Set in a sweeping, forested valley, Sonamarg was once a popular trekking destination, but the town now has a heavy military presence. The road to Leh and Kargil passes through Sonamarg, so you can enjoy the scenery from the bus, even if you don’t stop over.
Government buses from Srinagar to Kargil or Leh pass through Sonamarg, or you can take a private bus from Srinagar’s Western Bus Stand. Buses heading on to Ladakh are often full by the time they reach Sonamarg.
Every year 500,000 Indian Tourists make the annual trip to the ice lingam at Amarnath. This is one of the most important pilgrimage sites in India, but pilgrimages have been targeted by militants numerous occasions , so check out things before visiting. The cave at Amarnath is reached by a three day, 36 kilometer trek from the town of Chandanwari, 16 km North of Pahalgam.
Some pilgrims complete the journey by pony, helicopter or palanquin. Inside the main chamber is a natural stone lingam that becomes encrusted with ice from may to august. Pilgrim numbers peak during the Shivrani Festival in July and the military presence can be overpowering.
Sonamarg to Kargil
The road from Sonamarg to Kargil passes through increasingly rugged terrian as it struggles over the 3529m Zoji La - the pass that separates from Ladakh. This toute passes from the Line of Control and the road has been shelled on several occasions. Check things are calm before you visit.
Even when things are safe, this is not a journey for the fainthearted. The road is barely wide enough for a single vehicle and it clings to the side of precarious drops, wedged in by a saw edge of mountain peaks. The best time to travel from Sonamarg to Kargil is only possible from June to October and the pass is only open to Kargil-bound traffic in the afternoon. If you arrive at the wrong time, you will have to wait in the gloomy Baltal Camp at the foot of the pass.
Beyond the Zoli La, the landscape is barren and early silent after the birdsong-filled hills of Kashmir. Foreigners must register at the similarly gloomy Gumry camp on the Ladakh side of the pass.
Tags: Amarnath, best time to travel, cave, Chandanwari, forested valley, hill station, ice lingam, Kargil, Kashmir, Ladakh, Leh, Pahalgam, Shivrani Festival, Sonamarg, Sonamarg to Kargil, Srinagar, The best time to visit, trek, Zoji La
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