Kashmir : Ever seen “Paradise on Earth”?!

What if we told you that “Paradise” does exist! Google Kashmir up and you would probably find a dozen articles on the Kashmir issue (a beautiful region in Asia  destroyed by political motivations). To most people in India, Kashmir is that place that is always at war and has safety issues that Kashmiris have inflected upon themselves (or have been sponsored by foreign states). To us it was a chance to take a step back, forget all the negativities associated with the place and see Kashmir for what it is ” A Paradise on Earth!”

“I think you should cancel! You would be mad to go there! Especially now!” barked a relative on the phone. The deadly terrorist attack which took the lives of 40 Indian army men was all over the news. This was a trip where we were taking my mum along so we couldn’t have been our usual adventurous self. To my surprise, it was she who said – ‘We would be doing exactly what these terrorist want by not going”. So we packed our bags and headed off to the airport.

Reaching Srinagar

Srinagar is the capital city of Kashmir and is the base of any travel within the state. Over the year, Srinagar has graced many Bollywood stars and has charmed countless tourists with it’s alluring beauty. Being the day after the attacks, however, it resembled, nothing short of a war zone. We had a cab driver waiting for us (while the general understanding is that Kashmir is safe for tourists, we would strongly recommend having an itinerary and sticking to it, we had booked ours through Travel Triangle). The cab driver appeared cheerful (in contrast to the setting. We had never seen so many army personnel at the same time in one place). “Ah sir, now that you are here, allow the hospitality of Kashmiris to change your mind about us and our beautiful state!” We could do with some cheering in all honesty, so we headed off to the touristy hilly town of Gulmarg. It had snowed a lot (yes it does snow in India!) and the roads were quite difficult to tread but the view was pure bliss!

The snowy roads leading to Gulmarg

Heavenly Gulmarg 

Gulmarg is a lovely town in Kashmir which is blessed by amazing topography. Due to the altitude and the region it is located in, it turns into a winter wonderland over winters. It is one of the best ski destinations India has to offer and is also quite popular amongst honeymooners & families. For someone, who has done multiple high altitude Himalayan treks, we still get really excited when it snows. There is something about the snow falling on you that awakens your inner child, doesn’t it?

Let is Snow!
Mum approves of the setting!

Our driver reminded us that we had to check into the hotel – the excitement got the better of us! We checked into the Heevan Retreat which was a lovely hotel with breathtaking scenery around it. We enjoyed our cuppa and switched off for the night, eagerly awaiting the next day when we get to explore Gulmarg a bit more (Round 1 well played Gulmarg, we were impressed!)

Exploring Gulmarg

There is a lot to do in Gulmarg even if you don’t need to really (we could have just sat there and admired the beauty for 3 days and we wouldn’t have noticed when the time went by). The biggest attraction is definitely the Gondola ride (one of the highest in the world). The ride itself is lovely and you will be greeted to panaromic views of the Himalayas with snow clad mountains all around you and if there is one image that you would want to take back from Gulmarg it is this! 
We reached the top (can we do it again please!) and found loads of people enjoying the snow, skiers all around and many shops offering ski mobiles. The ski mobiles ride is great and we could explore the parts which was difficult to walk to.

That’s likely the top of someone’s house! – View from the Gondola ride
Just posing! Not easy driving those machines!

There are plenty of other things one could do like ski or just slide down a sled which was really fun and resulted in a few bruises but all worth it! Day well spent and back to the hotel to get our feet warm!

Not easy carrying that weight on the sled!

 
There are plenty of things to do in Gulmarg (which we couldn’t as we decided to rest it out at the hotel for the day) but would recommend based on what we have heard from other travellers :

  • Trek to Alpather Lake (a 13 km long trek or pony ride where you are greeted to a frozen lake)
  • Get a spa in a 5 star luxury resort. The Khyber is definitely in our bucket list 
  • Explore Ferozepur Nallah (a lovely rivulet where one can camp)
  • Visit the St Mary’s Church and the Maharani Temple

Leaving Gulmarg & back to Srinagar

The last 2 days had passed in a flash. Gulmarg you were great! Reluctantly, we headed towards Srinagar. Despite the sombre environment, we would have done a grave injustice to ourselves, had we skipped Srinagar altogether. We checked in at the Radisson Hotel which we found great (there were no great views from the room but at this point we preferred great room service and a comfortable stay that comes with a Radisson Hotel). We had loads planned for the next day so an early nightcap for the day and we rise & shine early next morning 🙂

The Majestic Dal Lake & the Gardens of Srinagar 

The Dal Lake holds quite a sentimental value to the Kashmiris. It is so sacred to them that poems have been written about it and songs have been sung about it. The Dal Lake is home to plenty of traders who have set up their base at the lake itself. Every morning at around 6 AM, a floating market is brought to life, where the traders do business between themselves while tourists line up to take the shikara (small boat) ride to explore the beautiful lake.

Given the circumstances and the fact that it was winters, we were practically the only ones there and the lake resembled the hollow mood of the city, but we are sure it’s much more lively in the summers (heck so much has been said about it over the years). The boat ride takes about 2 hours as you can take multiple pit stops at the various shops, drink kawha (tea) or eat in some of the floating restaurants or better still book a houseboat (these can range from the basic ones suiting a backpacker’s needs to those with a keen eye for luxury – we preferred a hotel room, so decided to give it a skip)

The Shikara ride at the Dal Lake is a must do!

No one comes to Srinagar and misses the many Gardens. These gardens have their place in the history as the gardens of heaven themselves (well atleast they say so), but they sure are beautiful! There are 2 that we would definitely recommend going to – Shalimar Bagh & Chashma Shahi. These gardens are major tourist attractions in the summers but even at this time of the year, we really liked visiting them.

The Shalimar Bagh in Winters
Chasma Shahi Gardens – mum definitely liked seeing the locations where her favorite Bollywood songs were shot ha

The next day we decided to go to Shankaracharya temple. This place holds great significance to worshippers of Lord Shiva. The temple has been standing tall since the 9th century and apart from being a religious place for Hindus, also offers a great  view of the city of Srinagar. We decided to spend the rest of the day shopping for souvenirs and some great Kashmiri handicrafts. 

There are loads of other things which one who could do in Srinagar (some of which we couldn’t) and would recommend doing based on your tastes :

  • Speaking of taste, a trip in Kashmir is incomplete without having Wazwan (signature Kashmiri food made of lamb but also a vegetarian option), Rogan Josh (lamb curry), Dum Aloo (Potato curry) & Kashmiri Pulao (Rice). Ahdoo’s Restaraunt is amongst the top rated places to go to for some great Kashmiri food
  • Wular Lake – akin to Dal lake but less frequented (so better)
  • Betaab Valley for nature lovers
  • Tulip Gardens – in the summers 🙂 
  • Sonmargagain one for the nature lovers
  • Hazratbal Mosque -Highly revered mosque and situated right on the banks of the Dal Lake
  • Shop for Pashmina Shawls – the most comfortable accessory you will ever need

    Wular Lake – can’t confirm or deny if it is indeed but not a bad photo eh?

Alas, the time had come to leave! We left with lots of memories (good ones we must say), totally in contrast to when we came. Traveling is definitely a pill that one can take to leave behind all the sorrows in life and it couldn’t have been truer now! For all the negative news the media imposes on us, we are happy to be in that zone where we can (for once) forget everything and just be the travellers who are out there to appreciate this beautiful planet of ours and this paradise that god left behind when he was creating it!

Author: thenomadicverses

We are everything that the world hates about couples.. We fight, we tease, we annoy each other, we embarrass each other even more, but we find our peace in our common love for travel. No we are not THAT couple who would do anything for a perfect couple shot, we just want to show the world through his blog & her camera and encourage others to travel responsibly. We can be reached over email - thenomadicverses@gmail.com, Instagram - @the_nomadic_verses or Facebook - @thenomadicverses

9 Replies to “Kashmir : Ever seen “Paradise on Earth”?!”

  1. Very elaborately written blog. It was splendid holiday trip. You have penned down each and every aspect so beautifully in your blog. Any traveller would be impressed to get all details, from your blog to have a great holiday if one would like to have.
    Wo kehte hain na “Kashmir nai dekha toh kya dekha in life”

  2. Awesome blog. You have brought Kashmir to life through your blog. Lovely pics too

  3. You have done an awesome job writing this post. You give the reader the feeling of being there in person and experiencing this paradise for themselves! Beautiful photography. Truly enjoyed reading. I could visualize myself being there!

  4. Very well narrated. I have never been to Kashmir. However this blog made up for it. I’d encourage creating Vlogs on YouTube that will reach more people.

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