Aru Valley, Kashmir: A paradisiacal vision

Visit the land of adventure with no pre-conceived notions because this place is surely going to give you a lot of surprises. Explore the exotic flora and fauna that makes Aru Valley unique and famous as a hot spot for bio diversity best known to mankind.

Kashmir has undergone a major transformation over the past few years leaving behind a turbulent past to evolve as a major tourist destination again in India.

Kashmir inherits an opulent culture coupled with perfect destinations for all thrill seekers. I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to visit Aru Valley which is in Anantnag District of Jammu and Kashmir.

Getting There
Aru Valley is 12 km away from Pahalgam. One can hire a private taxi from Pahalgam Taxi Stand for Rs 300 to 600 depending on your bargaining power or wait for the shared jeeps which will cost you only Rs 50 per person. The drive is exceptionally scenic, with water streams to allure you, waterfalls to enchant you, Pine and Deodhar trees that welcome you with open arms. At a distance, you might see herds grazing on the grasslands and sun playing peek-a-boo with the clouds. It seems like you are in another world altogether.

Endangered Species
Spaced over an area of 511 km of lush green forest, the Overa Aru Biosphere Reserve, located in the Liddarwat Forest Division is a major spot and home to various species of animals that includes the rare Hangul Deer, Grey Langur, Marmot, Himalayan Mouse Hare, Musk Deer and Red Fox amongst hundreds of other species one can think of. Overa Aru Biosphere Reserve is also a bird watcher’s heaven. Koklas Pheasant, Blue Rock Pigeon, Bearded Vulture, the European Hoopoe, the Himalayan Monal Pheasant and many more chirpy delights will engage your auditory senses. Don’t forget to take your binoculars with you or you will miss out on nature`s gift.

A Trekker’s Fantasy
Liddarwat is religiously visited by trekkers because as you take that hike, you enter a surreal world of scenic meadows, breathtaking mountain ranges and a long stretch of no man’s land. Trek to Liddarwat will engage your imagination to no end as its picturesque beauty will be the most vivid that you witness in your life.

A 12 km trek from Aru Valley, Liddarwat is doable in less than 3 hours. One can also hire a pony for Rs 1400 for the same if trekking is not your game.

Most people treat Liddarwat as their base camp and venture out to Kolhai Glacier [7 km] via Satlangam [9 km], Alapat Sar Lake via Royal Valley, Tarsar Lake via Sakiwas or divert towards Jagimarg to reach Sonamus Pass. One is spoilt with options in this part of the world. Another trekking route from Aru Valley is towards Katarnag Lake [12 km] at 4300 m above sea level via Green Top or to Hirbagwan Lake [10 km] via Armun Valley [13 km]. Only the brave hearts would think of going to Marsar lake as you have to cross a 243 m high ridge to reach there. Are you up for the challenge?

Being in the Right Place
Some of the best properties in Aru Valley are Milkyway Guest House, Friends Guest House and Rohella Guest House. If you hike a little further from the main market then you can get accommodation at Government Guest House, for which prior reservation is required. Most of the hotels here are very basic but comfortable and clean at the same time. Choose the one that fits your budget.

You have a comfortable hotel, trekked to the mountains, been to the market, seen the forests, interacted with the locals and saw the sunset worth-dying-for, now all you need is a refreshing cup of Kashmiri Kawah flavoured with Saffron and almonds, and something to challenge your taste buds. Kashmiri cuisine is popular for its rich flavours and variety of mutton dishes, don`t miss out on their exotic spread of loaves of bread. For vegetarians, though the options are limited yet you won`t starve as Rajma, Paneer, Sochal and Buns come to your rescue.

So if you are looking for a thrill seeking and daredevil kind of a vacation or simply want to laze around the Aru Valley is a very good option for you. Pack your bags and hop on to the next available flight to experience sheer pleasure.

author --
If it wasn't for some dear friends who backed out of a trip to Ladakh, Suman wouldn't have been sharing these travel stories today! It was an eye opener, her first solo trip. Beyond the shenanigans of youthful days, Suman experienced a world of many dimensions. With her words, Suman hopes to share and inspire.

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