Plunge into the divine beauty of Kashmir in the depth of winters
Reaching Kashmir : By air – To fly into Kashmir by air one needs to reach Srinagar Airport which is well-connected to major Indian cities.
By train : The major station serving Kashmir is the Jammu Tawi station which is about 300 kms away and it takes 6 hours to reach Srinagar. One can hire taxis or take a state transportation bus to reach Srinagar.
Staying in Kashmir : You can choose to stay in a hotel in Srinagar for the entire trip or you can choose to spend your night in Pahalgam and Gulmarg, and spend another day in a houseboat in Dal Lake. Srinagar has a variety of hotels with price of room ranging from Rs.1200-5000.
Major Tourist attractions in Kashmir are :
1) Gulmarg : Srinagar to Gulmarg is a 2 hours journey and so it is usually a full day trip to Gulmarg. Gulmarg boats of being a beautiful town surrounded by snow covered mountains,lush green meadows. Gulmarg is my personal favorite,as even in March this place was covered with snow,enough snow for me to build my own snowman. When visiting Gulmarg you must definitely try the famous gondala ride. Gulmarg Gondola is world’s highest operating cable car. The price of the ticket is Rs. 740 for phase-1 ( Gulmarg to Kungdoor) and Rs.950 for Phase-2 (Kungdoor from Aparwath). The view from the Gondola is absolutely breathtaking,from that height it appears as if someone has painted the entire valley with white paint.
2) Sonmarg : Sonmarg valley which means the ‘meadows of Gold’ is about 80 kms from Srinagar and it is the second most visited place in Kashmir after Gulmarg. Some places to visit in Sonmarg are the Baltal Valley,the Zoji La pass,and Kheer Bhawani temple. The Zoji La pass is situated on the National Highway that connects Srinagar to Leh. There are a number of dhabas and shops on the highway where you can have some delicious food and the best maggi of your life.
3) Pahalgam : The most visited place in Pahalgam is the Betaab Valley, which was named after the Bollywood movie Betaab as the shooting of the movie was done here. Pahalgam serves as the starting point for the annual pilgrimage to the Amarnath cave in the months of July and August. Other places to see in Pahalgam are Tulian lake and Aru village and Pahalgam Golf course.
4) Dal Lake : Dal is a lake in Srinagar and is also known as Srinagar’s jewel. A trip to Kashmir is incomplete without a Shikara boat ride in Dal Lake. In December and January as the temperature drops to minus, the Dal Lake freezes. But in March you will be able to enjoy the shikara ride. Dal Lake is the most popular landmark of Srinagar. Dal Lake is also like a floating market,as there are a number of Shikara shops. You may also choose to stay in a Houseboat. Houseboats are well-furnished and offer a beautiful view of the Dal Lake. Both deluxe and budget houseboats are available.
5) Gardens in Kashmir : We know that constructing gardens was the favorite pastime of Mughal emperors. This can be witnessed in Kashmir. Kashmir is known for the lush green Mughal gardens which are also known as Baghs. The six most beautiful Mughal gardens in Kashmir are : Nishat Bagh,Shalimar Bagh,Achabal Garden, Chashma Shahi,Pari Mahal,Verinag Garden. If time is a constraint then you can visit only Shalimar Bagh and Nishat Bagh.
6) Temples and Mosque in Kashmir : (i) Avantiswami temple- The temple ruins is a heritage site and is located on the way from Srinagar to Pahalgam.
(ii) Kheer Bhawani Temple : Kheer bhawani temple is dedicated to worship of Goddess Ragnya Devi,and is constructed over a scared spring.The spring is said to change its color,it is believed that if the color of the spring changes to black which is considered as an ill-omen as it will lead to a disaster in the valley. The temple gets its unique name from the Indian dessert Kheer which is the main offering to the goddess.
(iii) Hazratbal Mosque : Hazratbal mosque is situated on the western banks on Dal Lake. It is a beautiful structure of white marble and an interesting fact about this mosque which makes it special is that it is the only domed mosque in Srinagar. The mosque offers a spectacular view of lake and mountain.
Shopping in Kashmir : There are an array of items which are unique to Kashmir. Kashmir is famous for its Pashmina shawls and stoles. So make sure you get one for your loved ones. A spice-lover should visit Maharaja bazaar to get hold of some authentic Kashmiri spices and red chillies. Kashmir is one of the few places in the world which grows saffron,so you can buy some pure saffron. Lal Chowk,the main market in Srinagar has a number of bakeries. Mughal Darbar bakery is my personal favorite,they make excellent cookies and cakes. Visit the bakery on the last day of the trip so that you can pack some cookies for home.
Adventure in Kashmir : Adventure junkies can try skiing in Gulmarg and white water rafting Pahalgam and can enjoy sledging in Sonmarg.
I hope this blog has already given you an idea about how beautiful and enchanting Kashmir is in winters. Winter is undoubtedly the best time to visit Kashmir. If you are someone who cannot tolerate extreme cold then you can plan a trip in mid-March as the weather remains pleasant. Winter in Kashmir is really special.Nothing in the world looks prettier than places like Gulmarg,Sonmarg and Pahalgam,all covered with a white blanket of snow. From snow-clad mountains,to frozen Dal Lake,to Pine trees partially covered with snow,everything will make your trip to Kashmir an experience of a lifetime. Jammu and Kashmir is not just a state it India,it is an experience. And as the tagline of J&K tourism says “Chalo Kashmir”,so go and witness the paradise on Earth.