Sonmarg, which means ‘meadow of gold’ has, as its backdrop, snowy mountains against a cerulean sky. The Sindh meanders along here and abounds with trout and mahseer, snow trout can be caught in the main river. In late April when Sonmarg is open for road transport, the visitors can have access to snow which is furnished all over like a white carpet. Private vehicles are not allowed. Visitors have to hire taxi and it is controlled by taxi mafia. Ponies can be hired for the trip up to Thajiwas glacier a major attraction during the summer months.
The climate of Sonmarg is very bracing; but the rainfall is frequent though not heavy, except for two or three days at a time in July and August with fine spell in between. From Sonmarg, trekking routes lead to the Himalayan lakes of Vishansar Lake, Krishansar Lake, Gangabal Lake and Gadsar Lake, stocked with Snowtrout and Brown trout and Satsar, glacier-fed and surrounded by banks of alpine flowers.
A close by excursion is to Baltal, 15 km East of Sonmarg. This little valley lies at the foot of the Zojila, only a day’s journey away from the sacred cave of Amarnath is a base camp for Amarnath yatra. Trekkers can also reach the starkly splendid roof-top of the world Leh, by crossing over the Zoji La pass.
At Sonmarg the Jammu and Kashmir tourism department is organising river rafting tournaments yearly, which has recently seen the participation of teams abroad. A large number of Hindi movies have been pictured in the serene beauties of Sonmarg.
For all those adventure loving people who wish to enjoy camping at a hill station, Sonmarg is the ideal destination. Tourists flock to this small hill resort in heavy numbers to see the enchanting natural beauty and snow clad peaks. Known as the ‘Meadow of Gold’, Sonmarg is set amidst a valley of flowers and lakes. The word “Sona” literally means “Gold” in Hindi, and this golden beauty covered with white snow is most attractive in the spring. The exotic flora of the region is nurtured by the Sindh river. Sonmarg is the gateway to Ladakh
The dense forests of Sonmarg comprise of sycamore and alpine flowers, silver birch, fir and pine. The place is frequently visited by nature lovers in the search of tranquil peace and soothing natural beauty. The stunning blue water lakes and grasslands are the other attractions. The enchanting beauty of the towering snow clad mountains is a real treat to the eyes.
Sonmarg gives rise to The Three Sisters (Kashmir). In its vicinity lies the great Himalayan glaciers of Kashmir Valley namely Kolhoi Glacier and Machoi Glacier with some peaks of above 5000 meters: Sirbal Peak, Kolhoi Peak, Amarnath Peak and Machoi Peak. Sonmarg an alpine valley is situated at the bank of Nallah Sindh, 87 km north-east from Srinagar, it is a popular tourist destination, nestled within the imposing Himalayan peaks. It lies at an altitude of 2800 metres above sea level. The drive to Sonmarg is through yet another spectacular facet of country side in Kashmir, this time it is the Nallah Sindh, the largest tributary of the Jehlum River in the valley of Kashmir. It is upwards of sixty miles long valley and deep rock-girt gorge to open grassy meadow land and village-dotted slopes.
Main attraction of this place is Thajiwas Glacier. Be very careful from the pony & car touts. This will always miss guide you and ask handsome amount to access them. Your travel car will not have access to reach Thajiwas Glacier. You must need to hire either pony or local car to reach there. It is just about 5 minute drive by car. They may be ask you about INR 900 for pony/person or INR 5000 per car . Always negotiate with them. You can easily negotiate them for INR 700 for three point (Thijiwas Glacier, Fish Pond & Sarbal Park). In Thajiwas, you will get the snow but tout will misguide you for not having over there. At last if you want to enjoy snow in Thajiwas Glacier, Hire car for INR2000, I’m sure you will get it over there.
You can hire sledge-cart for INR100-200 and gum shoes for INR50-100 in May (which is peak time for them).
Sonmarg has no permanent settlement and is inaccessible during winter due to heavy snowfall and avalanches. At the 2011 India census, Sonmarg had a population of 392, excluding tourists and those working in the tourism industry. Males constitute 51% and females constitute 49%. These are the permanent residents of Sonmarg though seasonally.
Sonmarg had historical significance and was a gateway on ancient Silk Road along with Gilgit connecting Kashmir with China and other Gulf countries. The Zojila pass lies 15 kilometers east and is one of the highest passes for road transport. It still is a base camp for Ladakh on NH 1D, and is strategically important for Indian army who holds control over this part of Kashmir.
Sonmarg is a city with a significant rainfall. Even in the driest month there is a lot of rain. The Köppen-Geiger climate classification is Dfb. The average temperature in Sonmarg is 6.5 °C. About 932 mm of precipitation falls annually.
What to See and Do
Enveloped by alpine trees, Sonmarg is a base camp for the holy Amarnath yatra. The yatra is organized during the month of July-August every year, and thousands of tourists are drawn towards Sonmarg.
While visiting Sonmarg, make sure you include a trip to Nilagrad, the confluence of mountain rivers with the Indus river. The most amazing aspect of this place is that the river water is pure red in colour, and is believed to have curative powers for skin ailments. People often take a bath in this water.
Krishnasar Lake, one of the most mesmerizing lakes in the chain of many Himalayan lakes, is a good spot for picnics. The place is surrounded by dense alpines and provides a cool and peaceul atmosphere at a height of 3801 m above sea level. People enjoy trout fishing and other water activities here. Vishansar is another popular lake.
Walk along the exotic grasslands of Baltal to explore the untouched beauty of Sonmarg. Situated at the foot of Zoji-la-pass (gateway to the Ladakh plateau, 3540 m from the sea level), Baltal is close to the Amarnath cave. Baltal grasslands witness a number of pilgrims during the Amarnath yatra.
Where To Stay
You can find a number of Hotels and lodges of various types and budgets in Sonmarg. Most of these are operated in summers only. If you visit Sonmarg in winters, you can hire cottages or guest rooms..
How To Get Around
Sonmarg is easily accessible from Srinagar or Srinagar Airport (SXR), the capital of Kashmir, in under 3 hours by car or by bus on NH 1D 87 kilometers which leads along Nallah Sindh a key tourist attraction. Sonmarg is inaccessible during winter due to heavy snowfall and avalanches, NH 1D is closed in December every year, the local traffic is permitted only up to Gagangear village, which is the last permanent settlement of this area. Only the Choppers of Indian army lands at Sonmarg during winter carrying essentials for the army camp, and the army personnels are the only people who stay at Sonmarg during these harsh weather conditions. After Kargil war these high altitude alpine meadows have seen heavy deployment of Indian army. The government has given a green signal to dig a 6 kilometer tunnel at Gagangear and 14 kilometer tunnel at Zojila, which will not only keep Sonmarg open round the year but also the Ladakh, this project is still in papers.