“Gar firdaus, ruhe zamin ast, hamin asto, hamin asto, hamin asto.” Mughal Emperor Jahangir
The Urdu quote means “If there is heaven on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here.”
It may sound cliché, but the truth is that the valleys of Kashmir hold a personal beauty for every traveler. It’s not only about the high rise and snowcapped mountains; or the golden rays of sun shimmering on top of the peaks; lush green fields; charming ‘chinar’ trees or the free flowing milky brooks. Kashmir comes with a personal touch which enthralls everyone to its core. There is a certain ecstasy and a definite poignancy to its wonders and no one can remain unfazed by its beauty.
Now that you have landed at Srinagar airport, jot down 5 things which you must not miss!
Where you must go?
If short of time, and you cannot explore every nook and corner of Kashmir and can only experience the charm of select few destinations then here’s the list of places you should not miss:
Srinagar city: Spend a day in Srinagar and experience the Kashmiri life style and cultures. Enjoy the nature in the many gardens in Srinagar which gives you a sense of being regal and also splendid views of Dal Lake and mountains beyond. Don’t miss the enthralling natural beauty of Shalimar Bagh, Nishat Bagh and Chashma Shahi gardens.
Dal Lake, a huge natural lake is the most famous of Srinagar’s attractions and a hub of tourist attractions.
The six massive terraces of Pari Mahal, a short drive from the city was intended as a retreat for Sufi scholars and serves the purpose till today albeit for modern day tourists.
Shankaracharya Hill or Takht-i-Suleiman is another essential destination which rises directly from the Boulevard on the southern shore of Dal lake. At its pinnacle about 1000 feet above the lake is the temple of Adi Shankarachrya. The hill is an inspirational spot and also gives some picturesque views.
Sonmarg: The meadow of gold or Sonmarg is located at 9,900 feet, 94 Km NE of Srinagar at one end of the Kashmir valley, just below the famous Zojila pass. The drive from Srinagar to Sonmarg in itself is enthralling going along hilly river, Sind, gloriously green valley. It is a gateway to Ladakh. It is surrounded by breathtaking glaciers, serene lakes, snow covered meadow adding to the majesty of the Himalayan terrain. Sonmarg is also known for trekking and hiking trail offering all types of challenges from mild to most difficult treks. Visit sonmarg to experience a beauty which can only be captured by eyes and not words.
Pahalgam: At the confluence of two streams, pahalgam is a popular tourist center. Situated at a lush and cold 8,957 feet, pahalgam can be very well described as a one-and-a- half street town.
Pahalgam offers thick, green woodlands of breathtaking beauty, with playful lidder meandering alongside being watched by stately Deodars.
What you must eat?
Kashmiri cuisine Wazwan is the most formal Kashmiri meal and a carnivorous delight. It is a many coursed meal which is a ceremony almost restricted to celebration at homes.
Choice delicacies of Wazwan include crisp tabaq maaz, pounded mutton rista and gushtaba, and yakhni. The meal concludes with Phirni for dessert and a cup of Kahwah (green tea flavored with saffron, cardamom and almonds).
Don’t miss Wazwan- a meal that is an experience in Kashmiri hospitality.
What you must buy?
Kashmir is a state of rich, diverse traditions and beautiful handicrafts displaying dignity, form and style. The appeal of the Kashmiri art and craft lies in the exclusivity and mystical tone which has a mesmerizing effect.
Shawls: Made from wool, pashmina and shahtoosh.
Wood work: Exquisite wood carving done on walnut and chinar wood.
Silver ware: ‘Naqash’ is the name of the work done on silver metal. It is an ancient art and the piece is determined by the work done and weight of the metal.
Carpets: Hand-woven and knotted carpets exclusive to Kashmir because of the art work and material used.
Silk: Kashmir offers a wide variety of silk textile designs such as chinon and crepe de chine. These are some of the finest quality produced from the silk yarn.
Papier mache: Is a unique craft involving the use of paper pulp for creating beautiful artifacts using sakhtsazi (making the object) and the naqashi (painting the surface) transforming utility items into rare pieces of art.
Where you should stay?
Houseboats on Srinagar’s waterways, mostly between Dal gate and Nehru Park are a unique experience. Staying on a houseboat gives you the feeling of living in a township floating on water! The lull sound of water, morning activity around the houseboats in the lake, and the hustle and bustle of life on water are a must have experience.
A typical houseboat has 2-5 rooms, attached bathrooms, balcony, sit-out, dining and sitting room and decorated with Kashmiri handicrafts and artifacts, carved wood and rugs. The feel of living on a houseboat which is stationary while life all around in the water (read hawkers, shikaras etc.) is exclusive.
What you must do?
Shikara ride: the real experience of Dal Lake and life on water is only where you smoothly glide over water. Take a ride on colorful high-backed seats, buy flowers from floating shops, get clicked in Kitschy Kashmiri dresses, visit the Nehru Park island and char chinar island, see the floating vegetable market at dawn, visit Hazratbal and traverse the smaller and quieter Nagin lake and old Pandit quarter of Rainawari. The shikaras give a thrilling experience of a lovely view of Zabarwan hills and a rhythmic sound of the tossing of water waves with the boat right from the middle of water.
Gulmarg gondola: experience the heights of nature resplendent with snow covered meadows, flower laden green turfs, rows of Deodar, fir and birch trees, clouds ailing around you in a ride on the world’s highest and Asia’s longest cable car, the gulmarg gondola. The gondola takes you to the highest summit in two phases, Phase 1 from gulmarg to Kangdori and Phase 2 from Kangdori to Apharwat Mountains.
Tulip garden: Kashmir’s tulip garden is Asia’s largest tulip garden. It is located in the foothills of the Zabarwan mountain range overlooking the Dal Lake. The garden is a vibrant sight with million tulips in all possible shades and colors. The terraced garden with rows and rows of tulips in bloom has a mesmerizing effect. The tulips in the garden are directly imported from Holland. The garden is also decked up with fountains and shade trees.
Be a part of an experience called Kashmir where nature never fails to delight; and you will keep coming back to this heaven on earth.