Nestled in the Valley of Sindh River which also goes by the name Nallah Sindh which is considered the lifeline of this district, this place has major trek routes connected to various parts of Kashmir and other regions like Ladakh and Zaskar, it also possesses the highest number of pristine lakes in the state, there were no ancient buildings found here as of now except Naranag temple which was destroyed during the rule of Sikandar Butshikan and lays close to Kangan.
Harmukh Peak towering at 16,870ft. at the northwest of the Himalayan range. Amongst many high altitude treks in Kashmir, the trek to the base of the peak is serene and beautiful. Nestled between Nallah Sindh to the south and Kishanganga to the north it is considered sacred mountain for Hindus. The ancient sedimentary rocks of Harmukh is said to be more than 300 million years old. ‘Harmukh’ refers to same from all sides and first climbed by Great Trigonometric survey led by Thomas Montgomerie. After this, there have been numerous expeditions to the summit and the easiest route being from Arin Bandipore.
Kheer Bhawani Temple
Kheer Bhawani Temple dedicated to goddess Bhawani at sacred springs located at Tulmullah is an important shrine, an annual festival of Janmashtami is held during May June, where the Pandits visit in large numbers and perform havans at the shrine. The name Kheer refers to rice pudding that is offered in the springs to please the gods.
Naranag temple located at the serene meadows in Naranag Valley is one of the main attractions to tourists and is an important archeological site, the temples form a cluster facing each other and with reference to history, it was dedicated to Lord Shiva built by Lalitaditya Muktapida during Karkota Dynasty. The 8th-century architecture is believed to be dedicated to Nagas by which the name Naranag was derived, the Nagas belonged to Hindu Kashmiri Kayasthas of Naga sect. The temple has an Aryan structure to it and the temple is now in ruins state. It is also one of the start point or the base to the popular Gangbal-Vishnusar trek which is popularized these days as Kashmir Great lakes trek took from the Sonamarg side and there is a popular Harmukh peak in this route at Nandkol and Gangabal lakes. There is also an annual Gangabal Yatra taken by the Kashmiri Pandits during late September where people hike till the lake and perform their religious duties on the banks of the lake.
Manasbal Lake derivative of the lake Manasarovar at Tibet is believed to be an ancient lake, the northern shore of the lake are the ruins of a 17th-century fort Jarogabagh built by the Moghuls. Nestled amongst the Baladar Mountains to the east and bounded by Ahtung hills in the south, it is also a place used for limestone extraction. Manasbal is a great place for birders for bird watching and one of the largest grounds for aquatic birds.
The lake’s history got a boost with unearthing of an ancient Hindu Temple with traditional Kashmiri architecture dates back to Avantivarman or Shankaravarman rule and has become a new pilgrimage site to visit on the lines of Amarnath and Kheer Bhawani, the lake water outflows to the Jhelum river through an outflow channel and it is a source of fishing and obtaining food and fodder plants. Other key attractions around the lake are the terraced Mughal garden and sculptured stones of Buddhist shrines on the banks of the lake.
Sonamarg referred as the ‘Meadow of Gold’ for its unparalleled beauty nestled at the banks of Nallah Sindh is an alpine valley and a popular tourist destination. Surrounded by great Himalayan glaciers like Kolhai, Machoi and few towering peaks of the valley like Sirbal, Kolhai, Amarnath, and Machoi makes Sonamarg a spectacular hill station of the state. Nallah Sindh being the largest tributary of Jehlum River runs 60 miles along NH1D with rocky gorge and grassy meadows with little villages dotted on the slopes. Sonmarg was the gateway to the ancient Silk Road connecting Gilgit with China and other countries. The high pass of Zojila towards the east and it’s a base to enter Ladakh. It’s a strategically important road that connects the valley of Kashmir to Ladakh.
Sonamarg closes during the months of December to March due to snow and it is inaccessible during the winter months, it’s a base for numerous treks that connects to Pahalgam, Kargil, Zanskar and the popular one likes Amarnath yatra and Vishnasar Gangabal trek. The main attraction is the Thajiwas Glacier which is a spectacular view from the valley, there is a tunnel being made from village Gagangir to Sonamarg to make it accessible during the winters. Be it solitude or adventure seeking soul, sonamarg has everything to offer for a traveling soul.