Thursday, January 2, 2014

Srinagar: Heaven on Earth

Amir Khusro said the following about Kashmir:
"Gar Firdaus bar rue zameen asto, Hameen asto hameen asto hameen asto"
It means, if there is heaven on earth, its here its here its here.

You have to be in Kashmir to realize the true beauty of the place. We (I and my wife) had only heard about this place in stories and seen it in the movies. We always wanted to be there. Finally, it happened towards the end of November 2012. I and my wife were in Srinagar for six days.

Zahid, a friend, stays in Srinagar and he helped us plan the trip in the most amazing way. To an extent that now we can guide others to visit Srinagar. In our six days, we visited:

Dal Lake: The urban lake, which is the second largest in the state, is integral to tourism and recreation in Kashmir and is often called the "Jewel of Kashmir" or "Srinagar's Jewel." The lake is accessible from several ghats made on the bank spreading across the Boulevard Road. We stayed in a hotel on the Boulevard Road with a CCD near by and the majestic lake in front. The first day, we wanted to just roam around and explore the lake and near by places. While roaming around the lake, we halted in almost every five minutes to take some pictures. It was as if every sight was like a screensaver. We drove to the Nishat bagh and took some pictures. But this garden becomes out of the world site in full bloom season. We managed to take some sunset shots along with a few landscapes while we were there and moved on. On Zahid's recommendation, we took a shikara ride after the sunset. It was furiously cold however, the beauty of the lake and the entire experience of the night ride in Dal lake was just mesmerizing. The lake was colorful with reflection of houseboats and shops. The entire lake is very peaceful in the night. one can listen to the sound of water touching the shikara. Simply superb! As an extension of our stay, we spent a night in the houseboat as well. It is a service apartment on the lake. Everything, food, drinks, jewelry, blankets, bedsheets, and of course saffron is available for sale. There are many shikaras selling this stuff across the lake. The temperature that night went down to 0 degrees and the next morning we could see a thin layer of sleet on the houseboat. it was very beautiful, thin layer of fog settling down on the lake with the reflection of sun in the center, we just wanted to stay there for a bit more.


(translation: "Meadow of Gold"), is a hill station in Ganderbal district. We hired a cab from the hotel to Sonmarg. We came across a beautiful mini lake. It was greenish blue in color and was semi-frozen. We reached a point beyond which no tourist vehicles were allowed. We had to hire horses, an overcoat and snow shoes from here on. It was very bright and sunny and it was tough to keep our eyes open for the first few minutes. Soon we got used to it and managed. The final site was a couple of kilometers away and the route was full of snow all around - on the road, mountains, trees. All across the way, we could hear the sound of a river that was running parallel to the road. Slowly the sound became louder and we arrived at our destination. We walked toward the river. It was clear blue in color and the very sight of it sent shivers across my spine. After spending a couple of hours there, we decided to head back. After leaving the horses, we took a walk around. it was a tiny village and the major employment was tourism. We reached our cab and headed back to the hotel.

Tip: If you take the sledge ride do not give more than 150/200 rupees for a couple. They will ask for atleast 1000 rupees for this. Do not fall for their soft talks.
For the horses, snow dress, and shoes, the optimum amount is 1000/1100 (as of December 2012) for a couple. We still think we gave them more money for the horses. You can also skip hiring the horses and take the journey on foot.
The food in the nearby restaurants is not that great. You can try tea/snacks and then for the food wait until Srinagar.

Pahalgam, a town in Anantnag district. We started early in the morning for Pahalgam and reached before noon. Soon we were able to find us a pair of horses and we were on our way. There were several sites on the route. There was a cricket stadium, a resort where the movie "Jab Tak Hai Jaan" was shot, and the famous "mini Switzerland." Mini Switzerland is the final destination of the trip. It is on top of a hill with snow all around. This was an amazing site. Since we started early, we were among the first ones to be there and the snow was clean. After spending some time in the snow valley, we decided to go back. The horses took the shortcut which was very steep and at every step it appeared as if it may slip. I was tempted to climb downhill on my own. Soon it was over. While going uphill we took about two hours, but the way back was like 25 minutes. It was hell of a ride!
Tip: For the horses, they asked for 5000 rupees for two horses. We ultimately settled for 1800 rupees. Later we realized that taking the horses wasn't necessary. The journey can be done on foot as well.
You should try the maggi and kahwa in mini Switzerland.
At the mini Switzerland, beware of the hawkers selling pashmina shawls. They will start quoting at 5000 rupees and end up selling it in 500. This stuff is available in Delhi for just 250 (on a higher side).

Gulmarg (translation: "Meadow of Flowers") is a town, a hill station, a popular skiing destination in Baramula district. Zahid joined us for the trip to Gulmarg. There is this place called Gandola where two levels of cable cars take you across the mountains for some amazing sites. The entire route is filled with Army and Army vehicles. We saw a person skiing from the peak. The site was inspiring and gave a feeling to learn the sport. We clicked as many pics as we could. But somethings cannot be covered and the sight just stays with you, wanting you to go back between the mountains and snow.


Apart from these amazingly picturesque places, food is another attraction. For food, you have to know a local (as we did) to delight your taste buds.
Mornings in Srinagar are incomplete with "Harisa." This is a traditional breakfast and is favorite of the locals. It is meat cooked overnights in multiple spices, lots of ghee along with some legumes/pulses over slow flame. It is served with a thick dry roti locally called "Kandur Tchot". No doubt it is heavy and a good start for the day.
Next important stop is the "Khayyaam Gali." It is famous for its kababs and rumaali rotis. This is not like a restaurant. This is a street about 2 KMS from the Boulevard road with several shops selling the delicious kebabs. The variety that we got was mind blowing. There was seek kabab, chicken mutton angara, afgani and many more. It was served with three types of chutnies (sauce). The taste was simply great and I just could not stop eating. Zahid told us that this food was like an addiction. It truely is!

Now for the most important part of our food journey in Srinagar - "Waazwan". We went to Zahid's home for a wonderful treat. We spoke about politics and just chatted over some very heavy snacks and "kahwa". There was this coconut cookie that was really amazing. Here I learnt my lesson: you should save your appetite for the main course. After the heavy snacking and some rest, it was time for lunch. We went like this: There was a plate of steam rice and then dishes started rolling in. Started with ristey, yukni, chicken currey, seek kabab, gushtava, and a paneer dish. It was simply glorious. I had only heard about Waazwan and to experience it first time was mind blowing. This is one the finest and most tasty food that I ate in my whole life.

In our short visit, we tried to cover as many places as possible. However, There are several places that will make us come back to this heavenly beautiful destination. Next time!

Best time to travel: Anytime of the year has its own beauty (if you love snow, prefer December to February, otherwise Srinagar can be visited anytime of the year)

How to reach: From Delhi, you can take a direct flight to Srinagar or take a train to Jammu and take a bus to Srinagar from there. One could drive to Srinagar from Delhi as well.


  1. Some trip u had Abhay...Definately loved the food fotos :D

  2. My dream was to walk around, this place is gorgeous

  3. Awesome, Simplliy spectacular . People can also visit this site for a detailed coverage of the place