For enjoying few days relaxing in nature’s lap of picturesque Himalayas, getting engaged in nature-photography and indulged in horseback riding with no previous experience at all, you come at Pahalgam in Kashmir. Come here also to spend your holidays with families or even for honeymoon or a romantic trip. Pahalgam welcomes you with all of its picturesque and pristine beauty.
You enjoy the ride by the side of Jehlum River. At Gurnar Khanabal village of Anantnag district you will see the Lidder River, which is flowing through Pahalgam, meets with Jehlum River. The bluish crystal water of Lidder will continue to catch your eyes up to Pahalgam, where you will see the meeting point of Lidder River with a major tributary, the East Lidder, from Sheshnag Lake. The Lidder River originated from Kolhoi Glacier near Sonamarg and flows southwards through the Auro valley.
You arrive at Pahalgam. Pahalgam is located at an altitude of approx. 7000 ft. from sea level amidst lofty deodars, pine and many other giant conifers. It gets lively with full of tourist during the months of summer. It is also the base for annual pilgrimage to holy Amarnath Cave.
You see boards in many places indicating the view points and prices for ridding ponies to watch them. The horsemen are around you in no time and they effortlessly convince you to see more points with more prices. However, many of such points fall on the way to the Pahalgam’s main attraction Baisaran. The rates in the board are very much negotiable and don’t forget to assert your right to bargain. So you bargain hard and finalize the rate for seeing four viewpoints viz, Kangmarg, view of Kashmir Valley, Waterfalls and Baisaran at around Rs.750/- per pony, each pony to be guided by one horseman. Journey of your groups to Baisaran now begins on the back of horses.
Baisaran, in Pahalgam
You ride on the horseback 4 to 5 Kms uphill from Pahalgam to reach Baisaran. Along the way, after few hundred meters, the horsemen may start suggesting you to include another two viewpoints viz., Dabyan and Pahalgam Valley, if not taken in the package earlier. They will now come with a discounted package and you start bargaining with them. In the process, just to scare you, they may let the horses guided by single horsemen instead of the agreed terms of one man against one horse. Hold your nerve, do not panic, they are also concerned for their horses; after all it’s their means to livelihood. Show some courage that you can handle the horses alone, and you win the deal with handsome package of seeing six viewpoints @Rs.850/- per pony. You realise that you saved a lot and feel happy about that, because listed rates are more than double the amount you negotiated.
You enjoy the horse ride and learn some basics, leaning forward while climbing up and keeping the weight behind while going down. You start feeling very special while riding amidst the towering pine and deodar forest.
The first view point comes soon as you arrive at Kangmarg. There are spectacular places all along the way, so nothing special about this place as a viewpoint. But memories need to be preserved and you go on giving poses for your album.
In a similar fashion you are asked to see the valley from an uphill spot, take some photos and set off the journey again.
You are excited to see the next, a spectacular waterfall, but your expectations falls flat when you find your ponies are stopped to drink water from a downstream along the way to Baisaran. You are now told, “Sa-ba! Waterfalls, the third viewpoint”
But don’t lose your heart! you are still passing through spectacular hills covered with dense vegetation, it is charming to your eyes and if you have seen before the images of Baisaran meadow, you know the reason to reach there.
Collect your entry tickets and then wander around the meadow or sit for a while, take tea, snacks or cold drink from the stalls here and enjoy misty clouds and a cool breeze. Baisaran is a lush green meadow with undulating hills and dotted with tall pine and deodar trees all around. It presents a picturesque view of the snow clad mountain on the backdrops.
You slowly start relating all bollywood songs, especially 1960’s, 70’s and even of early 80’s, which were shot here with both male and female protagonist running towards each other from opposite side, ended in holding each other’s hands and singing some great songs.
Special guests are here too who will fill your photographic hobby and the very little cute rabbit will come at Rs.10/- for as many snaps as you can take within a limited time. Horses are at free of cost for photo shoot.
These days, “Zorbing”, giant rolling balls, are also found here for the adventure and entertainment of the kids as well as young boys and girls, though girls seem to show less or no interest in it.
It is now time to be headed back to Pahalgam through Dabiyan. The horsemen guide the horses through thick forest that led to Dabiyan.
You reach Dabiyan. The horsemen tell a story about a king or so, the story may be fictitious, but the settlement there can be identified immediately as the mud houses of Kashimiri Shepherds. It is the seasonal settlement for them, mainly in summers.
Few minutes ride there from you reach at Pahalgam valley and your tour completes. Sip a cup of Kashmiri Kawa Tea, it will perfectly match with the evening and then enjoy a walk by the side of the Lidder River.
Betaab Valley or Hagan Valley or Hagoon Valley
Amongst the other attractions in Pahalgam “Betaab Valley” is a very popular spot. Betaab Valley was earlier known as Hagoon or Hagan Valley until the bollywood film “Betaab” starring Sunny Deol and Amrita Singh was shot here in early 1980’s. From then only it was renamed as Betaab Valley.
Betaab Valley is located approx. 15 Km away from Pahalagam Taxi stand and falls on the way to Chandanwari. It is a perfect getaway in the laps of nature to enjoy the pristine beauty of landscape and lush green mountains on the background. The Lidder River flows right through it which makes it a perfect picnic spot as well.
How to reach Pahalgam
Pahalgam is accessible from road. The nearest Railhead is Jammu wherefrom it takes around 7 to 8 hours to reach Pahalgam by road depending upon traffics. The nearest airport is in Srinagar. Pahalgam is 96 Kms from Srinagar and by road it will take 3 to 31/2hrs.
Day Trip to Pahalgam
If you run short of time, set off your journey from Srinagar at dawn to cover major places at Pahalgam and return to Srinagar by the late evening. During my first visit to Pahalgam in 2011, I did it on a day trip from Srinagar.
Accommodations and Restaurants at Pahalgam
There are many choices for accommodations and one will fit according to your budget. But avoid the cheap hotels near Taxi Stand. Punjabi Rasoi at Pahalgam is purely a vegetarian restaurant and serves hot and tasty foods. It is not costly too. Nathu’s Rasoi is a lovely choice too for variety of foods. It is famous at Pahalgam for vegetarian foods.
My visit and Stay
After 2011, I have visited and stayed at Pahalgam on 08.07.2014 during my Yatra to Holy Amarnath Cave.