Tosa Maidan and Greater Lakes Trek | Kashmir

by Vanessa

Embarking on my first visit to the Kashmiri countryside was exciting and this Himalayan heaven lived up to my expectations and beyond. Our 5-day trek covered the Tosa Maidan and the Greater Lakes in the Bugdam District to an altitude of 4010m. I totally recommend this hike mainly because I was completely seduced by the unspoiled nature!

About Tosa Maidan

Lying within the inner Himalayas, Tosa Maidan, meaning ‘King of Meadows’ in Kashmiri, deserves its name as this area in the Bugdam district of Jammu and Kashmir is so vast. It was leased to the army for 50 years which ended in April 2014, J&K Tourism was set up in September 2014 to open up the area to trekkers and campers alike. In the Summer, the camps of the Gujjar community and be seen along with the shepherds that head to the mountains to rear flocks of sheep.

Itinerary for Tosa Maidan and Greater Lakes Trek

Day 1: Srinagar to start the Tosa Maidan trek

Travel: 6.30 am leave from Srinagar, 1.5 hrs travel to Shanglipora

Trek Time: 5 hours from village to camp

Distance: 8kms

Height: 3180m camping spot

Driving from the city of Srinigar after staying on a houseboat moored on Nigeen Lake, we headed to the country passing rice fields, apple trees, corn plants, and a lovely rainbow which was a beautiful sign for the trip ahead. We stopped to get a lassi and the cooks grabbed some last-minute food shopping, the locals walked over to the bus, one local man looked straight at me looking very shocked, one lady crossed the road to smile and wave at us, I’m not sure what they were thinking. Our guides told us we were the third group of international tourists on this trail since J&K Tourism was set up so we were clearly a rare sight in these parts.

We arrived at the village of Khag Shanglipora where we would meet the porters with the horses to carry our tents, backpacks, food including live chickens, again we were big news, the locals wanted photos with us, girls were shy and giggled when we smiled at them, very endearing. The trek was started from here at around 2150m into the luscious green forest.

There were a lot of local Kashmiris on this stretch, so if you need to pee, go before you set out as you will not be alone as different groups joined us as we walked up the mountain. We were joined then by a group of girls off to chop wood balancing the axes on their heads, the 15-year-old was super chatty. They wanted to carry our backpacks for us, feeling guilty I checked with our guide Ajaz, he said they were having great fun with us and they insisted!

Kahmiri wood chopper girls as we trekked to Tosa Maidan

The dense forest turned into a steep rocky path and after 3 hours we found the first level to rest in the clouds, it was wonderful. We proceeded down the stream and across the meadows to reach our camping spot for the night. The rain greeted us but the sunshine soon came out for us to lie in the sun on the green carpet of the meadows and take in what lucky people we were. We could see the stunning views of Haramukh Mountain, Kolahoi Peak and the Nun Kun Peaks into the distance.

Day 2: Tosa Maidan to Gadtarsar basecamp

Trek Time: 6 hours

Distance: 11kms

Altitude: 3920m camping spot

Considering the peace and tranquility, nobody needs an alarm up here, the horses and daylight will wake you up nicely! Breakfast at 7am ready for moving to basecamp for 2 days. We had a visitor to camp, Syed from Department of Sheep Husbandry, who stays in the mountains in the Summer to help the shepherds care for their flock. He said “I felt it was my duty to come and say welcome”. How hospitable!

The 6 hour trek to basecamp wasn’t difficult; we were ascending higher which slowed down our pace. Endless beautiful views and the snow we had seen from lower down became a reality. A local couple helped us find a perfect place to cross the stream, they were off to find medicinal herbs, the meadow is so rich in flora and fauna. At one point, sheep from all around the hills came rushing towards us nearly knocking us off our feet, don’t think they see many other people to say hi to. Just as friendly as the two ladies who sat on a rock and sang us a Welcome song.

We reached camp about 2pm feeling a bit weary. The porters were fishing for trout for dinner, not with a rod though but their method seemed to work. As the sun went down, you could really feel the drop in temperature compared to the first camp in Tosa Maidan. The thunder started as we went to bed which lit up the sky behind the mountains, you could hear the horses going crazy in the rain all night, poor things!

Day 3: Gadtarsar Lakes and more

Trek Time: 5 hours

Distance: 6kms

Altitude: 3920m camping spot / 4010m trek

We took it a little easier today, a few people in the camp were feeling some effects of altitude. I wasn’t alone with symptoms, mine was evident for all to see, I woke up with a completely swelled up face and I looked like The Elephant Man, not a good look (no selfies on this day)! We live at sea level so it probably affected us more, altitude sickness meds next time. This trek can definitely be done in quicker time if you’re feeling tip-top!

Our trek passed the streams, over huge rocky boulders and green meadows to reach GaadtarSar I, II, III. Each alpine lake was tiered one above each other. Gaad means fish and Sar is Lake in Kashmiri, hence the name! We moved over the snow to check out Damam sar, about 800m in length, and a nearby lakelet. Their beauty is simply breath-taking. A shepherd told our guides that an endangered snow leopard was sighted in the night, it made sense why we heard barking dogs to scare them off the flocks of sheep (and keep us awake), mind-boggling to think what is going on outside the bubble of our tent.

The cooks in the camp ordered in mutton from a local shepherd as a treat to us trekkers. After I took a peak around the cooks tent, I can confirm this was halal meat for dinner, you can imagine what I saw!

Day 4: Boadsar to Tosa Maidan

Trek Time: 5.5 hours in the morning / 4 hours in the afternoon

Distance: 9k morning trek / 11k morning trek

Altitude: 4100m morning trek / 3920m camping spot / Original camp 3180m

We set off over the running stream by our camp to make our way up the opposing, steep hill; a mix of rocks, grass and snow. That was an early morning struggle to summit over 4,000m. To reach the lake called Boad Sar and the neighbouring lake, Pamsar, we traversed across many huge rocks and met many flocks of sheep and goats herded up by Kashmiri shepherds. The weather changed from a cold start to warming up when the clouds cleared to reveal the lovely sun shining down on your back. This soon changed the higher we got, the layers of clothing were applied, taken off then reapplied until the rain hit. With all seasons in one morning, you’ll be feeling pretty smug if you’ve packed for this trek wisely. This was the most challenging trek for me with the weather and the higher ascent but I loved every minute!

In the afternoon, we headed back to original camp. Even though it was a descend in altitude there were many ups and downs but the blue skies came through for us. After the morning trek, this 19km day was a challenge for this average hiker!

Day Five: Tosa Maidan to Srinagar

Trek Time: 4.5 hours

Distance: 8k to Shanglipora

Altitude: Descend from 3200m to 2150m

The camp was packed up for one last time to head back to the village of Shanglipora. Syed the vet came to say his goodbyes as he had spotted the camp from afar. So just a small matter of descending that super steep mountain! We walked through fog that cleared as quick as it came and felt pretty delighted to rest my feet at the village with a cup of kava tea in hand and reflect on what a truly memorable experience this has been… and then more thoughts turned to the shower I desperately needed when we arrived in Srinagar!


Visa requirements for India

You would be applying for an Indian tourist visa valid for 60 days (as a UK citizen). It’s a simple online process but beware, there are a lot of questions. If you’ve travelled before, you will need your visa number from your previous trip. Check the Indian Government website for eligibility with your passport. Once you have filled out the form, uploaded the documents, and paid, your visa will arrive within 4 days, usually sooner in my experience.

IMPORTANT TIP: I recommend you DO NOT use any 3rd party visa company. I did this in error once and missed a trip for Diwali, they generally do not respond and are extremely slow in processing your application.

The registration process for Kashmir

There are special requirements are in place for Jammu and Kashmir due to security concerns. If you arrive by air, you will be registered at the airport on arrival. Coming by road, you will need to fill in a registration form at a police checkpoint. The registration process is free, you just need to show your valid passport and visa.


Explore Kashmir tours

My trip was organised by Trekkup flying with Air India from Dubai to Srinagar via Delhi.

Where to stay in Srinagar

Book a stay in Srinagar before and after your trek! Try staying on a houseboat or splash out on a super comfy stay to rest your weary feet after the hike. 

Travel insurance for Kashmir

Organise travel insurance with Battleface as they cover the most challenging destinations.

If you are looking at World Nomads, your insurance may be void for Kashmir so it is worth checking the current situation.

Image of Kashmir Trekking guide

You may also like


Amy in Dubai 31st July 2017 - 10:26 am

Thanks for sharing this story about a place In the world few get to see. It looks beautiful and is now on the bucket list!!

Vanessa 31st July 2017 - 10:30 am

You are so welcome Amy, I want to tell the world how stunning Kashmir is! Thank you for taking the time to read 🙂

Sarah 31st July 2017 - 11:23 am

It sounds like an amazing adventure in such a beautiful and unspoilt part of the world…. thanks for sharing!

Vanessa 3rd August 2017 - 2:46 pm

Absolutely unspoilt and stunning – loved my adventure!

mudasir 31st July 2017 - 1:26 pm

Where ever is an adventure .There u will find an alpine adventurer. Thanks for visiting our kashmir .A famous poet has rightly quoted if there is any paradise on the earth it’s only in kashmir

Vanessa 3rd August 2017 - 2:47 pm

It was my first experience in Kashmir… I will be back!

Dave 1st August 2017 - 1:19 am

Great post, i was heading to Kashmir three years ago when a huge storm hit the region cutting it off. I could not reach Leh and Ladakh nor Kashmir. You post makes me want to return so badly 🙂

Vanessa 3rd August 2017 - 2:48 pm

Oh no that is such a shame – I hope you get to return and experience the alpine lakes!

Usman Qayoom 1st August 2017 - 8:59 pm

Thanks for sharing this story about the place which is known as Venice of East or trekkers heaven . Kashmir is rich in Adventure sports like trekking , Heritage , craft and cuisine .

Vanessa 3rd August 2017 - 2:49 pm

You are welcome. I was quite taken by surprise at how fabulous it was and the endless options of what you can do there. I do hope to return!

Daayim 2nd August 2017 - 3:28 pm

it is heaven but the situation politically is hell, lovely pictures nonetheless, haven’t been home since a long time, hope you get to revisit other treks of the place , they are indeed worth accomplishing, best wishes Van

Vanessa 3rd August 2017 - 2:50 pm

Unfortunately you are right. I was lucky to experience the trekking there and hope to explore more next time 🙂

Muzafer Ahmed 6th March 2018 - 8:15 pm

Glad to learn that you enjoyed the trip. Hope you’re back soon. I’m from the village right in the lap of tosamaidan.

Vanessa 12th March 2018 - 9:14 am

Oh wow, so lovely to hear from you. Hope you enjoyed reading my blog. I always tell people this was one of my favourite treks, it blew me away, so pretty! I’ll be back to discover more in the region for sure.

Kim 25th August 2020 - 11:35 pm

Tosa Maidan looks like such an incredible trek – it’s definitely on my list!

Vanessa 20th September 2020 - 9:30 am

Trekking this area of Kashmir was a dream, such stunning scenery. I will never forget my trek in Tosa Maidan!


Leave a Comment

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More

error: Content is protected !!