Kashmir Tour Guide: Places To Visit And Things To Do In Kashmir

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Going on Kashmir tour has always been deeply fascinating for travellers. In fact, the very origin of Kashmir is steeped in interesting myths. According to the “Rajtarangini”, an ancient document written by Kalhana, Kashmir was once a large lake, the waters of which were drained by Rishi Kashyap when he cut a gap in the hills at Baramulla. In doing so, the bowl-shaped Kashmir dried out to reveal Kashmir valley as we know it today.

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A slice of heaven on earth, Kashmir has to be experienced at least once in your lifetime

The majestic mountains and green valleys, vividly coloured flowers and still waters of the lakes set against blue skies with have an almost Eden like charm which has remained unchanged over the centuries. Kashmir’s indescribable beauty was aptly captured by Sufi poet Amir Khusrau when he said, “If there is paradise on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here”.

Best Time To Visit Kashmir

Best Time To Visit Kashmir

The best time to visit Kashmir is during March and April when the weather is perfect and the alpine meadows are carpeted with wild flowers in shimmering shades of the rainbow. This is spring time; the snow melts, the valley comes alive with blooms and the warm days make it perfect for treks and long walks.

By May spring gives way to summer which is the perfect time to enjoy the lakes and gardens and have laid-back picnics under towering Chinars. July and August are when the rains give the valley a mystic feel, shrouding it in mist. Great for those looking for some romance.

As September comes by, the rains give way to cooler climes. The trees turn a flaming reddish gold as autumn sets in and paints the countryside a magical hue. By December Kashmir gets bitterly cold and the entire valley is blanketed with snow. For those looking to enjoy skiing and snowboarding this is the best time to visit Kashmir.

Check Out: Exclusive and Mesmerising Pictures Of Kashmir By Our Travel Expert

Getting To Kashmir

Getting To Kashmir

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Kashmir blanketed in pristine white snow is a magical experience

Kashmir is easily accessible by air, road and rail networks. Foreigners will need to submit a form upon arrival and register at the airport due to strict security concerns. If traveling by road, you will need to submit a similar form at a police checkpoint. The form submission is followed by a check of the passport and visa – there are no charges for registration. Indian nationals must carry government issued photo IDs to be displayed at checkpoints when asked.

By Air

Jammu, Leh and Srinagar all have airports with regular commercial flights to other parts of India. Srinagar airport, approximately 14kms from the city is the best connected of the state’s airports. It’s possible to fly here from Delhi, Mumbai, Amritsar, Bangalore, Chandigarh, Indore and Nagpur. There are also regular flights to Jammu from Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai, and occasional connections from Jammu to Leh and Srinagar.

By Rail

Jammu Tawai, is the nearest railhead for Srinagar. Trains from Delhi, Calcutta, Pune, Mumbai and other cities arrive at this station. During peak season, when there is heavy tourist movement, additional trains operate for and from this station.

By Road

National Highway connecting Srinagar with Jammu is the main highway. J&K State Road Transport Corporation (SRTC) as well as a number of super deluxe buses operate to and from the state. Private taxis are also available for traveling to Kashmir. However, do keep in mind that while travelling by road may lead you through scenic vistas, the journey is long and tiring.

Choosing A Place To Stay In Kashmir

Choosing A Place To Stay In Kashmir

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Spend at least one night on the intricately designed houseboats afloat on the Dal Lake

There can be nothing more enchanting than staying in a houseboat on the still waters of the Dal Lake surrounded by chinar trees that reach for the skies. The cedar panelled house-boats offer a quaint place to stay at if you want an experience different from those offered by homestays and hotels in Kashmir. There are numerous options to choose from to meet the needs of budget travellers and those seeking luxury. Hotels and guest houses often charge extra for rooms overlooking the Dal Lake, whereas those looking out into the valley may cost less.

Do try local Kashmiri fare during your trip to the state. The food, often flavoured with saffron strands and cardamom is a culinary delight. There are numerous restaurants mainly located on the Boulevard and along Lal Chowk, Lambert Lane and Residency Road that serve cuisines ranging from north Indian to continental fare apart from local favourites.

Also Read: A Sneak Peek At The Kashmiri Food And Cuisine

Things To Do In Kashmir

Things To Do In Kashmir

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Skiing is one of the attractive winter adventure sports in Kashmir

Delve Into Heart-Pumping Adventure

Travellers to Kashmir will be spoilt for choice when it comes to things to do. For adventure lovers, there’s hiking, mountaineering and camping opportunities at Pahalgam and skiing at Gulmarg. If this is not enough, there’s also the opportunity to tee off at one of the largest and highest 18-hole golf courses in the world – The Gulmarg Golf Club.

Apart from trekking, visitors to Kashmir can experience Aero sports, which is quickly gaining popularity. Hot air ballooning is now on the must do list of most travellers to the valley. Take in the scenic vistas of rolling meadows, sparkling streams and deep gorges as you glide along effortlessly like a bird. Alternatively, adrenaline junkies can choose to go paragliding for the experience of a lifetime.

Those in search of adventure on the waters can try white water rafting at Sonmarg. Another water sport that is gaining in popularity is Kayaking. Indus, Lidder, Drass, Suru, Sindh, Zanskar and Chenab rivers offer wonderful bases to enjoy white water and kayaking.

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Tulips in varied hues create a beautiful mosaic

Marvel At The Treasure Of Nature

For those who like to take things easy there’s the beautiful Tulip Festival in Srinagar or the option of going for an exciting gondola ride to Apharwat Peak. And for those who just want to see the world float by, what better way to do so than to take a Shikara Ride among the silence of the mighty chinars and the calming waters of the Dal Lake

For nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts, Kashmir has a rich variety of indigenous animals and birds to observe. The snow leopard, Himalayan black bear, Marmot, red fox, musk deer, golden eagles and Monal pheasants are natives of the region. They are a joy to behold in their natural surroundings across the protected wildlife sanctuaries in Kashmir.

The colourful Shikaras and floating markets on the Dal Lake have become synonymous with Kashmir

The colourful Shikaras and floating markets on the Dal Lake have become synonymous with Kashmir

Shop Till You Drop

Of course, one cannot leave Kashmir without a spot of shopping. Kashmir has exquisitely intricate woodwork and handlooms, Pashmina shawls, colourful papier mache, antique copperware like samovars, hand-woven carpets and fragrant spices like saffron to offer souvenir hunters.

Also Read: Kashmiri Shawls To Handicrafts: Shopping In Kashmir

Places To Visit In Kashmir

Places To Visit In Kashmir

Srinagar

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Words can never comprehend the magnificence of this lake

Mesmerizing Srinagar is surrounded by the majestic Himalayas and lies along the Jhelum river. The river meanders through the city and loses itself in the Dal Lake, which is often termed as Kashmir’s ‘Jewel in the Crown’.

The city has a history that goes back centuries and boasts of historic buildings influenced by different architectural styles and 3 different religions – Hinduism, Islam and Buddhism. Pari Mahal, one such monument, was once a Buddhist monastery with a beautifully laid out garden which during the night takes on a magical feel with its special lighting.

The Mughals created beautiful terraced gardens, replete with colourful blooms and the regal Chinars. The gardens are artistically criss-crossed with canals that still attract people with their sheer beauty. One of these gardens, nestled along the Zabarwan Range, has the largest tulip garden in Asia. This is where the annual Tulip Festival takes place during April.

Lastly, do visit the floating markets of Srinagar. Set against the Himalayas on the still waters of the Dal Lake. The market comes alive at dawn with colourful Shikaras overflowing with equally colourful produce – fruits, vegetables and flowers. Moored on the western edge of the Dal Lake at a little distance away from the floating market travellers can find something quite unexpected – the ‘Floating Post Office’. Acclaimed as one of its kind in the world, the floating Post Office operates from an intricately carved houseboat. Fully functional even now, travellers can send postcards and avail other regular postal services. Letters and postcards sent from this post office bear a unique seal designed as a boatman rowing a shikara on the Dal Lake.

Must Watch: Get A Glimpse Of Kashmir In This Amazing Video

Sonmarg

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Sonmarg, the ‘Golden Meadows is an ideal place for easy treks along scenic mountain trails

Literally translated as ‘Meadow of Gold’ Sonmarg is the base for popular treks to higher altitudes. On the outskirts of Sonmarg is the sparkling blue Kishansar lake surrounded by snow-peaked mountains and lush green meadows that are peppered with alpine flowers. The lake is home to many varieties of fish and the trout makes it an anglers’ paradise. The banks of the rivers also provide an idyllic spot for camping before starting off on treks to discover mountain trails.

Alternatively, travellers can choose to a pleasant one-day excursion to the Thajiwas glacier 8km away, approachable by a pony over well-maintained tracks. When in Sonmarg, do take time to visit the famed Nilagrad River. According to the common belief, the water of the river has a red hue and is known to have certain curative properties. People throng to the river every Sunday for a dip in its healing waters.

Gulmarg

View snowbound mountains and deep valleys with a Gondola ride in Gulmarg

View snowbound mountains and deep valleys with a Gondola ride in Gulmarg

Picture-perfect Gulmarg has been aptly named as flowers of myriad shades cover the green meadows during spring and summer, and as winter rolls in Gulmarg gets blanketed in thick snow making it an ideal destination for skiing and snowboarding. Do take the Gondola ride up the snowy mountains even if you do not plan to ski. The ride provides some amazing views of the valley below and the ski slopes criss-crossing the mountains. Remember to book Gondola tickets online or in advance at the Tourist Reception Centre in Srinagar and save yourself the hassle of standing in long queues at ticket counters.

Do try snow-biking and sledge rides too for an exhilarating experience. Gulmarg also offers breathtakingly panoramic views of the Kashmir valley and Nanga Parbat, one of the highest peaks in the Himalayan range. The town boasts of the world’s highest 18-hole golf course that hosts a number of prestigious tournaments every year and offers some interesting challenges.

In addition to the natural beauty and adventure activities that Gulmarg offers, the town also has the famed Baba Reshi shrine. Believed to be over 500 years old, it is said that childless couples who pray here get their wishes fulfilled. The influence of Mughal and Persian architecture can be seen in the beautifully-crafted wood panels. The prayer hall that can accommodate over 1000 people leave a deep imprint on visitors.

Pahalgam

Also known as the “Valley of Shepherds’ Pahalgam is one of the most popular places to visit in the state of Kashmir. With its rolling green meadows set against snow covered mountains and blue skies, picture-perfect Pahalgam serves as a base camp for pilgrims going for the Amarnath Yatra. Also popular among travellers is the picturesque Betaab Valley which was named after a Bollywood movie that was shot there. Betab valley has many small crystal-clear streams of water lined with grassy banks and chinar trees – travellers can pick their spot and enjoy a picnic in the warm afternoon sun. In fact, the waters are so clear and clean that locals often use it for drinking. There are also a number of trout fishing spots in Pahalgam but permits have to be obtained in advance. Pahalgam also offers the best white-water rafting along the rapids of the River Lidder.

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Kashmir’s mesmerizing aura and breathtaking views would sweep you off your feet

One of the other places that travellers must visit is the Sun temple at Martanda, which is a roughly 45-minute drive from Pahalgam. Said to have been built during the time of the Pandavas, the temple is well known for its beautiful wall carvings and the majestic view it offers of the village below.
Travel tip – Do remember though that it is best to avoid visiting Pahalgam during July as it will be extremely busy with pilgrims going on the Amarnath Yatra.

Vaishno Devi

Most tourists visit Kashmir as part of their pilgrimage to Vaishno Devi. The Amarnath Yatra is undertaken in devotion to pay obeisance to the revered ice stalagmite Shivalinga. It is said that Lord Shiva explained the secret of life and eternity to Goddess Parvati at this very spot. The 45-day pilgrimage dedicated to Shri Amarnath Ji usually sees hordes of devotees trek up to the caves for a ‘darshan’.

The other popular pilgrimage that takes place in the region is the Vaishno Devi Yatra – a pilgrimage to Mata Vaishno Devi. The Trikuta mountain, where the shrine is located, has one base but three different peaks. A similar structure is seen inside the cave. The three heads are said to be of Mata Kali, Mata Laxmi, and Mata Saraswati – Hindu goddesses. This yatra, too, takes place in the months of July and August.
While terrorism and violence have marred Kashmir tourism over the years, it still remains one of the most beautiful places on earth. The scenic vistas that the valley has to offer are a feast for the eyes, while the warmth and friendliness of the locals make you feel completely at home.
Do check out news reports and get an update of the situation on ground before making plans to travel to Kashmir. Also, keep in mind the following tips for a smooth and enjoyable trip.

Also Read: Famous Temples Of Kashmir

Tips For Kashmir Tour

Tips For Kashmir Tour

  • Keep ID proof documents handy and within easy grasp will help avoid trouble as you are likely to pass through several checkpoints given the high security in the state.
  • Get yourself a local post-paid connection if possible as cell phones with a prepaid connection and a SIM from outside the state may not work as roaming has been blocked in Kashmir due to security reasons.
  • Electric current in Kashmir is 240 Volts. Do carry a voltage converter with you in case you have appliances that use a different power configuration. Also, outlets in Kashmir generally accept the two-round pin plugs and three round pin plugs, arranged in a triangle. You will need a plug adapter if you have straight slotted plugs.
  • Alcohol isn’t served in restaurants, and most businesses shut for prayer at lunchtime on Friday. Bars can be found in select upmarket hotels.
  • Do get to airports and stations with plenty of time to spare as there are lengthy and multiple security checks. Remember that while there aren’t any restrictions on cabin luggage when flying into the airport, many airlines won’t allow cabin luggage during departures, except for laptops, cameras and ladies handbags.
  • Respect local culture and dress conservatively.

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