The town is situated at an altitude of 7,200 feet and is surrounded by stunning Himalayan Mountains, dense forests, and gurgling rivers. Pahalgam is a popular tourist destination and is famous for its natural beauty, adventure sports, and cultural attractions.
If you are planning a trip to Pahalgam, this blog is all you need to know about the places to visit in Pahalgam, the major attractions on the way to Pahalgam, and finally, some tips from my experience on how to avoid getting scammed on your trip to Pahalgam.
Baisaran Valley: A Must-Visit Place in Pahalgam
One of the top attractions in Pahalgam is Baisaran Valley, a picturesque meadow located at a distance of about 5 km from the town. Also known as Mini Switzerland, Baisaran is a beautiful meadow surrounded by snow-capped mountains and dense deodar forests.
You can reach this beautiful meadow by riding on a pony up for 5 km or for about an hour. The horse ride is quite adventurous and can give you thrills or chills, depending on how adventurous you are.
Once you get to the top, spend at least 3 hours there, walk around, explore the deodar forests and witness nature at its pristine best.
The adventurous activities offered atop Baisaran Valley in summer are zip line and hamster ball. You can buy food from the various stalls atop Baisaran.
Can you reach Baisaran Valley by car?
No, horse riding is the only way to get to Baisaran.
Can you walk to Baisaran Valley?
You can walk to Baisaran only by following the horse ride path. But keep in mind that it will be a 5 km walk and you will need to rent gum boots as the path is strewn with horse dung.
Ashley’s Tip: If you have elderly members or very young children traveling with you, you can consider avoiding Baisaran as the path is too steep at places. Although, we did visit Baisaran with a 3.5-year-old Noah (our son) and my 60+-old parents. While Noah was excited, my parents were freaking out!
Baisaran Toilet Status: Baisaran has one of the worst toilets we came across in Kashmir, but you have no choice as you will be spending quite a lot of time getting there and being there.
Baisaran Valley Entry Fee: Rs. 30 per person
Aru Valley: A Picturesque Tourist Destination in Pahalgam
One of the top attractions in Pahalgam is Aru Valley, a stunning valley located about 12 km from the town. Surrounded by snow-capped mountains, lush green forests, and glistening streams, Aru Valley is a perfect destination for nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts.
Aru Valley is the “A” in the ABC of Pahalgam, which includes Betaab Valley (B) and Chandanwadi (C). The ABCs are covered on a single road trip, while Baisaran is a separate one-day activity.
You need to hire a separate taxi from Pahalgam to visit the ABCs. These are fixed-rate taxis and they will drop you back at Pahalgam at the end of the trip. You can either do all three spots or just Betaab Valley and Chandanwadi, depending upon your convenience and preference.
The valley is situated at an altitude of about 2,408 meters above sea level and offers breathtaking views of the Himalayas. This is a place for you to explore and experience the natural beauty of a Kashmiri valley. You need to walk 1-1.5 km or hire a pony to explore Aru Valley.
Aru Valley Toilet Status: The toilets are okayish.
Aru Valley Entry Fee: Rs. 25 per person
Betaab Valley: A Major Attraction in Pahalgam
One of the top attractions in Pahalgam is Betaab Valley, a beautiful valley located about 7 km from the town. The valley is named after the Bollywood movie Betaab, which was shot extensively in the valley.
Betaab Valley is a human-made forest of willow trees and not a natural forest. You can walk around the willow forest and also check out the small adventure park in the valley.
Betaab Valley Toilet Status: The toilets in Betaab Valley are clean and well-maintained.
Betaab Valley Entry Fee: Rs. 100 per person
Chandanwadi: A Snow Destination in Pahalgam
Chandanwadi is a stunning destination located in the picturesque town of Pahalgam. Nestled at an elevation of 2,923 meters above sea level, Chandanwadi is surrounded by snow-capped mountains and dense forests. It is a perfect place for nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts who want to escape from the hustle and bustle of city life and spend some time in the lap of nature.
Chandanwadi is the starting point for Amarnath Yatra, a major pilgrimage center in India. Amarnath Temple is located about 30 km from Chandanwadi. During the Amarnath season in July and August, you will find pilgrims pitching tents and camping at Chandanwadi.
During the winter months, the valley is covered with a thick blanket of snow, where you can indulge in snowboarding, skiing, and snowshoeing. The snow-covered mountains and the peaceful surroundings make Chandanwadi a winter wonderland.
After the snow melts, Chnadanwadi turns into a beautiful valley with bright wild flowers and lush green grasses. This makes Chandanwadi a great choice even in the summer months.
Chandanwadi Toilet Status: I did not find any toilets in Chandanwadi.
There are no entry fees for Chandanwadi.
Major Attractions on the Way to Pahalgam
Pahalgam is beautiful, no doubt, but the way to Pahalgam offers incredible sites and experiences that you wouldn’t want to miss. Here is a list of the major attractions on the way to Pahalgam:
Marthand Sun Temple
Martand Sun Temple is an ancient Hindu temple located in the Anantnag district of Jammu and Kashmir. Build in the 8th century, the temple is dedicated to Surya, the sun god in Hinduism. It is considered to be one of the finest examples of ancient Kashmiri architecture and a masterpiece of its time.
The temple was built during the reign of King Lalitaditya Muktapida, one of the greatest rulers of the Karkota dynasty. It is believed that the king built the temple to commemorate his victory over the Tibetans in the 8th century.
Martand Sun Temple ruins are considered to be one of the most important archaeological sites in Kashmir. The intricate carvings on the temple walls and pillars, depicting scenes from Hindu mythology, are a testament to the skill and craftsmanship of the ancient Kashmiri builders.
Visit an Apple Orchard
On the way to Pahalgam, you will find many apple orchards. Stop by one of them for some awesome photographs and some refreshing apple juice.
You can also get some homemade jams and pickles from there. I don’t know how much “homemade” they are, but I found their apple jam and pickle tasty, so got myself a jar of each of them.
If you are visiting from late March to early May, you will find apple flowers on the trees, however, if you are visiting from late August to October, you can pluck apples from the apple trees in Pahalgam and eat them for free!
Visit a Cricket Bat Making Factory
Did you know that cricket bats in India are made from the wood of Kashmiri willow trees?
There are many cricket bat manufacturing factories on the way to Pahalgam. You can stop by one of them and they will show you the machines and give you a guided tour of the factory. Do buy cricket bats here to take back home as a souvenir.
Click Photos in a Saffron Field
If you are visiting Pahalgam in the month of October, you will find beautiful saffron fields with violet flowers. This is a great opportunity for you to click some Insta-worthy pictures.
Click Photos in a Mustard Field
Nothing can compare to the sight of the gigantic Himalayas in the backdrop of acres of bright yellow mustard fields. Pahalgam is the place to spot mustard fields in Kashmir if you are visiting in the month of April when the mustard plants bloom.
Rafting and Fishing on Lidder River
One of the main attractions of Pahalgam is the Lidder River which flows through the town, offering spectacular views of its pristine waters.
You can go for a refreshing dip in the chilly river or take a leisurely walk along its banks. The river is also a popular spot for trout fishing, and many anglers come here to try their luck.
At certain spots, you will find adventurous water sports like rafting. If you are keen on rafting, visit Pahalgam from April to August, when the summer heat melts the snow and fills Lidder River with gushing waters. Also, it is best to stay overnight in Pahalgam for at least one night if you wish to go rafting on the Lidder River.
Tips to Avoid Getting Scammed at Pahalgam
Pahalgam is a beautiful town in Kashmir, but unfortunately, it has a high rate of tourist scams. Let me take you through some of the scams tourists have faced in Pahalgam and some tips on avoiding getting scammed.
Pahalgam Tourist Scam: Horse Ride to Baisaran Valley
Tourists are charged exorbitant rates by the locals for the horse ride to Baisaran. I know people who have paid as little as Rs. 800 and also as high as Rs. 2500 per person for the horse ride.
How it Works
The locals quote Rs.4500 as the charges and say there are various points on the way like Kashmir valley, Pahalgam valley, etc. that they will show you. Know that you won’t be getting down at any of those places. Once you hop onto the horse from Pahalgam, you will get down only at Baisaran. The guide who will be accompanying you will just point out those spots to you.
What You Should Do
Bargain Hard! Say you want the see the least minimum spots and get to Baisaran. If you can get horse ride to Baisaran Valley at less than Rs. 1500, you are good.
Why are the Rates So High?
Here is the deal, your driver gets a commission from the amount you pay for the horse ride to Baisaran. The local guides who take you up and down get only a small percentage of the rate. The amount gets split between the owner of the horses, your driver, the negotiator who talks to you about the horses, and finally the local guides who take you up and down Baisaran.
Pahalgam Tourist Scam: How Much Time at Baisaran and the ABCs
Baisaran is a one-day activity. This means you should get plenty of time to relax there. But, the guides will start rushing you as early as 45 minutes after getting there. Do NOT fall for it. You can spend as much time there as you want, there is no restriction on that. Take your time to move around and explore Baisaran. However, make sure you plan your trip in such a way that you get to Baisaran no later than 2:00 pm as you would want to get back to Pahalgam by 6:00 pm before it gets dark.
For Aru Valley, Betaab Valley, and Chandanwadi, the driver at the fixed-fare taxi stand will tell you that you have only 45 minutes at each location. This is NOT true. There is no such restriction. However, keep in mind that since there is some travel between the three places and that there are three locations, it is best not to spend more than 1- 1.25 hours at each location, especially if you intend to get back to Srinagar on the same night.
Pahalgam Tourist Scam: Sled and Other Rides
You will find horse rides at Aru Valley and sled and other snow rides at Chandanwadi. The vendors will quote inflated charges. You should be able to get an Aru Valley horse ride at Rs. 800. For the various snow rides, aim to get the charges down to half of what they quote.
An important tip for all the rides is to not show any interest in any of them as soon as you get there, even if you want to take them.
This is because if you show any interest, they will not leave your side until you take the ride. You may want to explore or climb uphill in Chandanwadi, but the sled vendors will pester you until you take their ride, which means you will be back at the starting point again and you will have to start all over again.
At Sonamarg, my mother asked a sled vendor how much the charge was, and the vendor followed us all the way to the top and even joined us in making a snowman. It was such a nuisance as we wanted to relax and have fun for some time, and most importantly it should have been family time. We eventually took the sled downhill.
Pahalgam Tourist Scam: Tips Demand
No matter what ride you took or how much you paid, the vendors will demand tips from you. You can give or refuse to give according to your discretion. I just wanted to point out the practice exists.
Pahalgam Tourist Scam: Gum Boots and Waterproof Gloves
Gumboots cost Rs. 100. If you have woolen gloves, that should be fine for playing in the snow. They might tell you that the snow will melt and make the woolen gloves useless. That does not happen that easily. Buy waterproof gloves only if you don’t have any gloves with you.
To conclude, the best places to visit in Pahalgam are Baisaran Valley, Aru Valley, Betaab Valley, and Chandanwadi. And while you are visiting Pahalgam, do check out all the major attractions on the way.
I hope you have a great tour of Pahalgam and you get to see and experience all of its beautiful places and not get scammed.
Did you discover any scam in Pahalgam that I did not mention here? If this blog helped to avoid scams in Pahalgam, do let me know in the comments below.