Yusmarg: Should you stay here on your Kashmir trip?

“If I knew this, I would be God”: Our guide to us when we asked him if he thought it would rain the next day.
“You are our guest. We can not let you go unguided in the forest”: The tourism officer to us when we said we could manage by ourselves on the forest trek.
“Sir, this is a horse from Yusmarg, not Gulmarg”: A little boy insisting we sit on his horse.

Our visit to Yusmarg was filled with such profound wisdom; we were surrounded by people who cared more for our safety than we did, and the tourism economy of Yusmarg was explained to us in a single line, by a little horseman.

Other than that it was the usual living in a wooden cottage on a flower filled meadow, waking up to golden sunrises, walking through pine forests, crossing river streams, and being invited by a nomad family to take their family portrait.

Yusmarg to Srinagar is a mere 50 km drive of a couple of hours. Largely, one day is “allotted” Tours to Kashmir allott one day for sightseeing in Yusmarg.

No, Yusmarg should not be “done” as a day trip from Srinagar. May we present the case for a longer stay in Yusmarg?

Compelling reason 1: In Yusmarg, you can stay right on the meadows

Our cottage at Yusmarg, Kashmir, India

That was our home in Yusmarg. This cottage accommodation is run by the Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Department.

Yusmarg, Kashmir, India

We could see the golden sunrise from the window of our cottage.

Our cottage at Yusmarg, Kashmir, India

Compelling reason 2: In Yusmarg, “green spots” for your morning tea or evening kahwa are aplenty

Yusmarg meadows, Kashmir, India

Meadows at Yusmarg meadows, Kashmir, India

Meadows at Yusmarg meadows, Kashmir, India

Set up a picnic anywhere, sipping your tea in the company of horses and flowers. Relax, take a deep breath and enjoy the moment. Ample of opportunity to spend time with yourself and be lost in thought.

Compelling reason 3: Yusmarg is the least crowded of “easy to reach” destinations in Kashmir

Meadows at Yusmarg meadows, Kashmir, India

Meadows at Yusmarg meadows, Kashmir, India

Meadows at Yusmarg meadows, Kashmir, India

Do you notice a common theme in these pictures of Yusmarg?

Unlike the more popular destinations like Gulmarg and Sonmarg, people are conspicuously absent from Yusmarg. There might be a few local or “day” tourists. But other than a few hours in the day, the entire Yusmarg meadows will be all your to explore and enjoy.

Compelling reason 4: Many places to explore around the main Yusmarg meadows

There are many places to explore around the Yusmarg meadows, at a walking distance. Doodhganga is a gushing stream, a few minutes down the Yusmarg meadows.

For a more soaking activity, head to the lake Nilnag. Walk through the village Gojipathri as you walk towards Nilnag. Carry a packed lunch or some filling snacks as you head here. Set up a nice little picnic, and cool yourself around the blue waters of Nilnag.

Meadows at Yusmarg meadows, Kashmir, India

Head back through the forest route. Birds, flowers, butterflies, wildlife (?), the forest route had more to offer to a curious traveler. This forest walk, is part of the trail to Chadora. Yusmarg to Chadora is a one day trek, preferably done with a local guide. Stay for the night at Chadora (or return via the road to Yusmarg).

If you ask the locals, they might say it’s just a few hours walk. But bear in mind, “they” are different than us, city folks. Unless you have fitness like this, ask them for an estimated time at your pace!

Meadows at Yusmarg meadows, Kashmir, India

Compelling reason 5: Forest treks everywhere around Yusmarg

Every direction you go, there is a 1-2 day trekking option around Yusmarg. The tourism officer has complied a rough sketch of these trekking routes and their directions which is put up in his office. When we told him we had come to Yusmarg to prepare for the Amarnath yatra, he discussed the various possibilities with us. And arranged for a guide to take us on a suitable trek.

Meadows at Yusmarg meadows, Kashmir, India

We went up the forest to the meadows of Dragdolan. Our guide told us there was a Dragdolan 1 and 2. Depending on our interest, he would decide how far to go. When we weren’t satiated even after reaching the second point, he took us ahead to a point called Barga. We walked a total of 25 km that day, a perfect workout to prepare us for the multiple day climb of Amarnath yatra.

Meadows at Yusmarg meadows, Kashmir, India

Soon we were among the nomadic settlements of the Gujjars.

Meadows at Yusmarg meadows, Kashmir, India

Meadows at Yusmarg meadows, Kashmir, India

At a distance, we heard a woman call out to our guide. She was asking if we wanted to have “doodh ki roti” (flatbreads made of milk). We had never heard of it before, so decided to give it a try.

A Gujjar home in Kashmir, India

In we walked into their Gujjar hut. Reluctant to barge in into someone’s home like that, we stood at the door. But the women would have none of it. They asked us to wait inside as they made the rotis.

Yusmarg, Kashmir, India

They then charged us a measly ten rupees for a roti. Then refilled our water bottles with water they had walked miles to fetch (without accepting any money for it). And let our guide have his hukkah break using their hukkah.

On our way back, they called out to us again. This time, the entire family was home from the forest, for lunch. They wanted us to take a proper family portrait.

Meadows at Yusmarg meadows, Kashmir, India

A few days later, walking down the markets of Pahalgam, we saw the same roti being sold for a price over ten times higher in a “plush” restaurant. No amount of “plush” would however match the Gujjar family’s hut, high up in the mountains!

Other than the Gujjars, we met very few people along the way. There was one guy carrying his sick sheep to a medical camp up in Yusmarg. Lack of local medical facilities meant they had to walk for hours to reach the nearest health care centre. For the animals (who are the lifeline for people living up in the Himalayas), they had to wait for the medical camps that would be set up every few weeks in Yusmarg.

Yusmarg, Kashmir, India

If these people look familiar, that’s beacause you have met them earlier in 7 Himalayan Families That Stunned Us With Their Hospitality and People Of The Valley: Kashmir.

7 families in the Himalayas that stunned us with their hospitality People of the valley: Kashmir

This slice of life that we got to experience in Yusmarg, is not possible when you visit a place, see the sights and leave.

Top tips for visiting Yusmarg

  • You can reach Yusmarg by public transport (albeit, with efforts) from Srinagar and Pahalgam. From Srinagar, the route is Srinagar–>Chanapora–>Chadora–>Charar-e-Sharif–>(less frequent) Yusmarg. From Pahalgam, the route is Pahalgam–>Anantnag–>Pulwama–>Pehripora–>Yusmarg.
  • If you hire a car, then Yusamrg to Srinagar is a drive of a couple of hours. Srinagar to Yusmarg and back to Srinagar is logistically possible in one day. But most of that day will be spent in the car and on a horseback in Yusmarg.
  • The only place the horses actually take you to is Doodhganga. Other than that, for places like Nilnag or Dragdolan, they only take you to a vantage point and show you the lake or meadow from there.
  • There are other longer treks as well, that can be done from Yusmarg. The trek to Sang-e-Safed is supposed to be through a beautiful virgin trail. Doodhpathri, another bowl shaped valley of Kashmir is the other long trek from Yusmarg. Both will take at least two days to return to Yusmarg, taking a guide is highly recommended. Tosa Maidan is another arduous trek which can now be done from Yusmarg, since the area was recently made accessible public.
  • Yusmarg is closed for tourists in the winter. Before making plans to visit Yusmarg, make sure the stay facilities have opened for the summer.

Map of Yusmarg to Srinagar and Pahalgam

More ideas for your offbeat travel plans for Kashmir

South Kashmir circuit: Non touristy fit for all travelers

Chatpal an offbeat gem hidden in Kashmir

Lolab valley, undiscovered Kashmir

Kokernag, a garden outing in Kashmir

Tourist attractions around Dal lake in Srinaagr, Kashmir

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Sandeepa and Chetan. Married. Indians. Exploring Travel as Lifestyle. Featured by National Geographic, Yahoo. We hope that through our travel stories we inspire others to make their dream into a reality.

Comments

28 thoughts on “Yusmarg: Should you stay here on your Kashmir trip?

  1. Prasad Mantri

    Excellent pictures and informative write up.I am also photographer and arranging photography tours from last 8 years.
    I will planned to arrange photography tour to Amarnath Yatra in July. That time i also add Gurez Valley. So pl send me Gurez valley information and photofraphs.
    Thanks.
    Prasad Mantri.

  2. Vivekanand P Mudur

    Excellent pictures and informative write up. Many many Thanks. Hi, I liked your blog n pictures, I am a photography enthusiast aged 61 years from Mumbai, would like to know whether accommodation in Yusmarg, Chatpal or in Daksum available in the 3rd week of October’16. will these places be snow laden? Actually I want to record/capture fall colours & leaves shredded trees in nature. Alternatively, you may suggest any other place in Kashmir or Himachal or Ladakh. My trip duration would be 15days max Mumbai to Mumbai and would be travalling all alone.

  3. Anindya Sundar Basu

    Very nice pictures and a nice post. I have pinned some of your pictures . I can promise I will keep on travelling back to your blog for more. Keep up the good work. We had been to Kashmir recently but not to Yusmarg . Seems we missed it.

  4. 2travellingsisters

    Wow!!! After one look at the pictures we had this place to our must visit list. So gorgeous!!