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Sarthal Valley

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Sometimes I think that parts of nature are like that quiet friend we all have. You need to sit down with them in order to have some of the most amazing one on one conversations possible. You cannot rush them but instead need to enjoy life with them at a slow pace. And a prettily perched simple valley in Jammu seems to me like nature’s personification of that quiet friend.

The drive leading you up to Sarthal is one dotted with tiny hamlets and villages. Stop by for a moment or two and let their charm befriend you. Along the way, there is also a waterfall for you to stop and stare at or even play in! But this is just the beginning. The valley sheltered within Jammu’s Kathua district is actually home to a number of waterfalls and streams. Not to forget the meadows in which it lays sprawled. This destination at approximately 7,000 odd feet receives considerable amount of snowfall in the winter months, so, be cautious of when you decide to go pay a visit.

How to reach: If you are looking to fly down, you will have to board a flight for Jammu. Meanwhile, train passengers can board a train till Kathua Railway Station. Thereafter, both parties are required to travel by road. This can be done through local taxis but for ease and convenience it is suggested to book one in advance.

Best time to visit: It can be visited throughout the year except in specific weeks predicted for heavy snowfall. September to early December, late February to April are the general periods considered best for a visit here.

Surrounded by tall mountains on all sides, Sarthal is home to a semi-nomadic village existing in a somewhat raw state, wrapped in its simplicity and natural beauty. The inhabitants themselves live in the village for only half a year as the second half brings with it winter at which time they migrate to the lower lands.

how to reach sarthal valley
Source: https://travelthehimalayas.com/the-great-himalayan-drive

The slice of nature is also home to a temple which has wanderers and believers alike paying it a visit. The Athra Bhuji temple has been established within a cave. They say that back in the 14th century, the god’s idol was brought down from Kashmir to be placed in this part of Jammu. Legends believe that goddess Athara Bhuja was away from her abode back in Kashmir’s Hari Parbat. She happened to pass through the Sighpora pass when she felt the urge to rest. At the time she took shelter in the same cave that it today the location of the temple!

Annually, a yatra is held in which the goddess’s idol is carried from Sarthal to Kishtwar in the winter season. Locals say that the yatra sees thousands coming to their cosy little village. People seek the higher power’s blessings and also look forward to some anticipated performances. These involve performers walking on fire or doing fire dances also! I imagine that the sudden influx of folks and well-wishers would make the valley come alive in different ways. Don’t you think?

Nearby Sarthal Valley is a quaint hamlet called Bani. This mountain attraction is a glaciated valley. It is located in close proximity to the river called Sewa. So, if your time and schedule permits, you can even pay a visit there as it is just about 20kms away. You can also head on over to the nearby Padri Pass and Bhaderwah Chamba road. These areas again have thick mountain forests for you to explore through pillars of trees. All these locations, from Sarthal Valley to its neighbouring destinations are parts of lesser explored areas in Jammu. They let you see nature in their raw unadulterated and uninterrupted forms. Additionally, for the travellers who seek peace and quiet, who seek an escape from concrete jungles and crowded places, who seek to get away from the mad hustle-bustle they are acquainted with back home, all these make for solid picks. That is because they do not receive too many visitors, so, they allow travellers to explore in a nearabout state of solitude. Or if not absolute solitude, at least with the peace and quiet of lesser number of people being around them.

bani sarthal valley
Source: https://www.thethumpingnomad.com/blog/jammu-beyond-kashmir

Ah yes, today this area is also increasingly becoming a part of bikers’ tour routes in the area. Imagine, this was once a traditional ancient route. It also connects to one of the highest passes around, Chattergalla Pass. This stretch is a key and intrinsic connecting link to the said pass. Interestingly, at Chattergalla one can experience some really strong winds! So, make sure to make your ear muffs, woollen caps and what not. Or, if you want to actually enjoy the wind, just leave your hair open to let it play with the whistling wind. I would do that, would you do it too? We could scream and giggle and play with the winds for as long as our hearts pleased.

chattergalla pass
Source: https://www.dailyexcelsior.com/bani-sarthal/

Due to its connectivity to Kathua, Sarthal too has slowly and steadily been receiving more and more visitors. But it is still fairly offbeat enough to ensure you enjoy your peace and quiet there. Maybe pack a picnic and spend a day by picking out a nice spot in the meadows, reading a book, playing some games, listening to the music, all the while staring at the views engulfing you. Or maybe you could throw on your shoes and do some adventurous trekking in unmarked lands, to scratch the itch of the explorer within you. Or how about sitting down for a cup of kahwa with locals to hear about some folklores and stories passed down through generations from them?

Sarthal Valley is for the visitor who wants to reconnect with their quiet friend living alive amidst nature.

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