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Kashmir Diaries (A Travelogue)- Part I

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Kashmir which is also called 'Heaven on Earth' is now more of a forbidden paradise. Terrorism and unrest has gripped Kashmir since more than two decades, The very idea of visiting Kashmir makes people nervous and I was no different. But then things changed. All the nearby hill stations were over crowded with tourists. I wanted to visit the hills during summer but at the same time, I wanted to spend time in a quiet, serene environment. So I thought of Kashmir.Once a preferred tourist destination, now tourism is on a decline there.

The very idea was met with resistance. My parents were hesitant but as they have lived in Kashmir, they vouched for its beauty. My son told me that he doesn't want to go for a vacation where he will be scared for his life all the time. When I applied for leave at work, my boss asked me if I couldn't find any safer place to go. We have a branch office in Srinagar and I talked to a few colleagues there who assured me that it's quite safe for tourists. So I finally managed to convince my family and booked my flight tickets & hotel.


Srinagar

Country

India

State

Jammu and Kashmir

Elevation

1,585 m (5,200 ft)

Population

1,180,570

Official Language

Urdu

Other Spoken languages

Kashmiri

At Nishat Bagh

At Nishat Bagh

Shikara ride at Dal Lake

Shikara ride at Dal Lake

Day 1: Srinagar

As we landed in Srinagar, it seemed like we had entered a different world altogether. The people were mostly dressed traditionally. There was army deployed everywhere. The view of snow-clad mountains was mesmerizing but the army men at every few steps made me quite uneasy. It felt like we had entered a war zone and I questioned myself if I had made the right decision. But all my fears turned out to futile as Kashmir turned out to be the safest place I have traveled to so far.

On the first day we visited the famous Mughal Gardens of Srinagar: Nishat Bagh, Shalimar Bagh and Chasma Shahi. Facing the Dal Lake, Nishat Bagh is a beautiful garden of flowerbeds, fountains and terraces that gives a deep insight into the Mughal style of architecture.

Another enchanting creation, Shalimar Bagh is amongst the finest gardens in Kashmir. The lower portion of the garden, which comprises three of the terraces, is known as Diwan-i-Aam while the rest two are contained in the upper portion which was was meant for the emperor and his royal courtiers, and hence, was called as Diwan-i-Khas. Pavilions, pools and fountains on the edges of each terrace look magnificent.

Chasma Shahi is built on the slopes of the Zabarwan Mountains, around a natural spring. This natural spring sprouts from the first terrace of the garden, which further makes its way to the second and third terrace. The water of the spring was ice cold and was so refreshing.

After the gardens, we went for a shikara ride in Dal lake. A ride in Shikara, the small wooden carved boat, usually seen at Dal Lake and Nageen Lake, is one of the mesmerizing attractions of the city. You may come across vendors on shikaras selling eatables, handicrafts, artificial jewelry etc. Meena Bazaar in the Dal lake is a floating market with shops selling Kashmiri handicrafts items and clothes.The relaxing ride while enjoying the surrounding picturesque views was truly a blissful experience.

Sonamarg

Country

India

State

Jammu & Kashmir

District

Ganderbal

Total Population

392

Elevation

2,800 m (9,200 ft)

Official Language

Urdu

Sonamarg

Sonamarg

Zero Point

Zero Point

Day 2: Sonamarg

Sonamarg is located in the Ganderbal district and it literally means 'Meadow of Gold'. It is 85 kms away from Srinagar but the drive is absolutely worth it due to the beautiful views of snow-capped Himalayas and the mighty Sindh river. On the way, we stopped by a restaurant at the banks of the Sindh. Besides the sumptuous breakfast, they served us the most delicious 'kahwah' (traditional Kashmiri drink made of green tea, cinnamon, crushed almonds and saffron).

We spent some time in the lush green meadow at Sonamarg. At Sonamarg, you can visit the Thajiwas Glacier through ponies. But our cab driver told us that there is not much snow at Thajiwas at this time and suggested to go to Zero Point instead. So we hired the local cab for Zero Point. In Kashmir, you have to hire local cabs for local sightseeing as outside cabs aren't allowed. The drive from Sonamarg to Zero Point through Zoji La Pass was absolutely breathtaking. The road was rough and there were traffic jams but the thick snow covered layers along the road were fascinating. Zero Point was beautiful with the majestic snow cover all around and scenic beauty. You can do skiing, sledging or enjoy a ride on ice scooters. My son had never seen snow before and he just enjoyed every second in the beautiful place. We returned to Srinagar the same evening. The trip to Zero Point was breathtakingly beautiful.

Travel tips for Kashmir

1. Choose the season, according to your suitability. The weather of Kashmir is extremely pleasant in summers and spring ; but if you enjoy snow and cold, then you may consider winters. Pack your clothes according to the weather. Even in summers, you require light woolens and jackets while traveling to Sonamarg & Gulmarg.

2. Make sure that you carry all the necessary documents and identity papers like your visa, tickets, license and other permits. As the place being a little tight on military security, you might need them any time.

3. Pre-paid mobile sim cards don't work in Srinagar. So you should carry a post paid mobile number.

4. If you want to visit mosques and holy places be prepared - wear clothing that covers your legs completely and carry a scarf for covering your head. You will also have to remove your footwear before entering any religious place.

Srinagar to Sonmarg Kashmir via Zojila Pass | Leh Ladakh | Steps Together | Incredible India

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Shaloo Walia

Comments

Shaloo Walia (author) from India on July 16, 2019:

Thank you Chitraganda. I was a bit unsure about Kashmir considering the situation there. But it is quite safe and the place is simply awesome.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on July 16, 2019:

Beautiful pictures and wonderful descriptions. I am aware that you had been to the wonderful place, Kashmir, through your Facebook posts.

Thanks for sharing the details of your lovely journey.

Shaloo Walia (author) from India on July 13, 2019:

@Linda Kashmir is quite safe for the tourists. The local people as well as the army take care of the tourists. There has never been any untoward incident involving tourists.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on July 13, 2019:

Kashmir has some beautiful scenery. I'm glad you enjoyed the trip and stayed safe. It's a shame that there are problems in the region.

Shaloo Walia (author) from India on July 13, 2019:

We didn't go by bike We had hired a cab but the road was indeed very rough.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on July 13, 2019:

Since I will never get to visit that part of our world in person, thanks for taking me along on your journey. That motorcycle ride in the video was something! The road was pretty narrow when two large vehicles would meet and have to pass one another. You and your son are certainly adventurous!

Shaloo Walia (author) from India on July 04, 2019:

@Bill Kashmir is a safe place for tourists. There has been no incidents of violence against tourists. Since Kashmiris depend on tourism to earn their bread and butter, they are very considerate and respectful towards tourists.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on July 04, 2019:

Beautiful country for sure. I'm glad it was a safe journey for you. I think I might have opted for a safer place as well, but you made it so it's all good.