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
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.
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
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.
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.