Pahalgam earns a mention on Jammu Kashmir's tourist map mostly because of its association with the popular Amarnath Yatra. Pilgrim bound for the yatra progress from here. Pahalgam is an amazing destination in itself and has a lot to offer.
The Amarnath Yatra begins around the last week of June and devouts inundates the town and the local make good business out of it. Since the trek to Amarnath begins from Pahalgam locals provide camping facilities and ponies. The whole economy of the town seemed to be dependent on or entwined with tourism.
We drove through a vast valley from Srinagar, passing rice planters. The span between Srinagar and Anantnag has many shops that sell cricket bats. A good cricket bat here costs not more than Rs. 400 to Rs. 500. We made a quick tea stop by the roadside before reaching Anantnag. Pahalgam is around 45 km from Anantnag, also called Islamabad by the locals.
From Anantnag, the road begins to follow the river Lidder up to the main town. A drive to Pahalgam on a bright day after two days of rain was one refreshing road trip. The sky opens and the clouds were crisp and white as cotton. The cool breeze seemed to be blowing up right from the river. The river Lidder was full of life and activities. It is known as a favoured place for fishing trout and water sports like rafting.
The valley and the overlooking mountains were lovely on a bright day. The valley was dotted with colourful houses and hotels. The bus dropped us at the main bazaar taxi stand. The town is confined around a single lane with shops on both sides. The pine canopied mountains loomed just above the roof of the houses. Pahalgam is a small town, bulged by the influx of tourists. It is a tourist town which means there are more tourists than locals and enough hotels to accommodate great number of tourists. The town's picturesque location has gained popularity and many Bollywood films have been shot here, the latest being ‘Jab Tak Hai Jaan’.
Pahalgam is more authentic than Srinagar in many aspects. I saw many interesting faces in traditional attires, something I never saw in Srinagar. The interaction level between the locals and tourists is huge. People from nearby villages also came to town to pick up their daily needs. It has an interesting mix of culture and set-up.
There are many interesting places to see in Pahalgam but for me Pahalgam is more as a package; the valley, the beautiful hills and the Lidder River. It is the starting point for many popular camping sites and trekking routes.
Pahalgam has a feel good factor about it; it just took a glance to like this place. But the tourists can be a big put off. Everywhere you turned, you see hordes of them and it can be suffocating. But a few minutes walk from town and I was in the pine covered woods, the Lidder River singing to me and once again and I felt I’ve landed at the most pristine place on earth.
How to Reach:
There are no direct taxis for Pahalgam from Jammu. One can get down at Anantnag and than take shared taxis from there. Government bus leaves for Pahalgam around 8 am from Srinagar Bus Stop.
Where to Stay in Pahalgam:
There are many good hotels in Pahalgam but they can be expensive and crowded with tourists. One could also stay in some of the homestays and guest houses near Pahalgam.