Sonamarg Tourism & Travel Guide

Sonamarg Valley If Gulmarg and Sonamarg makes you feel warm and fuzzy, Sonamarg is exactly the opposite....

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We started for Sonamarg after a nice delectable breakfast and piping hot Kashmiri Chai, prepared well with natural spices....

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Day - 2, 19/06/2016 Circuit: Patnitop – Sonamarg. Distance Covered 261 Kms Time Taken 8:30 Hours.Today, was the day we were going to enter the Kashmir Valley crossing Srinagar and to our overnight halt at Sonamarg. It was decided unanimously to wake up as convenient and leave Patnitop after breakfast. We met over tea discussing what the day has in store for us and fixed an ETD of 10:00 AM. After having breakfast, which we all took our sweet time to relish, we were all set to get back on the highway!We clicked few pictures for the Album, fired the engines of our machines and headed off to our next destination. It was 10:30 by the time we left Patnitop negotiating the curves and bends cutting through not a very heavy but regular traffic on the highway. Crossing the town of Batote, we reached Banihal, after a small halt at Banihal we headed to the popular gateway of Kashmir valley “Jawahar Tunnel”.Jawahar Tunnel or Banihal Tunnel is a road tunnel in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Named after the first Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru, it was constructed for round-the-year surface transport by Alfred Kunz and C. Barsel between 1954 and 1960. The Jawahar tunnel has been operational since 22 December 1956. The length of tunnel is 2.85 km (1.77 mi), its elevation is 2,194 m (7,198 ft) and it has one lane road in either direction. It is situated between Banihāl and Qazigundon NH 1A that has been renumbered NH 44.The tunnel facilitates round-the-year road connectivity from Srinagar to Jammu.Later the tunnel was renovated by the Border Roads Organization under the project BEACON in 1960. It was designed for 150 vehicles per day in each direction but the number of vehicles is now 7,000 in both directions. After renovations, the tunnel now has a two-way ventilation system, pollution & temperature sensors, lighting system and with emergency phones for any assistance from Border Roads Organization.Guarded fiercely by the military round the clock, photography or videography inside or even nearby the tunnel is strictly prohibited. Once the vehicle enters the tunnel, it has to maintain the same speed throughout the tunnel. CCTVs are installed in the tunnel for continuous monitoring.It used to be closed for civilian traffic between midnight and 8 a.m. until 2009. Now it is open all 24x7.We crossed the Jawahar Tunnel and the scenic beauty changes completely, the terrain gets greener as one enters the Kashmir valley. Upon driving a distance, we were directed by the J&K police personnel to a hold area where we needed to pay the toll for using the tunnel. It’s a mandatory toll one needs to pay but is badly managed. We parked our vehicles ( all 5 of them ) and asked an official for the directions to the toll booth. He gestured us to go to counter no 2 and pay the toll. I must tell you it was not a welcome scene to see people trying to get over each other shoving their hands through a tiny window in order to pay the toll and get their receipts. We waited for some time before the window could get cleared and asked the toll collector to collect toll from us, not realizing that the Vehicle Number needs to be provided. In the mean time another set of travelers who looked locals of the area gathered and not wanting to wait started getting impatient and instructing us that you are a large convoy of cars, you should have written down the numbers of the Vehicles and handed over to the collector.Not wanting to get into an argument, we completed the toll formalities and continued towards our destination, to our utter shock we realized later there is no sanctity of the toll as half of us crossed the barrier without anyone asking us for the toll slips. Without wanting to form an opinion we motored on.We crossed the towns of , Khanabal into Bejbehara and the change is pretty evident from towns we crossed before the tunnel. Troops from our Para military forces patrolling the streets with check posts at all major intersections,yet life running around it all as usual.It was way past 2:00 PM by the time we crossed Bejbehara, when few of our adventurers felt hungry and we decided to search for a place to halt for a break and have lunch. We stopped 40 Kms short of Srinagar at a Roadside Dhaba and ordered for some Dal, Kadhi, Rajma, Paneer and Roti. The food was hot and fresh which we all enjoyed, which some of us realized later was not such a good idea to go overboard with! Over and done with lunch the Caravan commenced its journey towards Srinagar and reached on the outskirts of the city. Instead of taking the bypass we drove through the city it being a Sunday. We crossed Badami Bagh Cantonment driving through Highway 1D went past Jamia Masjid on to Ganderbal Road. The traffic was less as we drove along but despite it being peace times in Kashmir, there is an eerie sense of uncertainty hanging in the air which we all felt.
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About Sonamarg

Fondly called the 'meadow of gold', Sonamarg is situated on the banks of a tributary of river Jhelum in Kashmir. A spellbinding valley 80 km from Srinagar, en-route to Ladakh, it is on every traveller's list for its colourful views, serenity and charm. Much has been said about the beauty of Kashmir and one may wonder what the hullabaloo is about. But a visit to Sonamarg is all you need to understand the ways of nature! From Sonamarg, you can trek towards Krishnasar Lake and Vishnasar Lake, amongst others. A perfect place to camp and also to enjoy leisurely afternoon picnics, it would be best if you have a local showing you around. Though there are no well-defined touristy spots within Sonamarg, there are umpteen spots around it. Depending on what you'd like to explore, do gather information and then plan your day here.

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