Last updated on July 8th, 2018.
Sonamarg is a commercial tourist destination and it’s one of the places where you will find more tourists than locals during the season. Hence, travel agents in Srinagar will try to convince you that the only way to reach Sonamarg is by hiring a taxi. There are budget ways to reach Sonamarg, nevertheless, they are a bit more sophisticated than Srinagar to Pahalgam route.
The distance between Srinagar and Sonamarg is 80 km and it takes around 2-3 hours to reach. You might hire a direct personal cab from Srinagar for 2k INR. The best taxi fare I managed to find is 1500 INR (but, hey, I’m a foreigner, Indians might do better). This post is for those who want to reach from Srinagar to Sonamarg on a budget. There are several ways you can go about it.
Srinagar to Sonamarg by shared taxi via Kangan
The itinerary will be the following: Dalgate -> Soura -> Kangan -> Sonamarg. There are shared jeeps that transport local people from Soura stand to Kangan. It takes 1 – 1.5 hour to reach depending on the traffic jam in Srinagar. The fare is 80 INR and should be paid directly to the driver.
Soura is roughly 10 km from TRC stand in Srinagar. Autos will charge 200 INR to reach there. There are also local buses going from Dalgate to Soura. They do get overcrowded and if you have luggage this might not be the best idea.
From Kangan, there are shared jeeps going to Sonamarg. It takes 1.5 hours to reach and costs 80 INR. The cars leave when they get filled and the fare is paid directly to the driver.
Overall it takes 3 hours to reach Sonamarg, not including the waiting time for the transport and it costs 160 INR. If you are starting from Sonamarg, the shared jeeps leave from the stand (coordinates: 34.301203, 75.293898).
Srinagar to Sonamarg direct bus or jeep
Note, this route is not as reliable as the previous one. Sonamarg lies on a national highway and it’s one of the stops on the way to Kargil, Leh and other tourist points. While the jeeps to Leh will not agree to take you unless you pay the full price of the ticket, the bus will.
You need to approach TRC bus stand counter one day before the journey. They have daily buses going from Srinagar to Leh at 8 a.m. These are mail buses so they take longer time. According to the driver, the bus reaches Sonamarg around 1 p.m. The ticket costs 240 INR one way.
There is also JKSRTC bus network with direct buses to Sonamarg from Srinagar. Nevertheless, at the bus stand, the information point couldn’t provide any information on that. They usually send you to talk to the drivers directly.
What to do in Sonamarg and why it’s so famous?
There are three places near Srinagar which are particularly famous: Sonamarg, Gulmarg, and Pahalgam (in the order of their popularity). They all have beautiful nature and snow, which is a dream of many Indians to experience. Most of Indians who live outside Himalaya region have never seen or touched the snow so it’s an experience for them itself.
Nevertheless, these places are way overcrowded during the season with tourists, cars, ponies, and souvenirs. If you are looking for comfort, internet and different cuisines within a walking reach, the towns mentioned above are your best bet in Kashmir area. If you are ready to compromise in some areas of comfort, do check smaller and quieter Kashmiri villages.
There are a few especially famous places in Sonamarg: Thajwas Glacier, Zojila Pass, Zero Point, a few picturesque lakes. There are also adventurous activities like river rafting, trekking, and sledding.
If you are on a budget, you can trek to Thajwas Glacier by foot. It’s 3 km one way – 6 km both ways from the center of Sonamarg. If you are planning to go to Leh afterward and not really interested in sledding, Zero Point and Zojila Pass come on the way. There are usually many cars creating a traffic jam there, so you might get even a chance to click a picture.
Where to stay in Sonamarg?
If you do accommodation search online, options start from 2000 INR per night with an average price 3500 INR. Personally, I haven’t stayed in Sonamarg, but I’ve seen a few local guesthouses as an addition to the cafes. I had lunch at Zeeshan Hotel and Restaurant. It sounds fancy, but its prices are of a standard dhaba. It charges 700 INR per room per night and there are a few more similar options down the road.
Note, if you travel in high tourist season on weekends, I don’t recommend relying on luck that you will find accommodation on the spot.
Check also: How to search for accommodation in India?
- Confirm with the local people about transport from Soura. When I was in Srinagar, there was a driver strike, so I had to delay plans by 2 days.
- Be ready to start early. This is the main Srinagar to Leh highway and during the daytime, there are many vehicles and you might be stuck in the traffic jam.
- Respect local initiative to reduce plastic and leave your chips and junk at home.
Now you know at least a few ways to make your trip to Sonamarg budget friendly if you are an individual traveler. If you are a Kashmiri or happen to know better ways, feel free to leave a comment and share with others 😉