For trekkers, Kashmir is the ultimate paradise. The terrain from the Shivalik hills of Jammu to the rugged mountains of Ladakh is a geographer's delight. Nowhere in the world can one see so much change in geography in such a small distance: flora and fauna; Alpine pastures saddled among snow clad peaks with pure oxygenated air; high-altitude lakes of Kishensar, Vishensar and Gangabal full of trout. Your constant companions would be the nomadic shepherds - the Gujjars - the tough and sturdy mountain folk who can carry you on their back and still complete the trek in half the time and who claim to be descendants of Moses. One can go back-packing on one's own or take on a 'five star' trek in the Mughal fashion with camp cots, tables and chairs and bearers in waiting For those who want to do it in real Alpine style, equipment is readily available in Srinagar, Pahalgam and Sonmarg, the main take off points. Choice provisions can be purchased in Srinagar.One can hike for a day, or disappear in the mountains for a week, enjoy the tranquility and serenity, becoming one with the surroundings in a rare communion with nature. For tougher treks, Ladakh offers the true rugged Himalayan adventure amid high mountains, lofty peaks and endless glaciers. Treks range from four days to two weeks. In fact, if one combines some of the trails, one can go on exploring the mountains for months together. But one has to be cautious while trekking in Ladakh. The climate and terrain are more demanding, being almost a high-altitude desert with extreme temperature. One has to be self-sufficient in food as the local population has very little food to spare. In some places one may not see any life for days together. The trekking season extends from mid May till mid Oct. No permits are required for trekking anywhere in Kashmir or Ladakh in open areas. However, certain areas close to the border are restricted zones. Entry into these areas delineated by an imaginary line drawn one mile north of Zojila-Kargil-Leh road and one mile west of Leh-Upshi-Manali road is forbidden. Violation may result in arrest and prosecution. Should one be going for very long treks in these high mountains, it is advisable to register with tourist authorities and also inform them on return.
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