Hiking - Destination

Tarsar Marsar Trek: An Exquisite Journey to Kashmir's Twin Lake

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Trekking is not only walking on mountains and terrains to arrive at a destination. It is more about exploring your surroundings and enjoying ethereal facets mother nature. Trekking involves a lot of thrill and pleasure as you walk on various trails and enjoy the time you spend in the wild. If this activity is done with passionate like-minded trekkers then the fun just doubles. India is known for the trails it offers. North, northeast, south, west or just any part of the country has some of the most talked about treks in the world. Few of the very famous treks are Kashmir Valley Trek, The Kashmir Great lakes, Hampta Pass, Tarsar Marsar Trek and the Stok Kangri Trek.

The Valleys of Kashmir are known for their amazing views and treks they offer. It is one of the most loved destinations in the country to trek and has the maximum amount of beauty in any trek that you choose by far!

Read on to know about:

  • Tarsar Marsar Trek: An Overview of the Trek
  • About the Tarsar Marsar Trek
  • History of the Tarsar Marsar Trek
  • Best time to visit the Tarsar Marsar Trek
  • Best Routes to Srinagar
  • Short Itinerary of the Tarsar Marsar Trek
  • Full Details of the Tarsar Marsar Trek
  • Trekking Essentials
  • Summing Up
Civilization on a Kashmiri valley
An Interspersed Civilization on a Kashmir Valley (source)

Tarsar Marsar Trek: An Overview of the Trek

Here's everything you need to know about the Tarsar Marsar Trek in a glance.

  • Region: Kashmir – Jammu & Kashmir
  • Duration of the Trek: 7 Days
  • Difficulty of the Trek: Easy
  • Maximum Altitude Covered: 13,500 feet.
  • Average Temperature: Day:17°C-20°C; Night:3°C-4°C
  • Approx. Trekking Kilometres: 33 kms
  • Livingit Rank: Beginner, Enthusiast

About the Tarsar Marsar Trek

This is one of the most notable treks in the Kashmir valley. This trek is named after the twin lakes which are present in valley – Tarsar and Marsar. These lakes are surrounded by the Kolahi Mountain ranges. This trek is known for its serenity and pristine surroundings. The journey of this trek is easy and it makes the expedition extremely peaceful. If you are a nature lover, this is an ideal trek for you.

The highest peak of this trek can be reached at 13,000 feet. The lakes which are to be seen in this trek are surrounded by huge snow-clad mountains which are extremely pretty. You can also see a lot of pretty blooms here. To name a few flowers such as blue Poppy, Geum, Gentian, and Hedyseram are a very common sight here.

About Tarsar Marsar trek
Trekkers at the Tarsar Marsar Lake (source)

History of the Tarsar Marsar Trek

The lakes were discovered in the 16th century by the ruler of Kashmir, Yusuf Shah Chak. The lakes are unique because of their shape and are separated by a mountain. The mountain is identical to the Aru district which is located in Jammu and Kashmir and the lakes look like the shape of an almond.

Tarsar Marsar lake
Tarsar Marsar Lake Gushing Through the Valleys (source)

The lakes are also unique because they flow in different directions. First, of the lakes joins the Lidder river in Lidderwat and the other one joins at a place in Aru district. You will also find the Dachigam National Park in the region of Marsar Lake.

Best time to visit the Tarsar Marsar Trek

Tarsar Marsar lake
Wild and free: Nature at its Element (source)

The best time to plan this trek is in summers. However, July – September is also a great time to plan it. The summers are very pleasant here and you can see a lot of unique birds and regional animals around. The most famous sights seen at the Tarsar Marsar Trek are the brown bear, musk deer, golden eagles,bar-headed geese, and choughs.

Best Routes to Srinagar

There are three ways by which you can reach Srinagar – By Air, Road, and Rail.

Roadways

Srinagar is linked by the National Highway 1A with the country. You can reach Jammu by train and then take a local bus to Srinagar. Their buses are very comfortable and take about 10 hours of travel time.

Airways

Major air carriers in India have flights to Srinagar. These are direct flights from certain cities. The most convenient way is to reach Srinagar from a direct flight via New Delhi.

Railways

Jammu is the closest station to Srinagar. Jammu station is connected to all the major cities in India. There are direct trains from Delhi, Bangalore, Pune, Chennai etc.

Short Itinerary of the Tarsar Marsar Trek

Day 1: Arrive at Srinagar. Depart from Srinagar and drive to Aru base camp (4 hrs)
Day 2: Aru to Lidderwat (9.5 km, 6 hours)
Day 3: Lidderwat to Shekwas (5.6 km, 5 hours)
Day 4: Shekwas to Tarsar and explore Tarsar (5 km, 4 hours)
Day 5: Tarsar to Sundarsar (5 km, 5 hours)
Day 6: Sundarsar to Marsar and back and then Sonmasti (7.5 km, 6 hours)
Day 7: Sonmasti to Sumbal. Drive back to Srinagar.

Full Details of the Tarsar Marsar Trek

If all those pictures ignite the urge to see the Twin lakes, then here’s a full breakdown of the Tarsar Marsar Trek.

From Srinagar to Aru base camp (4 hrs)

Arrive at the city, Srinagar and drive to Aru, the base camp of the trek. But before that, you can spend some time in the beautiful city of Srinagar which lies on the banks of the river Jhelum and has a look at the famous Dal Lake and do a Shikara ride as well.

Shikara rides
Shikara Rides in Kashmir (source)

The drive to Aru isn’t very smooth. You will have to go via Pahalgam from Srinagar. Pahalgam is a noted tourist place in Anantnag and is a popular location for filming many Bollywood movies.

Aru valley
Aru Valley in Kashmir (source)

The distance between Pahalgam and Srinagar is 100 kms. You will take around 3 hours to cover this distance by a car. We would recommend that you reach your campsite at Aru by the evening and start your drive around 2pm. There are 2 routes which you can take to Pahalgam, via Anantnag or via Bijbehra. Bijbehra is more like rural Kashmir and you can see a lot of orchards with apple, walnut and apricot trees on this route.

The distance from Aru to Pahalgam is 12 kms. and takes about 30 minutes. Aru is a very small place along the banks of the Lidder river. It is a very lovable place and when you get there you will understand why are we describing it this way.

You will see a lot of asbestos huts here, almost 200 in number surrounded by lush green meadows and a gushing river. Yes, that is what this place looks like.

You don’t need to put up your tent here, but just take up a cottage in the small town which is available in plenty.

Journey from Aru to Lidderwat (7998 feet. – 9124 feet)

The total distance that will be covered today is 10 kms. and the time taken to do this will be around 5 – 6 hours. You will come across an uphill ascent which isn’t difficult. The terrain is extremely pleasant with a lot of greenery around.

The first 2-3 kms of walk is along the banks of the river Lidder and then you will cross a small village. This will make you leave Aru behind and you will now walk towards the Agricultural department fence.

Lidderwat
Alpine Meadow in Lidderwat (source)

Soon you will see a lot of Fir trees and a lot of Gujjar huts. You have reached a place called Dalla. The trail from here is flat through a dense Pine forest. You will take around 20 – 25 minutes to cross the forest until you reach a fork diversion to Nandkei. Here too you will find a lot of Gujjar huts but you will be on the other side of the river Lidder now. The people here are very friendly and you will see a lot of them on the horse backs doing their daily chores.

Fir trees in Kasmir
Thin Strips of Streams is a Common Sight in Kashmir Regions (source)

Now you will start the climb. After 30 minutes, you will see two streams of clear water. You can refill your water bottles here. You will need another 30 minutes to reach Lidderwat from this location. There is a wooden bridge present here which you need to cross and enter the Pine forest that lies straight ahead. Start moving upwards and once you reach the top you will see a magnificent valley and a picturesque view from here!

Move forward from here and you will enter another forest but now which has a cluster of Fir trees. Once you cross this forest within 30 minutes you will be welcomed by lush green grasslands of Lidderwat. You will see some accommodation here, take that path and enter this beautiful place!

You can camp here by the stream on the meadow or also take up a place by the Pahalgam District Authority (PDA). But as you are trekking, it will be great if you stay by the stream in your own tents and have fun with nature! The evenings here are extremely pleasant.

Trek from Lidderwat to Shekwas (9124 feet. to 10,699 feet)

The distance covered on day 3 is around 7 kms. and the time taken to cover it is around 5 hours. This is a flat terrain, with a climb and some water streams that need to be crossed. It’s very adventurous.

You will see a lot of dense forests on this route and it is all in a straight line. Walking further ahead you will see a grassland between intersecting mountains. You will also see a lot of snow patches around here. You will see a lot of valleys here and extremely breath-taking views. As you move ahead you will be heading towards the Bhakarwal shelters. This will be to the right of the river.

Shekwas in Kashmir
A Patch of Grassland in Shekwas (source)

You will see many small clean streams on this route. A lot of places to refill your water bottles are available on this path. You will see a shift bridge behind some boulders. This means that you have reached the clearing of Hamvas.

You can rest here for a bit and relish some local drinks and food as there are a lot of Gujjar huts present in this vicinity. You have to start moving south from here towards a narrow valley which later connects you to a river. This descent is steep and you will gain slight altitude after walking on it for an hour. You will reach the silver Birch trees forest now. These trees are very old and look extremely pretty standing tall from so many years.

Shekwas meadow
Shekwas is a Green Meadow Campsite (source)

Shekwas is a meadow which is completely green! You will reach this by crossing a lot of greenery and snow-covered mountains. This is considered as one of the finest camping sites in the entire Tarsar Marsar Trek.

Coursing from Shekwas to Tarsar (10,699 feet. to 12,398 feet)

This is a steep ascent of 5 kms. which does take 5 hours in totality. You need to walk from the Shekwas meadow towards a snake-like path in the grasslands. This is the path to reach Tarsar. You have to take the ridge from here.

After 2 hours of walking, you will see some exceptional views and as you walk further you can see the view of Tarsar from the tip of the trail. The almond shaped lake will be seen from here. You will have to cross the stream to reach the campsite for the day which are the grasslands of Tarsar.

Tarsar lake
Tarsar Lake View from Top (source)

Trekkers consider this as the highest point of the trek. You will see the prettiest blue water in the lake and shadows of the mountains reflecting in it. It is a beautiful sight and you will have ample time to fall in love with it.

Almost There: From Tarsar to Sundaresar & visit to Marsar (12,398 feet. to 12,998 feet)

This is the day when you will be crossing the Tarsar pass. The total distance that will be covered today will be of 5 kms. and the time taken to cover this distance will be of 5 – 6 hours. This is a steep ascent trail that will be followed by a steady descent.

To see the Marsar Lake you will have to climb the ridge or pass it to see the view of it. This ridge can be found in a corner of the Tarsar campsite. The Marsar lake is a rocky lake and one cannot climb those rocks. It is as big as the Tarsar Lake, however, the view isn’t as pretty though. It has only one stream opening from where you can enter.

Sudaresar campsite
Marsar is a Rocky Lake (source)

This place is prohibited from camping as there are very scary stories told by the locals here. The lake is known for swallowing animals and trekkers at night and hence one cannot enter beyond a certain point.

Start the descend towards the valley and when you reach the bottom continue to walk straight. You will see a few Bakarwal shelters here. The view that you see here is totally worth it! You will see a widespread meadow, pretty flowers and a lot of grasslands with animals and shepherds.

Tarsar lake
Oh! The Placid Tarsar Lake (source)

There is a stream that flows and forms a pond which also gets water from the melting snow. As you walk more ahead the trail becomes way more prettier and you see a lot of greenery around you. As you walk further for 15 minutes you will see a division of the valley and meadow. Climb the ridge and follow the narrow boulder line to move forward. As you go ahead you will see a trail which is covered by snow on both sides and magnificent mountains surrounding you.

After 15 minutes if walk, you will reach the Sundarsar lake. This lake lies between grasslands and looks extremely pretty. This lake is not as pretty as the Tarsar lake but does give it a tough competition. You can rest here and have a look at the rare and pretty flora and fauna this region sports! It is a delight to watch it and spend time by the flower bed!

The Final Walk: From Sundarsar to Marsar and return to Sonmasti (12,800 feet. to 13,170 feet)

The total distance travelled on this day is around 8 kms. and the time taken to cover it close to 6 hours. The Marsar Lake is located at a height of 11,000 feet. It is a steady ascend to reach this lake.

The trek starts from the Sundarsan lake and there are two paths which will lead to the Marsar lake. If you want to reach the lake faster then choose the path which has a lot of boulders. This path also has a lot of grasslands and streams along the walk. Keep to your left till you arrive till a ridge. As soon as you climb the ridge you will be able to see the Marsar Lake which is around 650 feet below you. This lake cannot be seen very clearly because of high mist levels and clouds. On your right is the valley which will lead you to the Dachigam National Park. You can stay here for a bit and enjoy the beauty of your surroundings.

Sundaresar campsite
Campsite at Sundaresar (source)

When you want to return keep to your left and walk past the valley of multi-coloured rare flowers. As soon as you cross the valley move to the right and keep walking straight till you reach the end of the ridge. As you reach the end you will see the Sonmasti Valley and a cluster of Gujjar huts. The view of this place is spectacular. The Sonmasti valley is steep and has a fall of about 2,000 feet. You will see a lot of green patches and small streams here. The streams lead to a pond and then to a cliff leading it to a gorgeous waterfall.

The trail starts to go downwards now towards the ledges. The first ledge that you see is in the form of island in a kidney shape. You will see a lot of cattle around here. As you walk further you will come closer to the second ledge which has a drop of 700 feet.

Sonmasti campsite
A Pink Evening in the Sonmasti Valley (source)

This is a steep descent but a glorious walk. It has an amazing scenic view with many waterfalls that you will cross. There are many natural ponds and grasslands on your way. You can rest here for a bit and enjoy your time. Continue your walk keeping left. As soon as you see a huge waterfall gushing down a cliff surrounded by millions of flowers, you have reached the Sonmasti Valley. This is an experience you will never forget in your entire life. You will take close to 90 minutes to reach the bottom of this valley. The stream that you see here is wider and bigger as it connects to the Sonmasti Valley. You will also see some small streams running in full swing. These are called as ‘Chasma’.

Walk further for about 45 minutes to reach the camping grounds in the Sonmasti Valley. These grounds are near the Gujjar huts so keep walking till you see them. This is one of the prettiest camping site you will see. As there is a huge waterfall in the background and you are only surrounded by nature till your vision goes!

The Final Walk: Sonmasti to Sumbal and return to Srinagar

This is the last day and your altitude will drop by 6,500 feet. the first descent is from Sonmasti to Sumbal and then a drive to Srinagar. The walk is long and it will take 5 hours to reach Sumbal.

At first you will have to cross the Sonmasti river. You will have to walk past the river by hopping on the boulders and gravel. There is no bridge to walk on to cross this river. You need to be very calculative when you cross this river. Once you have crossed this river the trail gets more commercial as you pass a lot of villages and Gujjar huts. There are a few forests which will come on the way but for short durations. The walk is very steep and you will lose the altitude very quickly.

Sonmasti valley
Sonmasti Valley in the Twilight Hours (source)

Soon you will enter another set of forests of Pine, Oak and Maple trees. Once you cross the forests you will come towards a ridge. When you cross the ridge, you will come near a log bridge which you will have to cross carefully. You will see and cross multiple streams which are blue in colour and are all connected to the Sonmasti river. The Gujjar huts are the same ones which we had crossed to start the trek. This is a sign that you are on the correct path and moving close to the end. As you reach the huts you need to turn left and the trail will move upwards to Sumbal. As you walk ahead you will then move downwards and cross a wooden bridge.

Gujjar hats
A Gujjar Hat (source)

As you cross this bridge, you will be able to see the Leh – Srinagar highway from a distance. The trek will now end very soon and you will now reach an irrigation canal which is the starting point of Sumbal village. As you walk further you will cross another stream that leads to the Sonmasti river. Finally, a long walk across the village and you will end your trek when reach the end with a bag full of memories and an end to the pretty Tarsar Marsar Trek.

You can take a local transport or car from here to reach Srinagar and rest there for the day.

Trekking Essentials

Clothing

  • Thermals and warmer clothes for the night
  • An extra pair of trekking pants
  • Raincoat or waterproof covers for your rucksacks
  • Waterproof and windproof gloves
  • An extra pair of dry clothes
  • A dry towel

Accessories

  • Sturdy and durable trekking shoes
  • LED torches, headlamps, and matchsticks
  • Sleeping bags
  • A pillow/travel pillow for the night
  • An emergency supply of cutlery, i., spoons, bowls, etc.

Medical Kit

  • Crocin for fever
  • Avil for allergies
  • Combiflam as a general painkiller
  • Digene for acidity
  • Crepe bandage and ointment in the case of any injuries
  • A small roll of cotton and gauze
  • Band-aids
  • Moov or Relispray for muscular pulls, aches, and sprains

Toiletries

  • Dry towels
  • Tissue paper
  • Bug repellent sprays and creams
  • Two 1 litre bottles
  • Plastic covers
  • Cold cream
  • Hand sanitizer and antiseptic soap

Summing Up

Tarsar lake
Wouldn't It Be Nice to Spend Some Time with Oneself Here (source)

The Tarsar Marsar Trek is extremely safe and a comfortable trek. It has many high points and the scenic beauty of this trek is something that never disappoints. This is a trek which will always keep you going as there are so many unique terrains that one will cross while doing this trek. The camping spots which one sees in this trek are very different than any other trek in India and are just amazing. With so many meadows, streams, forests, and waterfalls on the way the path of this trek becomes quite gorgeous and is challenging at the same time. So, if you are a first-time trekker or a veteran, the Tarsar Marsar Trek should be in your to-do list next!

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