It was a cold and wet morning. The clouds in the sky had me a little worried. Our plan for this day was to trek from Sonamarg to Thajiwas Glacier but the black clouds hovering over Sonamarg posed a serious threat to that plan. It seemed like all hell was going to break loose anytime and it would start raining cats and dogs.
It was still quite early in the morning and a couple of hours before we could be on our way to Thajiwas Glacier. Much against my wish to not wake up early, I was still up and above by 6.30 am.
I stepped out of my room to see if I could get a cup of tea but there was silence all around. The entire town of Sonamarg and everyone in Hotel Barzman was still asleep.
It rained the day before as well, as we were driving from Srinagar to Sonamarg. The sky cleared in the latter part of the day only to pour some more rain in the night.
I was hoping to get some sun today but it didn’t seem like it was doing to happen. Nonetheless, there was nothing that I could do other than keep my fingers crossed.
Journey So Far:
- Road Trip to Kashmir – Planning & Preparation
- Delhi to Jammu by Road – Day 1
- Jammu to Srinagar via Mughal Road – Day 2
- Srinagar to Astanmarg – Day 3
- Shankaracharya Temple – Day 4
- Srinagar to Sonamarg – Day 5
We were staying in Hotel Barzman in Sonamarg. Our host, Mohsin Khan, had advised us against starting either too early or too late. He suggested that we should target to start from Sonamarg by 8 AM mainly because of two reasons that I will talk about further in the article.
Sonamarg to Thajiwas Glacier Trek
The name Sonamarg literally translates into ‘a meadow of gold’. This small town is named such because its surrounding peaks turn golden during sunrise and sunset. This was something that I also learned from Mohsin and was not aware of earlier.
Good Morning Sonamarg
The sunset the day before was not really a great one. I could not see the golden peaks that Mohsin had mentioned because of the clouds in the sky. The photo above was clicked the next day. Hence, I wanted to get up early this morning and see the sunrise.
But the morning really turned out to be one of the disappointments. I had set up the alarm on my cellphone for 5.45 am so that I could see the sunrise at 6.02 am.
But when the alarm went off, I just could not muster enough courage to step out of the blanket. It was a very cold morning and all I wanted was to go back to sleep.
I actually got out of the bed to get a peek out of the window. There were still clouds in the sky and I knew that there was not going to be any proper sunrise view. This was the first disappointment. So I gave up that idea and tried to go back to sleep.
No matter how hard I tried, I just could not get myself to go back to sleep again. This became the second disappointment.
After trying for 30 minutes, I finally gave up and came out of the room only to find black clouds in the sky, posing a threat to our plan of going to Thajiwas Glacier. That became the third disappointment.
The biggest disappointment however was that I could not get a cup of tea. Everyone in the hotel was still asleep and I just stood there in the hotel’s parking lot, clicking pictures and hoping for someone to bring me some tea.
Also Read: Places to Visit in Sonamarg & Things to Do
Thankfully, Mohsin got up soon after and joined me in the parking lot. Hot tea was served momentarily and we started to talk about our plan for the day, Thajiwas Glacier, and sightseeing in Sonamarg.
This is when I found out that the area around Sonamarg and the glacier is known as Bear Valley.
That is correct. There are a lot of bears in this area. So many actually that it is not uncommon for the locals to spot one now and again. There have been instances when Bears were seen walking around in the town early in the morning and at around 7-8 pm.
This was the reason why Mohsin advised us against starting the trek early. I wanted to go as early as 7 am but that would mean walking through a deserted jungle and risk running into a bear.
An ideal time to start the trek is around 8-9 am if you want to go early. By then, there is a lot of people movement of the villagers and the tourists, and safer in terms of the wildlife.
If you start any later than that, the trek will get a little crowded and there will be a lot of tourists, ponies, and locals on it. I am not saying that it will get too crowded but all the ponies will make it a little difficult to walk on the narrow path.
Also Read: When is the Best time to Visit Sonamarg
Sonamarg to Thajiwas Glacier Distane
Thajiwas Glacier is one of the prime attractions of a trip to Sonamarg. The 3 kilometers long trek passes through lush green pastures, and beautiful forests, and ends at a viewpoint from where you get a clear view of the glacier.
You do not actually go all the way to the glacier. The trek ends in a meadow which is called ‘snow point’. There are a few tea stalls at the viewpoint where you can get something to eat before starting on your way back.
Near that meadow, a bit of snow remains for all 12 months on the slopes of the mountains. This is where the activities like riding a sled on the snow take place.
If you were up for it, you can actually continue beyond the viewpoint and get a little closer to the glacier. The trek extends for another 7-8 kilometers and ends at a village called Sarbal, on the other side of Sonamarg.
However, the trek does get a little more difficult and trickier after that. Most of the tourists go for the 3 kilometers long walk to the snow point and return to Sonamarg from there. The entire affair takes about 4-5 hours to complete.
You can either trek all on your own or even hire a pony and a local to accompany you along. We had no plans of hiring a pony or a guide and were going to walk by ourselves.
Shoaib and Maddy finally decided to leave the comfort of their respective beds. By 8 am, we were all set to start the trek.
You can also see a video of our trek and hear me talk about all the details at the link below.
Start of the Trek
The first question was which way to go and once again, Mohsin came to the rescue. He pointed us to the path that eventually takes one to Thajiwas Glacier.
From Sonamarg and the main road, we were to walk towards this mosque and then continue on the path from there. We came out of the hotel, spotted the way towards the mosque (circled in the pic below), and started walking.
The difficult part of the trek is the first 500 meters. There is a steep climb near this mosque that will definitely leave you panting. The picture below was clicked while we were returning but this is the stretch that I am talking about.
The good news is that this is the only difficult stretch of the entire stretch. The rest of the 3 kilometers trek is mostly a straight walk on a narrow dirt path that turns into a paved one for the last 1.5 kilometers.
There are a few parts where you will have to walk up and down but those are just short stretches.
Also Read: Food to Try in Kashmir & Where
Ponies for Thajiwas Glacier
Ponies are available for the trek if you do not wish to walk. You will see the pony owners all around or could even ask your hotel owner to arrange one.
The standard rate for a pony ride will range between Rs. 700 to 1500 in the tourist season. In the off-season, the charges drop to Rs. 600-800.
How much you pay will entirely depend on how well you are able to negotiate. The government issues rates are of course much lower than this but nobody agrees with those.
We were in no mood for a pony ride but as expected, the moment we started on the trek, several pony riders approached us. We patiently said no and moved on but all of them were quite persistent. They kept following, asking and we kept saying no to all of them.
The Annoying Ghode-Walas
At some places, a few of the pony riders even got rude and started arguing with us about why we were not hiring them. Some of the logic we heard was,
“Aap aise mana kar doge toh kaise chalega? Aisa thode hi hota hai. Ham log kya karein phir?”
These pony riders or so-called ‘ghode-walas’ are one of the most annoying factors of a trip to Kashmir in my opinion. They are prevalent in areas like Gulmarg, Sonamarg, and Pahalgam which receive a considerable amount of tourists each year.
They literally harass tourists and would make it difficult for you to walk even a step without someone tailing you and asking for money.
One of them actually told us that we were not going to make it on our own. He said that it was too far away, the trek was difficult, we will get lost and several other things to discourage us from walking all by ourselves.
We ignored the pony riders and their rude behavior and focused more on the natural beauty around us. The entire trek passes through beautiful meadows, a forest, and a water stream.
There were numerous photography breaks and we were really enjoying ourselves before my worst fear came true.
The black clouds that were dominating the sky finally decided to give us their blessings. It was a drizzle at first that turned into a downpour shortly. Neither of us was carrying an umbrella.
Even though I did bring an umbrella on the trip, we forgot to pick it up and left it in the car. We continued walking for a while but as the rain got heavier, we had no choice but to take shelter.
A couple of villagers approached us yet again. They asked if we were interested in a sled ride and we said no. But as always, they refused to take no for an answer and started insisting. It continued for about 15 minutes. They just wouldn’t listen and kept asking again and again.
The rain stopped but I just kept sitting under the tree where I was. I was hoping that those villagers will walk away but they also did not go.
They just sat there, looking at us and hoping that we will say yes. In the end, I had to tell them to go away in a firm tone so we could start walking again.
Also Read: How to Plan a Trip to Gulmarg
To my surprise, we actually came across a road that runs about halfway through the trek. If we wanted to, we could have just driven for about 1.5 kilometers and then walk the rest, especially in the rain.
As I was to find out later, this road was actually built but the pony owners did not let the authorities open it. Their argument was that if people started to drive on their own, then no one will hire their ponies.
Nonetheless, after about 90 minutes of a walk, we reached the end of the trek. The forest opened in a beautiful meadow with Thajiwas mountain right in front of us. The drizzle was still on and we took shelter in one of the tea stalls.
Thankfully, the rain stopped after a while and gave some enough time to click plenty of pictures.
Contrary to common belief, you actually do not go all the way to the glacier. You reach this viewpoint and return to Sonamarg from here.
If you were interested in trekking a little more, you can go further up, walk for about 7-8 kilometers and end the trek near Sarbal Village, on the other side of Sonamarg.
This is where the viewpoint is. You can get something to eat out here.
After resting and having fun for a while, we started on our way back. Yet again, several pony riders asked us why we were walking and not on ponies and we humbly said no to all of them.
One of them, I am sure, actually ridiculed me in the Kashmiri Language for our choice of trekking rather than sitting on a pony. I do not know what he said but I guessed by his tone that he said something offensive.
The entire trek from Sonamarg to Thajiwas Glacier, if I am to ignore the pony owners, was a fun walk. I got some stunning shots and we had a great time.
It can easily be done from Sonamarg in about 4-5 hours and you can complete it yourself. Unless you specifically want to go for a pony ride, there is no need for you to hire anyone for this trek.
If you decide to take a pony, I will strongly advise sitting properly and being careful. A lot of times, we saw people sitting in an awkward position and it appeared that they would fall at any moment. The ghode-walas paid no attention to it.
While we were coming back, what I was afraid of came true. A lady slipped off the pony and fell down along with her small child. So please be very careful.
We returned to the hotel by noon and didn’t know what to do with the other half of the day. Sonamarg to Thajiwas Glacier was done in 4 hours. We had already been to Zojila and Zero Point the day before. So what to do now?
I asked Mohsin about other sightseeing spots and he suggested driving to Sarbal Village. It is a small village, about 2 kilometers from Sonamarg, and is located inside the forest, right next to the Sind River.
We started from the hotel, crossed Sonamarg, and soon found us driving up the Zojila Pass again. We somehow could not locate the turn that Mohsin mentioned and missed it.
Instead, we drove up the road that went to Zojila Pass. We turned around again and after a bit of guesswork, found it.
Also Read: Clothes to Pack for a Kashmir Trip
The narrow road to the village goes through the site where the construction work of the Zojila tunnel is going on. Unfortunately, though, we could not go all the way to the village as the road was blocked due to ongoing construction. We went as far as we could and turned around.
This is the farthest that we could go. The views were simply amazing.
We found this tea stall near the river. It was in fact the best tea I tasted in the entire Kashmir region. With the cold weather and the rain, it was a perfect spot to have some tea and Maggie.
We saw this campsite across the river. For a while, we pondered on the idea of staying here for the night. Their charges were way too high, over Rs. 10000 per day. There was no way I was going to pay that amount to stay in a camp.
Other Side of Sind River
The next couple of hours were spent idling around in the hotel. Around sunset, Mohsin suggested taking us to the other side of the Sind River. It was right opposite our hotel and would offer an even better view of sunset and Sonamarg.
We drove back to the market, went through the village, crossed a very narrow bridge, and reached the other side. Mohsin was right. The view we got from there of Sonamarg was even better.
Found these kids playing, eager for some photos.
Maddy, Mohsin, and I
After spending some time there, we once again returned to the hotel. Maddy and I just relaxed while Shoaib decided to play cricket with some local kids on the hotel lawn. He asked me to join but I was in no mood for more physical activity after trekking and driving around all day long. I just sat in my room, relaxing and going through the photographs of the day.
Dinner happened at Hotel Lolabi in the Sonamarg market, the same restaurant that we ate at the day before. It is one of the best places to eat in Sonamarg which serves delicious Kashmiri Wazwan.
- Journey Ahead: Sonamarg to Srinagar
The day ended quite early as all of us were pretty tired. The plan for the next day was to go back to Srinagar and stay there for a week.
We were all carrying our laptops along and will work from our hotel in Srinagar till Friday. Pahalgam was the destination for the next weekend. Please click on the link above to continue reading the next part of the travelogue.
Sonamarg to Thajiwas Glacier – Conclusion
I hope the pictures and information above on trekking from Sonamarg to Thajiwas Glacier were of help. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments section below. You can also follow me on Instagram and chat with me live or subscribe to my YouTube channel and ask a question there.