Baltal is in the valley of the Zoji La Pass, settled on the riverside of the river sindh. This place is at 15 kms from Sonamarg. There is bus service up to Baltal from sonamarg. Baltal servers as the resting halt for the pilgrims aiming to go to Amarnath cave. It is at the height of 2743 meters from sea level. It is just 14 kms more from here until amaranth caves. Mostly base camps are set up at Baltal for this pilgrimage trekking.
Sufficient number or tents are set up for the devotees to complete the one day journey ahead from here. There are food and water facilities for the pilgrims too. Many organizations do these services free of cost too as a service to people going on the pilgrimage.
The main purpose of this settlement is to be the base camp of Amaranth Yatra. But you can choose to trek from here in to different directions too. The journey to and fro to the amaranth cave is 14 kms and can be completed in one day. But these days there is a new facility of helicopter. The ride will take you from Baltal to Paitarini at a distance of 9 km, in just 7 minutes. After this a trek of 5 kms is left to be done on foot. Other than this you can go in for camping or a day picnic at sonamarg. Have some quality time with family or enjoy alone; entirely your choice.
You can do photography or if you are an artist then sit down and do some painting or just write a poem. You can also indulge in river rafting as there are fresh rivers flowing down from their source. You can sit back and enjoy the flowers in the meadows with lush green trees all around. If you come in winters, then make the most of it and enjoy snow sports.
They are obviously the most important. If you are in the area in time for the Shravani Mela in month of July-August you must visit this holy Cave. It is believed to be more than 5000 years old and holds a special place in the hearts of all Hindus across the world. People from all over the world come to visit this cave in the Shravan month. It is at 3888 meters high from sea level. There is a Shiva Linga made of ice in the cave. The cave is open only in the summers as in other times the ice and snow makes it impossible to reach the cave and thus safety also becomes a concern.
It is believed that in this very cave Lord Shiva explained the secrets of Life to Godess Parvati. In the 130 feet high cave ice-cold water falls from the top and then forms an ice-stalagmite which is the sacred shiva linga for the devotees. There are small ice formations in the form of goddess Parvati and Lord Ganesha too. all those who are able to visit this scared cave are considered very lucky and graced by lord himself so as to accomplish this tough journey to seek the blessings of Lord Shiva. There is a feeling of eternal satisfaction upon reaching the cave as the atmosphere there is so holy and serene.
This place has a collection of one of the highest lakes in the world. There are dazzeling glaciers, sparkeling in the sun which you can see from far. The lakes like Gangabal, Gadsar, Satsar, Vishansar, and Kishansar are good picnic spots with family or enjoy your solace. There will be trekking involved to reach these lakes as they are enclosed in the valleys untouched by humans. On the way you will see beautiful meadows of flowers and lush green trees. The water is clear and the surroundings are snow clad mountains.
You will feel as if you have entered a beautiful painting. You can also do fishing and catch the priced trout fish as it is speciality of the region, but you must sort prior permission from the concerned authorities. Also kindly take food along when you go out there to the picnic spot as there are no shops or restaurants close by.
You can visit Pahalgam to see the world famous golf course. You can also see meadows full of flowers and do fishing in the rivers flowing past. There are good shops to buy the best and fresh saffron as that is the local produce. Dry fruit and woolen clothes are also the specialty of this region.
You must prefer to go in summers if you are not comfortable in extreme chilled weather. In the summers too the nights will be cool, but comfortable. The days are warm and good enough to go around exploring and enjoying nature at its best. You will see rare species of flowers growing in the wild, which are otherwise very difficult to find. Also you will get the air filled with sweet aroma from these flowers when in the valley. It will look just like an enchanting fairyland.
And if you like some adrenaline rush and want to do something exciting; certainly go there in winters. You will be able to enjoy snow skiing and snow-boarding other than playing in the fresh snow. All you need to do is be geared up for sub-zero temperatures around -8 degrees Celsius. At night the temperatures fall extremely low and it is not advised to stay out at night even for a bonfire too late, the weather is unpredictable at times and may turn rough.
Now that you have made up mind about going to Baltal we will suggest you routes to do so. There are no direct flights or trains. The nearest airport being Srinagar form there you can drive; the nearest railway station will be Udhampur or Ram nagar. The distance from Udhampur is 150kms while from Ram Nagar it is 159 kms. There is regular bus service from all the major cities in North India. And as for local transport there are ponies for rent which take approximately INR 1700 for a round trip to the Amarnath caves.
Once you have decided to go to Baltal we would suggest you to please always keep a local person or a guide with you. It is easy to get lost in the mesmerizing mountains. You may lose track of the route to be followed as for outsiders all the paths may seem the same. Also the language may be a problem with the native people not frequent with English. Also keep warm clothes and some extra dry food with you handy as the weather becomes unpredictable and it may rain or snow almost without a warning. There are very few food shops in the area so; be prepared yourself. You do not need to worry about your security as you will notice enough Indian Army personnel at guard of the area.