“We had a very memorable trip to Kashmir in May, this summer – Kashmir had always been on my wish list and we finally got a chance to visit…my excitement knew no bounds”
Expressed Mohini Mahajan Joshi who visited Kashmir along with her husband, Anish Joshi, a travel enthusiast like Mohini. She is gracious enough to share her experience with the readers of travelknots, the firsthand account of her exciting as well as serene trip to paradise on earth.
Over to Mohini:
This tour was also a first of its kind for us – till now me and my husband had never travelled in a conducted group tour, however for this trip we chose to go with a group, considering the security aspect. And our chosen tour operator was Kesari travels, as they have a good reputation and was personally recommended to us by our immediate family who have travelled with Kesari many times. And I must say they did live up to our expectations, with our very helpful and enthusiastic tour manager, taking us to the right places at the right times. We had a wonderful group of co-travellers, which made our trip all the more enjoyable.
When describing Kashmir, I really don’t know where to start or how exactly do I put it in words – the natural beauty there is just bountiful and breathtaking! As has been aptly described by famous Urdu poet Firdaus, who said “If there is heaven on earth, it is here, it is here.”
Gar Firdaus bar-ruye zameenasto
Hameenast hameenasto yu hameenasto
Right from the moment we got down at Srinagar airport and reached the Dal Lake area which was our first destination, we just could not stop clicking picture…every frame was like a picture postcard. The magnificent and vast Dal Lake (though it can do with much more cleaning) was home to a number of house-boats, and staying in one was an experience in itself. The houseboats are made from Deodar wood, while walnut-wood is used for the furniture and carved interior, as this wood is soft and found in abundance.
The Shikara ride we took was amazing – it was so very relaxing and enjoyable, with the ‘chacha’ who took us around giving us titbits of information. According to him, the best time to see blooming lotuses in August, as that is when most of the other flowers in the floating garden bloom as well. We visited the ‘Char-Chinar’ island which has four Chinar (maple) trees as the name suggests. I better make a special mention of the floating market in Dal Lake (a full-fledged market with big emporiums of Kashmiri carpets, apparel, handicrafts and what-not), where I kick-started my shopping.
The other places we visited were Pahalgam, Gulmarg and Sonmarg. But before moving on, here is an interesting fact about Srinagar – localites say the city got its name from Jehlum river (on the banks of which Srinagar is situated) which has the shape of Hindi letter ‘Sri’ when flowing through this city. We could almost see that from atop Shankaracharya hill where the Shankaracharya temple is located.
Pahalgam is a quaint little valley town (also known as Valley of shepherds) with the beautiful Lidder river flowing through it. I fell in love with this place the moment we got the first glimpse…it is completely surrounded by mountains with snow-capped peaks. The resort we stayed at had a golf-course right next to it, which added to the beauty. We were able to play in the snow at Chandanwari and take a sledge-ride, and also rode up to Aru Valley (or one can choose to climb up) where many movies like Highway, Jab tak Hai Jaan have been shot. Not to be missed enroute is the ‘Betaab Valley’, again a very picturesque expanse of green which got its name after the famous movie Betaab was shot here many years back.
However, the icing on the cake was the plateau of Baisaran, also known as ‘Mini-Switzerland’. To visit this place, you have no other option but to saddle-up and let the intelligent and trained horses take you up there. And true to its name, it was so very much like Switzerland! It is a very vast green plateau lined with tall trees such as Pine and Deodar, with mountains behind, some entirely covered in snow and some with their snow-capped peaks. The sight was so pleasing, beautiful, amazing… again I am short of words!
Gulmarg was another wonderful valley town, from where we went to the Khilanmarg-Affarwat snow-point which is close to 14000 ft. above sea-level. You reach the snow-point by a cable-car (also called ‘gondola’) and the ride is simply amazing with beautiful views of Snow Mountains and the Gulmarg valley. On reaching the top, all you see is white snow and beautiful light blue sky above. The day we went there was a sunny day, and the sun added to the beauty with its golden light. This place is compared with Mount Titlis in Switzerland, and I must say what we saw here was nothing short of spectacular.
Next was Sonmarg, which again was so very beautiful, with the Indus River (also called as Sindhu River) flowing along in full force. This river originates from Tibet region and flows through India and Pakistan. Sonmarg is a very important destination for one more reason – it is closest to Amarnath shrine with the Baltal base camp which is situated here being only 14 kms away from Amarnath cave. In fact we were almost able to see the gate after which no vehicle is allowed, and the Amarnath cave is supposed to be only 6 kms. away. During Amarnath Yatra, from this point onwards one can either walk up or go on horseback. We also saw on one side the very high mountain pass (13000 ft. above sea-level) ‘Zojila Pass’ which takes you to Ladakh… I really hope it takes ME to Leh/Ladakh sometime soon 🙂
Though the month of May is not supposed to be peak bloom season, we could see beautiful roses and a wide variety of colorful flowers in the Mughal gardens of Srinagar, as well as all over Kashmir, be it the garden of
Avantipur ruins or gardens of local houses.
I can never forget the beautiful sights and views that I was lucky enough to witness and experience in Kashmir – I tried my best to drink it in as much as I could but that was not enough… I left this wonderful place with a heavy heart, while making a promise to myself to come back to this paradise on earth!
What an account Mohini & Anish, not to forget Kesari Travels for organizing such a memorable trip.