“Jannat” on Earth…
We are always told if there is heaven on earth, then its named “Kashmir”. And I could not agree more on visiting this place.
We visited in the month of August. It was a Family trip!!! 4 days and 5 nights
Basic Budget: 15k-20k (including airfare from Delhi)
How to Reach
Srinagar is the Summer capital city and a gateway to Kashmir.
Kashmir has the benefit of bus services which constantly witness a heavy rush of passengers. These facilitate booking tickets early using an online medium.
Kashmir does not have a railway station and the Jammu Railway Station located at a distance of 260 km from it.
People interested in flying to Kashmir can choose to land at Srinagar International Airport or the Jammu Airport from where plenty of cabs operate for the convenience of tourists heading to Kashmir.
For the people wanting a bit of adventure, there is always an opportunity to drive down to Kashmir by car to revel in the natural settings of the most patronised holiday destination. So book a cab in advance or choose to drive down in one’s own vehicle.
Best Time to Travel
Every season has a different picture in Kashmir, that’s’ the beauty of this place. So you can choose from the variety of moods Kashmir holds: Spring (Mar-early May), Summers (early May-late August), Autumn (Sept-Nov) and Winters (Dec-early Mar).
The winter season for Kashmir is my favourite when the entire valley wears a white blanket of snow. For those, who enjoy the chilling weather and are interested in skiing, winter is the time to be in Kashmir.
What to Do
Choose a mood of Kashmir to match yours and it won’t disappoint you!
We visited in August, which is summer season. There was not much of snow, but the weather was pleasant.
We were welcome by a spectacular view from the time we stepped out of the air plane. It is one of beautiful airport views I have encountered.
But photography is prohibited there :( else would have got a to die for view. Less that I could expect, Srinagar city had a bunch of spectacular views for us in store.
We took an early morning flight, so to make full use of our day.
After resting a bit the gardens of Srinagar were awaiting us. Botanical Garden, Chasm-e-sahi (Mughal Garden) with its ice cold water, Nishat Bagh were some of our places to visit for Day 1.
These gardens have a minimal entry fee and the view they offer are Priceless!
The beauty of this place is beyond our definition of words. There were beds of flowers along with lush green grass and other water bodies. It was a delight to visit this place.
Early morning next day, we had planned for Sonmarg. It is almost 80kms from Srinagar, and it took us 2hrs to reach. The route provides many opportunities to enjoy the scenic beauty. The Jhelum river accompanies you through most part of the route. There are many small food joints en route where you can stop for tea/breakfast or quick bites.
On reaching Sonmarg, there is a base camp where all the private vehicles are to be parked and from there to reach the main point either some jeeps or horses are available. But if you wish to trek, the way is easy and not that far off. So I would suggest if you want to enjoy the beauty, trek to the point.
Visiting in the month of august deprived us of the snow, but there were glaciers still there and the local people arranged sports like sledging etc for the tourist. The point where glaciers were there had an acute temperature, so carrying heavy woollens is suggested.
There was small kiosk which offered Maggi and tea/coffee. and enjoying this at that altitude with that kind of temperature is beyond my explanation.
Just beware, the glaciers tend to melt and hence its a bit risky to step on them, so be mind full they are too slippery.
Carrying raincoat and umbrella is suggested as it rained on our visit and you would not want to be drenched in that chilling weather.
The last thing you would want it to get sick.
From the base, there are various tourist spots, there is this last gaon/village of India at the border, also there are options for rafting(nothing great though). There is a centre where they provide some water sports like zorbing etc.
The route was no less then a miracle, barren small mountains and barren roads, it was like a movie scene. Also there is a base camp of Indian army in the vicinity and there was a post change to leh/ladakh, so we encountered the process of so many Indian army trucks carrying the new battalion and food etc for the posts up there for our soldiers. It was a moment of desh bhakti/patriotism for us.
It was almost a full day trip up down from Sonmarg, there are not many hotels around so came back to Srinagar city.
Our hotel had a dinner buffet complementary so we enjoyed Kashmiri cuisines. Briyani and chicken dishes along with shorba! Yummyyy!!! :P
Next day was planned for Gulmarg, which again is 50kms from Srinagar, hence we left early and it took us 1.5hrs. The route was yet again beautiful, needless to say, Kashmir is just full of overwhelming beauty you cant get enough of it. You can still see far of Snow capped peaks, the tourist spots had glaciers for us as of now.
On reaching Gulmarg or driver suggested us to rent boots and jackets mentioning it would be raining, chilly and slippery up there, but seriously we could have avoided it. Its suggested to carry footwear with a good gripper, raincoats and winter wear, renting there was not worth.
Gulmarg also has a base station where the private vehicles are to be parked, this place has many food joints /hotels / restaurants as per your requirements. From here to the point from where the gondola ride starts, you can either travel via horses or walk. Its a plain route so there is no issue.
Gondola rides are the famous thing there, there are 2 phases. they are basically based on the weather. we were unlucky to not visit the 2nd phase because of bad weather, its sure shot to get snow at phase 2 at any month of the year.
Phase one was not bad either. After walking for a while we reached the ticket counter. its advised to book gondola rides online or via hotel/tour people in the peak season, else you would encounter long queues.
It was a small 5-10mins ride to the phase1, where you could find small canteen for tea/coffee or quick bites. From there its upto you to enjoy the view around, trek if you like. Rest assured anywhere you stand you will get a picture perfect view. Also with the snow/glaciers, there are slage options for kids and adults.
You can sit back and relax in the lap of beauty :)
Also on our way back, my back met with an accident, he slipped in the snow and hurt his shoulder, so we had to rush to the army Govt hospital, which was between the gondola counter and the parking area.
Our day did not end on a happy note, but all was well at the end! We came back to Srinagar city, though if you want you can stay there at night and leave next morning.
We visited Shamilar Bagh, which was near our hotel and one of the gardens from the list of gardens Srinagar has. Tulip garden was closed as it opens up in around month of Feb.
Nothing much to say, this beautiful garden, gives a feel of the mughal period. The monuments inside were well sculpted and the lush green garden gave us the much need rest and peace our long travel to Gulmarg gave us.
It is on the same route taken for Amar Nath yatra, and when we travelled Amarnath yatra was almost over. there were food stalls all over the route for the pilgrims. Its 100kms from Srinagar and took us 3hrs to reach.
We encountered apple plantation, kesar plantation on our way, also its famous for cricket bats.
Unlike Sonmarg and Gulmarg, Pahalgam is a bit commercialized, though ts still no less of a beauty. There were some points in between for Rafting too. From here you can visit ‘The’ Betab valley, which is famous from the “bobby” movie. We skipped it because of time crunch. You can stay in Pahalgam for a night or totally avoid it in case of time crunch.
We decide to stroll around the main market and the near by gardens, though there are tourist spots from where you can view snow capped mountains and horse/trek is the medium to reach there.
The weather was normal in the day the evening start to chill out the temperatures. The main market provides options to shop for the woolen wear Kashmir is famous for, also wooden items and seasonal fruits(do try them). There are may restaurants available for all kinds for cuisines possible. So chose your pick!
After a relaxed day were back to Srinagar and the next day we had our flight in the evening.
So we decided to explore the city a bit more, rather then the private taxi we opted for the local autos and went for Shankara charya temple which is at the highest point in the city, there is beautiful view of the either city from the top, but due to security issues photography is prohibited there.
After that we decided to utilize the rest our time boating the shikar at Dal lake, shopping at the floating market and relaxing. Dal lake and shikara rides are a different experience from any other boating experience you must have had. Shikara are basically small boats with are covered with colorful tent like structure. While boating there are various small boats that are selling goods.
The lotus plantation, the vegetable plantation etc was a new experience all together. You can shop for pashmina shawls, dry fruits, jewelry, fruits, veggies, ice cream, chips etc, you name it and you get it :P
If you do not wish to travel via private taxis there are many bus services too from Srinagar city bus stand, but you have to fix your plan according to the bus timings.
What to wear/carry
The culture there is quite different from other parts of the country. Though there is no restriction over clothing, but its suggested to be in a decent wear. Clothes like shorts, mini skirts etc are not suggested.
Srinagar being the city is comparatively hotter than other tourist places around. In the month of august we were wearing half selves. But traveling on higher altitude places demanded us to wear woolen wear.
Depending on the month you are traveling, and depending on the weather forecast it is suggested to carry clothes.
Also august had rains so it is suggested to carry raincoats, umberales etc.
Where to Stay/eat
House boats are the main attraction in Kashmir, you can find plenty at Dal Lake. These boats offer various plans based on the meal and type of boats. Pre book them, they cost between 2000-8000 rs. But are an experience in itself.
Srinagar provides a variety of hotels/ restaurants around the main market/Dal lake area. But these places are bit congested and expensive. I would suggest to have a hotel near the gardens, ours was just behind Shamilar Bagh. a beautiful property it was named “Alhamra Retreat”.
Do try the Kashmiri cusines and the drinks they offer. For the cold weather they are just Perrffeeccctttt! :)
We had our hotel pre-booked, it was a beautiful property just behind shamilar bagh, away from the hustel of the city, there are many places to stay in Srinagar. The hotels near Dal lake or house boats are mostly opted as they are near the market area and center point for main attractions.
But if you have a transport and want to stay away from the hustle then I would suggest hotels away, they are less expensive and peaceful. But house boat is another experience all together, a day/night stay there is a must. Beautifully handcrafted woodwork, showpieces and staying at a water body is a lifetime experience in itself.
These boats provide food and all other facilities for the tenure you stay depending on the package opted. Also you can take shikara rides and visit the famous water market.
Cheap Thrills/hidden spots
For city sight seeing, prefer using the local transport, that would give you a feel of the culture there.
Day 1– Srinagar arrival: city tour/gardens
Day 2– Sonmarg
Day 3– Gulmarg gandola visit (can stay for a night)
Day 4– Pahalgam sightseeing/walking/rafting (can stay for a night)
Day 5– Srinagar city/shakaracharya temple/dal lake; Departure
Do’s and Don’t s
- Do carry a postpaid number, prepaid numbers do not work in Jammu and Kashmir
- Do carry your ID cards, as for security purpose, you can be demanded the same any where
- Do not wear revealing clothes, the culture does not allow there, its not like u cannot wear western wear, but be mindful of too much revealing.
- Avoid late night outings to silent places, try being in small groups
- Avoid being involved in any local gatherings at public places
- Do accommodate with the local police checking and military force roundup
- Do not go and buy where the taxi people take you to the shops. They have commission based on the tourists they take there, these shops may be good, but its suggested to traverse a bit in the market area.
- Do check the situation before you visit, as after the floods and the constant cases with terrorist attacks, this place is under very high security.
Enjoy the overwhelming Beauty that Kashmir offers! Go Banjare!