This article was first published in Urban Nomads website.
Sonamarg, meaning the Meadow of Gold is a region in the Ganderbal district of the Indian state of Kashmir, and probably one of the most scenic treks I have ever undertaken in terms of pristine beauty and remoteness. Not only is it known for its green alpine meadows, rolling hills, and snowy Himalayan peaks, but the region is also celebrated for its stunning turquoise lakes and unspoilt meandering rivers.
Poised on the northwestern tip of India, at 2,800 metres of altitude, not far from the volatile and often unstable border with Pakistan, Sonamarg is a part of the world some travellers hesitate to explore, mainly because of the strange vagaries of the politics in this region. Yet its beauty is second to none, and there is so much diversity on offer in terms of landscapes, that it’s no surprise the area is compared to heaven on earth for adventure seekers.
Furthermore, Sonamarg has great historical significance as the gateway on the ancient Silk Road connecting Kashmir with China and other Gulf countries. The Zojila pass lies 15 kilometres east from here, and is one of the highest routes for road transport in the world. Additionally, the area is still used as a base camp for the Ladakh mountain pass, and is strategically important for the Indian army, who holds tight control over this part of the country.
From hiking, trekking, snow skiing, rock-climbing, to horseback riding, you can experience just about anything in this mountainous region of northern India. For example, the day this picture was taken, my trekmates and I were fortunate to catch a glimpse of an Asian black bear strolling nonchalantly at the foot of these mountains, weaving in and out of the alpine treeline, about 50 metres from where we were standing. As I held my breath savouring this rare sighting, it dawned on me just how unforgettable this instance was. Complete stillness…majestic beauty…it’s in these quiet moments, suspended in time, that I feel the most grateful to be alive.