Kashmir Scan, Oct 2014
TARSAR is an almond-shaped, alpine lake in Aru in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district, shadowed by peaks of the Kolahoi Mountain. Tarsar is separated by a 4,000 ft high mountain from another lake of the same nature, known as Marsar Lake, which is located near the Dachigam National Park. The two lakes are together referred to as the twin sisters.
Kashmir’s last independent ruler Yusuf Shah Chak mentioned these in his poetry, writing to his beloved:
Tarsar is drained by a stream into the Lidder River at Lidderwat, which is located 15 km to the east and on the trek route to the lake from Aru, Pahalgam. Marsar drains out and flows in the opposite direction.
Tarsar freezes over in winter and still has ice floating in it in the summer, the only time it is accessible to visitors. Its basin is wreathed by a sheet of alpine flowers such as geum, blue poppy, potentilla, gentian and Hedysarum. In the summer, the lake hosts breeding colonies of migratory birds, including bar-headed geese, lammergeyers, high-flying choughs, Himalayan golden eagles, cinnamon sparrows and black bulbuls.
The basin of Tarsar and the adjoining Dachigam Park constitute one of the most important habitats of Hangul, or the Kashmir stag, ibex, musk deer, snow leopard, Himalayan brown bear and the golden marmot.
Tarsar can be reached from Srinagar via a 102-km road which leads through Anantnag and Pahalgam to the Aru trekking camp. There is an alternate route that leads through Ganderbal and a trekking starting point at Sumbal, but it is steeper and more difficult. The best accessible route to Tarsar and Marsar, however, is Nage-Baren, a place about 5 km from the lakes in Tral.
The trek provides a breathtaking vista of scenic meadows, small pristine lakes and beautiful valleys.
From the lakes, a 40-minute walk up a moraine or a climb up a small ridge leads to Sonasar, a smaller lake but no less beautiful, and on to Shekwass village. From here, Pahalgam is not far away.