Pahalgam

The valley of shepherds

Situated at the confluence of the streams flowing from Sheshnag Lake and the Lidder river, Pahalgam (2,130 m) was once a humble shepherd’s village with breathtaking views. Now it is Kashmir’s premier resort, cool even during the height of summer when the maximum temperature does not exceed 25 degrees. A number of hotels and lodges cater to all preferences and budgets, from luxurious hotels to unpretentious trekkers’ lodges and huts.

Around Pahalgam are many places of interest, and because the resort is set between fairly steep hills, it is worth hiring a pony rather than walking. Pony fares are posted at prominent locations. The most beautiful of these is the huge, undulating meadow of Baisaran, surrounded by thickly wooded forests of pine. Hajan, on the way to Chandanwari, is an idyllic spot for a picnic. Filmgoers will recognize it instantly as it has been the location of several movie scenes.

Pahalgam has within it no fewer than eight tiny villages, one of which is Mamal. There is a Shiva temple here, generally considered to be Kashmir’s oldest existing temple, dating to the 5th century.

Pahalgam is also associated with the annual Amarnath Yatra. Chandanwari (2,895 m), 16 kms from Pahalgam, is the starting point of the yatra that takes place every year in the month of Sawan (July to August). The road from Pahalgam to Chandanwari is on fairly flat terrain and can be undertaken by car. From Chandanwari onwards the track becomes much steeper, and is accessible on foot or by pony. About 11 kms from Chandanwari is the mountain lake of Sheshnag (3,574 m), after which, 13 kms away is the last stop, Panchtarni. The Amarnath cave is 6 kms away from there. During the month of Sawan, an ice stalagmite forms a natural shivling in the Amarnath cave, which waxes and wanes with the moon.