Gurez Valley Trek (Patalwan Lakes Trek) : The Grasslands and Lakes of Patalwan
“once forbidden, this stunning uncharted terrritory now guarantees a lifetime adventure”
Being extremely close to the Line of Control, the Gurez valley trek is perhaps the only border trek in Kashmir offering thrilling views of landscapes on the other side. Also called the Patalwan Lakes Trek, this incomparable hiking adventure takes us into one of the most pristine regions in the country. The walk starts from Dawar town, which serves as the base camp of the Gurez Valley Trek. It follows an old shepherd trail primarily used by nomadic communities who practice seasonal migratory grazing. As we start the trek and climb higher from Dawar, the views of the Kishanganga river valley is simply awe-inspiring, almost unreal in its beauty. The trek is a beautiful mix of forests, grasslands, huge rolling mounds, and boulders crafting a challenging yet memorable walk. Each day of this expedition offers unique experiences, ranging from dense forests and striking boulder formations to unexplored lakes and charming shepherd huts resembling tiny villages. Passing through the gorgeous grasslands of Dison and Khaari, along with the dense Pine and Birch forests above Dawar, the trek finally ends at the magnificent twin lakes of Patalwansar. Both the alpine lakes are encircled by secluded mountain terrain that offer impressive views along with the perfect serenity. Along the way, trekkers also get the chance to interact with the welcoming shepherd families and admire their resourcefulness and peaceful way of life amidst the challenges of living in these remote mountains.
The Patalwan Lakes trek is perfect for anyone with a penchant for remote and undisturbed Himalayan wilderness. Although travellers do not need any technical knowledge or previous hiking experience, they must be fit, healthy and well-prepared to venture out on this camping adventure. The route is moderately challenging with some steep ascents and descents and its difficulty level increases during rainfall. The trek therefore has a short seasonal window from June to August, with the month of June being the best time. Overall, this immersive Himalayan trek is tailor-made for adventurous souls who seek an experience in a region where very few people have been. Embarking on the Gurez Valley Trek guarantees an unforgettable off the beaten path odyssey that leaves a lasting and enduring impression.
Day 1: Morning Pick up from Srinagar – Drive from Srinagar to Dawar base camp via Wular Lake (137 km drive, 5-6 hrs) | Overnight at Guest House/Homestay
Day 2: Trek Starts from Dawar base camp- Trek from Dawar (7,870 ft) to Dison Meadows (10,340 ft) | Distance and Duration : 5-6 KMs / 6-7 hrs. – Overnight Camping at Dison
Day 3: Trek from Dison (10,340 ft) to Khaari Meadows ( Patalwansar Lakes base Camp) – 11,300 ft) via Dawar Heights (11,722 ft) | Distance and Duration : 7-8 KMs / 6-7 hrs. – Overnight Camping at Khaari meadows
Day 4: Trek from Khaari (11,300 ft) to Patalwansar Lake 1 Camp (12,650 ft) | Distance and Duration : 6-7 KMs / 5-6 hrs. | Upon reaching, hike further up to explore the Patalwansar Lake 2 (12,795 ft) and later trek back to camp | Distance and Duration : 2 KMs / 1-2 hrs. | Overnight Camping at Patalwansar Lake 1 Camp
Day 5: Trek Descent starts – Trek back from Patalwansar Lake 1 Camp to Dison Meadows | Distance and Duration : 12-13 kms/7-8 hrs. | Overnight Camping at Dison meadows
Day 6: Today is the last day of Trek | Descend from Dison Meadows to Dawar town | Distance and Duration : 5-6 KMs / 3-4 hrs. | Overnight at Guest House/Homestay
Day 7: Farewell – Say goodbye to the enchanting wonderland of Gurez Valley and travel back to Srinagar via Razdaan pass | Drop off at Srinagar Hotel
1. Patalwansar - The Twin lakes of Gurez
Locally called Patalwansar, the twin Lakes of Patalwan – Patalwansar 1 and Patalwansar 2 on the Gurez valley trek are the main attractions here. In fact, the second and the farthest lake – Patalwansar 2 is the final summit point on this itinerary. The exhilarating hike up to the second lake takes intrepid trekkers to an altitude of approx. 12,795 feet above sea level.
Located in one of the least-travelled zones in Kashmir, very few non-locals have ever reached these lakes and witnessed their untouched natural beauty. Aside from its natural isolation, one of the main reasons for this was the long-placed restrictions imposed by the Indian Army in visiting Gurez Valley. Now that the pristine region has been led open and with improvement in accessibility, these isolated lakes can now be finally reached with proper permissions. The Patalwan lakes are not accessible by motorable roads and can only be reached on foot, after a rewarding multi-day walking adventure.
As people ascend through the rugged terrain and overcome the challenges of the trail, a sense of anticipation builds within. The anticipation is gradually built over the first few days and is fueled by the knowledge that one is about to witness a breathtaking natural wonder. On the fourth day of our trek itinerary, we cover the last stretch to finally reach the Patalwan Lakes. Both the crystal-clear lakes are surrounded by expansive grasslands dotted with boulders of varying sizes. Encircled by untrammelled mountainous landscapes with splendid views, these shimmering bodies of water offer a picturesque environment that captivates the senses. The air feels light, crisp and refreshing. The natural grandeur combined with the place’s peacefulness evokes a sense of wonder and calm. Separated by a trail distance of 2 Kms or about 1 hour trekking, the Patalwan lakes are a delightful combination of natural beauty, tranquility, and excellent photographic opportunities. Whether it’s the reflection of scenic mountainscapes or the serenity of the water’s edge, these alpine lakes create an idyllic setting that leaves a lasting impression for all.
2. Grasslands of Patalwan and the nomadic communities
The grasslands of Patalwan are located on the eastern side of Dawar town in Gurez valley. The area is a haven of lush green expanses that stretch as far as the eye can see. These grasslands on the Gurez Valley Trek are uniquely characterized by green hilly humps and small mounds that make the trail very interesting and at times challenging. The lower reaches of the area before the grasslands start are heavily forested. The slope shows marked fluctuations with rocky outcrops and cliffs being present at many locations across the grassland.
Along with pine woods, a patch of legendary Bhoj Patra or the Himalayan Silver Birch (Betula utilis) trees also exist on the steep slopes. These birch trees have ancient historical significance as their bark has paper-like characteristics. As mentioned in some of the legendary and mythical Indian stories of the past, the bark of these trees was once used as writing paper. The trees also indicate the gradual end of the the tree-line on this trail signaling changes in the terrain.
Nestled between towering mountains, these alpine meadows provide a vital grazing ground for local shepherds and nomadic communities who have been practicing alpine transhumance (nomadic pastoralism in high mountains) for generations. The nomadic tribes here are a mix of Bakerwals, Gujjars and Chopans of Kashmir who mostly practice migratory grazing during the summer season. Here, it is important to note that a symbiotic relationship exists between the nomads and these sprawling grasslands. And it is integral to the ecological balance of the region. The grazing of livestock not only helps maintain the pastures’ health but also contribute to the dispersal of seeds, promoting the overall growth and diversity of native plant species. Moreover, the animal wastes act as natural fertilizer, enriching the soil and supporting the overall natural ecosystem.
The Patalwan Lakes trek therefore offers an excellent opportunity for visitors to experience these sprawling natural pastures while exploring and learning about the nomadic culture and lifestyle of the locals. These summertime residents of the hills offer a fascinating peek into a migratory way of living. Despite the harsh mountainous living conditions here, the locals are simple, warm and welcoming people. Having said that, any interaction with the locals including photography must be done mindfully and should consider the principles of responsible travel.
3. beyond the loC: Thrilling Views across the border
The Line of Control (LoC) is the de facto border that separates the Indian-administered Kashmir from the Pakistani-administered Kashmir. The Gurez Valley in North Kashmir is located on the Indian side and shares a border with Pakistan. There are some unique vantage points in Gurez valley where it is possible to get views of the other side. These points provide curious visitors a chance to peek at the mountains and the restricted terrains of Pakistan.
The Gurez Valley Trek or the Patalwan Lakes Trek comprises some of these gorgeous vantage points that offer exciting views across the LoC. As we ascend to higher elevations on this trek, you may be able to get clear glimpses of the mountain ranges and villages on the Pakistani side. The towering peaks, deep valleys and imposing ridges on both sides of the border create a dramatic and picturesque panorama. Of course, these views will vary depending on factors such as routes taken, weather conditions and visibility.
These unforgettable views beyond the Indo-Pak border serve as a reminder of the geographical and political complexities of the region. They offer glimpses of formidable and boundless natural elements that transcend political boundaries, showcasing the shared mountainous landscapes that have been a part of the region’s cultural and historical heritage for centuries.
4. Road to Gurez Valley via Razdan Pass
One of the remarkable road trips of kashmir, the travel to the base camp for Gurez Valley Trek is as scenic as it is exciting. As we embark on this captivating journey from Srinagar, the path throws up beautiful sights all along the way. Travelling along qualint little towns and the scenic Kashmiri countryside, we arrive at the shores of the Wular lake. Here, we take a brief pause and admire the beuaity of the lake’s views. Moving onwards we drive to the plains of Bandipora and then on we venture forward on an uphill voyage that winds through meandering roads, enchanting pine forests, and breathtaking forest glades. As we climb up, the spectacular valley and village views on one side become better and better. After crossing a beautiful forest clearing called Tragbal, soon the tree-line ends with the forests giving way to lush meadows before finally leading up to the Razdan Pass. The high-altitude motorable mountain pass stands at an elevation of 11,672 feet. Crossing the pass the road climbs down, snaking its way with lots of twists and turns to the other side. Passing through several tiny villages, few more Army camps and the picturesque Kishanganga Dam & Hydroelectricity project, the road finally arrives at Dawar, the main town of Gurez Valley and the base camp for the Gurez Valley Trek.
The high pass of Razdan serves as a vital link, connecting numerous remote and far-flung areas of Northern reaches of Kashmir valley. Once a significant part of the historic Silk route between Kashmir and Central Asia, this offbeat road retains its strategic importance in connecting Gurez with the mainland of Kashmir. As we traverse this high-altitude passage, an impressive panorama unfolds, showcasing the surrounding mountain ranges and verdant valleys. The lofty summit also grants us unparalleled views of snow-capped peaks including the majestic and sacred Mount Harmukh peak that graces the horizon on clear days. During winter, the pass receives heavy snowfall, rendering it inaccessible and adding to Gurez’s isolation during those months.
5. Gurez: Land Of The Dard-Shins
The region of Gurez resides in a remote and secluded corner of northern Kashmir. Adorned with beautiful charming villages that dot its landscape, this hidden gem remains an undiscovered slice of paradise. Geographically isolated from the rest of the world and connected by only one motorable mountain pass, Gurez boasts of breathtaking natural beauty, serving as a sanctuary enveloped in serenity. Relatively quite underdeveloped, the Gurez Valley stands as the ancestral homeland and final refuge for the Dardic people within India.
In ancient times, the area was an integral part of Dardistan, situated along the historic Silk Route that connected the Kashmir Valley to Gilgit-Baltistan and further extended to the Kashgar province of China. The local inhabitants belong to the Dard-Shin tribe, distinct from Kashmiris. The culture of Gurez is rich and distinct and is shaped by the unique blend of its geographical isolation with the influence of the Dardic people who inhabit the region.
The Dard-Shin tribe is an ethnic group with their own language, Shina. Their culture and way of life are closely connected to their ancestral roots and shared traditions, that intertwine with the people residing in the Gilgit-Baltistan region, across the Line of Control. Attired in their unique traditional garments, they proudly uphold their customs, traditions, and cultural identity, closely resembling their kin across the Line of Control. Today, the remaining remnants of this ethnic group can be found predominantly in Gurez and its neighbouring valleys, living harmoniously alongside the Indian Army stationed in the area.
Gurez Valley, therefore is not just a visual delight but also a valuable cultural treasure trove, where the locals preserve their traditions and harmoniously coexist with the mesmerizing natural landscape.
Gurez Valley TREK info / FAQs
The Gurez Valley Trek or the Patalwan Lakes Trek starts from Dawar town. Dawar is small town is located in the Gurez Tehsil of Bandipora district in Jammu and Kashmir. It is about 140 Kms from Srinagar city and takes about 5-6 hours to reach by road. We will arrange a comfortable car pick up for you from a designated point in Srinagar, which will directly transfer you to the base camp of the trek. At the end of the trek, we will again arrange transport to drop you back to Srinagar. These Base Camp transfers are included in our Trip Costs and travellers do not need to pay separately.
Srinagar city is well connected to all the major cities in India and can be reached by air, train or road. The most convenient way to reach Srinagar is via flight. Sheikh Ul-Alam International Airport in Srinagar (Code: SXR) is around 15 Kms away from the city centre. Srinagar Airport has regular flights from Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Leh, Chandigarh and other cities.
The nearest railway station is Jammu Tawi Railway Station which is at a distance of 250 kilometers. One can hire a taxi and take a road trip to Srinagar from Jammu Tawi Railway Station. Jammu railway station is well connected to the Indian railways network to all major cities in India by rail. Direct train services are available from Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore and Trivandrum. By train one has to reach Jammu and then drive to Srinagar on road, which takes around 7-8 hours depending on road conscious and traffic. The upcoming new train stations and the extension of the railway network into Kashmir including the building of one of the highest rail bridges in the world will enable direct connectivity via trains without any need of road travel.
The nearest motorable town for the Gurez Valley Trek is Dawar village.
The best time to trek this route is between the months of June to the Auguts. It has a short trekking window and June is usually the ideal time for a less rainy trek. The daytime temperatures on the trek range from 10-15 degrees Celsius while nightime the mercury may drop sub-zero temperatures. If it rains, it may feel colder and so one needs to be prepared in terms of clothing and gear.
The Gurez Trek is classified as a moderate to difficult trek grade. Travellers do not need any technical knowledge or previous hiking experience, but they must be very fit, healthy and well-prepared before embarking on this adventure. This can be definitely attempted by beginners or first-time trekkers but with the condition of genuine physical preparation before the trip. They should be willing to make effort, go out of their comfort zones and be fine with camping in the wilderness. There are some steep ascents and descents along with few tricky sections with boulders. The trail becomes more challenging if it rains. Having said all this, our capable and highly experienced mountain leaders will ensure your safety and comfort at every turn on the trek.
The Gurez Valley Trek starts from and ends at Dawar, which is the headquarters of the region. It is perfectly safe and secure especially with the presence of a huge Army brigade in the town and multiple army camps and posts all around the valley. The Army is on very good terms with the local population, always providing much-needed assistance with medical and other emergencies, especially in the harsh winter months. As the region opens up now after being off-limits for many years, the hospitable and friendly locals are welcoming more and more trekkers and visitors every year. This not only has boosted the local economy, providing a good source of employment to local homestays, guides, porters and other service provides but has also offered adventure enthusiasts a chance to experience an unexplored wonderland.
Our Patalwan Lakes Trek itinerary consists of 5 trekking days while the overall trip requires 7 days including the Base Camp travel. The entire route covers a distance of approximately 45 Kilometers in total.
The Gurez Valley Trek starts from and ends at Dawar, which is headquarters of the region. It is perfectly safe and secure especially with the presence of a huge Army brigade in the town and multiple army camps and posts all around the valley. The Army is on very good terms with the local population, always providing much-needed assistance with medical and other emergencies, especially in the harsh winter months. As the region opens up now after being off-limits for many years, the hospitable and freindly locals are welcoming more and more trekkers and visitors every year. This not only has boosted the local economy, providing a good source of employment to local trek guides, porters and service provides but has also offered adventure enthusiasts a chance to experience an unexplored wonderland.
Phone Networks in Gurez Valley and internet connectivity is available only till Dawar, the base camp of the trek. As of now, only Jio and BSNL mobile networks are present in the region and the internet also work decently. Depending on season, wifi may also be available at our homestay at the base. As we start the trek and move deeper on the trail, no phone network or internet connectivity will be available. The trek takes you through some of the remote mountains of Kashmir, where the signal coverage can be sporadic or mostly non-existent. It’s important to be prepared for the possibility of no phone network or internet connectivity during all sections of the trek. Therefore it’s advisable to inform your family and friends back home about the potential communication limitations during the trek days. While you may encounter limited or no phone network and internet connectivity during the Gurez Trek, the experience provides you an excellent opportunity to disconnect from technology and immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the surroundings.
When visiting Jammu and Kashmir, it is important to note that prepaid mobile connections issued outside the territory do not work. Only local prepaid sims and Postpoaid connections will work. All postpaid connections of major network operators will have good reception and data connectivity in most destinations of the valley. Airtel, Jio, Vodafone and BSNL – all provide good connectivity and internet data networks in the main areas of the valley with BSNL having the widest coverage and Airtel having the strongest connectivity. Recently, Jio has penetrated well and is now offering great connectivity to even some very remote areas of the region.
Srinagar generally has decent phone connectivity with major mobile network operators such as Airtel, Jio, Vodafone Idea, and BSNL providing coverage. Wi-Fi is also available in many hotels, cafes, and restaurants. However, please note connectivity in remote areas or during certain weather conditions may be weaker or intermittent.
There is no electricity available on the Patalwan Lakes trail. Access to charging options is possible only till Dawar. The region being a highly remote area, there may be irregular access to electricity at the base camp also. It is recommended that you bring battery powerbanks or solar-powered alternatives. Please charge all your cameras, required batteries and phones before the base camp arrival. It is advisable to prioritize essentials on the trail and limit unnecessary device usage.
For the Gurez Trek, it is important to pack properly before embarking on this adventure. All camping gear and equipment will be taken care of by us. You just need to pack your clothing and trek gear like Trek Pole, high-ankle trek shoes etc. It is recommended to pack lightweight and quick-drying trek clothing, including trekking pants/shorts, t-shirts, Warm/down/thick jackets and waterproof layers/ponchos. Other important accessories like white-brimmed sunhat, UV-protected sunglasses, handgloves etc. Carry personal essentials like sunscreen, personal medicines, headlamp. We will provide a list of all recommended things to carry and help you pack before the trek.
There are a few important and mandatory documents and forms to fill in and bring in order to process your trekking permissions:
- Original Govt. ID proof along with 3 Photocopies (Aadhaar/Passport/Driver’s License)
- 3 Passport Size photos
- Health Certificate/Medical Form attested by a doctor (We will share the format with you)
- Signed Copy of our Waiver Document (We will share the format with you)
- Trek Insurance document
These documents willl be required to process your mandatory trek permits. Documents submission and processing is a simple process. We will explain all the details to you on our Pre-Trip Call with all participants.
We believe food is one of the most important aspects of any travel program and along with the trek experience here, the food on our Patalwan Lakes Trek will be as memorable and at times even more (as evident from our client reviews and testimonials). During the trek, the food provided by us focuses on providing the necessary energy and nutrition for trekkers.
All fooding is included on the trek. We take our own cooks and Kitchen crew who will trek along with us every day to prepare nutritious egg and vegetarian dishes on the trek. All four meals – Breakfast, Lunch, Evening Snacks and Dinner plus Tea/Coffee/Juice/fruits will be provided. During the trek, you will be given packed lunches plus dry food (chocolate bars/fruits etc.). So lunches will be packed on trek days while Breakfast, Snacks and Dinner will be hot meals.
We will also note down any dietary restrictions or preferences you may have. For private exclusive groups, we provide a curated and customized menu after discussion with the group members.
No, alcohol consumption is strictly prohibited on the Gurez Trek. Consuming alcohol on a high-altitude trail like this can cause severe dehydration issues and may have negative impacts on your health. It not only endangers your own health and safety but also the safety of the team. It’s advisable to refrain from bringing or consuming alcohol during the trek and to focus on enjoying the natural beauty and serenity of the trekking experience.
On the Gurez Valley Trek, you can either choose to carry your own backpack or you can use our backpack offloading service free of charges, without any extra cost. It is important to convey to us your backpack carrying preference at the time of booking.
Yes, you can spend a few days after your trekking expedition leisurely exploring the region. There are a few other incredible nearby destinations that one can explore. One of the them is the Tulail Valley. You can read more about Tulail and other nearby locales on our Gurez Valley Leisure Experience page.
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A personalized itinerary can be crafted based on your group’s interests, expectations, and preferred dates and time duration. For tailoring a suitable Gurez Valley Trek experience just for you, please Call/Whatsapp on +91 8951064013 or mail us at email@example.com