The Kashmir odyssey

Strolling through the historic Mughal Gardens, like Shalimar Bagh and Nishat Bagh, was like traversing a bygone era of grandeur.
Last Updated 24 February 2024, 22:55 IST

Embarking on a journey through the northern folds of India, I found myself in a realm beyond the ordinary — an enchanting place known as Kashmir. The landscapes were breathtaking, urging adventurous souls like me to delve into the true spirit of this extraordinary place. Each step felt like turning the pages of a gripping novel, with surprises waiting at every turn.

Srinagar: A city where time stands still

Entering Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, was like stepping into a vibrant painting. Mughal architecture blended with local life, creating a mesmerising harmony. Strolling through the historic Mughal Gardens, like Shalimar Bagh and Nishat Bagh, was like traversing a bygone era of grandeur. The cityscape was adorned with the Jamia Masjid and Shankaracharya Temple, a testament to the coexistence of diverse cultures.

In the heart of Srinagar, my journey into the beautiful world of Kashmir unfolded on the serene waters of Dal Lake. Choosing a houseboat became a moment of uncertainty, each one boasting unique charm with intricate woodwork and vibrant colours. Stepping inside, the houseboat revealed timeless elegance, adorned with exquisitely carved wooden furnishings and Kashmiri carpets whispering tales of craftsmanship. Waking up on a houseboat, cradled by the lake and greeted by the distant calls of shikara merchants captured the essence of a Dal Lake morning.

As the sun set behind the mountains, I was on the houseboat’s deck, sipping Kahwa tea and reflecting on the day’s experiences. The calm atmosphere of Dal Lake, combined with traditional Kashmiri music, provided a sense of peace difficult to put into words. The houseboat experience was an immersion into the soul of Kashmir, waking up to the gentle rhythm of the water engaging with vibrant culture through shikara vendors, and witnessing the beauty of the lake evolve with the changing light.

Sonmarg: The meadow of gold

Leaving the cityscape behind, I found myself on winding mountain roads leading towards Sonmarg, often referred to as the “Meadow of Gold”. This pristine destination is a visual feast, with rolling meadows and snow-capped peaks that depict unspoiled beauty. A trek to Thajiwas Glacier revealed a surreal landscape of ice and a profound silence that surrounded me.

In Sonmarg, the Lidder River gently meandered through the valley, offering moments of solitude amidst the stunning scenery. What makes Sonmarg truly special isn’t just the captivating views that stretch as far as the eye can see but also the simplicity that defines life in the heart of the Himalayan wilderness. One of the highlights of my adventure was the unforgettable horse ride along the steep slopes. Mounted on these sturdy companions, the journey was both thrilling and, I must admit, a bit horrifying as I navigated the challenging terrain but it was indeed a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Pahalgam: An art lover's paradise

With crystal-clear waters, the Lidder River in Pahalgam runs alongside the town, creating a soothing melody. A visit to the Betaab Valley, named after the Bollywood film Betaab shot here, is a testament to Pahalgam’s cinematic beauty. Pahalgam is not just a visual treat; it’s an art lover’s paradise. The town is renowned for its Pashmina shawls, Kashmiri carpets, and exquisite papier-mâché artefacts. Watching local artisans create elaborate designs fosters a deep appreciation for the creativity woven into Kashmir’s cultural fabric.

Gulmarg: Alpine grandeur & gondola rides

Gulmarg, meaning ‘Meadow of Flowers’ takes the Kashmiri journey to new heights — quite literally. This region, known for its world-class ski resorts and the iconic Gulmarg Gondola, the world’s highest cable car, is a playground for adventure enthusiasts.

Cruising up through Gulmarg’s snowy peaks on the gondola ride was a thrilling experience, offering captivating views of the landscape. Getting onto the snowy slopes of Gulmarg, I kicked off my ski adventure. Whether tackling easy runs as a beginner or trying out steeper slopes for a heart-pounding ride, Gulmarg’s ski terrain is a great spot for skiers of all levels.

The wide views from the gondola, along with the rush of cold mountain air when skiing down the slopes, made Gulmarg an unforgettable part of my travel tales. 

The best time to visit Kashmir is during March and August. Tourists come to Kasmir Valley so they can witness the ‘Heaven on Earth’ and enjoy all that it offers. Kashmir is not your typical vacation destination; it is, after all, referred to as ‘Heaven on Earth’ and is exceptional in every way as it has the best weather, scenery, lakes, culture, etc.

My journey through this magical area has shown me that Kashmir is a symphony of experiences just waiting to be embraced.

(Published 24 February 2024, 22:55 IST)

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