The hill town of Pahalgam in Kashmir is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the state, and for good reason. From picturesque locales to luxurious retreats, camping avenues and the thrill of adventure – the destination offer a complete experiential package to its visitors. However, the huge influx of tourists has led to a great deal of commercialisation, which can be quite the dampener for your holiday mood. Based on a recent trip to the town and its surroundings, here are some tips for Pahalgam sightseeing to make sure you get the most out of your trip:
Put Tulian Lake on Your Pahalgam Sightseeing List
Nestled between Zanskar and Pir Panjal ranges, the Tulian Lake, situated about 16 km from Pahalgam is an unforgettable delight to behold. Getting to this remote lake from Pahalgam involves a day-long trek, leading you to an altitude of 3,684 metres.
The treks organised by the locals in the town start at 6 am and conclude at 6 pm. If you are fit enough to embark on a 16 km uphill trek at this altitude, I strongly recommend visiting the Tulian Lake, even if it is at the cost of some other more popular, mainstream attractions.
Trek to Baisaran
Baisaran, known as mini Switzerland, is one of the most sought-after Pahalgam sightseeing attractions and is likely to feature on every traveller’s itinerary. Given that pony rides to Baisaran are a crucial part of the local economy, everyone from cab drivers to hotel staff is going to advise you to ride a pony to this place.
However, given the rocky and steep terrain, the pony ride isn’t going to be any easier on your body than trekking to the destination. We caught sights of many tourists holding on for dear life and screaming to be let off their ponies, even as these sturdy animals powered through non-existent trails. I’d recommend you trek instead. It takes about an hour to reach Baisaran on foot and about 20 minutes to climb down.
Don’t Fall for the Four-Point Pony Ride Package
If you do choose to take a pony ride, do not fall for the four-point ride package. The handlers are going to hard sell it to you claiming that the ride is easier and you get to see four Phalagam sightseeing points instead of just one for just an extra 600 bucks. Do not let their persistent coaxing persuade you. This four-point ride is a bluff.
The Kashmir Valley and Pahalgam Valley mentioned in the package are not even on the route. They are just going to halt en route and point to grassy meadows on a hill on the opposite side of the town. The same goes for Dabian – the place is just a small grassy meadow with a water tank. The pony handlers make a quick 2-minute pit stop at this point.
Steer Clear of Rafting in Lidder River
Remember the recent mishap where a guide lost his life trying to save the lives of five tourists after their raft capsized? The incident occurred in Mawoora, Pahalgam. There are many rafting organisers in and around Pahalgam, but there seems to be a complete lack of necessary protocols and certifications in these. Better safe than sorry, I’d say.
Go Fishing Instead
The Lidder River is not just breathtaking water body that enhances the beauty of Pahalgam but also known for its trout-laden waters. If you have a penchant for it, do add angling to your list of things to do in Pahalgam.
Bring Your Bargaining A-Game
From pony rides to cab rides to popular Pahalgam sightseeing places such as Aru Valley, Betaab Valley and Chandanwari, the ‘approved’ rates for different services are displayed at a different point across the main market. However, most of these fixed rates are rather steep. Just because these rates exist on paper does not mean they are set in stone. Do not hesitate to negotiate prices, and in all likelihood, you’ll get a good deal.
Sunscreen, Sunscreen, Sunscreen
The sun shines a lot brighter at higher altitudes, so do not forget to load up on a sunscreen with good coverage for your Pahalgam sightseeing outings. A day cream with SPF is just not going to cut it. I learnt it the hard way, when I returned with awfully sunburnt nose bridge, cheeks and forearms after my trip to Baisaran.
Try the Bhat Waza Cuisine at Pine Retreat
No holiday to this hill state is complete unless you have indulged in the Kashmiri dishes to your heart’s content. The Bhat Waza experience at Pine Retreat, Pahalgam Hotel, is the perfect way to satiate your craving for the indulgent cuisine of the land.
The meal includes a mix of delicacies from Kashmiri Pandit and Wazwan cuisine, which makes the experience even more spectacular since it’s hard to find authentic Kashmiri Pandit preparations elsewhere in the state.
However, the hotel organises this special Bhat Waza experience only for large groups of 6 or more people. If you are travelling in a small group, you can still taste these authentic native dishes at the hotel’s in-house restaurant.
Keep Your Travel Plan Flexible
Ideally, three days and two nights are sufficient for a complete Pahalgam sightseeing experience. However, the weather here can be extremely unpredictable and unexpected rain can wash out your plans, forcing you to spend your time indoors instead. So, it is advisable to keep an extra day in your travel itinerary, just in case. If you wrap up your trip as per plan, you can use this extra time to explore the many wonders tucked away in the alleys of Srinagar. While you are there, we strongly recommend a meal at the iconic Ahdoos restaurant.
With these insider tips to help you, you are all set to go about your Pahalgam sightseeing plans like a pro. For a well-rounded holiday experience, mix it up with these offbeat beautiful destinations in Kashmir.