Author: Alok

November 16, 2016 Alok 3 comments

I personally prefer to switch off my phone while on vacation, however we don’t get such luxury quite often. Smartphones have become such an integral part of our lives that a day without them looks difficult. And why not, look at the amazing Apps and solutions around us. Some are really brilliant and awesome. Lot of times people ask me which Apps I prefer while on trip. So here it is – from the ocean of millions of them, 5 Travel Apps that really worked for me. There is no order or Ranking here, just 5 of my favorites.


Who can even think of a trip without Google Maps? Its reach and detailing are simply mind blowing. We can arguably call Google Maps the best mobile navigation app around, and one you’ll likely use every day on the road.

While you’ll need an Internet connection to find new locations, you can save unlimited numbers of maps for later offline use. The GPS in your phone can still work without any network signal, and you can even get driving and public transit directions without being connected. I have used Google Maps Walking assist a lot on my trip to Hong Kong and it works like a breeze. I have some colleagues in Delhi who cannot move a meter without Google Maps Traffic Assistance. So Google Maps gets my “Best Buddy Travel App” tag.

google apps, Travel Apps


google translate, 5 must have appsIf you’re planning a trip to a place that don’t speak your language, you’ll find Google’s Free Translation app very useful. Simply type in the words you need to translate, pick a target language and bingo – you rock!

I found it very helpful during my trip to a small Indonesian Island called Bintan. It was so much fun to say phrases in local Indonesian and Malay Language to local shopkeepers there. Got some good bargain as well. You can even speak a phrase and have the resulting text translated. Most usefully, you can download a language pack ahead of time. This means you don’t even need to be connected to the Internet to translate – an important point for international travellers who may not have mobile data. And trust me that happen a lot of time. A must have Travel App indeed.


xe currency, 5 must have appsThere are many currency conversion Apps in App Store but I find XE currency to be the best. The best part is its simplicity to select your native currency like Indian rupee, dollars, baht etc. Then select the one you want to use right now. The moment you enter the amount the result will come in all different currencies you chose. This gives a very good idea of the value for stuff you are looking. No matter where we are, we always understand the value of a product in reference to our native currency only. XE Currency is quick and easy, and could save you a lot of money when dealing with unfamiliar exchange rates. The app doesn’t require an Internet connection to convert between currencies, but does need one to download rates when you first select a currency.


Tripit is one of the most popular travel apps out tripit, 5 must have appsthere, and for good reason. The service makes tracking even complex itineraries a breeze, without having to manually type in the details of every flight, hotel and car rental.
If the booking was made online, just forward the confirmation email and, in most cases, Tripit will automatically recognize it and update your itinerary. Once that’s done, start the app and let it download the latest updates. After that, you can access your itinerary without an Internet connection.


5-app-blogTripadvisor is another personal favorite who gets the status of my “best buddy app”. I simply love the sheer depth of information on tripadvisor. I am using it from last 5-6 years when App was not even around. We used to access the portal from website only.
It provides the best user-reviews for accommodation and attractions, and its forums also provide a wealth of information about destinations all over the world. The Travel App provides almost all the information available on the site, including access to the forums and syncing of bookmarked pages between the web and app versions.

Unfortunately it’s not able to be used offline, although the company does make dozens of free city guides available to download.

Do suggest some awesome apps you know that can help make a great trip.

google maps google translate xe currency tripit tripadvisor

November 15, 2016 Alok No comments exist

December in addition to all the pleasure that accompanies it can either be probably the most pleasurable times of the year or possibly one of the most stressful. Even though the holidays are a couple of days away, there are actions you can take to make it an extremely pleasant season. Have a Stress Free Vacation.

It is actually the season when lots of people are planning out their family trip and simplicity is paramount. Relax! Take some time to plan well today and ease into the holidays with a huge smile. Pick up your journal and pen, and let’s get started.

Below are 6 steps to planning a stress-free vacation

travel planner

@Dariusz Sankowski

1 – Reminisce over past vacations:

In your journal create two columns and label each one of them What Works and Not That Again. Under What Works list activities that come naturally, bring you happiness, and also ease into place. Under Not That Again list challenges. Write down energy exhausting activities that bring you down. What changes will you make to delegate, get rid of, or adjust the items in the Not That Again column and embrace more of what is in the What Works column?

stress free vacation

@averie woodard

2 – Select a theme that inspires you:

Precisely what is most important this vacation? Source your theme on that. If you wish to cut out traveling consider “Home for the Holidays”. If your financial budget is tight ponder “Simply Sensational”. Your theme keeps you focused. One that honors your spirituality might be “Faith and Family First”. Or select a preferred quote, for instance, Mahatma Gandhi’s “Be the Change You Wish to see in the World”. Be creative, have fun, and write it down. A planned theme goes a long way in making it a stress free vacation.

stress free vacation


3 – Arrange your major 4 priorities:

Base all of them on the things you really want which links with your theme. Get crystal clear. Write them down. When you know your priorities you are able to respond conveniently to a demand and set restrictions. When somebody suggests you get engaged look at your priorities and see if it serves them. If it does, consider it. Otherwise, the answer is likely no.

stress free vacation


4 – Set a budget:

Come up with a budget that seems good. There are numerous ways to have a wonderful vacation without accumulating stress to the budget. Show people they are cherished. Plan family fun and activities. Let an individual know what is unique about them in a card, letter, cassette, or video clip. Be inventive. Hide gifts, wrap up boxes with minimal hints inside and allow the children have a scavenger hunt. Never let a restricted budget steal your happiness. Ensure it is fun and begin a stress free vacation.

stress free vacation


5 – Set restrictions:

Determine now what you would not tolerate. Write it down. Just remember your Not That Again list? Is there somebody who ropes you into things you don’t want to do? Have the conversation which is overdue. Be compassionate, and no is no. If someone keeps asking after you have said no they are trying to control you. Setting restrictions is all about educating other people concerning how they can treat you. Is there someone you have to educate?

6 – Make a start now:

Start today so that you are tying up your final bows ahead of when the pitter patter of hoofs on the rooftop. Keep your vacation journal. The earlier you complete your tasks, the earlier you are able to sit back, smile, prop your feet up, sip your favorite hot wine, and also enjoy the atmosphere you created this season!

November 14, 2016 Alok 1 comment

Nеw Yоrk One оf thе buѕіеѕt аnd bеѕt рlасеѕ to vacation іn Amеrіса! Thеrе аrе so mаnу thіngѕ tо dо іn Nеw Yоrk thаt whеn gоіng thеrе оn vасаtіоn іt’ѕ best fоr tоurіѕtѕ tо рlаn аhеаd аnd ѕее whаt thеу wаnt tо dо bеfоrе thеу аrrіvе, this wау уоu саn rеlаx аnd еnjоу thе sights аnd ѕоundѕ оf thіѕ аmаzіng сіtу!

alok verma, new yorkMy trip happened to be just by accident, but after spending 8 days in New York City I realised that we need to be planned before heading here. Just because the sheer availability of options. The best part of my trip was the lovely sunny weather in the month of may. A sunny day is all it takes to make a great trip of New York. Here are few tips to plan a trip to the city.

time square, new york, new york city, new yoyk nightlife

The lights of Time Square in Evening kept awestruck for 10 seconds. Panoramic shot taken by phone


Thе bеѕt раrt оf bеіng a tоurіѕt іѕ уоur сhаnсе to іndulgе іn a ѕhорріng ѕрrее. You саn buу gіftѕ fоr реорlе аt hоmе аnd раmреr уоurѕеlf wіth аll ѕоrtѕ оf things. Yоu саn fіnd ѕоmе оf thе bеѕt dераrtmеnt ѕtоrеѕ аt Blооmіngdаlе, Bаrnеу’ѕ, Hеnrі аnd Lоrd & Tауlоr. Durіng thе sale ѕеаѕоn, рrісеѕ аrе unbеаtаblе. Fоr dіѕсоunt shopping, уоu саnnоt mіѕѕ Cеnturу 21, Gаbау’ѕ Outlеt аnd Sуmѕ. If сhосоlаtеѕ аrе уоur thіng, drор іn аt Jасquеѕ Tоrrеѕ bоutіquеѕ, Hеrѕhеу’ѕ аnd Lа Mаіѕоn du Chосоlаtе (аt Rосkеfеllеr Cеntеr). In fact, сhосоlаtе huntіng іѕ оnе оf thе mоѕt іntеrеѕtіng thіngѕ tо dо іn Nеw Yоrk City.




If tоurіng іѕ in уоur blооd, then, уоu саnnоt mіѕѕ thе Rосkеfеllеr Cеntеr. A lоt оf асtіvіtіеѕ аnd ѕіghtѕ аrе іn ѕtоrе fоr уоu hеrе. Thіѕ іѕ thе рlасе tо gо іf уоu want tо see a humоngоuѕ Chrіѕtmаѕ trее. Yоu саn аlѕо еnjоу wоndеrful ѕhорріng аnd еаtіng еxреrіеnсеѕ. Thе Bоtаnісаl Gаrdеn is thе рlасе tо vіѕіt іf уоu are a Nаturе lover. Thе Brоаdwау Cеntеr іѕ fоr techies. Kіdѕ tоо wіll еnjоу thе vіdео gаmеѕ аnd thе іntеrасtіvе еxреrіеnсеѕ рrоvіdеd hеrе. If, оn thе оthеr hаnd, уоu’rе іn love with thе рrіntеd wоrk, a vіѕіt tо thе public lіbrаrу іѕ a muѕt. If уоu аrе vіѕіtіng NYC wіth уоur children, оnе оf thе bеѕt thіngѕ tо do іn Nеw Yоrk wоuld bе tо tаkе thеm tо thе Brоnx Zоо whеrе uрwаrdѕ оf 6,000 species аrе wаіtіng tо еntеrtаіn thеm. Anоthеr fun zоnе fоr kіdѕ wоuld bе Stаtеn Iѕlаnd whеrе уоu саn hіt thе bеасh аnd еvеn ѕее fаmіlу frіеndlу соnсеrtѕ.




Nеw Yоrkеrѕ аrе fооdіеѕ. In fасt, New Yоrk оffеrѕ fооd tasting аnd wаlkіng tоurѕ. The Rосkеfеllеr сеntеr hаѕ grеаt vаrіеtу оf dіnіng еxреrіеnсеѕ іn ѕtоrе fоr thе trаvеlеr, іnсludіng La Mаіѕоn du Chосоlаt, Rаіnbоw Rооm, Sеа Grіll аnd so оn. If you are an Indian food fan like me, don’t miss out the Indikitch on 23rd St, Flatiron.




Nеw Yorkers lоvе a grеаt gаmе. Sо, dо nоt mіѕѕ ѕhоutіng wіth fаnѕ whеthеr іt’ѕ bаѕkеtbаll, baseball, hосkеу оr bоxіng. Thе аdrеnаlіn ruѕh аt ѕоmе оf thе ѕtаdіumѕ hаѕ tо bе seen tо be believed.


Thе Amеrісаn Muѕеum оf Nаturаl Hіѕtоrу:

amnh_blueIf уоu аrе a fаn оf hіѕtоrу оr уоu juѕt wаnt tо gеt a glimpse аt thе old artifacts, dіnоѕаur ѕkеlеtоnѕ аnd mаnу оthеr іntеrеѕtіng оbjесtѕ, уоu muѕt vіѕіt thіѕ muѕеum. It іѕ оnе of thе mоѕt visited аnd аdmіrеd muѕеumѕ іn the wоrld аnd уоu саn fіnd a wіdе vаrіеtу of рlаntѕ, аrtіfасtѕ, humаnѕ, аnd mаnу mоrе іntеrеѕtіng things.



Thеrе аrе ѕо mаnу thіngѕ tо dо in Nеw Yоrk thаt оnе will nеvеr hаvе a boring vасаtіоn. Eасh tіmе уоu vіѕіt thеrе are mоrе things tо ѕее аnd dо thаt еvеn іf уоu dо thе ѕаmе thіng аgаіn уоu wіll еnjоу іt еvеn mоrе. Tо ѕtаrt уоur vacation рlаnnіng сhесk оut аnd ѕеаrсh fоr an аmаzіng tіmе іn Nеw Yоrk!

November 9, 2016 Alok 6 comments

narendra modi, rupee banPrime minister Mr. Narendra Modi made a historic announcement on 8th Nov Evening to curb the chronic menace of fake currency in India. Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes of Indian currency are no more valid from 12 am Midnight of 9th Nov 2016. While this is a much appreciated and much needed move to control fake currency and black money deposits in country. It may lead to some confusion in the local market, especially to our fellow travellers who are here in India from different countries. Below are few quick Money Tips to avoid such confusion and have a memorable stay in India.




1- Plastic Money Rocks

The simplest of all is to use Credit Cards/Debit Cards wherever it is acceptable. With growing penetration of cards it becomes the easiest alternative. Though it may incur some currency exchange charges. It is still better than struggling with Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes that are not accepted anymore. No problem with people carrying traveller’s check.

2- Dollar Power

Many hotel properties and travel agencies accept US dollars in India. There is a little trick while using US dollars for payment. Money Tip: Never ask for the bill in dollars, it may get bloated up. Ask for the receipt in Indian rupees then convert it with current exchange rates and pay the equivalent value in US Dollars.


3- How to Convert the Banned Notes

Foreign tourists can purchase foreign exchange equivalent to Rs. 5000 using these specified bank notes(Rs.500, Rs.1000) at airport exchange counters within 72 hours after the notification, provided they present proof of purchasing the Specified Bank Notes. So it is must for carry proof of purchase of the Indian currency.

Indian travellers who are carrying these notes can take it to any branch of the bank they have account in and get upto Rs.4000 per person in cash irrespective of the size of tender and anything over and above that will be receivable by way of credit to bank account. This exchange facility is also available at all Issue Offices of RBI and branches of commercial banks, State Co-op banks or at any Head Post Office or Sub-Post Office. In fact for exchange upto 4000 in cash you may go to any bank branch with valid identity proof. There is a simple form you may need to fill to deposit/exchange these notes in the bank. See Sample

However since the banks will be closed on 9th and maybe on 10th as well. We have to wait till the bank opens.

Below is a quick synopsis of changes proposed.


4- Traveller in Transit

ticket-counterrPrime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi in his address to the nation said, ”The
old notes will also be accepted at Railway booking counters, government bus stands and airport ticket booking counters. Those moving to and fro from the country will be allowed to exchange their old notes/foreign currency in the 72 hour window ”. This shows the thoughtfulness of the government while planning such a move. “72 hour window” means 2 days here, since the banks & ATM’s in India will be closed on 9th and 10th November. So travellers don’t need to worry as you have a backup.


5- Emergency Needs

You can use the Specified Bank Notes for paying for your hospitalization charges at government hospitals, certified medical stores within 72 hours after the notification.

6- Don’t Get Cheated

nocheatingThere are multiple reports coming on television of thugs trying to take advantage of this situation to cheat people. Incidents are reported that guys are exchanging 500 notes for 350-400 and 1000 notes for 800. There is no need to get into this trap since the banks will give 100% of the money we have. This may be an alternative for those who want to hide their black money. You may also find people who will try to convince you give away your money to some needy (fake) since it is of no use to you. Please don’t get in such traps. This Money Tip will save you a lot.

Our money is hard earned let’s keep it safe and let this phase pass through.

Those seeking more information can refer RBI Website and the website of the Government of India


November 5, 2016 Alok 2 comments

It all started with a forward email I received on 8th May 2005. Those were the times when Facebook and Orkut were not around. In fact we never heard of the term Social Networking. Gmail was quite new in India and the best part of it was that Gmail allowed upto 10 MB of attachments. This started a new revolution of social sharing in those days – “Unseen Paradise” was in from of “Email Forwards.” It was one of those viral email forwards that swept me completely. Hence I made a note to of this place in my list of “Must go places before I die.”

I started looking out for this place almost 10 years after I received that email. The email said,“The Unseen Paradise on Kerala-Karnataka Border”.  First of all I started looking out for places in Karnataka and Kerala. There was no trace of any such property or resort. After some Google image search and trying out different search keywords like floating resort, tropical floating hotel etc. I finally found this place on tripadvisor. I was so glad that this Paradise actually existed!

It is the Float House on River Kwai in Kanchanaburi, Thailand. This beautiful place is hidden inside the Sai Yok National Park on Kwai river.

Mesmerizing in its distinctive boutique style, The FloatHouse River Kwai is one of the best floating resort of the world. The FloatHouse River Kwai Resort is a fancy boutique hideaway that can be found in very few places in the world. Most noteworthy is that the only way to reach the resort is by boat as it actually floats on a flowing river surrounded by thick green jungle. This makes it a true Unseen Paradise

Each luxurious and spacious floating villa is totally private and rich in custom tailored-made teakwood furniture with thatched roofing. The design is delightfully impressive with exotic decorations including natural materials and ropes. The design concept for the resort is known as “Contemporary Boutique Folk Style,” for a smooth blend of local artistic traditions with the natural environment, yet different from anywhere else in its characteristic rope designs that convey an oriental air.

Float house,Unseen Paradise
Unseen Paradise


It takes a 2.5-hour drive from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Town, from where you drive for about another 40 minutes towards Saiyok district where you will reach the RESOTEL Pier, next to Highway 323. The property can only be reached via the river. During the short ride (about 7 minutes) on a local long-tailed boat from the RESOTEL Pier to The FloatHouse River Kwai you will witness beautiful greenery surrounding the historic river. It seems like you are in the world of Narnia. If you are lucky then you can witness some wildlife on the way.

Unseen Paradise
Photo Courtesy – The FloatHouse River Kwai Resort – Official Website

It will cost close to 5000 bhat for a local transfer from Suvarnabhumi Airport to the Pier by road. Cheaper alternative is by train, there are 2 train departures from Bangkok to Sai oak.

Morning Train – Departs from Thonburi station at 07:50, arrives at Kanchanaburi at 10:25, River Kwai Bridge at 10:42, and Nam Tok at 12:35.

Afternoon Train – Departs from 13:55, arrives at Kanchanaburi at 16:24, River Kwai Bridge at 16:33, and Nam Tok at 18:30.
Get off at Namtok Railway Station at the end of the route and rent a local mini truck to Resotel pier

For more details of trains refer to

Unseen Paradise

When we reach the resotel we were really awestruck. The place was truly magical. Its actually a secret hideaway from the rest of the world, a place to completely switch off from mundane life.

Unseen Paradise

River Kwai Jungle Rafts Resort offers a unique accommodation experience right on the flowing Kwai Noi River. All floating rooms are tucked into a floating bamboo lodge moored along the historical River Kwai Noi surrounded by lush green mountains and jungle. At the floatel, the historic River Kwai Noi flows underneath your bed. The walls are weaved from local bamboo decorated with wooden furniture reflecting Mon living style. Each is appointed with en-suite private bathroom, balcony and a hammock. Rest. Sleep. Experience.

Unseen Paradise

Due to the ecology conservation concept, the entire floatel does NOT use electricity but rather utilizes traditional kerosene lamps at night maintaining a true eco hideaway in nature. That’s why I call it a true hideaway – No electricity – No Internet – No Bullshit.

Already curious enough to reach here? Check out our awesome  Route Planner Now!

Unseen Paradise

These lights glowing the night bring the romantic atmosphere throughout the resort. This tropical outpost affords plenty of activities, from to riding a friendly elephant through a Mon traditional village and temples, to enjoying cultural Mon folk dances every evening, to water sports like popular ‘river jump’. Lifejackets are provided in each guest room. You can simply jump from one end of the floating hotel and float along down the river and climb up at other end.

Unseen Paradise

There are no rules and plan for a leisure traveller, therefore the Resotel offer many options to someone who just wants to chill out and have fun. Do let me know if you have been to this place or if you are adding it to your “Must Visit Places List”!!

​To plan your next trip to this magical place, fill your dates below...

November 4, 2016 Alok No comments exist

We have conducted team building workshops all over India for FOCUS Adventure. This has given us first-hand experience of which are the ideal properties to conduct such offsite programs for our clients.

There are a few distinct criteria that make one hotel or resort, more “Team Offsite” friendly than another. In our opinion these are the key factors:

1. Good outdoor spaces

2. Large banquet room

3. Good Audio Visual systems

4. Support from hotel staff

5. Ease of accessibility and in-house recreational options

6. Finally, An X Factor (something that makes a location very endearing… purely our opinion)

Often, we get requests from our clients asking us for our recommendation. So, here it is – the hotel/resort locations that we would recommend basis our own experience & the different factors stated above. This is not in any particular order – just the Top 5.

The Zuri White Sands Goa Resort & Casino

is one location where we now have a history of multiple great team outbound experiences. It faces the beautiful Varca beach, which is one of the most beautiful beaches of Goa with white sand and a captivating view. The resort has a lot of outdoor areas to conduct Team Building activities, has big conference rooms and offers fantastic service to corporate clients. The hotel staff is extremely responsive to any requests regarding the conference and activities. Ideal for teams’ up to around 100 participants.

The Oberoi Udaivilas

is by far the most luxurious hotel we have ever done a workshop in. No wonder then that this property gets rated year after year as the No.1 hotel in the list of luxury hotels in India. This is one of those hotels where you feel pampered at every moment. Everything related to this hotel is royal. Great room & suites, awesome conference room, superb service and probably the best SPA service. The property is very suitably located in the lake city of Udaipur and gives multiple options for activities including a royal river lake tour on a boat. Ideal for a team of up to 75 participants. And a must for those teams who want to pamper themselves with a treat of luxury.​

Taj Exotica Goa

on the Benaulim beach of Goa is a lush green property that makes you feel you have come to some tropical rain forest at times. Rooms are made in the form of a villa. Especially the rooms facing the sea have a fantastic view. They have a decent conference room and facilities for an offsite. What keeps us surprised every time is the ultra-caring and very proactive hospitality of the staff. The resort has so much to offer that you don’t feel like going out to any other place in Goa. Ideal for a team of up to 100 participants. Another great place to get your team to feel pampered and loved.

Oberoi Wildflower Hall

can make you spellbound with its serene beauty; it’s a hidden paradise in the Himalayas. Far away from the hustle bustle of Shimla. This property sits peacefully on mountain top in Mashorba. The hotel offers a beautiful and adventurous natural forest trail where you want to get lost for some time – away from the noise of this world.

They smaller conference rooms, which makes it ideal for smaller group offsite. The Hotel staff is very cooperative and understands the requirement of an offsite. Ideal for a team of up to 25 participants. If your team loves mountains and wants to get to an offsite with a difference, this is a place to be.

The Zuri Kumarakom

is a fantastic option if you want your offsite in the “God’s own country”. Facing the beautiful backwaters of Vembanad Lake. The resort has limited outdoor area – however, the lake at the center of the resort lends itself very nicely to treasure hunt kind of activities that are spread around the lake. Again, this is another property where the service levels are commendably high. The hotel offers many leisure options, including a large swimming pool with water–spouting elephant sculptures and a luxury spa with Ayurvedic treatments.Ideal for a team of up to 50 participants.

These properties have delighted the teams at an offsite in many ways. Do share your view and experience if you have stayed in these properties. Also, share the name of a hotel or resort you feel should be a part of this list.

Note: This blog was originally posted by me in FOCUS Adventure India blog 3 years back. 5 Best Luxury Hotels for Team Building

October 31, 2016 Alok No comments exist

It was quoted by famous Mughal Emperor Jahangir that:“Agar Firdaws ba roy-i zamin ast, hamin ast-u hamin ast-u hamin ast,” meaning, “If there is Paradise on earth, it is this, it is this, it is this.” Such is the history of Kashmir

We grew up in 80’s watching movies with lot of Kashmir locations. So going to Kashmir was in my bucket list for quite long. So I captured every opportunity to travel to this beautiful hill station of India. Sharing here some things I loved and some tips for a memorable trip of Kashmir.

Srinagar is well connected to Delhi-India by flight and road. We (me and wife) opted for flight since we had limited time. Quick tip – be ready for a lot of patience since they sometimes take a lot of time for security check. Our stuff was checked thrice!! But at the other hand these vigilant practices gives you comfort that security is a top priority here.

We planned out trip of 6 Nights 7 Days in this manner, following some itineraries posted online –

  • Dal Lake – 1 Night
  • Sonmarg – 1 Night
  • Gulmarg – 1 Night
  • Pahalgam – 2 Nights
  • Srinagar – 1 Night

Day 1 – Srinagar – Dal Lake

kashmir, Dal lake, house boat, shikara, srinagar, kashmir

The Heart of Kashmir – Dal Lake

We went straight from airport to Dal Lake, we were most curious to see this place. And we were not disappointed at all. Dal Lake was stunningly beautiful; it was afternoon the water was shinning. Though it is quite unlikely, but we had made not booking for a hotel or houseboat in advance. But we booked a cab for the whole trip in advance and it did the entire trick. We heard about this driver from a common friend, and he was worth it. Being a local he got us the best houseboat available that time. He even negotiated with the locals in their language. To our surprise we got a beautiful, newly constructed houseboat with a wonderful view and guess what? This houseboat was not listed in any online travel-booking site!! Sometimes local surprises are worth taking the risk.

kashmir, Dal lake, house boat, shikara, srinagar, kashmir

After taking rest for 2-3 hours we headed for an evening Shikara ride. It was pleasant weather and our boat slowly moved on the calm lake. Some boats approached us with artificial Kashmiri jewelry and shawls etc. But the prices were very high. Its not good idea to but from those boat shops. We had Maggi from a floating dhaba on the lake and it was simply awesome! Our Shikara slowly headed to a floating village inside Dal Lake. This place was mesmerizing, small local shops, houses and even vegetation. We also stopped by a woodcraft shop to buy some souvenirs. It was a great and memorable experience on Dal Lake. We had our dinner in our Houseboat; the caretaker was very courteous and took great care of us.

Day 2 – Sonmarg

sonmarg, kashmir, hill station, snow, travel blog

Next morning we headed for Sonmarg. It was a beautiful ride, by the green mountains and mesmerizing valleys. It started getting colder with our approach to Sonmarg. Quick stop on a local dhaba was awesome; we enjoyed chai and onion pakoras. We started tracing snow patches by roadside and when we reached Sonmarg, it was all white. It was snow everywhere. There are very few hotels here and the local administration is taken care by Indian Army. Sonmarg is also a popular stopover in the famous Amarnath Yatra. 3 hotel properties told us that they cant supply running water in the washroom since the water supply pipes are all frozen. So we opted for the 4th one who was supplying water. What a way select hotel! Trust me it was a wise bet; hot water supply in your room is a must in such a cold place.

kashmir, Srinagar to Sonmarg, sonmarg highway, local dhaba
kashmir, Sonmarg, travel blog

Late afternoon we headed outside for sightseeing, Sonmarg is small place and does not have much except snow-laden mountains. We took the sledge ride on snow… this one was a bit different from others. You trek uphill and then slide down on a wooded sledge. It’s a lot of fun sliding down. Quick Tip: You have to be good at negotiation with these sledge operators. They started with 4k and settled 2k INR. So a scope to 50% discount exists.​

Day 3 – Gulmarg


Next morning we headed for another beautiful drive to Gulmarg from Sonmarg. Gulmarg is beautiful town of Kashmir. The ascent was beautiful; once we reached there we witnessed the beautiful grassland and natural slopes. No doubt it is called the Switzerland on India. We went to trek Khilanmarg on a horse after a little rest. Khilanmarg is a magical place; it felt like we were in the jungles of Narnia. Our guide took is to a beautiful waterfall. It was serene, peaceful waterfall with hardly anybody around, just you and the magnificent nature!


Day 4 - Pahalgam


We were not finished with Gulmarg on day 3, so we spent time till afternoon here. Again hired 2 horses with a guide, who took us to scenic spots in Gulmarg including the famous ropeway. Quick Tip: Try to book ropeway in advance, since there is always a long queue and waiting time there. Your hotel can book it for you. We moved to Pahalgam after having lunch in Gulmarg. On the way our driver took us to beautiful apple orchids of Kashmir. We reached Pahalgam in evening and were too tired to go out. Our hotel was right beside the stream and it was a wonderful location.

Day 5 - Pahalgam


Pahalgam is comparably the best town of Kashmir. We had a thought the next time we will only come for this place. Pahalgam has everything you can ask for in a perfect hill spot – Beautiful Mountains and Valleys, a happening Mall road, lively mountain river and warm local hospitality. We took a horse safari to a beautiful plateau. The way to the plateau is full of scenic mountain forest and stream. It looks straight out of some romantic movie. Some highlights on this safari were “Betaab Valley”, where the famous Sunny Deol’s (Bollywood Actor) debu movie “Betaab” was shot, Kashmir Valley View point and a beautiful waterfall. We spent the evening in shopping at local markets and tasty dinner in a north Indian restaurant.

Day 6 - Srinagar


Next morning we headed back to Srinagar to cover some famous spots of the capital city. After quickly checking in our hotel, we headed for Shankaracharya Temple on mountaintop. There is a beautiful view of Kashmir valley from the temple. We went to Shalimar bagh, Nishant bagh, Chasm-e-shahi and Hazratbal Shrine. We also went to few govt. approved Kashmiri handicraft shops. Quick Tip: The local hawkers will keep approaching you with Shawls, Dresses etc. However they are not Kashmiri craft and mostly made in Ludhiana in Punjab. You can get much better deal in Delhi’s Sarojini market for same stuff. So it’s recommended to buys from real Kashmiri shops and not from hawkers. We were too tired to eat outside, so had our dinner in hotel itself. There was a lot of packing needed to catch next morning flight back to Delhi


We keep listening about so many disturbances in Kashmir valley in news, however never had any difficultly in our trip and the local courtesy was beautiful. Everybody in Kashmir cares about the tourist because they know how important tourism is to Kashmir. I am sure many readers would have their own experiences about the valley. Please share them in comments section below, we would love hear your story.