderate. Continuous ascent, mostly on gradual inclines.
- Water sources: Carry sufficient water. You can refill your water bottles at a couple of streams.
Past Shekwas, the trail again snakes its way through grass for a long while. The trail to Tarsar, meanwhile, climbs into a ridge that overhangs the stream.
In a general westerly direction, the trail climbs rapidly towards a conical hill in front. The trail tops a few false ridges, each opening up to different wondrous sceneries. Two hours later, the trail finally gives you a narrow glimpse of Tarsar. Even the slight glimpse is a delight and it is a rush to reach the shores of the lake. Cross the stream over boulders and set your foot on the grassy glades of Tarsar. There are plenty of flat camping spots along the lake and pitching tents is not an issue.
The lake is a stunning display of nature’s capabilities. The waters are turquoise blue and in a cauldron surrounded by snow patches feeding the waters of the lake. If ever there was a place that could come close to paradise, then the camping shores of Tarsar are it!
Day 5: Tarsar to Sundersar
- Altitude: 12,449 ft (3,794 m) to 12,946 ft (3,946 m)
- Time taken: 5 hours, 5 km
- Trek gradient: Moderate. Steep ascent in the beginning to the pass, followed by a descent and then a gentle ascent to Sundarsar.
- Water sources: Carry sufficient water. You can refill your water bottles from a couple of streams dispersed along the trail.
The view from the other side of the Tarsar pass is another terrific attraction. The grassy valley stretches out from your left to right in a never ending stretch of beauty that boggles the imagination. Even the anticipation of your walk on the valley floor is enough to set the heart racing.
On a side note, this is the same valley that leads to the Shekwas meadows. Most trekkers descend down from Tarsar, until Shekwas, turn left and get into the Sundarsar valley. By climbing to the pass you’ve saved 3-4 hours of the trek.
Descend from the pass on the shepherds’ trail that leads to the bottom of the valley. Catch up with the trail that runs along the stream on the grassy bed of the valley. Move up the valley, to your left and continue on the trail. Ten minutes later, spot a few Bakkarval shelters on your left.
Behind the shelter, the trail climbs over a short stretch of boulders to tap a knoll. What lies behind the knoll is something that poets reserve their best for. In a vast expanse of meadows, with a widening valley on your left, are the most lush grasslands you’ll ever see. Sheep graze gently on the meadows. Unmindful of your presence even as you brush past them. Horses munch on the same grass in gay abandonment. In the middle of the meadows, the stream turns into a large pond, fed by brooks from snow-melt of the surrounding mountains. Snow patches on the mountains offset the greenery of the meadows. This delight of nature takes about half hour to cross.
Walk down the trails that lead to the end of the meadow. Towards the end, superbly laid boulders cover the stream. They are laid out so well that it appears as if they were constructed there. Hop along the boulders, climbing rapidly for another 15 minutes, until you reach the base of a ridge that separates the meadow from the valley above it. To get to the top of the ridge, the trail climbs through a narrow boulder-lined valley for another 15 minutes.
Topping the ridge is another moment for the poets.
Another meadow larger than the one you left behind sprawls out in front. Which is more beautiful, it’s hard to say. The settings are similar, almost identical. The valley floor is a vast bed of flowers. Far beyond is another ridge top – the exit route of the Tarsar trek. From the ridge top, look to your left and spot a grazing trail that leads into the folds of the mountains on your left.
The folds lead to enticing snow-laden flanks of mountain sides. Follow the trail that climbs past the stream running down the slope. Briefly, the trail hangs over similar well-laid boulders over the stream. Ten minutes later, the trail magically hops over landscaped grassy mounds to land on the lovely shores of the lake of Sundarsar. To your right and behind, are big flat stretches for camping. Sundarsar is the perfect camping spot after the lovely trek from Tarsar.
Day 6: Visit Marsar and go to Homwas
- Altitude: 12,946 ft (3,946 m) to 13,201 ft / 4,024 m (Marsar Ridge) to 11,500 ft (3,505 m)
- Time taken: 7 hours, 9 km
- Trail gradient: Moderate. 40 minute ascent to Marsar. Gradual descent all the way to Homwas.
- Water sources: Carry sufficient water. You can refill your water bottles from a couple of streams dispersed along the trail.
From Sundarsar, skirt around the shores of the lake from the right to get to the far side of the lake. There are two logical passes that one can climb. Both lead to Marsar.
The quicker one is over the boulder-laden trail on the left. Climb over the boulders and trace a path towards the pass. Snow over the boulders can make the approach tricky. An ice axe or a trekking pole helps a lot to gain firm footing. It is a half-hour climb to the pass.
The pass is a lovely grassy stretch that has clear trails leading to flatter grounds just below it. Get down to the flatter stretches and occasionally hop over lovely brooks that run along the trails. Keep to the trail that veers to the left and spot a ridge that climbs on your left and in front.
Five minutes later, climb over to the top of the ridge for an amazing view of Marsar almost 600-700 feet below. Marsar is a hidden beauty, almost always engulfed under dollops of clouds and mist. Almost as large as Tarsar, Marsar is similar looking. Tall, snow-lined cliffs rise off the lake. On the left, the overrun waters of the lake run down a lovely green valley towards Traal.
On the right, outer edges of the Dachigam reserve forest almost climb up to the shores of the lake. Head back the way you came up to Marsar and get back to Sundarsar in about 40 minutes of descent. At Sundarsar campsite, you have breakfast and start from Homwas.
You retrace your steps to Jagmargi valley. Trekkers are extremely lucky to view these grasslands twice and from different directions. Instead of crossing the Tarsar pass, you take a different route to Shekwas. Roughly an hour of walking from Shekwas to Homwas. You are expected to reach Homwas just in time for lunch. You camp at Homwas for the night.
Day 7: Homwas to Aru. Drive to Srinagar
- Altitude: 11,500 ft (3,505 m) to 7,958 ft (2,426 m)
- Time taken: 6 hours, 13 km
- Trek gradient: Easy. Gradually descending trail all the way.
- Water sources: Carry sufficient water. You can refill your water bottles from a streams on the trail.
Today you take the same route that you had taken at the beginning of the trek via Lidderwat. The trail goes downhill and it is a quick descent. It will take you 2 hours from Homwas to Lidderwat.
The beauty of this part of your trek is that you will get to see all of those views that you had initially missed. The shrinking Kolahoi glacier is one of these sights. You will see the pine forests of Lidderwat that you had seen on day one of your trek in a whole new light. After getting some rest at Lidderwat, you head for Aru. It is a 10 km walk from Lidderwat to Aru.
This takes around 4 hours to cover. Stop for lunch en-route, you are expected to reach Aru by 4 in the evening. Vehicles will be arranged from Aru to Srinagar. You will reach Srinagar between 7-8 pm.
How To Plan Your Travel
To reach Tarsar Marsar trek you need to travel around 100 km towards south from Srinagar, going to Pahalgam. The base camp of Tarsar Marsar trek is Aru, a picturesque hamlet situated 12 km from Pahalgam.
For ease of understanding, we have broken down the journey based on the transport and the route you take:
From Srinagar Airport to TRC
The tri-colour flag of India stands tall right in front of you as you step out of the Srinagar (Sheikh Ul-Alam) airport. You will first need to get to the Tourist Reception Centre (TRC), which is 12 km away from the airport. But it’s easy to get there.
The TRC lies in the heart of Srinagar. It is a prominent landmark and is well connected, hard to miss as it has a football ground attached to it. There are two ways to get to the TRC.
1. Government Bus: This is the best way. There are airport buses every half an hour which take you to TRC. The ticket now costs approximately Rs.80. This is the most reliable, safe and pocket-friendly way, provided you have time on your side.
2. Cab: The next option is to take a private cab. You will get plenty of them immediately as you step out of the airport. But take this option only if you are pressed for time because it is expensive. The cab will cost you around Rs.600
| Note: While autos do ply in Srinagar city, you won't find them in the airport complex. You need to walk a km or so from the airport to find an auto. We do not recommend it.
Direct Route from TRC to Aru
After you get to TRC, the next step is to begin your journey to Aru. The route to Aru goes via Pahalgam.
So, your first, most prominent leg of the journey will be to Pahalgam.
There are two parallel routes for this. One moves on the four-lane Jammu Highway and goes through Anantnag. The second is on the other side of Lidder river, which takes the same amount of time but is a notch more scenic due to the apple and apricot orchards on the way. This is the route through Bijbehra.
Both routes converge three kilometers prior to Pahalgam. The entire journey takes around 3.5 hours.
Alternative: Break it at Anantnag
Go for this option if you are traveling on your own and want to opt for shared vehicles. You will find frequent shared cabs leaving for Anantnag from Dalgate taxi stand, near Jan Bakers on MA Road to Anantnag. It costs around Rs.80 for a distance of 58 km (1.5-2 hours).
Hop into another shared vehicle from Anantnag stand to Pahalgam. Expect it to cost around Rs.110 for a distance of 45 km (1 – 1.5 hours).
| Note: There are chances your shared/private vehicle may not go till Aru as some of them do not have permission to cross Pahalgam. Enquire about this with the driver.
Aru is 12 km from Pahalgam. Cabs to Aru usually leave from the non-touristy side of Pahalgam. Talk to your cab driver or locals to figure this one out. The journey is barely 20 minutes long.
How Difficult is Tarsar Marsar Trek
Honestly, Tarsar Marsar trek, which climbs to 13,201 ft, is not really difficult. It is rated as 'moderate'. That too only because trekking days are slightly long.
A moderate rating refers to marginally longer trekking days with a few steep climbs (example: climb to Tarsar Pass). This makes it a notch more difficult than the easy-moderate treks like Kedarkantha and Dayara Bugyal.
But the trek has easy exits and there are no technical sections.
To get a clear picture, imagine covering a total of 47.6 km in 6 days. You gain approximately 5,243 ft during this journey, which is mild when spread over 6 days.
That means, on average, you cover 8 km every day. This includes gradual ascents and descents.
That's doable in a well-paced itinerary, like the one we follow for the Tarsar Marsar trek at Indiahikes. The key is to pace it out. It's important because you consistently trek above 10,000 ft for four days.
But if you cut it short, say skip camping at Shekwas, then you are exposed to the risk of AMS. In such a situation, be very cautious for any discomfort in your body which may point to AMS. We will talk about this in detail in the next section.
Apart from AMS, be careful during the steep descent from the Tarsar pass. It is a short one, but can get tricky if you are descending during the rains. Wearing good quality trekking shoes with a great grip really helps here. (For details read: How To Choose The Best Trekking Shoes In India)
Is Tarsar Marsar trek Safe?
Yes. Trekking to Tarsar Marsar is safe even though it lies in Kashmir. That's because the trail is remote, away from civilization. Most of the time it's just your group trekking on your own in nature.
But there are certain fears and misconceptions around trekking in Kashmir. We recognize them and have addressed them in this blog -- Is Trekking In Kashmir Safe? -- where team members from Indiahikes talk about how it feels to trek in Kashmir.
Coming back to the trail, being mentally prepared for the trek is as important as being physically prepared to stay safe. For this, it is crucial to have a clear mental picture of the trek. Quickly, here it is:
| Trek in a nutshell: On the Tarsar Marsar trek you go up to an altitude of 13,201 ft. You will be trekking and camping at altitudes above 10,000 ft on four days. It is possible that you could be hit by AMS on any of these days. At Indiahikes, we believe that as long as you are well-informed and well-prepared, you can easily survive at high altitudes.
To do this effectively, let’s break down and examine various aspects of Tarsar Marsar trek from the perspective of safety:
- Safety while trekking in Kashmir
- What you must know about AMS
- Exit points on Tarsar Marsar trek
- Closest hospital to Tarsar Marsar trek
Safety while trekking in Kashmir
While the Tarsar Marsar trek remains untouched during times of unrest, getting to the base camp involves traveling through populated towns like Bhijbera and Anantnag in the picturesque countryside of Kashmir.
On your drive to Aru, be mindful of where you are going, how you are traveling and if your mode of transport is reliable.
| Thumb Rule: Stay cued into news. Be curious about what’s happening around you. Keep a check of areas that are flagged red. Check if transport is getting affected and be forthcoming on enquiring about alternate routes.
Be aware, but do not worry or panic. Stay calm and keep the following pointers 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 behavior.
- 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 calm and wait for it to pass.
What you must know about AMS
As discussed in the above section, you are exposed to the risk of AMS when you cut the itinerary short. But if you are short on time and skip camping at Shekwas, pay close attention to your body. Stay alert for any signs of altitude sickness.
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.
To help you understand AMS better, we've put together a complete guide about it. This is a series a videos you must watch before you get onto any high altitude trek:
- 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
If you experience any symptoms of AMS, even in the slightest, start taking steps to treat the sickness.
At Indiahikes, our trek leaders are trained and equipped to take care of any emergencies related to AMS.
Exit points on Tarsar Marsar trek
Medical Emergencies can strike on any trek. The key to dealing with them lies in knowing your exit points. Know how to get out and reach the nearest hospital quickly.
On Tarsar Marsar trek, your best bet is to descend to Aru or Sumbal.
When you are deep into the trek -- say at Sundarsar -- you easily take a day to reach the Aru exit. If you cannot afford that much time, check for the alternative route via Sumbal.
| Caution: The Sumbal route is 15 km long, has a stiff descent with a tricky river crossing. Nevertheless, it is a saviour if you are short on time. You can exit within 8 hours from here.
Closest Hospital to Tarsar Marsar Trek
In case of a medical emergency, the closest hospital is at Pahalgam. If you need serious medical attention, head to Srinagar for better facilities.
Best Time to do the Tarsar Marsar Trek
The best time to do Tarsar Marsar trek is from the beginning of July to the beginning of September. It is the traditional monsoon season in the rest of the Indian subcontinent, but things are different in the Kashmir Valley.
Kashmir receives only mild rainfall in the months of July and August. Not at all like in Himachal Pradesh or Uttarakhand. That's because of the Pir Panjal range which prevents most rain clouds from reaching the Kashmir valley.
It’s a boon because it makes for a comfortable trekking experience. In all the other seasons, it’s too cold to trek, the trail and the meadows are buried under snow for most part.
But even if we look at just one season, Tarsar Marsar trek changes appearance and colour throughout the three months - July, August and September.
Tarsar Marsar in early July
Trekking opens on the Tarsar Marsar trail in the first week of July. Until then the upper reaches are under heavy snow. The lower meadows open earlier.
When you trek in July you can expect to see remnants of snow by the highest lake on the trek - Sundarsar. You may even see melting ice floes in the lake in early July.
This setting offers a fleeting glimpse of how the landscape looks like for the rest of the year - buried under snow, punctuated with frozen lakes.
Sometimes, even if it’s not the best phase to complete the trek, the sight is spell binding.
Tarsar Marsar from mid-July to the third week of August
After mid-July, Tarsar Marsar trek starts revealing itself in full glory.
Now, the snow has almost melted. And the trail is carpeted with bright green meadows, which are in contrast with the rugged, grey mountains rising at the fringes. The best part is, these meadows are densely dotted with so many wildflowers!
You experience this beauty, especially in the Jagmargi plains, as you trek over tiny flowers of colours ranging from violet, purple to yellow and white.
Frozen chunks of the alpine lakes have melted by now. Waters of Tarsar and Sundarsar are deep blue. Look at Sundarsar from the vantage point, it has this signature royal-blue shade that you see in most photos.
Rains -- more like evening showers -- pick up during this time.
Tarsar Marsar from the end of August to first week of September
Cold sets in as the season progresses to the end of August. The evening showers become frequent. But when the clouds part during this time of the year, you witness brilliant blue skies. Their reflection deepens the blue of the alpine lakes, especially of Sundarsar.
You will also see a change in the colour of the meadows. They look a bit roasted, just with a tinge of brown. Watch out for this as you camp at Shekwas. Also, on the day you trek from Tarsar to Sundarsar.
The grass no longer retains the soft, fresh green tinge. The flowers too wilt. And yet, there’s a beauty to this change of tone. You can see it in this image by Trek Leader Leo Saldanha.
We usually stop our trek towards the first week of September, but some lone trekkers do attempt it till the end of September. So, it’s doable. But may not be the most comfortable time, given the cold temperatures.
Weather And Temperature On Tarsar Marsar Trek
On Tarsar Marsar trek, the weather or temperature doesn't fluctuate much between campsites. But yes, there is a considerable change between the day time and night time temperatures.
That, combined with soft, evening showers on certain days make trekking to Tarsar Marsar a pleasant experience.
With that setting in mind, let's dive into the details of weather and temperature.
From July to mid-August:
July and August are the warmest months of the trek. Day temperatures hover around 15 - 18° C when sunny. Expect cloud cover or rain to decrease this range by 4 or 5° C. Nights tend to be balmy around 1 - 3° C until the Shekwas camp.
Tarsar and Sundarsar camps see frost forming on the grass by morning indicating that the lows might have briefly touched zero or slightly lower.
July and August are not the traditional rainy months in Kashmir. However rains are never ruled out in the mountains. You can always expect an afternoon shower or a day on the trek with full rain. As you move to August chances of sporadic rains increase. It is all easily managed on the trek with appropriate rain gear.
From the end of August to mid-September:
The mountain valleys in Kashmir start getting colder by the end of August. September sees temperatures dipping by 3 - 4° C every week. Expect night temperatures of -3 to - 5° C at the higher campsites by the second week of September. This is when the flowers disappear and the meadows also turn golden.
What To Take
Things to get for the Tarsar Marsar Trek
Tarsar Marsar is a very high altitude trek. The trekking gear you need to carry for this trek is different from regular treks. So pay careful attention to this entire section.
- A list of everything you need for the trek (Skip to section)
- A list of medicines for your trek (Skip to section)
- A list of mandatory documents (Skip to section)
First, The Essentials. You cannot do the trek without these.
1. Trekking Shoes:
Tarsar Marsar trek requires trekking shoes that are sturdy, have good grip, have ankle support and can handle snow. 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 really 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 on 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 Tarsar Mrasar, 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 on 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 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.
| Buying tip: You can get dry-fit T-shirts from Decathlon. Also, stores like Reliance Trends, Max have dry-fit T-shirts. They don’t usually cost much.
| Cotton or Synthetic? As Indians, we love cotton. Down in the plains when the heat is a 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 13,200 ft. At these altitudes it can get freezing 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, 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 really 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 really 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 on 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 Tarsar Marsar 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 Tarsar Marsar, especially in early July expect to walk on long stretches of snow. 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 absolutely 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, sun strokes, 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 woolen 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 sun burns 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 Tarsar Marsar you are going to be handling snow quite a bit if your trekking in early July You’ll need gloves to grip something or to steady yourself in snow. 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. These are also very useful when it rains to keep your hands dry and warm.
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. Which is why you need to keep your head protected, especially when the sun is down. Early mornings, late evenings, 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 absolutely essential. A balaclava is a modern version of the woolen 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 in the night. If you cannot get woolen 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 Tarsar Marsar 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 pole (a pair):
Trekking poles give you stability and balance. They reduce your energy consumption by almost 40%. On the Tarsar Marsar 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 on rent on 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 really not required. Dry fit trek pants dry quickly even if soaking wet.
| Rental: High grade ponchos are available on rent on the Indiahikes store.
9. Rain cover for your backpack:
Backpacks are your life. You carry all your dry clothes, your warm gear in your backpack. It is important that your backpack stays dry at all times. Modern backpacks usually come with built in rain-covers. If your back pack does not have a rain-cover, ensure you get a rain cover by either (a) buying a rain cover (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 ltrs, optional):
Some trekkers opt to offload their bags to a porter on the Tarsar Marsar trek. While we do not encourage this practice, in case you opt for offloading, then carrying a daypack is mandatory. In your daypack you carry essentials like water bottles, rainwear, emergency medicines, 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 requirement
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 Tarsar Marsar.
| 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 your sanitary waste.
Carry a lunch box, a mug and a spoon. Your lunch box must be leak proof. You are expected to wash your own 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, bacteria to settle on your cutlery. 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 the highest. Watch this video on why steel cutlery is better than plastic.
3. Two 1 litre bottles or a 2 litre hydration pack:
Tarsar Marsar has long walking days. You need to carry two one litre water bottles to keep yourself hydrated over the distance. If you are used to a hydration pack, then that is ok too. If one among the two bottles is a lightweight thermos, then that helps you to store warm water on a really cold day or for late evenings and early mornings.
| Rental: You could rent lightweight thermos flasks from the Indiahikes store.
4. 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.
Personal medical kit
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 Diamox starting from Delhi every 12 hours (125 mg). Carry on the medication until you descend down to Homwas. Being on a preventive course of Diamox greatly reduces the chances of Acute Mountain Sickness on the Tarsar Marsar trek.
- 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 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.
Mandatory Documents to carry
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. Anything such as a driver’s license, Aadhar card, passport will do. This is required by the forest department for your identification.
- Disclaimer certificate. This is a legal requirement. Download the PDF, read carefully and sign it. This must be handed over to your Trek Leader during registration at the base camp - Download PDF
- Medical certificate. There are two sections in this. The first part must be filled by a practising doctor. The second part must be filled by you. Without the medical certificate the forest department will not issue permissions for your trek. It is also a requirement by Indiahikes - Download PDF
ProtipKeep 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.
How to Get Fit for Tarsar Marsar Trek
How to get fit for the Tarsar Marsar trek
This trek requires a good amount of cardiovascular endurance. You can begin by jogging everyday. Start jogging at a slow pace and then keep increasing your pace day by day. In order to be prepared for high altitude trek, you should have a combination of distance and speed targets.
Here’s a fitness routine that works:
Here's a guide to help you get fit for the Tarsar Marsar trek.
Working out indoors
If you can’t go out and jog because of time and space constraints, here’s a video you can use to work out indoors.
Inclusions and Exclusions
Here is what the trek fee includes:
- Accommodation – Stay is included from Day 1 to Day 6 (Aru to Homwas). You will be camping on all days of the trek (3 per tent).
- Meals – All meals from dinner at Aru on Day 1 to lunch at Aru on Day 7 are included. We provide simple, nutritious vegetarian food on all days of the trek.
- Camping charges – All trekking permits and forest camping charges are included.
- Trekking equipment – You will stay in high quality tents and sleeping bags in all the camps. Our high altitude sleeping bags can withstand temperatures as low as -10 ºC. We provide ice axes, roped, micro spikes, gaiters etc. as required.
- Safety equipment – First aid, medical kit, oxygen cylinders, stretchers etc. will be available at all campsites to deal with emergencies.
- Services of an expert Trek Leader – All our trek leaders are qualified in basic / advanced mountaineering courses.
- Services of an expert Trek Team – The mountain staff on this trek consists of well trained guides, cooks, helpers and porters.
Here is what the trek fee excludes:
- Transport to and from the base camp – We will arrange shared taxis for trekkers to pick you up from Srinagar and drop you back from Aru. This will cost approx. Rs. 2,700 per 5-6 seater vehicle one way. You will have to share this cost with the other trekkers
- Food during transit to and from the base camp – The trek fee does not include meals purchased during the journey to and from Aru.
- Backpack offloading charges – If you wish to offload your backpack, there will be an additional charge of Rs. 1,500 + 5% GST. The backpack cannot weigh more than 9 kg. Suitcases/strolleys/duffel bags will not be allowed. Please note that charges will vary for last minute offloading in case you decide to offload your bag after reaching Aru (Rs.335 per day +5% GST).
- Stay at Srinagar on the last day
- Personal expenses of any kind
- Anything apart from inclusions