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My Travel Diaries - Srinagar

अगर फिरदौस बर मे झमिनस्त,
हमिनस्तु हमिनस्तु हमिनस्त…

These lines were written by the famous Persian poet Firdaus, after his visit to Kashmir. The meaning of these lines is: If There is Heaven on Earth, It is here, It is here, It is here….I’m sure
one too will feel the same when they visit Kashmir, especially while going to nearby places such as Sonmarg and Gulmarg. Sonmarg means Valley of Gold or Golden Valley where Gulmarg is Valley of Flowers. That is why with my travel diaries today we are visiting Srinagar and nearby places.

To begin with, I must take you to Srinagar. As
it is known that Srinagar is summer capital of Jammu & Kashmir because it’s in more hilly area than Jammu. But apart from the ‘Gyan’, Srinagar is an amazing place to visit.

Now we have a frequent connectivity, direct to Srinagar, from Delhi, the best way to enjoy the Scenary is to take a road trip from Jammu. The road that connects Jammu & Srinagar, that is NH1, is a wonderful road due to the natural scenery this area has. The best part of the whole road trip is the time when you come out from ‘Jawahar Tunnel’, the tunnel that connects Jammu and Kashmir Valley and the first time you witness why it is called Heaven on Earth. (The other reason for this recommendation is on the way to Srinagar from Patnitop you’ll come across many typical ‘Dhaba’, here do taste ‘Rajama Chawal’ with their special ‘Sukhe Anar ki chatani’!)

Once you enter in Srinagar, at first place you will find it as just one more usual town with markets & tourist places but the view of Dal Lake will definitely change any such perceptions. Just one view of the lake and you are going to fall in love with this place if you are a nature lover, even if you are not you will start liking it. That is why the best way to enjoy the beauty of nature is to stay in a House Boat which is a great experience in itself, instead of any star hotel by the lakeside.

Life in houseboat is same as you are living in some normal town on land, as every morning all kind of vendors come to sell their stuffs in their ‘Shikara’, from flowers to saffron (specialty of Kashmir) to typical Kashmiri Jewelry. These Shikaras are also used as transportation mode in the Lake.

In proper Srinagar, one must visit Temple of Shankaracharya, it is on little height and even if you take a ride in your cab/car till the base you have to climb up around 200 steps but it is worth going to the top. Since Srinagar is famous for its gardens, do visit Nishant Baugh & Shalimar Baugh, both of them are a must see. We had gone there in summer but as I have seen on various TV Channels & websites, at the time of autumn, when the gardens have been reopened after 3-4 months of extreme

Sonamarg, which literally means Golden Valley, is what really define Kashmir as Heaven on Earth. Actually this place is nothing but a valley full of snow. It is called so because this valley is in the eastern side of Kashmir hence when the sun rays fall on the snow the whole valley glows like gold.

The road from Srinagar to Sonmarg is almost 90 km long, going through kashmiri villages, small climbing of Himalaya and passing through beautiful river Chenab you reach to Sonmarg. The whole route is really picturesque. You really feel like you are in heaven. The pictures over here show the beauty of this route.Now,
Sonmarg, as I told earlier, it’s a valley, a gorgeous valley carved by the river Sindh. It is famous for various adventures like Trekking, sledging, alpine skiing etc. But what we enjoyed the most is sledging over here. It’s really amazing thing I ever did. Sledging is where you are made to seat on a plaque of wood & they slide you from the slope & let you slide.

A tip before you go for sledging:
Be sure for sledge rates. Ask twice & don’t take distance granted. What you feel "told" might be six times more than that!!

After having a wonderful time at Sonmarg, it is time to heading for a bit green part of Kashmir- Gulmarg or Valley of Flowers. This valley is approx. 50 km North-West to Srinagar. Same as Sonmarg, Gulmarg is also a valley but the difference between the two is Gulmarg valley is greener than Sonmarg & due to that it was very much popular with Bollywood directors, for example the famous song of Rajesh Khanna-"Jay Jay Shiv Shankar". They have still kept that temple.

You might find this valley not as attractive since main fun is not in the valley, it is at a height. There you can have adventure sports like Skiing. Here they give you instructions for skiing as well, in case you are not a pro with skiing. To reach there, you have to take a Gondola, i.e. ropeway or cable car. The way from valley to Kangdoori, a part of Mt. Apherwat, has wonderful scenery. This cable car ride is world's highest & Asia's longest. You have to take this cable car to reach the 1st phase of Gulmarg, Kangdoori. When we visited Gulmarg, this was the only phase which has start working. Here you can enjoy Skiing.

A tip for Gulmarg:

We came to know from our "Guide" that on the other side of Mt. Apherwat is POK, which is known as "Aazad Kashmir" in the population over there.

I know no one likes to say good bye to such a wonderful place, or say Heaven on the earth. But you can’t live there forever. So, before saying good bye to Srinagar, here are some things you must do:

  • Visit Kshirbhavani:
    KshirBhawani is a nice, quiet place near Srinagar, about 20 km. There stands a marble temple with gold plated dome houses here amidst a pool formed by spring waters, which is believed to change its colour from time to time. They give really nice Kheer as “prasad” on special occasion, not always.
  • Visit Lal Chowk: This area is “famous” with Indian News Channels because of frequent terrorist attacks. It’s the main square of Srinagar, like Time Square in NYC. This area is basically shopping area & has Posh to basic shops. Shopping not worth but visit for
    "Thrill" of Lalchowk name!!
  • For shopping in Srinagar, check out local handicraft shops in Dal Lake. Buying some items made from Papier-mâché is a good idea. They have so many things in this art, from small “dabbis” to big flower pot.
  • Prefer to stay in House boats than in any high rated hotels, as it’s once in a lifetime experience. Well, people do stay in Houseboat when they visit Kerala, but it is not the same. Most of the house boats give Breakfast & Dinner; they are very safe in all ways.
  • Few Houseboat experiences:

  • Watching rising sun from the verandah of the houseboat. The view and first, golden rays of sun at 5.30 AM is one of its kind experiences.
  • This one is little scary experience. While coming back from Sonmarg, we faced rain and storm, a windy one. As we had stayed in House Boat, we have to cross the lake to reach there. We hired Shikaras and the rowers of shikaras took us from a longer way, taking care of shikaras as well as the passengers, all at the same time. By the time we reached our house boat, the storm became so heavy that the rowers didn’t even wait for their fare and quickly left back to the bank. Later, the whole night we felt as if we r in the middle of sea as the storm had caused waves even in lake.
  • There is high degree of security but mostly tourist safe but don’t argue, quarrel or get in bouts with ANYONE and Fix rates first and be clear about the same.
  • Don’t forget to enjoy Kashmiri local food in your houseboat; they make it better than what we get around here. Do try the CHAAT opposite Shankaryacharya gate of Dal Lake
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