Betaab Valley and Aru Valley are possibly Pahalgam’s biggest tourist attractions. These are the two places that mainly drive tourism here. There is not much to see or do in Pahalgam town itself; rather, it is the valleys of Betaab and Aru where you get to see the actual beauty of the region.
Betaab Valley is at a distance of 8 kilometers from Pahalgam and Aru Valley is at 12 kilometers. The drive itself to both these places is quite scenic, taking you through a dense forest, traveling right next to a river, and enjoying views that will remain etched in the memory for a long time.
Truly, a trip to Pahalgam cannot be considered complete unless you have been to Betaab Valley and Aru Valley. It is because of vistas like this that Kashmir is so famous and called a heaven on earth.
I was recently on a road trip to the valley and we spent about 3 days in Pahalgam, exploring the nearby areas. On the third day of the trip, we went to both Aru Valley and Betaab Valley which I will further talk about in this post. To read the previous parts of the travelogue, please follow the links below.
Journey So Far:
- Delhi to Pahalgam – Day 1
- Achabal Mughal Garden – Day 2
- Daksum Valley – Day 2
- Sinthan Top – Day 2
- Chatpal Valley – Day 2
Other than reading the travelogue below, you can also take a look at the following videos of both these places that I shot during our journey.
The original plan for this day was very different than the one we followed. The thing with Pahalgam was that I had been there 3 times before and had already seen all that there was to see.
Betaab Valley and Aru Valley were not new to me. I had seen these places in the Summer as well as the Winter season. The only place in Pahalgam that was still on my list of places to visit was Baisaran Hills.
Baisaran Hills, also known as Baisaran Valley, cannot be reached by motorable road. You will either have to trek or hire a pony to get there. For one reason or another, during my previous visits to Pahalgam, a trek to Baisaran Hills never materialized.
This is what I wanted to do this time – start early from our hotel, trek to Baisaran Hills, spend some time there, come back to Pahalgam, have lunch, and then go to Sun Temple in the evening.
This was our original plan for the day but fate and the weather gods had something else in mind. When we woke up that morning, it was raining heavily. So heavy indeed that the entire garden of the cottage we were staying in felt flooded.
Day 3: Betaab Valley and Aru Valley
It was around 6 a.m. when I first woke up on this day. It was late August but the weather was still very cold. Listening to the sounds outside, I immediately knew that it was raining. I pulled myself out of the blankets and looked out of the window.
My heart sank. The sky was covered with black clouds and it was pouring down. There was loud thunder in the sky and it felt as if a cloud had burst somewhere.
I walked out of the room, went to the main door, and stepped out. The entire garden in front of the cottage was under at least 2 feet of water. I let out a sigh and started walking back to my room. I knew that there was no way we could give this day an early start. There was nothing to do so I just went back to sleep.
I did not wake up again until 9 a.m. When I finally got up again, the first thing I did was look out of the window again and was pleasantly surprised. The rains were all gone and it was sunny outside. All the water in the lawn was also gone.
It was hard to believe that only a couple of hours ago, there was so much rain and water. But then such is the weather of Pahalgam. It can change in a matter of minutes, without any warnings.
My friends were already up and were sitting outside on the lawn, sipping tea. As I stepped out, they all looked in my direction with a question in their eyes, “What do you want to do now?”
Change in Plans
Trekking to Baisaran Hills was my idea. I was the one who was most eager to go there and the rest just agreed. Now we all knew that the plan would have to be changed and we would have to skip Baisaran.
This was the second time on this trip that we were changing plans, both times because of the rain. On the previous day, we wanted to go to Margan Top and trek to Chauharnag Lake but the rains forced us to change that. We ended up going to Daksum and Sinthan Top instead.
Now on this day as well, we were forced to make a change in our itinerary. But the question was, where to go? I had already seen almost all of the places in Pahalgam and more than once.
After a bit of discussion, and also because we had no other choice, we decided to revisit Betaab Valley, Chandanwari, and Aru Valley. I also agreed to it because I wanted to shoot some videos of these places for my YouTube channel.
All this discussion and deciding ate up a couple of hours of the day. By the time we had a light breakfast and started on our way, the clock read 11:30 a.m. A little late in the day, I know.
Late Start of the Day
Surprisingly, the sun by now was shining bright. So bright in fact that our skin started to burn if we stood in the sun for a little while. All around, everything was dry and there was no sign of water from the rain.
This made me wonder if a trek to Baisaran was still possible today. One of the workers in the cottage we were staying in was Arif. He was a local from the Pahalgam who, other than working in the cottage, also used to arrange treks to Baisaran.
So we asked him and he advised against it. As per him, the entire trek after such heavy rain would be muddy and slippery. Even the ponies, he said, start to slip after such weather. Overall, it wouldn’t be worth going is what we were told.
So we took his advice, gave up Baisaran for another trip at another time, and started our sightseeing for the day. The first destination was Pahalgam Reservoir.
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We drove out of our cottage which was located in a small village called Langanbal, at a distance of about 3-4 kilometers from Pahalgam. After a short drive, we reached the Amarnath Yatra checkpost.
The Yatra lasts for about 2 months, July and August. During this time, Pahalgam is filled with the Yatris and it is not advised for tourists to be here for several reasons.
The first and the biggest one is that it will be way too crowded. The hotels will be all packed and all that you will see all around you, everywhere, will be people. You may also get overcharged at the hotels.
The second reason is the security measures. There will be a lot of traffic rules applied at this time. For example, if you are in Pahalgam or Sonamarg and want to go to Srinagar, you will have to cross the checkpost before 3 p.m.
If you arrive late, you will not be allowed to proceed and will have to look for a place to stay at night in Pahalgam itself, which can be a little problematic.
There will be other checkposts around Srinagar, Gulmarg, Gurez, and pretty much all over Kashmir. These traffic rules can also change overnight. There have been instances when people were not allowed to proceed and were left stranded on the roads, wondering what to do. Even bikers are no exceptions to this.
So it is best advised to avoid traveling to Kashmir between July 10th and August 20th. If you must, then definitely keep Pahalgam out of your itinerary and stick to other tourist areas.
So we reached the checkpoint and had to get out of the car. We were there on August 31st and the Yatra had already ended. The security check posts however were still to be removed.
The checking area was divided into two sections. The first was for the cars and the other for the passenger. Only one person was allowed in the car to drive it and the rest of us were asked to walk through the security-check area.
It took us only about 10 minutes since it was all empty by then. At the time of the Yatra though, when this place would be swarming with travelers, I am sure it must take at least 2-3 hours to go through this check.
Anyway, we got back in our cars and reached our destination, the reservoir, within 15 minutes.
Pahalgam Reservoir is a small dam on the Lidder River. The water of the dam forms a small lake which, with the mountains in the background, looks quite scenic.
There is also a small park called Lavender Park near the reservoir where you can go and sit for a while. The Pahalgam Zoo is also quite close to the reservoir.
We spent about 45 minutes here clicking photos and shooting videos and also ordered some Maggie from a small eatery nearby. After that, we moved on to our next destination – Betaab Valley.
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Betaab Valley is the most famous tourist spot in Pahalgam. Its real name was Hagan Valley before it was chosen as the preferred spot for shooting a movie called Betaab in 1983. The movie went to be a hit and the valley itself was renamed after the film. The name Hagan was almost forgotten and everyone started to call it Betaab Valley.
It must have been a meadow or a valley once upon a time but after the place started to attract tourists, authorities fenced it and developed it into a park.
There is an entrance fee of Rs. 100 for Betaab Valley. This amount is different than what you will pay for the parking, which I think was Rs. 50 for a car and Rs. 30 for two-wheelers.
The best time to visit Betaab Valley is the months of April and September. This is when the valley is lush green. If you want to see it in white, you should visit in the winter season. Betaab Valley remains open in the winter season as well.
And that is it. That is Betaab Valley, nothing more, nothing less. Do not get me wrong, it is still a beautiful place but mostly just a picnic spot that the locals love coming to on Sundays and Holidays.
You will surely love the color of the water here though. Lidder River flows through the valley, making it look more scenic. I am not sure why it is this way but the color of the water of the river is just so pretty here.
Pahalgam to Betaab Valley
The distance from Pahalgam to Betaab Valley is merely about 7 kilometers. We completed the journey in about 15 to 20 minutes on a narrow, steep but tarred road. The route passes through a dense jungle and the only people you come across will either be the tourists or the local shepherds.
On the way, we stopped near the river at this spot. It looked scenic enough to capture a few pictures.
We drove up the winding road and gained height significantly in a short period. Lidder River was flowing down the mountains, and through the forest, and was a charming sight. The views overall were great.
Soon we reached the entrance gate, parked our car, bought the entry ticket, and stepped in. As expected, we were soon approached by several guides and pony owners asking to show us around. Humbly, we just said no and kept walking.
What to See in Betaab Valley & Things to Do
There is not really much to do in Betaab Valley. It is in itself a tourist attraction of Pahalgam and the only thing to do is just to sit down, relax, click a few pictures, and spend some time in peace. It is a perfect place to visit with your family and kids.
There is a small waterfall at the other end of the valley. To call it a waterfall will not actually be fair. It is just water falling down some huge boulders and that is pretty much it. The local guides however surely call it a waterfall.
Supposedly, a scene from the movie Bajrangi Bhaijaan was also shot here. I cannot verify this claim though and since I have not been to that spot, I cannot also tell you how it looks. But if you want to go, you can hire a pony and let one of the guides take you there.
This was the third time I was in Betaab Valley and most of my time was spent doing what I came here for, shooting videos for my YouTube channel. We spent about 2 hours in the valley. While my friends mostly sat under a tree in the shade, I walked around clicking pictures and shooting as many videos as I could.
After I was done, we thought to get something to eat but then gave up the idea. We exited the gate, got back to our car, and moved on to our next destination – Aru Valley.
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At first, we also wanted to go to Chandanwadi which is at a distance of about 8 kilometers from Betaab Valley and 15 kilometers from Pahalgam. However, due to the ongoing Amarnath Yatra, the road was only open for the Yatris and not regular tourists.
Chandanwari is the starting point of the Amarnath trek. This is where the motorable road ends and the Yatris start to walk up the mountain.
The point where this road ends is marked by a few tea stalls and dhabas. This area gets very crowded in the months of July and August but after the Yatra gets over, it all just looks very deserted.
On our date of the travel, the Yatra was over and there were no Yatris around. However, it was not yet ‘officially’ over and the road was still closed for tourists.
We were not allowed to go beyond Betaab Valley and had to turn back. From Betaab Valley, again drove back down to Pahalgam and turned on the road to Aru Valley.
Aru is basically a small village located at a distance of about 12 kilometers from Pahalgam. The local pronunciation of the place can be both Aru and Adu.
This village is the starting point of several treks that lead out of Pahalgam, most of them lasting a few days. The trek to Tarsar – Marsar lakes also starts from here.
When you are in the village, more than the regular tourists, you will actually find trekkers either ready to start or returning from their trek.
All the places that you see in the pictures above are in the forest around the Aru Village. You will have to trek to all these places and Depending on which part you want to cover, the trek can last from 1 day to several.
The village consists of a few shops, some houses, dhabas, and a few decent enough hotels. On one end of the village is a large meadow-type area, a ground that also serves as a picnic spot for a lot of locals.
The valley receives a considerable amount of snow in the winter season and this entire road gets blocked in the months of January and February.
That is all Aru Valley or Village really is. In all honesty, it is probably the best place to visit in and around Pahalgam. The drive from Pahalgam to Aru is on a narrow and very steep road but is also very scenic.
Betaab Valley to Aru Valley
The roads to Betaab Valley and Aru Valley are different. There is no connecting road in between. So from either of these places, you will first have to return to Pahalgam and then go to the next which is what we did.
The drive from Pahalgam to Aru Valley is on a narrow, winding, and steep road. In fact, the road is barely wide enough for one car in some places
The views on the entire 12-kilometer-long stretch are simply awesome. I actually enjoyed this drive more than I liked Aru itself.
The road is tarred and for the most part of it, it is in good condition. Depending on your speed and breaks, you should be able to complete the journey in about 30-40 minutes at most.
We took no breaks in between and went straight to Aru Village in 20 minutes. Since we have not had anything to eat so far since we left our cottage, the first thing we did was to step into a restaurant to get some lunch.
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The main meadow that is known as Aru Valley cannot be reached by motorable road. You will either have to trek or hire a pony to get there. On the way, you will also visit an ancient cave and see a couple of waterfalls.
There is not much to see or do in the village itself. All the tourist attractions in this region are in the forest, up the mountain. To get there, you will either have to trek or hire a pony. See the picture below.
Neither of us was in the mood to trek or sit on a pony. So all that we did was just walk around in the village, shoot some photos, and click videos.
One thing that I noticed was the hotels in Aru Valley. I asked around and rooms were available for as low as Rs. 600 to Rs. 800 per day. This was really a pleasant surprise because the hotels in Pahalgam were really on the expensive side. It will be hard to find a hotel in Pahalgam for under Rs. 2000. Even if you negotiate, they won’t budge a Rupee less than Rs. 1500.
On the other hand, Aru Valley is much cheaper and, in my opinion, a much better place to stay. It is without a doubt a much prettier location than the main Pahalgam town.
After our visit to Aru Village, we started driving back down to Pahalgam. On the way, about a kilometer from the village, we noticed a campsite right next to the river and a road leading down.
Since we had time, we turned on this road and it brought us down to a small village. There were a few houses around and a couple of campsites as well. But we were interested in something else – the River.
We left our car in the village and walked closer to the river. The next hour was spent walking around, having fun, and posing for pictures. Below is a video of our visit to Aru Valley and the River viewpoint that you may consider checking out.
It was only at around 6 p.m. that we decided to go back. I actually wanted to stay a little longer to get some long-exposure shots but then decided against it because it was getting dark and our hotel was still an hour away from Aru.
That was the end of our sightseeing in Betaab Valley and Aru Valley. We drove back down to Pahalgam and then to our cottage. The next day, we were scheduled to return to Srinagar and then go to Kupwara.
There are several places in the Kupwara side of Kashmir that are coming up as tourist attractions. The government is also making efforts to boost tourism in the area. This part of Kashmir is still truly offbeat. Valleys like Lolab, and Bangus are capable of pulling a lot of tourists in the region but are still largely unknown.
- Journey Ahead: Pahalgam to Srinagar to Lolab Valley
These are the places we wanted to visit in the next few days and Lolab Valley is where we went next. Please click on the link above to continue reading the next part of the travelogue.
I hope the travelogue, pictures, and information above on Chatpal were of help. If you have any questions, you can contact me on Instagram and I will be happy to answer. You can also consider subscribing to my YouTube channel and asking a question there.