Hiking - Destination

Warwan Valley: Trek the Salt Route in Kashmir

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The Warwan Valley, colloquially known as the Salt Route, has been one of the most ancient and sought after treks in the Trans Himalayas, and for a good reason too! This valley connects the Ladakh Himalayas from the Suru Valley to the Kashmir Himalayas, thereby offering enthusiastic travellers and trekkers to venture out for the starkness of the Ladhakhi ambience as well as the opulence of Kashmiri greenery.

Table of Content:

  • The Warwan Valley Trek: A Summary
  • The Warwan Valley: A Beauty Beyond Srinagar
  • Best Time to Visit the Warwan Valley
  • How to Reach the Warwan Valley trek Basecamp
  • A Quick-peek Itinerary for the Warwan Valley Trek
  • A Detailed Travel Plan for Warwan Valley
  • A Few Quick Facts about Warwan Valley Trek
  • Things to Carry for the Warwan Valley Trek
  • Minimum Fitness Required for This Trek
  • Summing Up

If you want to experience the rugged terrain of Leh Ladakh and the diversity of Jammu Kashmir, the Warwan Valley trek should be on top of your bucket list.

The Warwan Valley Trek: A Summary

how to reach warwan valley
The Simple yet Mesmerising Warwan Valley (Source)
  • Where it is Located: Jammu and Kashmir
  • Max Altitude: 14,450 ft
  • Number of Trekking Days: 9 days
  • Total Trekking Distance: 95 km
  • Trekking Grade: Difficult
  • Livingit Rank: Advanced - Expert

The Warwan Valley: A Beauty Beyond Srinagar

panikhar
Vale of the Bakrwals (Source)

Located between the zones of Kashmir and Ladakh, Warwan Valley remains unknown to the majority of the Kashmiri even today. However, you would be thrilled to know that this vale has been serving as the summer haven to the local nomadic tribe called the Bakrwals, since times immemorial.

The trek through the Warwan Valley is extremely endearing and enriching for mountaineering hikers who prefer a topsy-turvy route rather than one which is as plain as Jane. The 9 km of long glacial route that you would come across to cross the Lomvilad Pass descends sharply from the Higher Himalayan zone to the Lower Himalayan realm. Trekkers often enjoy a leisure time at the Lolab Valley close to Srinagar, including it in their itinerary while returning without resting at Chaudraiman.

Best Time to Visit the Warwan Valley

The best time to visit this nature’s gem is between the months of May to October. The weather around this time is perfect for trekking and, if you’re at the right place at the right time, you can also witness the beauty of the Milky Way lighting up the night sky. During this season, the temperatures are such that the pastures you traverse on are green and dotted with the occasional flocks of grazing cattle while the mountains that stand tall over the meadows are covered in beautiful white snow. So you quite literally get the best of both worlds.

Average Temperatures

  • Summer: 20 ° C to 25 ° C (day); 7 ° C to 12 ° C (night)
  • Winter: 3 ° C to 8 ° C (day); -8 ° C to -3 ° C (night)
  • Monsoon: 18 ° C to 23 ° C (day); 0 ° C to 5 ° C (night)

How to Reach the Warwan Valley trek Basecamp

You can get from Srinagar to Warwan valley via Panikhar, the village that serves as the base camp for the Warwan Valley trek. This village is 264 km away from Srinagar and can only be accessed by road. Srinagar, being one of the 2 capitals of Jammu Kashmir, is easily accessible by multiple means of transport.

Road

The distance between Delhi and Srinagar is 808 km, a distance that takes roughly 15 hours to cover if you take the NH44 route.

Rail

A direct train from New Delhi to Jammu is available via booking. From Jammu Tawi Railway Station, Srinagar is about 297 km away and can be reached easily via road.

Air

There are daily flights in and out from Srinagar International Airport. If you haven’t booked a hotel in advance, you can choose to stay at one of the many hotels around the airport.

A Quick-peek Itinerary for the Warwan Valley Trek

The Vale of Warwan
The Vale of Warwan: A Quintessence of Paradise on Earth (Source)

Go through the following itinerary, in brief, to know how to reach the Warwan Valley:

Day 1: Srinagar - Panikhar (5,200 ft to 10,800 ft)

Day 2: Panikhar - Sumdo/Denora (10,800 ft to 12,350 ft)

Day 3: Denora - Kalapari (12,350 ft to 12,850 ft)

Day 4: Kalapari - Kaintal via Lomvilad Gully (12,850 ft to 14,450 ft to 11,500 ft)

Day 5: Kaintal - Humpet (11,500 ft to 10,900 ft)

Day 6: Humpet - Sukhnai (10,900 ft to 9,200 ft)

Day 7: Sukhnai - Chaudraiman (9,200 ft to 8,300 ft)

Day 8: Rest day in Chaudraiman (8,300 ft)

Day 9: Chaudraiman - Srinagar (8,300 ft to 5,200 ft)

Livingit Alert

You can get accommodation in a guest house or a homestay in Panikhar. However, the rest of the stays would be in tents which allow about 2 to 3 adults comfortably. You can rent a tent at Panikhar for the trek.

A Detailed Travel Plan for Warwan Valley

It is recommended that you dedicate the day you reach Srinagar to acclimatize yourself to the weather. You can look around and explore the beauty of the summer capital of Jammu Kashmir and stock up on supplies that you need. Now will also be a good time to check up on your trekking equipment.

Srinagar - Panikhar

srinagar to warwan valley
Road to Paradise (Source)

Srinagar to Panikhar, located in the Suru valley is a good 264 km journey so it is suggested that you book your cab in advance and leave early in the morning. Panikhar is a small village comprising a handful of typical Zanskari two-storied houses with huge casement like windows. They have a few shops to buy grocery from; however, their stock cannot be relied upon for collecting trekking essentials. Panikhar is pretty and petite and is a pristine oasis amidst the Ladhakhi deserts. Here, you may lodge in the tourist bungalow of maintained by the Government of Jammu and Kashmir at the tariff of about Rs 700 to Rs 1000 per trekker per night. If you start from Srinagar at 6 am in the morning, it takes about 10 hours to reach the base camp. Reaching here a day before you start your trek is imperative in order to get properly acclimatised with the Kashmiri weather.

Panikhar - Sumdo/Denora

The next day, you have to cover a distance of 15.6 km from Panikhar to Sumdo or Denora. The trail gradually ascends from 10,800 ft to 12, 350 ft. Carry about a litre of water with you before you leave is quite sufficient as you would come across several flowing streams on crossing 2.5 km. From Panikhar walk along the market road till you reach the Panikhar Nala, a river full of strength and vitality, after walking past the sub-post office and the BSNL tower.

difficult treks
The Panikhar Nala (Source)

Cross it using the overbridge and turn right hiking for about 500 metres till you come across a check post. Entering your name and other details there, carry on with your trek along the Nala on a dirt track meant for four wheelers.

As you are ascending you would be leaving behind the village life and entering into a barren terrain through the Zanskar mountains. Continue to trek till the Panikhar Nala confluences with the Suru River. From here you can get a peek at the mountainous beauty on your right as you come across a freshwater stream where you can fill your bottle. After trailing for a while, you would come across a local doksa or meadow with innumerable streams crisscrossing it. You can take a small break for tea and snacks here. Walking past the meadow you will come across a Bakrwal settlement again, and you will be able to have a glimpse of your camping site at Sumdo little ways from there.

warwan valley
The Distribution of Strength (Source)

Continuing your trek again you will come across a place where the Panikhar Nala loses its strength and gets separated into distributaries. This spot is a marker for Sumdo. Often the water levels of the streams rise, making it difficult to camp here. In such case, walk past the basin to Denora, a grassy land that has a higher elevation than Sumdo and does not flood.

Denora - Kalapari

 Kalapari
Barefoot is Better (For Now) (Source)

From Sumdo or Denora you have to trek towards Kalapari the next day, climbing from 12,350 ft to 12, 850 ft within a span of one and a half hours. This trail will need to cross numerous streams so it is suggested that you start off without barefoot in order to keep your shoes and socks from getting wet. Keep in mind to stick to the right of the Panikhar Nala and be very cautious while crossing it as the waters may not be very deep but they are piercing and icy cold. You would take about 30 to 40 minutes to cross the basin leaving the Bakrwal settlement on your right down the valley.

Crossing a few more Bakrwal huts you would come across another basin to be crossed with bare feet and if you are visiting during the monsoons you find yourself stepping on a bed of wild blushed flowers and blossoms. Here, take several snaps with your camera to capture the picturesque panoramic view of Sumdo and Denora. Next, as you walk for another half an hour you would enjoy an uninterrupted view of the Kalapari valley in front of your eyes. You would be leaving behind the confluence of two great valleys with icy walls covering most their skins as you prepare for a short rest for the day.

Kalapari - Kaintal via Lomvilad Gully

This stretch of the trek is going to be the longest one in your itinerary and you have to climb from an altitude of 12,850 ft to an altitude of 11,500 feet via an elevation of 14,450 ft, covering a distance of 20-21 km. It is imperative that you start as early as possible so that you have the rest of the day at your disposal.

To start on this stretch, you will have to leave behind the Kalapari and advance through the serpentine trails through the moraines, towards the meadows. At the meadows of Kalapari, fill your heart’s content with the majestic and magnificent view of the summit of Kalapari and the local glacial topography.

difficult treks
A Small Break (Source)

As you proceed towards your destination, you will cross several glacier-fed streams and lakes, large greenish lakes with chunks of ice blocks floating here and there along with skyscraper ice walls trying to pierce through the heavens above.

The Kalapari peak would come to your view as you proceed past the ice towers and walls which pretend to meet the lake at its summit. Here you would be taking a kilometre-long glacial walk and as the black and dirty glaciers give you a firm hold you would not find it difficult to walk on them.

how to reach warwan valley
Walking on Ice (Source)

This walk will last till you come at the edge of a ridge from where you tread along till you reach the base of the Kalapari peak. This leads you to a ridge where you come across stones and cairns inscribed in Urdu. Gently sloping snow fields descend on your left while a vast frozen lake glimmers at you on your right. The mountains on the opposite are sparsely greenish and passing several other glacial moraine-filled terrains, you will be able to view the Kaintal Valley. Trekking further, you will reach the meadows of Kaintal where you would be camping for the night.

Kaintal - Humpet

how to reach warwan valley
The Mesmeric Humpet Terrain (Source)

The next day you would be descending from a height of 11, 500 ft to 10, 900 ft to cover a distance of 19km. The terrain is mostly grassland with intervening streams that bring you at a grass hump. You can either climb that hump or cross another river basin to reach Humpet. The beau of the Humpet terrain is spectacularly amazing and dumbfounding. Crossing Gujjar huts and the Bobban Hill Pass, you will arrive at Sar trail. Taking the Sar trail you will finally arrive at your Humpet campsite.

Humpet - Sukhnai

warwan valley
So Close to Nature (Source)

This stretch requires you to cover a moderate trail of 19km for descending from 10,900 ft to 9,200 ft. Leaving Humpet, the woods of Silver Birch and Police Kotha, you will arrive at the true region of the Warwan Valley!

With plenty of streams and verdant rich grassy meadows, the Warwan valley would finally gift you with the ethereal gift it promised you at the onset of this difficult trek. Crossing several other Gujjar huts and similar terrain you arrive at Sukhnai where you would rest for the night.

Sukhnai - Chaudraiman - Srinagar

srinagar to warwan valley
The Out-of-a-fairytale Village of Rikanwas (Source)

In the next stretch, you descend further from an elevation of 9,200 ft to 8,300 ft traversing 16 km. You would cross the River Chenab on your way as well as several villages including Rikanwas. From there you should proceed towards the Margi and Gumbar Villages. Crossing Basmina and several streams along the Marwah trail, you will meet with a four-wheeler dirt track at Chaudraiman leading you to the village bearing the same name.

how to reach warwan valley
Back Home We Go (Source)

At Chaudraiman, you can camp for the night and relax the whole of the next day, exploring the area and packing up for the trek ahead. After another night at Chaudraiman, you can travel back to Srinagar via a car.

A Few Quick Facts about Warwan Valley Trek

lolab valley
Reason to Love Warwan Valley (Source)
  • It is a trekking route that crosses over Zanskar and Kashmir. Here, you get to observe the starkly ambient mountain dessert along with the lush and verdant green vales. The region is so beautiful that you will afford a while to believe what it is.
  • While crossing the Lomvilad pass you would require traversing two vast snowy terrains, the beauty of which would take your breath away. Besides, it would be worthless to describe the extravaganza you would be able to enjoy atop the pass, in words here.
  • You would definitely feel that you have stepped into the paradise on earth; the vale is a humongous spread of green Kashmiri valley that you cannot parallel with any other, in any part of the world.
  • If you are one of those peace-loving trekkers who avoid regions that are heavily commercialized, this is the haven for you. Warwan Valley is remote and unblemished! Pack your rucksack and set out for this beautiful place.

Things to Carry for the Warwan Valley Trek

The Warwan Valley Trek is a 9-day journey that will take you through a plethora of terrains that you will want to be prepared for. So, a backpack full of all the trekking essentials is what you need.

Basics

  • Backpack: First and foremost, you will need a sturdy backpack to carry all your stuff in. One with a 60 L capacity is sufficient for this trek.
  • Trekking Shoes: Next, you need trekking shoes that have a good grip for the rough patches you will encounter.
  • Flashlight: Drop in a good quality, reliable torch and a headlamp in your backpack, along with some extra batteries. You may not be trekking at night, but you will be sleeping out in the woods, where there is no electricity.
  • Trekking Pole: Yes, a trekking pole sounds boring and something old people would need, but the weather and terrain in this trek don’t exactly care whether you’re old or young, so carry a one for the especially rough trails.
  • A Compass and Map: The Terrain you’ll be traversing may not necessarily have milestones and signposts you can rely on, making it easier to get lost. To avoid that, carry along a compass and a map of the area.

Clothes and Accessories

  • 3 to 5 pairs of socks
  • 3 to 5 T-shirts
  • Inner garments
  • 3 pairs of insulated trekking pants
  • A good downs jacket
  • Two full sleeves sweater
  • One or two pairs of gloves,
  • A monkey cap
  • A bandana (optional)
  • A pair of sunglasses

Food and Cutlery

  • Snacks like dry fruits, chocolates
  • Instant soups and instant noodles
  • Forks and spoons
  • Plates, bowls, and glasses

Medical Kit

  • Calpol
  • Avomine for motion sickness
  • Soframicine or any other antiseptic cream
  • Volini spray for sprains
  • Nor metrogyl
  • Rantac
  • Eno for acidity
  • Band-aids
  • Gauze
  • Cotton wool
  • Dettol or any antiseptic
  • Combiflam as a painkiller
  • Crepe bandage

Minimum Fitness Required for This Trek

Like any other trek, this too demands preparation. In fact, this is one of the very difficult treks in the world and must be taken sincerely.

  • Practice running every morning regularly at least 2 to 3 months before trek without giving any break. However, take advice from your coach before starting the regime.
  • Work out your arms and calf muscles very well, either with weights or the freestyle. Besides, doing cardio workouts regularly would also help you to prepare your body.
  • To add difficulty and variety to your practice regime you may walk up and down staircases or join a local mountaineering club for a professional coaching.
  • Remember to carry your rucksack or a backpack with adequate weight while training yourself up. This way your back and shoulders will prepare themselves for the trek ahead without feeling worn out.
  • Try to cut down on your calorie and add a protein-rich variety to your diet. Include a lot of nuts and dairy products for an optimal outcome. Besides, avoid gorging on fast food as well as processed meat and dairy products.
  • You may also put on your hiking shoes while practising and exercising to get your feet habituated with that particular footwear for long hours.
  • Hydrate your body very well. Water is the key nutrient that you must indulge in without doubts or questions.
  • Sleeping regularly early and waking up early is also important. Otherwise, you might find it difficult to wake up in an extreme weather in the Warwan valley all of a sudden. Also, sleep for about 8 hours for conditioning your body well months before your trek.

Summing Up

how to reach warwan valley
An Unexplainable Experience (Source)

No matter how much you read up on it, experiencing the humbling beauty of the Warwan Valley is something you just have to do for yourself because no amount of words can do justice to it. So, get yourself prepared and set out to experience the life-changing magnificence of the Warwan valley.

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