Gar Firdaus bar-rue zamin ast, hami asto, hamin asto, hamin ast.”
You might have heard this proverb very often which means “if there is heaven on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here” but for me, it’s not just a proverb anymore. Often referred to as the “Land of Lakes and Gardens” Kashmir the magnificent beauty will surely steal your heart. Every place here is filled with the splendid gorgeousness of nature.
In this blog, I am going to share my experience in Srinagar. Words cannot describe the feelings, so I have tried with pictures 🙂
Shikara Ride in Dal Lake
The shikara ride was one of the most peaceful parts of our trip. The 2 hours ride of Shilkara surrounded by beautiful mountains and a breathtaking view of dal lake will leave an impregnable experience on your heart. Away from the hustle-bustle of the polluted city life, a shikara ride is worth your time and money. If budget and time permits take three Shikara rides at three different times of the day. One early in the morning to see the floating market, second at day time to relax and see the city through shikara and at sunset to enjoy the view Dal lake has to offer. You can enjoy delicious food while you are on the ride.
The only downside to the ride is that your privacy gets intruded by the floating vendors. Please bargain with Shikara people they tend to quote high prices when you approach them.
A Night in Houseboat
Your trip to Srinagar would be incomplete without a night stay in houseboats. There are many hotels in Srinagar but staying in a houseboat has its own magic. We stayed in New Jersey Nigeen lake houseboat. Every houseboat itself a masterpiece, there is the balcony, lounge to relax and dine, pantry and 2-3 elegant bedrooms with attached sanitary; these are made of Cedarwood. In addition to that, walls, doors, and windows of houseboat are furnished with well-designed Kashmiri carvings which gives a royal look. You can spend your whole day standing on the balcony and looking at the lake, it has such a calming effect. Lastly, I must say their hospitality is amazing, they make sure you are comfortable and enjoy your stay. The only shortcoming is that you have limited food option.
View from our houseboat
Gondola ride to Gulmarg
Situated about 55 km. from Srinagar, it’s fairly high up in the mountains so offers amazing to breathtaking views. While most people would be familiar with the gondola (cable car) ride, there’s a great golf course too. The total aerial distance covered by Gulmarg Gondola is 5 km. The ride is in 2 phases. The first phase takes you up from Gulmarg to Kangdoori. There’s a great view of the green field and if you’re up to it you can trek. The second phase is from Kangdoori to Apharwat. This is the highest point of this gondola around 14,000 feet. The Gondola ride for both the phase will cost you 1600 INR.
Phase 2 of the Gondola Ride is a prime attraction as it gives panoramic views of the Himalayas as it keeps ascending higher and closer to the Apharwat Mountain. The view from phase 2 is breathtaking. You can enjoy hot coffee and Maggi here. The time we visited, did not find any snow in any of the phases.
What I heard from the local people is that the best time to enjoy Gulmarg is winter. When everything is covered by snow and skiing is done. If you have time and energy you can trek to the famous frozen lake Al-Pathri.
After coming down to the base we had hot Maggi and very authentic Kashmiri kawa. Please skip pony rides in Gulmarg as it’s not worth it.
Sonmarg – The meadow of Gold
Gorgeous, mesmerizing river, mighty snow-capped Himalayas, green surroundings. It is beautiful because it has been relatively untouched by concrete, bricks. You can see long stretches of the valley covered in mere grass and occasional pine trees, from where it got the name of ‘Meadows of Gold’. The view of greenery amid mountains is serene and beautiful. You can take a pony ride and visit Thajiwas glacier and other points ( Zero Point, Bajrangi bhaijan shoot point)., but as the weather was not good, we skipped the ride. Instead, we walked up to an uphill spot where we could click good pictures of the valley and us. People who want to travel on a pony to the point, please bargain well. If you want you can even trek to all the points as the landscape is not that difficult.
Mughal gardens of Srinagar
Srinagar is home to the utmost beautiful gardens in India. Most of the Gardens here built during the reign on Mughal Emperors which are predominantly Influenced by the concept of Persian Gardens. Scenic hill slides view, flowering shrubs, trees, and fascinating water bodies are the best common features of gardens here. Despite so many changes over the years, the gardens still manage to appeal to tourists from all over the world. Each park has its entrance and there is a small admissions fee at each gate. I would recommend spending at least one hour in each garden.
The best time to go is in the spring, when the flowers are in bloom, although the Mughal-era monuments within the gardens are worth exploring at any time. Nishat Bagh, Shalimar Bagh, Chasme Sahi, Pari mahal are the most beautiful gardens, that you must visit if you are in Srinagar. As we were short on time, We only went to Chashma Sahi Bagh, it was a huge garden with beautiful flowers and hot spring flowing across the garden. You can see people doing a picnic here with their family.
Try out Local cuisine and market
When you visit Kashmir and come back without trying its world-famous cuisine, your trip cannot be considered as completed. The flavours and fusions of aromatic spices, vegetables, and colour make Kashmiri cousins worth a try. Rogan Josh, Kashmiri Pulao, Kashmiri wazwan and Kashmiri kawa are some of the most famous dishes in Srinagar that can be enjoyed in restaurants like Mughal Darbar, Lhasa, Niramish, Alka Salka. We even tried the local street food near our hotel and it was equally lip-smacking.
Our stay was booked in the AKSA hotel as it is very near to the main market like Lal Chowk and Cooker market. We bought lots of dry fruits which you get at a very reasonable rate and are fresh. Then we went to cooker market where we purchased Pashmina Shawls, scarfs and leather jacket of good quality at a reasonable rate. You can relish on the roadside food stalls only if you are Non-vegeterian 🙂
Temples in Srinagar.
Apart from the striking mountains, green meadows, Majestics lakes dancing and foaming streams, Kashmir is known as Deva Bhoomi. Because of its unique architecture, solitude, and peaceful environment, temples are considered as the prime attraction point for foreigners as well as to the native. The most important according to Hindus as Shankaracharya Temple.
View from Boat ride of dal lakeLocated on top of an adjacent hill facing Dal Lake Srinagar, this temple dating back the 9th century, at a height of 1800 feet. It offers a 360 view of Srinagar and Dal lake. You can offer your prayers in the main temple but you need to climb around 250 steps to reach it. After you are done visiting the temple you can enjoy the langar which is organized by the fellow worshippers. One important thing, please leave your cameras or phones in your car as it is not allowed in the temple. The security check is very strict.
People of Srinagar
Trip to Kashmir will always be close to my heart because of the love we received from the people. Their hospitality is worth praising, treating guests as their family members, and making sure that you are feeling safe and enjoying the trip. For me, Kashmiris are one of the humblest and kind people you’ll ever meet in your life.
It is rightly said ‘Paradise on Earth’ because of the beauty of nature as well as its people.
You can visit my other blog where I have written about my experience in Ladakh