Picking up on the treks of Kashmir has always been on our bucket list if there has to be any. After the famous Kashmir Great Lakes Trek Itinerary that we have shared, a lot of you had suggested we go for the Tarsar-Marsar Lakes trek. This August, we went on this super fun trek, and needless to say, Kashmir never fails to mesmerize.
Our plan was to reach Pahalgam first and then head towards Aru Valley for the Tarsar-Marsar Lake Trek base camp. We had 3 days in hand to come back from the trek after reaching the base in Aru Valley and with suitable weather conditions, we did come back after camping at two different locations through the trek. Before we spill out the photos from the trek, let’s talk about the basic and essential information for this trek:
Tarsar-Marsar Lakes Trek: Easy to Moderate, it’s pure bliss for trail lovers
Total Trek Distance: 50 to 55 km depending on the trails that one follows
Trek Difficulty – Easy To Moderate
No. of Days For Trek – 6 to 7 days ( with corporate trekking hiking groups.), can be done in 3 days, 2 nights of camping.
Temperature Variations – A maximum of 20 degrees, lower temperatures might fall to sub-zero degrees
Elevation Profile – Min 2700 meters, maximum 4000 meters
Trek Start Point – Aru, Pahalgam District
Nature of Trek – Circuit, Clean trail throughout the trek, Mud, Boulders, Few steep inclines, Vast Valleys, Wide Water Streams, Ridge crossings
Best Time To Go For Tarsar-Marsar Trek – May to early September
How to Reach Aru Valley for Tarsar Marsar Trek
Pahalgam is well connected by road from Srinagar and has regular public transport options plying to and from the capital city. If you are running tight on time and can afford a flight to Srinagar from your home destination, we recommend you book one.
We took the train to Jammu from Delhi. On an overnight journey from Delhi, it costs around INR 500 to INR 700 for a Sleeper class train ticket. The buses from Delhi to Jammu usually cost around INR 1000.
Reaching Pahalgam from Jammu: From Jammu, there are shared/ private cabs available. These cabs drop you at Khanabal, around 120 km before Srinagar, and charge around INR 800 – INR 1,000 for a seat in shared SUV cabs. It took us 7 hours to reach Khanbal from Jammu.
From Khanabal to Pahalgam Town: In about two hours from Khanabal, one can reach Pahalgam Town by hiring a seat in shared cabs. It costs INR 30-INR 50 per seat.
Stay in Pahalgam For The Night: Since we made it within a night from plains to the mountains and the next days were bound to take us even higher, we needed to acclimatize. Pahalgam is a town with ample stay options and depending upon the budget, you can get the stay of your choice.
Explore Pahalgam Next Day
Pahalgam is a happening Kashmiri town in the Anantnag district with just a little less commercial hip hop than Srinagar. With local tourist operators jumping on your vehicles to offer their services, the town would welcome you with lush green meadows and pristine water streams flowing here and there. Situated on the banks of the Lidder river, the town is situated at an altitude of 2,200 meters.
Since it was the acclimatizing day for us, we stayed put in the town and went for random strolls here and there. Here is a list of things to do in Pahalgam if one has got ample time to explore this part of Kashmir valley – Betab Valley (5 km, connected by road), Baisaran Valley ( 6 km gravel road, trail), Tullian Lake Trek (21 km), Kashmir Valley Trek, Barfsar Lake, Pahalgam Golfcourse, Pahalgam Town and of course, the main local market.
Reaching Aru Valley – The Base Camp for Tarsar Marsar Trek from Pahalgam:
Aru Valley is around 13 km from Pahalgam town and one can get shared/private cabs every 15 to 20 min from Pahalgam Taxi Stand. The fares are priced between INR 15 – INR 20 per person. We reached Aru in the second half of the day and prepared ourselves for the trek that was going to start the next morning.
Stay Options in Aru Valley: There are plenty of homestays and a couple of Govt. Rest houses in Aru Valley. We were able to find and establish some local connections for our future treks in the region and in case you need it, connect with Mir Bhai or Junaid Bhai (9622502805, 7006082059) from Mir Guest House of Laripora in Pahalgam.
By now, traveling has already consumed 3 nights of the trip (one in train from Delhi to Jammu, the other in Pahalgam, and the third in Aru). With suitably acclimatized lungs, we were all ready to march for the trek we had left Delhi for. The goal was to finish this trek, which otherwise is sold as a seven-day trek, in three days. We divided the entire circuit of 55 KM into two camp breaks.
Day 1 – Aru to Tarsar Lake | Distance – 26 KM
Aru to Lidderwat | Distance – 10 km approx
This is an easy to moderate hike from Aru to Lidderwat. Reaching Lidderwat brings you in view of the Kolahoi peak. You can camp here in the vast meadows as there are a lot of rivulets flowing here and there.
Lidderwat has a PWD Resthouse, and a couple of makeshift tea shops available. The trekking season sees a lot of shops selling and renting trekking equipment and services. The entire trail has bakkarwaal (shepherd) settlements and you can try your luck for a cup of tea with them.
Lidderwat to Shekhwas | Distance – 9 km approx
Shekhwas is a vast valley with sprawling meadows brimming with the waters of the Lidder river. One can camp here and plan the climb up to Tarsar Lake according to their capacity. We were here at Shekwas by 1 pm and decided to climb and see the Tarsar lake the same day. After a light lunch, we left for the lake.
Tip: No shops available here. Please carry all you need to have on the trek from Lidderwat.
Shekhawas to Tarsar Lake | 7 km approx
The climb up to the Tarsar Lake from Shekhwas has a gradual incline made up of boulders and water streams. Another 5 kilometers of a straight treacherous trail ending with a stretch of rolling hikes up to the lake brought us to the first destination of our trip.
Day 2 – Tarsar To Sundarsar camping area | Distance – 10 km approx
This is a 6-7 km trek towards the camping area for Sunadarsar Lake. One has to cross a high gradient ridge facing the Tarsar Lake, to enter a vast open valley on the other side. After covering almost half of the valley, we reached the camping base for Sundarsar Lake. However, one can always choose to camp by the lake depending on their need for adventure, purpose, and capacity.
Usually, people camp at the camping area, just before the final climb as the region around the lake is extremely freezing at night.
Sundarsar Camping Area to Sundarsar and Marsar
The climb up to the Sundarsar Lake from the camping area is a one-kilometer steep hike through boulders. We climbed up to the lake and spent some time documenting this beauty and continued our trek to the ultimate destination of the trek – Marsar Lake. After walking by Sundarsar Lake, the trek to Marsar lake has a small ridge crossing that consists of huge boulders and rolling stones. After the ridge crossing, a small hike further brought us to the Marsar Lake View Point. We could see the lake below us from here.
Needless to say, it is extremely difficult to camp by the lake because the temperature and wind require high-capacity camping equipment. Also, the state has given permission to the Bakkarwals only to stay near the lake, as it is considered dangerous for occasional visitors.
Coming back to Sundarsar Camping Area
We came back down to camp at the camping area of Sundarsar lake within three hours after seeing both Sundarsar and Marsar lake. This was our second day of camping. We shared some good times with other trekking groups and locals who make trekking and camping possible in such terrains.
Day 3 – Sundarsar Camping Area to Aru Valley | Distance – 20 KM
It is totally possible that one can return directly to Aru in a single day if they spend their second night camping at Sundarsar camping area. On the morning of the third day, we climbed down for a 20 km walk through Shekhawas, Lidderwat, and Aru Valley.
We had started the trek with an aim of finishing it within 3 days from Aru valley and there was no better feeling than finishing it within the target time. A trek that is otherwise sold commercially as a 7-day trek, could be so well explored within 3 days. We will be sharing the detailed travelogue in some time. Do let us know of your queries and questions if you are planning to go for the Tarsar Marsar Sundarsar Lake Trek.