Jammu and Kashmir has always remained the most favourite destination with the tourists across the globe. As they say beauty is in the eyes of beholder. And that is so true of the Valley. In Kashmir there is as much hidden as revealed. So the Valley has to be seen with the eyes of the soul. These words were very true that Kashmir is “The only Paradise on Earth”!
PAHALGAM – The Valley of Shepherds.
Situated at the confluence of the streams flowing from Sheshnag Lake and the Lidder river, Pahalgam (2,130 m) was once a humble shepherd’s village with breathtaking views. Now it is Kashmir’s premier resort, cool even during the height of summer when the maximum temperature does not exceed 25 deg C. A number of hotels and lodges cater to all preferences and budgets, from luxurious hotels to unpretentious trekkers’ lodges, including J&K TDC huts.
Around Pahalgam are many places of interest, and the most beautiful of these is the huge, undulating meadow of Baisaran, surrounded by thickly wooded forests of pine. “Betaab Valley”, on the way to Chandanwari, is an idyllic spot for a picnic. Filmgoers will recognize it instantly as it has been the location of several movie scenes. Aru, 12 kms from Pahalgam, is a picturesque meadow and base point for trekking to Kolhai glacier, Katar Nag, Lidder Watt and Trasar & Marsar Lakes.
Pahalgam is also associated with the annual Amarnath Yatra. Chandanwari (2,895 m), 16 kms from Pahalgam, is the starting point of the yatra that takes place every year.
A jewel of a destination, Kashmir is one of the most amazing holiday destinations in India. Srinagar, the state’s winter capital, is the first stop for most travellers to Kashmir; and with its great lake and meandering river, its exquisite pleasure gardens and romantic shikara rides, the old-world charm of its houseboats and the ageless grace of its architecture, the city is a fitting introduction to the many enchantments of the valley. The vast Dal lake is, of course, Srinagar’s emblematic feature, and its deep waters carry the most popular of Srinagar’s attractions: houseboats and shikaras. Many visitors are content to spend a great part of their holiday aboard these waterborne hotels, watching the lake’s traffic float by from cushioned balconies, venturing into the houseboat’s walnut-wood interiors for delicious, fragrant Kashmiri cuisine. If at all one can bring oneself to leave the boat, it is to step into another – the dainty, canopied shikaras. Fitted with generously cushioned seats and footrests, these elongated little boats constitute one of the great luxuries of the world, and have long been the very epitome of romance.
On the shores of the Dal are the great Mughal Gardens, glimpses into an earthly heaven of many-hued flowers, carpets of grass and playful fountains. On the two great hills that overlook the city and the lake – Hari Parbat (Kohi-e-Maran) and Shankracharaya (Takht-e-Sulaiman) are reminders of the city’s eclectic past: graced with ancient temples and medieval mosques, imposing fortress walls and simple, quiet shrines. The sacred is equally pervasive in the old city, lined along both sides of the Jhelum river. Here are the wooden Islamic shrines with pagoda-like roofs that are so distinctive of Kashmir, and here too are the spires of old temples built amidst winding lanes of wooden houses with their delicately carved balconies, centuries’ old bridges and bustling markets.
The markets of Srinagar offer a vast variety of the most refined crafts – from pashmina shawls, as light and soft as the breeze that blows across the Dal, to intricately handwoven carpets, delicately carved woodwork and glittering copperware. Epicureans will delight in the rich Kashmir cuisine: from melt-in-the-mouth gushtabas to irresistible walnut tarts, or even a handful of warm, roasted chestnuts cracked open in the sun. For those who wish to squeeze a little more of Kashmir into their stay, Srinagar is within comfortable driving distance of several popular sites. Horse-riding though the meadows of Gulmarg, angling in the cold waters of the Lidder river at Pahalgam, the spellbinding beauty of Sonamarg and the architectural treasures of Pandrethan and Parihaspura, these can all be experienced as day-trips from Srinagar.
Whether you spend your time in Srinagar exploring its many facets or simply unwinding by the lake, you will find yourself carrying home memories of a gentle, refined beauty that braces the senses and unclutters the mind.
Sonamarg or Sonmarg, located at a hefty altitude of 2,740 m above sea level, literally means ‘Meadow of Gold’. The picturesque natural beauty of the region brought this name to Sonamarg. Sonamarg, a town surrounded by breathtaking glaciers and serene lakes, is a snow covered beautiful flower-laden meadow in the majestic Himalayan mountain region. Sonamarg in the Kashmir valley is the gateway to Ladakh and situated just before the Zojii La pass. Located at 87 km from Srinagar, the place is renowned for trekking and hiking trails. The snow clad peaks in the Himalaya and the undulated hilly mountainous regions are perfectly suitable for all types of trekking expeditions. Sonamarg is the base camp for many trekking expeditions. The major treks passing through various mountain lakes such as Gangabal, Vishansar, Gadsar, Satsar and Kishansar has its base at Sonamarg. The trekking routes offer all types of challenges, from mild to most hard. The pleasant climate with mild summer and cold winter make this place an ideal location for trekkers to explore the natural beauty and challenging treks.
Yousmarg (a meadow), mesmerizes tourists with its scenic beauty and mountains comparable to European Alps. Situated amidst Sang Safed valley, Yousmarg is reputed for having some unique spring flowers. It also has some of the highest peaks in PirPanjal range like Tatakoti 4725 mtrs and Sunset Peak 4746 mtrs. The mighty river Doodh Ganga makes this destination more thrilling. The natural slopes of Yousmarg offer skiing opportunities to experts. Last few years of large inflow of tourists into Kashmir valley has seen the diversification of tourism to this wonderful destination. Most of the travel agents include Yousmarg as a destination of one day trip in their packages.