Lofty mounted thickly populated by ancient pine off-set the picturesque environs of beautiful Sonmarg(2730m) lies at the head of the Kashmir’s Valley. Rippling through the lush countryside, the Sindh River beckons picnic makers and angling enthusiasts to one of Kashmir’s most beloved holiday’s destinations. Just 84 km from Srinagar, Sonmarg is also the gateway to the stunning Zoji La pass which accesses the remote expanses of Ladakh. This sleepy town is also a perfect destination for solo women travelers. It used to be a strategic trading post for caravans heading for central Asia over the ages. In early summer, you can still come across some Gujjar shepherds heading for the higher alpine pastures.
This mesmerizing little town of Sonmarg offers some stunning blue water lakes and gorgeous grasslands. This Valley Of Gold is indeed a walkers dream come true. In the spring, the fields and meadows around this tiny village are carpeted with lovely alpine flowers. In the summer, the Pine-filled air lures the explorers; some of the gentle walking trails along the lower slopes of the mountains enclose this lovely valley. Sonmarg is the base of a major trek that passes along several mountain lakes – Vishansar, Gadsar, Kishansar, Gangabal & Satsar.
Some For The Adventuresome
Ladakh and Thajiwas Range
For the more adventurous, however, there’s the possibility of heading for the great trekking routes in Ladakh via the nearby Zoji La pass which affords the world’s finest panoramic views of mountain’s cape. But for those who wants to explore the Sonmarg area, the Thajiwas range is the enthralling challenge itself. Birch, pine and fir-clad the dense spur of Thajewas range which splits the valley. The famous Thajiwa glacier and waterfall climb on the side of the spur. In summer, this 4 km trek route lures trekking enthusiasts with its offer a challenging terrain and fantastic view.
Vishansar and Krishansar
From the Nichinai Pass, you can follow the old trekking paths to the glacial lakes, Vishansar(4080m) and Krishansar(3810m). The Krishansar Lake is also a good fishing spot as it is the Gadsar lake, renowned for its trout. The frozen Satsar Lake here is enclosed in an alpine flower meadow.
Another trekking route takes you to Baltal( 2743m), at the base of the Zoji La, 15km from Sonmarg. This alpine village is also the base camp for amaranth treks. A river emanating from the base of Amarnath glacier joins the Indus at Nilagrad, a Baltic settlement about 6 km away from Sonmarg. This confluence is believed to have curative properties.
It is a glorious drive to Sonmarg to Srinagar via the beautiful township of Ganderval, Kangan, and Gund in the Sind Valley. The Sindh River gurgles its way through the valley; you can opt for a leisurely drive savoring some of the loveliest, picturesque villages in the legendary Kashmiri countryside and the quiet water waves or stop for an impromptu picnic by the river. Sonmarg is the last halting place on the Kashmir side, before the steep climb the Zoji La which separates the Kashmir valley from Ladakh.
Sonmarg being a part of the magnificent J&K, it’s not only a delight for your soul, it also serves some of the most piquant dishes. The markets and the roadside offer some authentic Wazwan dishes and you get the amazingly refreshing Kashmiri Qahwa (Coffee) to round up your meal. The following are some of the best dishes of Sonmarg for vegetarian and non-vegetarian traveler.
Some for the Foodies:
Drooling Over Popular Vegetarian Dishes in Sonmarg
Although, Wazwan dishes are predominantly meat based, Kashmir offers some amazing vegetarian dishes that you cannot miss. Most of the dishes are cooked with a lot of cream and milk and have some delightful, aromatic spices. The following are some famous vegetarian dishes to catch when you are in Sonmarg.
It’s a sin to talk about Kashmir and not talk about rajma chawal! It is a staple food of most of the Northen India and can be easily found in road side eateries to local restaurants in Sonmarg. It’s a delectable thick gravy dish consisting of red beans cooked with amazing Indian Spices.
A must taste dish for all paneer lovers. Soft and succulent paneer cooked in a milk based gravy rich in cardamom and herbs.
Served as a side dish with Kashmiri thali, khatte baingan is a slightly tangy dish consisting of golden fried aubergines cooked in a spicy thick gravy.
It is a seasonal dish and are served in a very few restaurants in Sonmarg. It looks like spinach but it is a local leafy vegitable ‘haak’ cooked in mustard oil.
When you are roaming in Sonmarg market road, you can’t help but notice some roadside eateries selling some suman sized Puris. These are traditional kasmiri Poories Served with sweet suji halwa.
Other popular vegetarian dishes of Sonmarg include Aloo Dum, Maa Ki Daa and Yakhni Pulao.
Lip Smacking Non-veg dishes in Sonmarg
Mutton Rogan Josh
Mutton Rogan Josh
This is a signature Wazwan dish that is loved all across the country. However, when you eat it in Kashmir, you understand the authentic taste. Lamb meat cooked with brown onions and yoghurt till it is tender and the generous addition of Kashmiri chillies make it heavenly. If you have not eaten Rogan Josh in Kashmir, you have pretty much not eaten Rogan Josh.
Yakhni Mutton or Chicken
Yakhni is as Kashmiri as it can get. Meat cooked in milk and yoghurt based gravy with some Mawal flowers and mint leaves. Slightly sweet and tangy taste rounded up with the aromatics of Kashmiri Spices.
A traditional Kashmiri dish which is served in selected hotels near Sonmarg is a must try for all meat lovers. It is a complicated dish consisting of minced meat balls cooked in spicy red gravy.
Another famous Kashmiri dish, Aab Gosht is a distant cousin of our beloved Biryani. This is a rich rice dish which is made by cooking meat and Basmati rice in milk and Kashmiri spices.
Momo and Thupka
Momo, Thenkthuk and Thupka
The food in Leh region has a lot of Tibetan influence. The Tibetan dishes consist of boiled or steamed meat and vegetables which are great relief in the cold temperature.
It’s almost a staple food in the Leh region. Thumb sized wheet balls boiled in water and then cooked in thin spicy gravy with meat and/or vegetables.
There are around 30 different traditional meat based Kashmiri dishes and many Tibetan dishes to taste around Sonmarg. If you are a non-vegetarian, that’s one more reason to visit Sonmarg.
Slurp and Sugar Rush
What better than piping hot Chai or coffee in an ice cold temperature looking at the sun rising behind golden snow-capped mountains? Sonmarg is the best place to enjoy the amber sunrises and sunsets nibbling some amazing sweets and sipping a huge variety of tea and coffee.
Noon Chai/Pink Chai
Noon Chai/ Gulabi Chai/ Sheer Chai
Have you ever made the blunder of adding salt in place of sugar in your tea? Well you’ll be amazed to know that one of the most loved tea in Kashmir – Noon Chai means salty tea. Made with special type of tea leaves brewed in traditional Kashmiri vessel with milk and salt. A bit of baking soda is added which gives it a rich texture and the unique pink color. Although you can add sugar to taste, traditionally it is drunk without sugar. It is best enjoyed in the morning with traditional Kashmiri breads and cookies like Shirmal, Baqerkhani, Lavas or Lyde.
The beauty of Sonmarg can be best enjoyed while sipping on the famous Kashmiri Kahwah. It is a traditional spiced green tea with almond shavings. It’s is a great way to enjoy the cold temperature.
A moderately sweet Kashmiri dessert which is available in selected restaurants and sweet shops in the Sonmarg Market. It is made with Basmati rice cooked in ghee with lot of dry fruits and Saffron.
Dry fruits are the best way to fight the cold weather and Shufta is the best way to eat dry fruits. This traditional dish is made by mixing various dry fruits and layering them with sugar syrup.
From Srinagar regular bus service is operated to Leh, Ladakh’s Capital. Sonmarg is the last stop on the Kashmir side of the pass. Taxis can also be hired at Srinagar. Srinagar airport is served by flights from Delhi, Jammu and Mumbai. Srinagar is linked to Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Kanyakumari and Ahmedabad by railways. Jammu Tawi railway station is 305 km from Srinagar. Onward journey to Sonmarg via Srinagar is by road only.
J&K TDC operates many tourist huts and bungalows. The valley has to offer various options to suit every pocket including luxury lodges, holiday homes, backpackers, hotels and pleasing down-to-earth luxury and boutique establishments.
If you are planning to go to Ladakh or J&K, you cannot miss out on this amazing place. Sonmarg is a great destination for everybody be it bikers, foodies, honeymooners or regular tourists. If you have already been to Sonmarg, share your experience or suggestions for other travelers in the comment section below. If you like what you read and want to know more, simply share your queries with us and we’ll be happy to help you.