from Pahalgam to Amarnathji cave is on an ancient peregrine route. The
45 - km distance is covered in four days, with night halts at
Chandanwari, Sheshnag (Wawjan) and Panchtarni. The distance from
Pahalgam to Chandanwari (16 km) is now covered by motor transport. The
pilgrims camp here or at Pahalgam on the first night out. The first
day's trek of 13 km from Chandanwari is through spectacular, primeval
countryside. The main centre of attraction on this trek is Sheshnag, a
mountain lake which derives its name from its seven peaks, resembling
the heads of a mythical snake. The journey to Sheshnag follows steep
inclines up the right bank of a cascading stream and wild scenery
untouched by civilisation. The second night's camp at Wawjan
overlooks the deep blue water of Sheshnag lake, and glaciers beyond it.
The lake is also associated with legends of love and revenge, and at the
camp these are recounted by campfires, to the stillness of a
pine-scented, Himalayan night.
Amarnath Cave Via Mahagunas Pass
Main Trek Base:
Altitude: 4,175m (13,700ft).
the yatra, stages of the walk are carefully controlled by the Indian
authorities. The first stage of the trek is to Chandanwadi, the second
to Sheshnag and the third over the Mahagunas Pass to Panchtami. Many
pilgrims visit the cave from Panchtami and return to Sheshnag the same
day, walking back to Pahalgam on the fifth day.
Pahalgam To Chandanwadi
time 4 hours)
The trail leaves Pahalgam on a bitumen road, past the Shankar temple and
along the east Liddar valley. The trail is easy to follow indeed it is
suitable for jeeps as far as Chandanwadi (2,900m). There are many
obvious short cuts on the route, and a number of tea stalls, as this
first Day always seems to be quite hot. The campsite is in a pleasant
glade just before the main line of tea stalls.
Day 2: Chandanwadi To Sheshnag
(Average walking time 5 to 6 hours)
From Chandanwadi the trail winds steeply for 500m to the summit of ridge
known as Pisu Top (3,390m). From here, there are commanding views back
down the valley to the mountains beyond Pahalgam. During the main
pilgrimage, the tea stall owners do a thriving business, which keeps the
pilgrims going on the long incline to the next main resting area at
Wawajana (3,550m). From here it is two to three km further to Sheshnag
(3,720m). The glacial lake is set in remarkable surroundings, its waters
reflecting the snow capped peaks of Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma. Rumour
among pilgrims has it that the lake is inhabited by a serpent of Loch
Ness monster proportions, so it's advisable not to camp too close to the
Day 3: Sheshnag To Panchtarni
(Average walking time 6 hours)
The trail gradually ascends from Sheshnag with magnificent views of the
mountains immediately above. The ascent towards the Mahagunas Pass winds
up to a grassy plateau, and from there on to the pass it is a further
hour's climb. The sign at the top of the pass states the height as
4,270m. It is not a dramatic pass, but it is still no mean achievement
for the pilgrims, many of whom have never been beyond the Indian plains
The descent to Panchtarni (3,450m) is quite long and tiring, but there
are frequent flowered meadows to rest in and admire. The campsite can be
seen from afar; and behind, on a further ridge, the bare, treeless
mountainscape resembles the terrain on the far side of the Himalayas.
There are more spacious campsites upstream from the main camping area,
and these are also a little cleaner.
Day 4: Panchtarni To Amarnath Cave & Return
(Average walking time 5 hours return)
actual time to the cave will depend on whether one's trek coincides with
the main pilgrimage. During the pilgrimage an early start is essential,
with many of the pilgrims move more steadily and slowly than on the rest
of the trek, as if in awe of their surroundings.
The climb to the Singh Pass (3,850m) is gradual before the trail enters
the Amarnath valley. It descends to a permanently blackened snow bridge,
which fords the Amarvati stream before ascending the true right back to
the base of the mountain. From here the final ascent is up a series of
concrete steps to the entrance to the Amarnath Cave (4,050m). The J&K
police manning the entrance to the cave only permit a limited number of
pilgrims inside at any one time.
Day 5: Panchtarni To Chandanwadi
(Average walking time 8 hours)
Many pilgrims return from Panchtarni to Chandanwadi in one day. After
completing their pilgrimage to the cave most are happy to trek as far as
they can the following Day.
Day 6: Chandanwadi To Pahalgam
(Average walking time 4 hours)
On the final Day most pilgrims arrive back in the Pahalgam bazaar with
enough time to complete the drive to Srinagar or Jammu the same day.