Difficulty

Moderate-Difficult

Duration

8 Days

Highest Altitude

13,800 ft

Age

12 to 55 years

Duration

8 Days

Age

12 to 55 years

Difficulty

Moderate-Difficult

Highest Altitude

13,800 ft

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Trek fee

+ % Gst

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Kashmir Great Lakes Trek

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 seven 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.

On the first day, clumps of maple and pine grow like an oasis in these meadows. On the second day, they roll off a pass descending to a wide valley where horses run and sheep graze. On the third day, just below the Gadsar pass, wildflowers grow in wild abandon on these meadows. On the fourth day, the grassy plain of Satsar looks almost manicured – with a twinkling stream gliding through it.

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!

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Kashmir Great Lakes Videos

Watch these videos to prepare well for your trek.

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Quick Itinerary

A route map of the Kashmir Great Lakes trek

Day 1

Drive from Srinagar to Shitkadi (6,175 ft)

Drive Distance: 80 km | Drive Duration: 3-4 hours | Pick up point for Indiahikes trekkers: Sheikh Feroze Tours & Travels, Sathu, Barbara Shah Chowk, near Flourmill, Srinagar

Transport will be organised at 12.30 pm from Sheikh Feroze Tours & Travels, Sathu, Barbara Shah Chowk, near Flourmill, Srinagar. The cost of the cab is Rs 3,000 for a 5-6 seater and needs to be paid directly to the driver.

Note: The process of your registration, health screening, and document verification starts at 4 pm. Ensure you reach Gagangir on time for it.
There can be curfews around Srinagar or in Kashmir which might prevent you from reaching the basecamp on time if you are touring on Day 1.

Day 2

Trek from Shitkadi to Nichnai

Trek Distance: 11.6 km | Trek Duration: 6.5 hours | Altitude Gain: 7,780 ft to 11,838 ft

Moderate climb with a combination of moderate to steep ascent through the pine and maple forest section for about 3 hours. This is followed by a descent through a river valley. The final two hours are a trek with a gentle ascent to reach the campsite of Nichnai. 

Day 3

Trek from Nichnai to Vishnusar

Trek Distance: 13.5  km | Trek Duration: 7 hours | Altitude Gain: 11,838 ft to 12,011 ft

A Moderate day with a gradual ascent followed by an hour-long climb to the pass. From the pass, you need to descend for about an hour easing off into a flat walk to reach the campsite.

Day 4

Trek from Vishnusar to Gadsar via Gadsar Pass

Trek Distance: 16 km | Trek Duration: 7.5 hours | Altitude Gain: 12,011 ft to 12,200 ft via 13,850 ft

Moderate-Difficult day with a steep ascent to Gadsar Pass followed by a steep descent, easing off into a longer walk on the wide stretches of meadows.  

Day 5

Trek from Gadsar to Satsar

Trek Distance: 11.5 km | Trek Duration: 4.5 hours | Altitude Loss: 12,200 ft to 12,100 ft

Another Moderate day with a steep climb to begin with and then followed by a levelled walk. Once you reach the Maengandob plains, a gradual ascent starts to reach the series of Satsar lakes.

Day 6

Trek from Satsar to Gangabal

Trek Distance: 9 km | Trek Duration: 6 hours | Altitude Loss: 12,100 ft to 11,651 ft

Difficult day with boulder hopping for the first half an hour followed by a steep ascent for about 45 minutes and then a steep descent. Similar to the previous days, ascending and descending trail all through. 

Day 7

Trek from Gangabal to Naranag. Drive to Srinagar

Trek Distance: 13 km | Trek Duration: 6 hours

Drive Duration: 2 hours | Altitude Loss: 11,651 ft to 7,450 ft

Moderate day with a mix of ascents and descents for the half way stage followed by a steep descent all the way down to reach Naranag.

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. The buffer day is mandatory to keep in your itinerary.

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.

IMPORTANT POINTS

- Advisory Note: There are often uncertainties when it comes to 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 easily available with most airlines.

- 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 completely on the circumstances of the trek and the situation in Kashmir.

- 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.

- There are no facilities at Gagangir. Do not leave this or any other gears till the end.

- 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.

- Please note that you will be staying in tents on all days of the trek. Trekkers need to make their arrangements for a stay in Srinagar at the end of the trek.

- We have a Cloak Room facility at the pickup location of Sheikh Feroze Tours & Travels for excess luggage. Do not leave behind any valuables in the cloakroom.

Please note: Twin sharing tents may not be available in May, June, July and August. This is because raw materials for making tents are sourced from different countries. But their export has been affected due to international unrest. This has led to a global shortage of tents. Having said that, you'll still have comfortable space as these tents have been designed to accommodate three trekkers.

A route map of the Kashmir Great Lakes trek

PRO-TIPS

Onward Travel

You'll love the drive to Shitkadi! It follows the Sindh River all the way. The view gets especially pretty around 40 minutes after you leave Srinagar when you reach Ganderbal. There are lovely paddy fields on your left.

From there, you cross the Sindh river, and then enter the valley that leads to Sonamarg. Here, watch for the landscape on your right.

Return Travel

Your trek ends at Naranag. Don't forget to visit the Wangath Temple ruins where the trek ends.

The road head meets at Kangan and you follow the Sindh River again and towards Srinagar during your return journey. The drive is again 4-5 hrs

Day 1

Drive from Srinagar to Shitkadi (6,175 ft)

Drive Distance: 80 km | Drive Duration: 3-4 hours | Pick up point for Indiahikes trekkers: Sheikh Feroze Tours & Travels, Sathu, Barbara Shah Chowk, near Flourmill, Srinagar

Transport will be organised at 12.30 pm from Sheikh Feroze Tours & Travels, Sathu, Barbara Shah Chowk, near Flourmill, Srinagar. The cost of the cab is Rs 3,000 for a 5-6 seater and needs to be paid directly to the driver.

Note: The process of your registration, health screening, and document verification starts at 4 pm. Ensure you reach Gagangir on time for it.
There can be curfews around Srinagar or in Kashmir which might prevent you from reaching the basecamp on time if you are touring on Day 1.

Day 2

Trek from Shitkadi to Nichnai

Trek Distance: 11.6 km | Trek Duration: 6.5 hours | Altitude Gain: 7,780 ft to 11,838 ft

Moderate climb with a combination of moderate to steep ascent through the pine and maple forest section for about 3 hours. This is followed by a descent through a river valley. The final two hours are a trek with a gentle ascent to reach the campsite of Nichnai. 

Day 3

Trek from Nichnai to Vishnusar

Trek Distance: 13.5  km | Trek Duration: 7 hours | Altitude Gain: 11,838 ft to 12,011 ft

A Moderate day with a gradual ascent followed by an hour-long climb to the pass. From the pass, you need to descend for about an hour easing off into a flat walk to reach the campsite.

Day 4

Trek from Vishnusar to Gadsar via Gadsar Pass

Trek Distance: 16 km | Trek Duration: 7.5 hours | Altitude Gain: 12,011 ft to 12,200 ft via 13,850 ft

Moderate-Difficult day with a steep ascent to Gadsar Pass followed by a steep descent, easing off into a longer walk on the wide stretches of meadows.  

Day 5

Trek from Gadsar to Satsar

Trek Distance: 11.5 km | Trek Duration: 4.5 hours | Altitude Loss: 12,200 ft to 12,100 ft

Another Moderate day with a steep climb to begin with and then followed by a levelled walk. Once you reach the Maengandob plains, a gradual ascent starts to reach the series of Satsar lakes.

Day 6

Trek from Satsar to Gangabal

Trek Distance: 9 km | Trek Duration: 6 hours | Altitude Loss: 12,100 ft to 11,651 ft

Difficult day with boulder hopping for the first half an hour followed by a steep ascent for about 45 minutes and then a steep descent. Similar to the previous days, ascending and descending trail all through. 

Day 7

Trek from Gangabal to Naranag. Drive to Srinagar

Trek Distance: 13 km | Trek Duration: 6 hours

Drive Duration: 2 hours | Altitude Loss: 11,651 ft to 7,450 ft

Moderate day with a mix of ascents and descents for the half way stage followed by a steep descent all the way down to reach Naranag.

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. The buffer day is mandatory to keep in your itinerary.

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.

IMPORTANT POINTS

- Advisory Note: There are often uncertainties when it comes to 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 easily available with most airlines.

- 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 completely on the circumstances of the trek and the situation in Kashmir.

- 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.

- There are no facilities at Gagangir. Do not leave this or any other gears till the end.

- 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.

- Please note that you will be staying in tents on all days of the trek. Trekkers need to make their arrangements for a stay in Srinagar at the end of the trek.

- We have a Cloak Room facility at the pickup location of Sheikh Feroze Tours & Travels for excess luggage. Do not leave behind any valuables in the cloakroom.

Please note: Twin sharing tents may not be available in May, June, July and August. This is because raw materials for making tents are sourced from different countries. But their export has been affected due to international unrest. This has led to a global shortage of tents. Having said that, you'll still have comfortable space as these tents have been designed to accommodate three trekkers.

PRO-TIPS

Onward Travel

You'll love the drive to Shitkadi! It follows the Sindh River all the way. The view gets especially pretty around 40 minutes after you leave Srinagar when you reach Ganderbal. There are lovely paddy fields on your left.

From there, you cross the Sindh river, and then enter the valley that leads to Sonamarg. Here, watch for the landscape on your right.

Return Travel

Your trek ends at Naranag. Don't forget to visit the Wangath Temple ruins where the trek ends.

The road head meets at Kangan and you follow the Sindh River again and towards Srinagar during your return journey. The drive is again 4-5 hrs

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.

Your first campsite would be the Nichanai campsite. Nichnai grasslands show you how massive and rugged meadows can be. Picture by Sachin

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

Shitkadi 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

Why I Believe Everyone Must Trek: A Note from the Founder

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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. 

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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. 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

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.

Among the 7 different valleys you trek, 6 happen to be distinct grasslands or meadows. These high altitude meadows and grasslands are connected 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 tabletop 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 wallpaper” valley of Satsar. Smooth green grass, almost manicured, a few lone maple trees and a few horses enjoying the graze are what Satsar meadows look 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

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.

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Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec

PRO TIPS

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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.

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.

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