Aru Valley – A hidden gem in Kashmir

Nestled between towering mountains, and flowing streams, Aru Valley is as pristine as it gets. Lush green meadows welcome you here. Once you move past the small village, numerous meadows and lakes await you. If you are up for it, some multi-day treks from here can take you to places, you won’t believe exist! The locals pronounce it as आडू (Aadu) and not अरु (Aru) or आरू (Aaru). Don’t get confused with the pronunciations.

Where exactly is Aru?

From Pahalgam, follow the Lidder river upstream for about 12 kms and eventually you will arrive in Aru. It is a protected wildlife sanctuary and you are required to pay a small entry fee for yourself and your vehicle.

Starting from Srinagar, you will reach Aru in about 2 hours. Distance wise, it is only about 100 KMs away. There are multiple small municipal “tolls” along the route at the district “borders”. The roads are good for the most part till Pahalgam. You can shop for authentic Kesar (Saffron) and Kashmir Willow cricket bats from the innumerable shops that dot this highway. Also available, are various crafts shops – don’t forget to bargain with them, though.

The road after Pahalgam is narrow and it dips and rises often. Drive carefully if you are driving on your own. The local cabs are quite rash and best option is to let them overtake you.

Why drive fast anyway? Go slow and enjoy the views 😀.

Trekking from Aru

Various trek routes originate from Aru village. Some of the most popular treks are Kolahoi glacier, Tarsar Marsar lakes, Lidderwat, Katrinag valley etc. Being on a family holiday, any of these multi day treks was out of our agenda, but we did climb up a little to a nice meadow that goes by the name Green Top.

The path takes you up steep slopes through some small gushing streams. I enjoyed the horse ride to the top. It takes about 90 minutes to reach the Green top from the village.

Enroute, one will come across many shepherd settlements with the cattle grazing close by. At one point, the scenery reminded me of the little girl’s home as shown in the movie “Bajrangi Bhaijan“.

Views from the Green top are mesmerizing. Though I wanted to climb up some more, the fading light was a matter of concern. We stayed at the top for about an hour, just soaking in the views. The peace all around was deafening! Temperatures also fall pretty fast along with the fading light in these patches and soon we were braving some chilly winds too.

On the way down, I ditched the horse and just walked along. This allowed me to click more photos as compared to our onward journey. Apart from the local shepherds, we did not came across anyone until we retreated to lower levels, near the main market area.

While the 4x4s took the normal route, towards left, I tried a shortcut, straight. Slipped on the moist grass at one point, but thankfully no damages 😜!! Came down in one piece. Phew!

So, How many days are enough for Aru?

Most people visiting Pahalgam make a day trip to Aru. I would urge you to spend at least 2 days at this place to completely soak in the nature. (That is, if you are not headed to any of the longer treks). Just relax in the village, head out on horseback to numerous other valleys nearby, with packed food and return by Sun down. While at it, you will enjoy solitude and peace like no other place.

I really envy these kids. Have a look at their school and listen to their morning prayer.

watch the short video

Aru is one place which still tugs at my heart’s strings, (even after several months!) and I want to spend some more time there, sometime soon. Here is a parting shot of the wonderful JKTDC property in the majestic Aru.

Have you been to Aru, or beyond? What was it like and how did you like the experience? Would love to hear from you, do let us know in the comments below.

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