Kashmir - The Perfect Getaway

Kashmir was our most awaited holiday destination for a long time and it was only in November of 2013 when it turned into a reality. A Paradise as it is generally referred to; we were more than excited to experience the bliss and some great surprises it claimed to offer us. Winter had just begun and the temperatures in Mumbai had already started to drop. We knew it would be challenging as far as the weather conditions were concerned and this made us power pack our bags with lots and lots of body warmers, jackets and sweaters. Here we were all set to freak out our minds with the enchanting beauty of the only Paradise on the planet.

We started at 11 AM in the morning to board a direct flight to Srinagar from Mumbai. The first two hours of the flight were pretty usual until we flew over the majestic snow capped mountains of the Himalayan ranges. It was the first time we experienced such a breath taking view from a commercial airplane. It was partly cloudy outside the flight on that sunny afternoon which initially made us hard to believe what we saw over the mountain peaks was actually snow. But soon enough all our doubts were clarified and our minds accepted this surprise as a reality. It was pretty cool and comfortable 21 degree Celsius inside the aircraft. However, we had no clues that our comfort was short-lived and that it would last only until the cabin crew had bid us a Good Bye.

Aerial View of Kashmir
A chill of cold wave entered our ears as we landed on the Srinagar airport. Soon as we claimed our baggage we had them wide open to pull out our jackets, scarves and body warmers. It was 8 degree Celsius at the Srinagar airport. After a warm welcome from our trip organizers, we headed towards the beautiful Dal Lake which was a short 45 minutes ride from the airport. It was rather unusual for a Metropolitan person like me to see so many Indian Army soldiers appointed at every hundered meters distance. It was also unusual to see most of the roads sparingly crowded and most shops outside the airport closed down. This gave us and our fellow tourists an uncomfortable feeling about the city.  However, soon after a conversation with our local chauffer and our tour guide, we learnt that the shops remain closed on Sundays. That was weird, we thought. Srinagar is a city of tourism. Tourists are the sole means of bread and butter for a majority of the localities in the city. They are pretty professional when it comes to handling tourists and of course, they hold some expectations in return. It’s better to plan your tour in advance in order to avoid last minute bargains.

We reached the Ghat No. 12 at the famous Dal Lake where our own Shikara (boat) was waiting for us. The Shikara ride has a special significance due to it’s glamorization in Indian movies and their popular songs. Shikara is a narrow boat with a comfortable sitting arrangement, a small one will carry up to 5 persons including the driver. 1 hour of a Shikara ride charged us INR 400. The most interesting part of the Shikara ride was that the person riding us was a beautiful Kashmiri singer. “We are naturally like this. We do not need cosmetics unlike your movie stars”, I recollect his words and his pink-cheeked face that has remained green in my memory. We spent rest of the evening singing songs with him over the beautiful Lake enjoying it’s floral and scenic beauty. Having a cup of tea at a floating shop on the Lake in such a cold weather was an experience of it’s kind. We also visited a few garment shops at the Meena Bazaar - floating market over the lake but as the evening approached, the cold was almost unbearable. Soon it was dark and we checked in at our House Boat where our cook served us a sumptuous dinner.  

Dal Lake
The next day we headed towards Gulmarg which is around 52 kms from Srinagar. It was almost a straight drive and took us around a couple of hours to reach. However, the later part of the drive was a twisted uphill drive towards Gulmarg. The famous Gondola ride through the snow capped mountains is the only attraction for most of the tourists visiting Gulmarg. It is one of the largest Gondolas in Asia. On our way, we rented snow jackets and gum boots that later proved our saviors. After lunch at our hotel, we started towards the Gondola ride. The ride is covered in two phases. It is not advisable for people with medical problems or heart ailments to visit the Phase 2 of the ride. During heavy snow fall or poor climatic conditions, Phase 2 remains closed for tourists. Tickets for the Gondola ride can be booked in advanced over the Internet or can be booked on the spot early in the morning. The Gondola car gave us a beautiful view of the pine trees wrapped with the snow. The 10 minutes ride to Phase 1 was remarkable and the experience was permanently captured in our memories. We reached Phase 1 and walked over the slippery snow bed. To our dismay, Phase 2 was closed down due to a heavy snowfall on the mountain. We had the liberty to hire the pony and enjoy skiing and other sports. Enjoying a Snicker Bar to kill the hunger after falling down a couple of times on the snow was unforgettable. We came down to our hotels before it was dark and spent the rest of the evening battling the ruthless cold.

Aru Valley, Pehalgam
We started for Pahalgam the very next morning which was a long 6 hours drive via. Srinagar. Kashmir is known as the land of Chinaars due to the abundant plantation of the Chinaar trees all around the State. Driving through the roads, making a way ahead through these trees is a beautiful experience. Some Chinaar trees are so shady on the roads that one does not feel like moving ahead from it’s very own shady grace. On the way we had a stopover at the Saffron (Kesar) Gardens and had an opportunity to buy the real Saffron from the very source – the farms. As we headed towards Pahalgam, the wide open highway roads started becoming steeper until it made us realize why it must have got it’s name. The wide open green grazing lands between the valleys and the snow capped mountains across the roads were enchanting us. The Periodic view of the serene, peaceful grazing herds of wool coated sheep added to the beauty of the place. The innocent looks of the Kashmiri villagers looking at the tourists peeping out of the windows felt like they were welcoming us to their Paradise. We reached our hotel at Pahalgam late in the afternoon. After lunch, we spent the evening at the local Pahalgam Market.

The very next day was dedicated to explore the beauty of Pahalgam. The famous Betaab Valley was the first to visit. The valley has got it’s name from the famous Hindi Movie Betaab which was shot in this Valley in the early 1980s. Even after several decades, the place has maintained it’s sanctity and there is almost no change in it’s beauty or ambience. Personally, I find myself out of words to describe the charisma of the place and this valley is one of the best places I have ever experienced in my life till date. After spending an hour at the place, it was hard to bid an adieu. We headed towards Chandanwadi which is where the famous Amarnath Temple Journey starts. Amarnath Journey has a religious significance amongst the Hindus and Lord Shiva devotees. This journey of approximately 30 kms. through the snow starts from Chandanwadi and we had the privilege of stepping on the steps that headed towards the Temple. After spending some quiet moments, we headed towards the Aru Valley which is a few minutes drive through the breathtaking views of the mountains and lush green Valleys systematically designed and nurtured by Mother Nature. Aru Valley seemed like just another Nature’s marvel. This is why it is also known as the mini Switzerland, a destination that it’s best. Way back to our hotel in Pahalgam, we stopped over a few scenic locations to get our cameras in action just to realize that these spots were familiar to us and were already featured in many Indian movies and famous songs. The time we had spent at the hotel that evening was exhilarating and filled with numerous memories of the day – a holiday spent at it’s best.

Betaab Valley, Pehalgam
We came back to Srinagar the next day which was around 95 kms. drive. On the way towards Srinagar, we halted at Bijbehara, the village of apple gardens surrounded by beautiful Chinaar trees. Plucking an apple and enjoying it’s sweetness as it quickly melted in my mouth was something I had never done before. Those were the freshest apples we ever ate. A few minutes before Srinagar, we also visited the Avantipura Temple just on the road towards the city. The ancient sculpture and craftsmanship of this Old Hindu Temple is indeed notable. At Srinagar we visited the Shankaracharya Temple which is located at the highest point in the city. Climbing the steps towards the Temple was a good exercise and also worth the view. It gave a spectacular glimpse of the Srinagar city beside the beautiful Dal Lake. The numerous stationery house boats on the Lake looked like a beautiful garland around the City. After a late lunch at our hotel, we visited the renowned Mughal Gardens and Chasmeshahi Garden. This is the second best way to spend an evening in Srinagar. The best still remains the Shikara ride on the Dal Lake.

Sonmarg is a few hours drive from Srinagar. Reaching there is another treat to the eyes and experiencing the snowy atmosphere in there is another. Sonmarg is probably the only tourist place in Kashmir where one can find snow at almost any part of the year. After we reached Sonmarg, we had the liberty to choose a pony ride or a local car. However, me and a fellow tourist decided to walk into the wilderness of the snow. This is something very adventurous and one of the most memorable thing I have done in the Paradise. When we returned back from the mountains, we had returned with two big balls of snow which were generously gifted to our spouses as a token of love. That was memorable too. After spending such a blissful time in the Paradise, we unanimously felt sad to leave the place. The white snow had by now became permanently green in our memories. We headed back to the Srinagar airport with a promise to visit Kashmir again.


  1. wow.. thats why it is beleived to be heaven on earth.. it is beautiful .. I must remember to go there next time i am in india. I went when i was in 10th class long long time back..

    Hello, How are you doing


  2. Hey Bikram! Absolutely, it is a place that leaves a permanent mark!

  3. Thanks joshidaniel! I am an amateur photographer :)

  4. Neeraj, visiting this heaven on the earth this month end :)