I have been lucky to visit Kashmir three times and I find it incredibly beautiful. As the season moves to summer vacation time you might be looking for a trip to Kashmir. I have out forth a list to things to do in Kashmir. I hope you will enjoy it. And I sincerely hope that another flood doesn’t materialize in Karshmir.
It is an amazing experience to stay in a house boat in Srinagar. There are many house boats both at Dal Lake and Nagin Lake across various budget ranges. For me the most beautiful aspect of staying a house boat was to wake up in the middle of the lake and see it come alive in the morning with shikaras selling breakfast, flowers and souvenirs.
Walking around Dal Lake in the evening is a thing of beauty. The setting sun makes the surface of the lake glow. I would stop at the road side tea shop and have chai as well when I was tired of walking.
There is a local floating vegetable market on Dal Lake which sells wholesale vegetables. It has become a tourist attraction too. One has to wake up early to go there as the market disperses by 7.30 am or so.
Paragliding is available at Srinagar from Astanmarg area. I could not do it personally as our bookings didn’t work out but I did see the site and it was a beauty.
Pari Mahal is a garden in Srinagar. The garden itself is beautiful but the view of the city from the garden is breathtakingly beautiful.
The gondola ride at Gulmarg is very popular and rightly so. The ride is dependent on weather. On some days it is not possible to go the level two due to the weather, on some days the ride may just not happen at all. But if possible do try going to both the levels. In the skiing season it is fun to skiers zipping around on the slopes.
St. Mary’s Church is situated on a vast meadow and the location itself makes it so beautiful. A mass is said in the church every Sunday and the priest comes in from Srinagar!
Gulmarg gets snow, a lot of snow. When I was there in March it had five feet of snow. And snow is so much fun. There is a skiing institute in Gulmarg too, so if you are planning to learn skiing, Gulmarg is one of the options.
There is rafting available on the River Lidder in Pahalgam. It was open for a small stretch when I was there and the water was oh so cold! But it was a lot of fun as well. Pahalgam is picture postcard beautiful even otherwise.
If you like tea you have to try kahwa the Kashmiri tea. It is a tea made without milk and everyone does it a little differently. I am otherwise a big fan of Chai but kahwa comes quite close. When in Kashmir, I drink only Kahwa. You have to give it a try, chances are you will get addicted like me!
I intended to show the Gulmarg flowers as soon as I got back from the trip, which was in September 2014. But at that time Jammu and Kashmir were badly affected by floods. It made no sense to write about rain drenched flowers when the state was facing one of its worst crisis. But those days are gone, I think I can safely write the post now.
Gulmarg was full of wild flowers in September. I had seen it all white in March 2013, so it was a really different look of Gulmarg that greeted me in March.
I have been to Gulmarg twice, both trips were with The Khyber Resort and Spa. But we visited another hotel too, on both the occasions, the Hotel Highland Park. All the flowers other than the top one in this post, are from their gardens. The zinnias were right at the entrance. Even though it was a wet and cold day and food and drinks were waiting for me inside, I spent quite some time outdoors with the flowers! I just love flowers.
The garden was full of blooms, all clamoring for my attention! It was the rain and cold that was playing spoil sport.
The pathway leads to the cottage where the song for the Hindi movie Bobby was shot. The Hotel Highland Park says ‘hum tum ek kamre mein band ho’ was filmed in one of the cottages of the hotel! Even now that cottage commands a higher price!
It was such a bliss to stroll around in the grounds of the hotel! I am told that the hotel is very popular with skiers in the winters. When I visited it in March 2013, the path to the hotel was completely filled with snow. I remember walking with baby steps in my sports shoes so that I would not slip! It presented such a different, flower filled picture in September in 2014.
Last month (was it really just last month!) I revisited The Khyber in Gulmarg. The agenda of this trip was getting pampered at The Kyber Spa by L’occitane. I was mailed the spa menu beforehand and I picked up Angelica as the facial and Revitalizing Aromachologie Massage. My facial was scheduled on day 1 and the massage on day 2. I was invited for this trip.
To be honest I have had facials only twice in my life, once in Levi, Finland and then at The Khyber about which I am writing! So when the young lady attending to my facial told me that I had some dark circles under my eyes and my skin was slightly dehydrated, I didn’t know what to make out of it. In the next moment she added- other than that you have a good skin!
I had picked up Angelica as my facial originally, but I was suggested to go for Immortelle instead, as it better suited my needs. The facial was an intense affair of 75 minutes. The process used 9 different ingredients from eye balm, toner, cream mask and many more. No wonder I came out glowing from the room. The cost of this treatment is Rs 4000 plus taxes.
The next day I was sitting in the waiting area before the massage session. The heated swimming pool is right next to the spa. I managed to get a quick swim before coming for the Revitalizing Aromachologie Massage. I was asked to fill a few details about myself on day 1 itself, so they didn’t ask for it again. After the session they take your feedback on a tab!
I will let you into a secret. I pick up the massages which sound the most fragrant. I picked up Revitalizing Aromachologie Massage for the same reason. They use mint, pine and rosemary essential oils and I was so happy with my choice. They work on the left side of the body in this massage and then attend to the corresponding right side. The lady attending to me would ask me at frequent intervals about my comfort. I had a blissful one hour where the various aches and pains became a thing of the past! Overall, I got an excellent dose of pampering at The Khyber Spa by L’occitane.
It has been difficult to write about Kashmir. I barely manged to get out before the floods. What I saw on the roads left me shaken. And yet Gulmarg on a rainy day was beautiful. The water has receded and the state will now face different set of problems. One of it would be mass cancellation of vacation bookings. I have faced a somewhat similar situation in Uttarakhand, but I was going visiting after the floods. I am of the view that as soon as a place is ready to support tourism, it would be a good deed to visit it rather than canceling the trip! Now that the worst of the floods in Srinagar are behind us, I am going to write about Gulmarg without guilt. Before I do that, let me put another record straight, as a rule I am not a big fan of rains.
I understand the necessity of the rains in the eco-system otherwise I would have tried to banish them. All they lead to is water logging and traffic jams and make my life miserable. For me rains on a normal day mean only traffic jams. I like them somewhat over the weekends though, when I don’t have to commute. I like rains after the scorching summers of Delhi/NCR. But that is it, any other time I don’t like them, on a balance I don’t like them. And in Gulmarg all we got was rains!
After being cooped inside for a day at The Khyber, we decided to venture out in the rains. Being cooped inside The Khyber was not such a bad idea because of the spa and the heated swimming pool but none the less, it was still being cooped inside which is never too good a thing. When we got got, I agree the greens were extra green in the rains but then the sky was also extra grey which ruins all the pictures.
It was fun trying to hold an umbrella and click pictures. After all, neither the cell phone, nor my precious, my SLR, like water! And even though every flower was drenched with water, I am not too good with macro photography! So instead of looking beautiful, it felt if as they were mocking me!
However, there was one advantage of being out in rains, other than our group there was no one out there, we had almost the whole city to us. Otherwise, I can imagine the same scene full of people with half of them taking a selfie, sitting on that bench!
Given a choice will I take Gulmarg with rains or without rains? I would any day choose it without rains! Without the rains I could see the mountains which were just not visible otherwise. Without them I could easily take a walk. And without the excessive rains there would have been no flood.