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Pahalgam: On the Banks of the Lidder

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A jewel set in the Kashmir Valley, Pahalgam is an alluring destination

The sleepy town of Pahalgam offers beautiful hillsides forested with tall pine trees, luxuriant meadows and endearing valleys next to the very pretty and very Himalayan Lidder river. The Lidder River is what makes Pahalgam so alluring.

The Lidder has two main tributaries — Lidder East (flowing from Sheshnag Lake) and Lidder West (from Kolahoi Glacier). The two streams tumble down the mountains and come together in a relatively flat and broad stretch right next to the town proper. Walking near the river bank is a rejuvenating experience; take a stroll around and chuck a few pebbles into the river at the Lidder View Park, right in the centre of town. During season, and on holidays, the riverside in the town becomes a popular picnic spot for families and couples.

Things to See & Do

Walk to Baisaran
There are also many walks to the lakes and meadows scattered all around Pahalgam. The most popular of these walks is the one to a large meadow called Baisaran (1.5 hours), surrounded by magnificent pine trees. You can also opt for a pony ride (₹350 per hour) or drive up here (6km from the Pahalgam taxi stand), but the road (more of a dirt track) is not in the best shape so check with the local authorities or your hotel before setting off.

Rafting and Adventure Sports
Pahalgam’s also the right destination if you’d like to take up adventure sports in a serious fashion. The renowned Jawahar Institute of Mountaineering and Winter Sports (Tel: 01936-243129, Cell: 099069 67830; jawaharinstitutepahalgam.com), on the KP Road just before Pahalgam, offers mountaineering and rafting to paragliding and outdoor skills for children. Operators offer rafting on the Lidder a little below Pahalgam. Mountain Magic Trek n Tours (Contact Ibrahim; Cell: 09469284249; W mountainmagictours.com) and Jungle Guide Adventures Trek & Tour (Contact Imran; Cell: 09419923810, email: imranbeach resort@gmail.com) are two good operators who undertake white water rafting in Pahalgam. The white water rafting season here extends from 1 April to 15 August. Approved rates are ₹350 for a short rafting ride (2km) and ₹700 for a long ride (5km).

Kashmir’s Trekking Capital
Just out of Pahalgam, you’re in picture-postcard territory: Grassy meadows, tall peaks, frothy streams and tall fir trees. Tulian Lake (11,811ft), to the southwest of Pahalgam via Baisaran, is a 10—12km, 2-day return trek for experienced hikers. Another trek close by is to Sheshnag Lake (12km from Chandanwari) on the Amarnath trail. But one of the best treks you’ll find anywhere is the Kolahoi Glacier Trek, via Lidderwat. This follows the course of the Lidder River from Pahalgam up to the Kolahoi Glacier, Kashmir Valley’s largest. Many trekking agencies offer the Kolahoi Glacier trek, including Moun tain Magic Trek n Tours (Cell: 09469284249) and Jungle Guide Adventures Trek & Tour (Cell: 09419923810) in Pahalgam. The cost is ₹10,000—15,000 per person (depending on size of group) for a 2N/ 3D trek, inclusive of boarding, lodging, guide and porters, or ₹4,500 per day per person. The Leh-based Northern Escapes (Cell: 09871511133, 0759282949, 0941976032)

Where to Stay
Most hotels are located in and around the main market. Grand Mumtaz Resorts (Delhi Tel: 011-29847786, Cell: 09818468786; Tariff: ₹10,500—16,000) a massive property, is the town’s classiest. Other high-end options are Pahalgam Hotel (Tel: 243252, 243137, Cell: 09419045057; Tariff: ₹16,800—19,500, with two meals), Hotel Pine N’ Peak (Srinagar Tel: 0194-2501323/ 95, Cell: 07053127229; Tariff: ₹12,000—27,500) and Hotel Heevan (Srinagar Tel: 0194-2501323/ 95, 2500299, Cell: 07053127229; Tariff: ₹9,500—12,500). JKTDC’s Hotel Complex & Tourist Bungalow (Tel: 243224; Tariff: ₹4,000—6,000) has fine cottages on the hillside just above the town. Hotel Woodstock (Tel: 243259, Cell: 09419594171; Tariff: â‚¹7,480—9,680), Pine Palace Resort (Tel: 01923-243102, Cell: 0949045069; Tariff: ₹3,900—4,500, with meals), Alpine Inn (Tel: 243065, Cell: 09906756030; Tariff: ₹6,000, with two meals), Hotel Natraj (Tel: 243225, Cell: 09419523131; Tariff: â‚¹5,000—18,000) are also popular.

Where to Eat
The Punjabi Rasoi dhaba, close to the bus stand, offers cheap and hearty vegetarian fare and is always packed. Dana Pani in the main market is popular for its simple and affordable north and south Indian vegetarian fare, including parathas and dosas. Hotel Pahalgam has a couple of options: the Pine Retreat coffee shop or Café Log Inn are good for light meals. But the best in town has to be the Troutbeat specialty restaurant, which offers fresh trout from the Lidder. The Senator Pine’ N’ Peak has three restaurants — Lolaab, Saahil and Gulistan. Hotel Tulyan’s popular Nathu’s Rasoi, offers Indian and Chinjabi food.

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