Situated in the forested foothills of the Pir Panjal Range, Tangmarg is a quiet little hill town in the vicinity of Gulmarg. The drive from Srinagar starts out along a broad, double-barrel road. Starting early (around 7 am) gives you the dual advantage of avoiding the “khatarnak” traffic jams at HMT Chowk as well as being early enough to spot the hawks, kites and eagles that line the tops of street lamps, silently surveying the rice fields beyond for the odd mouse or squirrel. Convoys of Army trucks are a regular sight, as are the stray donkeys that wander onto the road divider to graze.

Drung Valley picnic spot
Drung Valley picnic spot

Turning off the main highway from the Narbal crossing, the road to Tangmarg is a delight. A bridge leads across the Hokersar Nallah that is part of the Hokersar Wetland Reserve, a wintering ground for hundreds of thousands of migratory birds each year. As you climb gently up into the foothills, vistas open up revealing thickly forested hills fringing a green valley dotted with tin-roofed houses and rice fields (rice is a staple in Kashmir and everything grown here is consumed locally). We stop at the roadside Magray Garden Cherry View Point in Druroo, 2 km short of town. Tangmarg famously grows strawberries, apples, walnuts and cherries, and we sip chai under trees laden with the last of the season’s cherry crop in this still relatively unspoiled place, compared to its more famous cousin Gulmarg.

ORIENTATION

Most of Tangmarg’s activity centres around the main drag along the Narbal- Tangmarg Road, starting with the colourful Chandilora Market on the outskirts of town. Passing the turn-off to J&K Tourism’s Hotel Alpine, whose signboard assures us that it’s “a home away from home with delicious cuisine”, you reach the Children’s Park and tiny Tourist Assistance Centre, backed by spreading valley views. Another signboard informs us that Gulmarg is a no-polythene zone, while opposite are a handful of small hotels and J&K Bank. The main market is located right behind the hotels. However, Tangmarg’s real beauty lies off the main road — in its apple, cherry and walnut orchards and miles of flooded rice fields that are interspersed with wild flowers. Ask your hotel staff if they know any families who own orchards and request a walk or a visit.

Ningli Nallah waterfall
Ningli Nallah waterfall

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

Tangmarg has three main sights of interest in its vicinity. The Drung Valley picnic spot along the banks of the Ferozpora Nallah makes a nice walk, 1½ km southwest. The road winds through hills laden with pine trees, herds of cows being taken to pasture, and a pista-green mosque with a tiered spire, typical of the region. At the picnic spot, a lawn dotted with shops fronts the gushing river, where families frolic under shaded huts. You can try your hand at rock-climbing on the overhanging rocks nearby, or follow the Ferozpora Nallah upstream along a row of fat pipes that carry water to nearby towns. The construction of a hydel power plant has caused some damage to the aquatic life and detracts a little from the charm of the place. There are some temple ruins nearby, thought to be from the 11th century.

Vandana Mohindra
Cherry View Point
Cherry View Point

The Shrine of Hazrat Baba Payaamud-Din Reshi lies 7 km northwest of Tangmarg, on the road to Gulmarg. In summer, it is a beautiful drive along a winding road full of pine trees, lush meadows and hillsides carpeted in daisies that resemble white frosting on a bed of green. At one point, you can see the whole of Baramulla District spread out below. Zigzag stairs lead up to the shrine, which is located high up on hill, with panoramic views. The ziarat (grave) of this revered Muslim saint is housed within a striking building, fronted by trefoil wooden windows and a slim, 3-tiered spire. It is visited by thousands of pilgrims each year, so if you wish to avoid large crowds, it is best not to visit during festivals or holy days.

 Shrine of Hazrat Baba Payaam-ud-Din Reshi
Shrine of Hazrat Baba Payaam-ud-Din Reshi

Continuing 4-5 km north from Baba Reshi, you reach Ningli Nallah, a snowfed stream and waterfall that makes a lovely campsite. Of all the picnic spots around Tangmarg, this is the prettiest, mainly because it is off the tourist track and has escaped the trail of litter usually left by day-trippers. Hence if you do decide to picnic or camp here, please collect all your empty plastic bottles, chips packets and other garbage and carry them back with you, so that Ningli Nallah can stay exactly as it is.

WHERE TO STAY AND EAT

JKTDC’s Hotel Alpine (Mobile: 09419046044; Tariff: ₹2,000-5,000) is by far the best place to stay in Tangmarg. This red brick building with spacious well-appointed rooms is set in a large garden, 1 km before the main market. Further ahead, on the Narbal-Tangmarg Road is a line of hotels that offer clean, but slightly pokey, rooms. The two better hotels are Abdulla Greenz Hotel & Restaurant (Tel: 01954-254411, Mobile: 09419181023; Tariff: ₹2,500-3,000) offering 10 rooms fitted with mod cons, Wi-Fi and central heating in winter, and Downhill Hotel & Restaurant (Tel: 254516, 254433; Tariff: ₹3,200) that has rooms with attached bathrooms, a backup generator and heating in winter. Next door, Pine View Hotel & Restaurant (Mobile: 09622579291, 09906319555; Tariff: ₹3,000) has standard rooms with TVs, attached baths and winter heating.

At the budget end, Mahajan Hotel & Restaurant (Mobile: 09419413099; Tariff: ₹2,000) has 10 basic rooms with attached baths and TVs. All hotels offer discounted rates during the off-season (Jul-Mar), except over the Christmas-New Year vacations.

The hotels listed above all have in-house restaurants. Tangmarg’s best eating-place is Downhill Restaurant, which is part of Downhill Hotel. I sampled their mouthwatering Kashmiri wazwan and biryani that is very popular with locals (the Chinese and Indian food on offer aren’t as good). A few doors down, Greenz Hotel & Restaurant has a Café Coffee Day on its premises, while the vegetarian Jain Restaurant is nearby. For a local dhaba, try the popular Malik Dilbar Restaurant located behind the hotel strip in the main market. Hotel Alpine’s Zaiqa Restaurant serves standard Indian and Kashmiri fare.

FAST FACTS

When to Go Tangmarg is a year-round destination. The climate remains cool even in midsummer (May-Aug)

Tourist Offices

J&K Tourism

Tourist Assistance Centre

Narbal-Tangmarg Road, Tangmarg

Mob: 09419053312

J&K Tourism

Tourist Reception Centre

TRC Road, Srinagar

Tel: 0194-2452691, 2479548

Website: jktourism.org

JKTDC

Tourist Reception Centre

TRC Road, Srinagar

Tel: 2457927/ 30

Website: jktdc.in

STD code 01954

GETTING THERE

Location Tangmarg is a fruit bowl town an hour’s drive west of Srinagar in Baramulla District, just 13 km short of Gulmarg on the Narbal-Tangmarg Road

Distance 38 km W of Srinagar JOURNEY TIME By Road 1½ hours from Srinagar

Route from Srinagar NH1A Bypass via Nowgam, Hyderpora, Bemina and Lawaypora to Narbal crossing; Narbal-Tangmarg Road to Tangmarg via Narbal, Magam, Dhobiwan, Kunzer and Druroo

Air Nearest airport: Sheikh-ul-Alam Airport, Srinagar (49 km/1½ hrs/ Tel: 0194-2303000/ 31, 2303635), connected to Delhi, Mumbai, Leh and Jammu by Air India, SpiceJet, Indigo and Go Air. A taxi costs ₹1,000-1,500 to Tangmarg

Rail Nearest railhead: Jammu Tawi station (336 km/8 hrs). A taxi from Jammu up to Tangmarg will cost approx ₹3,000-3,500, one-way. Shared taxis and buses also ply to Srinagar

Road From Pantha Chowk on the outskirts of Srinagar, turn onto the NH1A Srinagar Bypass passing Nowgam, Hyderpora Chowk (the turning for Srinagar Airport), Bemina, Parimpora and Lawaypora to reach the Narbal crossing. From the crossing turn left onto the Narbal-Tangmarg Road (also called the Srinagar-Gulmarg Road), across a bridge over the Hokersar Nala past Narbal, Magam, Dhobiwan, Kunzer and Druroo to Tangmarg. If you miss the turn onto the Srinagar Bypass and reach Srinagar City, simply turn left onto MA Road from NH1A, then over the Budshah Bridge Flyover to Qamarwari-Batmaloo Road, which rejoins NH1A at Parimpora. Buses from Srinagar to Gulmarg pass via Tangmarg. A taxi from the TRC at Srinagar to Tangmarg costs approx ₹1,000-1,500 one-way. Shared Sumos charge ₹60 a head