Kashmir’s number-one trekking base, Pahalgam enjoys a stunning location around 100km east of Srinagar in the deep-cut Lidder Valley, whose pine-crested ridges ascend sharply from each bank of the chilly, fast-flowing river. The town, whose altitude is 2139m, mostly occupies the slightly flatter east bank and the lower surrounding slopes. Main Market, the central thoroughfare of the modern town, runs parallel to the river and contains most of the facilities, while the more pleasant old village lies 1.5km north, beyond Pushwan Park with its fancy flowerbeds and topiary. The town’s parks have nominal entry fees but there is free entry to the attractively landscaped grounds of the grand main mosque, Jama Masjid. The only other sight of interest is the Mamal temple, across the bridge above the west bank of the river, but eager pony-men tout rides at fixed government rates to various local beauty spots.
Pahalgam becomes extremely busy and security is tightened during the Amarnath pilgrimage in July and August. During that time especially, nearby Aru makes a quieter and more relaxing base.