The Meadow of Gold
Sonamarg towards north
|State||Jammu and Kashmir|
|Elevation||2,800 m (9,200 ft)|
|Time zone||IST (UTC+5:30)|
Sonamarg gives rise to The Three Sisters (Kashmir). In its vicinity lies the great Himalayan glaciers of Kashmir Valley namely Kolhoi Glacier and Machoi Glacier with some peaks of above 5000 meters: Sirbal Peak, Kolhoi Peak, Amarnath Peak and Machoi Peak. Sonamarg an alpine valley is situated at the bank of Nallah Sindh, 87 km north-east from Srinagar, it is a popular tourist destination, nestled with in the imposing Himalayan peaks. It lies at an altitude of 2800 metres above sea level. The drive to Sonamarg is through yet another spectacular facet of country side in Kashmir, this time it is the Nallah Sindh, the largest tributary of the Jehlum River in the valley of Kashmir. It is upwards of sixty miles long valley and deep rock-girt gorge to open grassy meadow land and village-dotted slopes.
Sonamarg has no permanent settlement and is inaccessible during winter due to heavy snowfall and avalanches. At the 2011 India census, Sonamarg had a population of 392, excluding tourists and those working in the tourism industry. Males constitute 51% and females constitute 49%. These are the permanent residents of Sonamarg though seasonally.
Sonamarg had historical significance and was a gateway on ancient Silk Road along with Gilgit connecting Kashmir with China and other Gulf countries. The Zojila pass lies 15 kilometers east and is one of the highest passes for road transport. It still is a base camp for Ladakh on NH 1D, and is strategically important for Indian army who holds control over this part of Kashmir.
Sonamarg, which means ' meadow of gold ' has, as its backdrop, snowy mountains against a cerulean sky. the Sindh meanders along here and abounds with trout and mahseer, snow trout can be caught in the main river. In late April when Sonamarg is open for road transport, the visitors can have access to snow which is furnished all over like a white carpet. Ponies can be hired for the trip up to Thajiwas glacier a major attraction during the summer months. However, there is need for some stricter regulation to save the environment of the area from over tourism. Litters such as plastic bottles, etc., are strewn all over along the track.
The climate of Sonamarg is very bracing; but the rainfall is frequent though not heavy, except for two or three days at a time in July and August with fine spell in between. From Sonamarg, trekking routes lead to the Himalayan lakes of Vishansar Lake, Krishansar Lake, Gangabal Lake and Gadsar Lake, stocked with Snowtrout and Brown trout and Satsar, glacier-fed and surrounded by banks of alpine flowers.
A close by excursion is to Baltal, 15 km East of Sonamarg. This little valley lies at the foot of the Zojila, only a day's journey away from the sacred cave of Amarnath is a base camp for Amarnath yatra. Trekkers can also reach the starkly splendid roof-top of the world Leh, by crossing over the Zoji La pass.
At Sonamarg the Jammu and Kashmir tourism department is organising river rafting tournaments yearly, which has recently seen the participation of teams abroad. A large number of Hindi movies have been pictured in the serene beauties of Sonamarg.
Sonamarg is easily accessible from Srinagar or Srinagar Airport (SXR), the capital of Kashmir, in under 3 hours by car or bus on NH 1D 87 kilometers which leads along Nallah Sindh a key tourist attraction. Sonamarg is inaccessibe during winter due to heavy snowfall and avalanches, NH 1D is being closed in December every year, the local traffic is permitted only up to Gagangear village, which is the last permanent settlement of this area. Only the Choppers of Indian army lands at Sonamarg during winter carrying essentials for the army camp, and the army personnels are the only people who stays at Sonamarg during these harsh weather conditions. After Kargil war these high altitude alpine meadows have seen heavy deployment of Indian army. The government has given a green signal to dig a 6 kilometer tunnel at Gagangear and 14 kilometer tunnel at Zojila, which will not only keep Sonamarg open round the year but also the Ladakh, this project is still in papers.
Main attraction of this place is Thajiwas Glacier. Be very careful from the pony & car touts. This will always miss guide you and ask handsome amount to access them. Your travel car will not have access to reach Thajiwas Glacier. You must need to hire either pony or local car to reach there. It is just about 5 minute drive by car. They may be ask you about INR2000 for pony/person or INR10000 for car. Always negotiate with them. You can easily negotiate them for INR2000 for three point (Thijiwas Glacier, Fish Pond & Sarbal Park). In Thajiwas, you will get the snow but tout will misguide you for not having over there. At last if you want to enjoy snow in Thajiwas Glacier, Hire car for INR2000, I'm sure you will get it over there.
You can hire sledge-cart for INR100-200 and gum shoes for INR50-100 in May (which is peak time for them).
Don't argue with touts, there are many incidents of having quarrel and fight by them with tourists. They always argue that, There are having only 2-3 month season to earn bread & butter for a year so they are always trying to chop you as big as possible.
Otherwise I'm sure, you will enjoy the "Meadow of the Gold"
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sonamarg.|
- Sonamarg travel guide from Wikivoyage