If ever there was a peaceful place on earth it’s here, nestling in the foothills of the Pir Panjal range. Naranag is a small village with just a handful of inhabitants on the left bank of the Wangath river. The picturesque surroundings of meadows, lakes and breathtaking mountain ranges create the perfect setting for a trek and invite you to forget for a while the hectic pace of daily life.
The road from Srinagar to Naranag is wonderment all the way. Bright green rice fields here, hills over there with mysterious mist-hidden peaks. But nothing compares to Naranag itself, which will plunge you into a profoundly peaceful state the moment you arrive.
The village, perched at 2,128 m above sea level, serves mainly as a base camp for hikers going to Mount Harmukh and to Gangabal and Satsar lakes (see below). Surprisingly, we are told that Naranag was founded by Gujjars (nomadic shepherds) from Gujarat (north-west India) who migrated to the foothills of the Himalayas.
If you have time, experience a short 2-day stay in Naranag. You will be staying with a local family, in basic yet authentic comfort, with organic food and the gentle murmur of the river, which will rock your nights.
In the place where the trek routes depart stand the ruins of a temple, a stunning archaeological site and one of the village’s main attractions.
The site consists of a cluster of ruined Hindu temples dedicated to Shiva, facing each other at a distance of about 200m. Little is known about them but historians agree that they were built in the 8th century in the reign of Lalithdatiya Muktadiya (724 CE – 760 CE).
Lalitaditya also nicknamed Muktadiya was a powerful ruler of the Karkota dynasty of Kashmir. He is at the origin of several remarkable sanctuaries in Kashmir, including the Sun temple of Martand.
Only a few vestiges of this complex remain except for a few temple-pavilions, open-air Shiva-lingams and a large ablution basin where a spring flows. However, this site built in local sandstone, arouses a particular curiosity and one can easily imagine its former splendor.
Nestled at the foot of Mount Harmukh, at an altitude of 3,575 m, the emerald lake of Gangabal is surely one of the most enchanting treks within the Kashmir valley. It will take you around 4 days round trip from Naranag to complete this moderate level hike.
The sometimes steep path crosses pine forests, lush meadows and two passes over 4000 m in altitude. Along the way you may meet other members of the Gujjar community who graze their flocks.