Kashmir, “The Heaven on Earth”, the Indian paradise, a must-visit destination.
India is a land of cultural diversity, from the snowy peaks of Himalayas to the golden sand beaches, there is a lot to explore in this South Eastern sub-continent. Mother Nature and wanderlust inspired us to visit Kashmir last April.
Kashmir is God’s miraculous gift with spectacular and breathtaking landscapes, valleys, mountain falls and serpentine rivers. Crowned by the majestic Himalayas, the magnificence of Kashmir Valley is sensational. Our sojourn in Kashmir included a 3-night stay in Srinagar and visits to Gulmarg, Dal Lake, Srinagar City Tour and Pahalgam. Sonamarg is another exceptional destination for snow lovers but we couldn’t consider it due to the tight schedule.
Our 3 nights 4 days trip to Kashmir: Day 1
We landed in Srinagar Airport from Jammu in the morning, we had already booked a Boathouse at Dal Lake through Booking.com and they had organized an airport transfer for us. The driver was very friendly and explained us about the area, people, and the safety. We reached Gate no. 8 and a colorful boat (Shikara) took us to our Boat House. New Bombay Boathouse is managed by a wonderful family. They have 2 fully furnished and equipped rooms for their guests. Beautiful design and architecture and well-maintained space. This was our time ever to experience living on a floatel (floating hotel). New Bombay has TV’s in rooms with various channels to browse; there is free Wi-Fi and hot water kettle to make your own tea/coffee. The bathroom was clean and the best part for me, they had liquid hand-wash at the wash basin. Oh, I loved it! I’m the one who always washes hands and having a liquid hand wash in a hotel room was exciting. The owner was kind and kept asking us if we needed anything.There is a dining table outside where you can enjoy your coffee; we tried their Kashmiri Kahwa with the picturesque view in the backdrop. They also serve homemade food on request.
The shikara from the boathouse to the main gate is free for the guests. We booked a 90-minute boat tour; it took us around the Dal-lake. Dal Lake is the second largest lake in India and is 22 km long. Boat owners live and work in Dal Lake, for them Dal is their home. They have lived their entire life on that water. Owner of New Bombay said he was born and raised on the lake. For them, it’s their daily livelihood.
During the boat tour, we came across many sellers, who were selling chips/drinks; some sold silver jewelry through their boat. There is a guy who was selling hot grilled chicken and even mixed cut fruits. It was just awesome to see the floating market. There was a cloth mill in the middle of the lake; we got down to see how they made Pashmina shawls which are very popular in India. There was kitchen garden in Dal Lake and they sell vegetables to the nearby restaurants.
After the boat tour, we had Kashmiri lunch at the restaurant and left to visit the rest of the city. Since we were there at the end of March, we got a glimpse of Tulip Garden, filled with thousands of colorful tulips. Our next stop was Nishat Garden; this was a favorite place for Mughals to hang out. Hazaratbal Shrine is a famous shrine in Srinagar; we weren’t able to visit as it was prayer time. We walked around Lal-chowk, had our dinner outside and came back to the boathouse. It was such a beautiful day, pleasant weather and magnificent surroundings.
New Bombay Boathouse at Dal-Lake is highly recommended.
Gulmarg was in our bucket, we had booked a cab through our auto driver. The driver Gulam Nabi is a trustworthy person; he has 2 kids and is very reliable. I gave his no. to another friend after visiting Srinagar and she was also very happy. This is the most important part of your safety when you are in unknown place. We were glad we found a good person. The drive to Gulmarg was 90 minutes. We stopped on the way to have breakfast; the road to Gulmarg is very scenic, surrounded by mountain. The peaks still had snow and some people were enjoying the ski lessons.
Since we are Canadians and have seen tons of snow, the idea of Skiing didn’t really click. Beware of the shops; they were renting Snow gear and rain boots. Make sure to check weather and use of things you want to rent. It was a very warm day, we didn’t even use the sweater we had and people were renting long winter jackets and rain boots. The guides will try to rob you, study a bit before you make any decision. Horse riding tours are also available. There is a gondola to take to the peak for skiing, we were a bit late. The lines there were huge and it was closing in an hour so we ditched it.
We had booked a hotel in Gulmarg which looked great on Booking.com and when we actually visited there, it was horrible. We canceled it immediately and booked another one in Srinagar instead. Hotels in Gulmarg are usually expensive.
Another Booking.com hitch, we booked Taj Hotel through Booking.com with good reviews. Though the hotel was good it was not a part of Taj Hotels and Resorts and the location was also isolated. Well, since we already had a long day, we just took it. The room was spacious and they were serving vegetarian food.
Gulam Nabi reached the hotel to pick us up for Pahalgam, he mentioned it was a beautiful place. The journey to Pahalgam was a bit longer than Gulmarg but it was breathtaking. The mustard farms on both the farms beneath the mountains looked ecstatic. The snow-capped mountains could still be seen from the road. We made our way through rivers and villages.
Pahalgam is also a place, where Amarnath Pilgrims gather before leaving for the travel. There are camps located especially for pilgrims. Pahalgam doesn’t allow plastic, each and every car is checked at the gate for plastic. They say, Mother Earth has blessed us with this miracle and we should maintain its beauty and not clog it with plastic, how true!
A lot of Bollywood movies were shot in Pahalgam, most recent was Jab Tak Hai Jaan, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, and October. Kashmir anyways was a prime location for Bollywood movies in the past and numbers of super hit movies were shot in the beautiful valleys of Kashmir.
Loads and loads of purely vegetarian restaurants are available all around Kashmir, some even have Jain foods. I never faced any difficulty in finding my favorite dishes in Kashmir and hubby enjoyed delicious Kashmiri “Wajawan”, a popular Kashmiri meat platter since he wanted to try the local food.
We saw Kashmir as a tremendous tourist destination, people are nice and all they want is business. It’s sad that the day we left, there was an attack and the city was immediately put under curfew. It was all over in the newspapers, we were lucky to fly before the incident. I pray to God to grant peace in Kashmir for the welfare of locals and their families.