Greater Kashmir is home to a variety of stunning treks. The trek to Tarsar Marsar lakes is one of them.
The snow-capped mountains, colourful valleys, dense alpine forests and vast green carpeted meadows that you encounter in this trek will take your breath away.
The following is a brief recollection of my adventure through the trails of the Tarsar Marsar Trek.
Day 1: Srinagar To Aru
The adventure began at Srinagar. A 4-hour drive took us through Pahalgam to our first base camp at Aru. At Pahalgam, we were advised to conclude all our telephonic conversations and interactions with the outside world since the mobile connectivity beyond Pahalgam is, on the best of days, intermittent and sparse.
As our car traversed through the roads of Kashmir towards the mountains, I could feel a relaxed and happy sense of being. After the drive and several glimpses of the houses that dotted the landscape, we arrived in Aru valley.
Day 2: Aru To Lidderwat
Playful sunrays sneaked in through the landscapes at dawn and transitioned the blissfully quiet and still countryside to a vibrantly beautiful new morning. Sunshine glistened on the ever-flowing streams of the Lidder river to and added to the vibrancy and energy of the whole campsite.
We geared up our backpacks with all the necessities and began our journey through an upstream trail along the Lidder. The path continuously opened up to vast green fields that seemed to embrace the mountainscapes at the horizon – it almost made us unaware of the severe incline that we were hiking on. As we hiked, the chirping of birds, gushing sounds of the river and the aromatic fields engaged our senses. We arrived at a thicket of conifers that bestowed us with a panoramic view of the Aru valley that was now behind us. Traversing through the forest trails, we eventually arrived at the Nandekai Village. We kept walking to the outskirts of the village and came upon a lovely spot that provided an enchanting glimpse of a beautiful Indian mountain village enclosed by all the elements of nature.
The thick collective of dense green fir trees gradually gave way to an extensive grassland of mild green meadows. The meadows were dotted with the Gujjar people (local shepherds) and scores of sheep and sheep-dogs going about their routine. We took a break to rest and catch a glimpse of their daily routines.
The trail ahead was interspersed by a few smaller valley streams as they cascaded relentlessly through the landscapes. They were creating their mini-ecosystems of weathered rocks and smooth, colourful pebbles. Bright grasses and tiny flowers along their banks, brightening up the ambience of wherever they went.
As the trail proceeded, it transitioned back to another wooded forest of tall old fir trees. This lush and collective of firs guided us to the Lidderwat village. At the end of this totally worthwhile (but exhausting nevertheless) day, we pitched in our tents beside one of the many tranquil clear-watered streams of the Lidderwat village. Before dinner, we took the opportunity to explore and interact with the friendly and culturally rich natives of the village. This experience marked the perfect end to the second day of our trek.
Day 3: Lidderwat to Shekwas
A pleasant spotless blue new dawn prepared us for the with a 5-hour long hike that awaited us today. In a little under thirty minutes, we found ourselves enclosed in an ancient forest of pines. The trails within the woods alternated between narrow pathways between the trees and broader grounds. Looking back at the trail, the Lidder river appeared as a significant sliver of a large postcard. At the exit of this pine forest, we were greeted by a vivid sight that comprised of snow-clad peaks merging into valleys and several clear water streams adorning the slopes.
The trail eventually led us to Homwas – a region inhabited by another collective of Gujjar
We crossed a log bridge to reach this village. After the exhausting hike so far, an interlude with the locals was ideal as they pampered us with their hospitality and shared interesting tidbits about their culture.
After this refreshing break, we proceeded towards the rest of the trail that lay in front of us.
Walking alongside gentle crystal clear streams, we soon arrived at the grand meadows of Shekwas, which extended as far as eyes could reach. The vibrant shades of vast greens complemented by the bright canvas of the blue skies painted an astonishing picture. Along with the scenic views, a few leaf-thatched huts completely transport the traveller from all signs of modern (dare say ugly!) civilisation and gently places them into the sweet embrace of nature. After a relatively gentle climb above a slope near the village, we pitched in our tents under the starlit clear night skies to end the third day of our adventure.
Day 4: Shekwas To Tarsar
The morning began with us exploring the green fields of Shekwas barefoot. After breakfast, we geared up to start our 5-hour journey towards Tarsar. It was the first of the two main attractions of the Tarsar Marsar Lakes. The land transitioned to different elevation levels. We moved through the ever-expanding plains of the Shekwas meadow and crossed few humpbacked hills and eventually came to a collection of ridges that would lead us to the Tarsar Lake.
As we proceeded ahead, the trail demanded us to cross a stream that intersected our path. Crossing the stream was a unique twist along our already challenging and adventure-filled journey. After all the efforts, we arrived at Tarsar Lake, and the scene that was in front of me is rather hard to describe. Let me attempt it nevertheless.
We pitched in our tents in these fields and strolled lazily along the banks of the lake. We witnessed the hues of the skies change and still couldn’t wean ourselves away from seeing the strength and the beauty that dwelled within the lake.
Day 5: Tarsar to Sundarsar
To reach our next dream destination on this new day, we were required to negotiate a short but relatively challenging a 5-km hike to Sundarsar. Our fresh legs trekked through a stretch that connected the beautiful meadows of Shekwas and Sundarsar. As we progressed through a demanding ascent, the trail continued to get steeper at every turn. The climb rewarded us with a vantage view of the Tarsar Lake as we observed it from high grounds. The magnificent view of the lake from above made the ascent worth the effort.
Further ahead, a gently descending slope led us to sights of horses and sheep grazing on the lush grasslands to their hearts’ content, and large patches of vivid wildflowers swaying in the gentle breeze. Progressing through the grassland and yet another bouldered pass through the stream, we arrived at our next campsite near the Sundarsar Lake. The beauty of this lake rivalled that of Tarsar’s – it offered another high-art perspective of a high altitude lake connecting stunning peaks and plain fields.
Day 6: Marsar to Homwas:
Marsar Lake was calling out to us as the new day dawned upon the land. As we w began on our journey for Marsar Lake we were introduced with a trail that was sprinkled with boulders. The hike became trickier by every passing moment as the snow that embraced the surface of the rocks melted away.
After about an hour of ascending, we were graced by the wondrous sights of the Marsar Lake. The similar almond shape of the lake complemented that of Tarsar lake. The landscape that held together the brilliance of the lake was lightly complimented by the countering shades of green from the lush fields and by the hues of white from the frosted elevations that hugged one end of the lake.
After the memorable encounter with Marsar Lake, we were now traversing on the trail back to Homwas. The nostalgic sights of the Sundarsar camp gave rise to the urge to settle and exist forever within the beautiful landscapes of Kashmir. After holding back the desire to get lost within the awe-inspiring views of the land, we eventually made our way back to Homwas and ended the penultimate day for our adventure.
Day 7: Homwas to Srinagar via Aru:
We geared up to officially end our beautiful journey within the trails of the Tarsar Marsar Trek. The sudden realisation that this day would mark an end to a one-of-a-kind experience overwhelmed the group as we struggled to leave our campsite.
A relaxed traverse through the familiar meadows led us back to the Lidder river as it flowed timelessly. As I followed the river trail downstream, I recalled every beautiful sight that came up.
As we were driving back to Srinagar, it felt as if the days and nights spent with the nourishing lap of nature were immensely rewarding way beyond direct costs and pleasures.
There was energy and joy about me even though I knew that I was making my way back to a mundane urban lifestyle.
Day 8: Fly back home
The joy continued as I recall the memories and sifted through the photographs in my flight back to Mumbai, especially this one which remains an instant reminder of the Tarsar Marsar trek to me till date.