Kashmir predominantly known as “jannat“, or heaven. The valley – as Kashmir is commonly known – accommodate paradisaical images. Any glimpse you go by once, your eyes will dream to cherish them in heart till you perish. The views will fetch all the graves from your soul and will make you feel like a purified soul.
If one visits India then should pay a visit to Kashmir, this is what Indians suggest. I visited there with my family the last Christmas days to experience snowfall in great swing. From New Delhi, the National Capital we boarded a traveler and after a few naps we were in snow-capped domes.
The next day was dedicated to katra. The whole purpose was to visit Vaishno Devi: The pilgrimage for Hindus. As we stepped out of the bus, cold weather welcomed us. I was not expecting this low temperature but it somewhere had a sensation which made me feel like floating on the surface of water. We checked into a hotel, this hotel planned a 5 day trip for us and provided a driver and a SUV. We started in afternoon at around 12 pm from the hotel. One can reach holy temple either by walking or by ponies. We decided to walk, it was a long walk, met lots of people, and the spirit people had to reach the holy temple was amazing. We were walking at a medium pace by enjoying every bit of the walk and reached there around 8 pm. In the main temple water was freezing. It was so cold but to be honest reaching there gave a different kind of satisfaction. It was already 4 am by the time we returned back to the hotel. Travelling has more of feeling then expression.
Srinagar is capital city of J&K. We took a small nap and started for Srinagar. Scenic beauty was increasing and we had seen variety of clothing styles as we traveled towards Srinagar. We reached there by night after travelling 265 km, driving could not be as fast in hills as on roads. We took few stops at dhabas (small road side restaurants) to enjoy the view and coffee. Arrangements were done in houseboat there in DAL Lake for five of us. The view of lake was breathtaking. The view of the lake at night and in evenings was amazing.
The Dal Lake is always lined with houseboats. Their heavily carved facades and names ranging from California to New Zealand are completely attention seeking. They took us to the houseboat by a small boat called Shikara. Boat was very beautiful from inside, so well decorated like we were sitting in a small palace. Dinner was north Indian food. It was prepared by wife of houseboat owner. Next morning we all were supposed to leave early for Gulmarg. In houseboat they send local people to sell their handmade stuff during breakfast timings. We even bought some ear rings and a pendants from there. The most surprising were the mobile photo studios. When we were crossing the lake on Shikara (small boat), they approached us with a sample photo album and asked us to choose the picture of our choice. A variety of props to perfectly match the Kashmiri dress you choose, these photo studio shikaras were amazing. They promised a perfect Kashmir ki kali “Damsel from Kashmir” picture. By evening, the photo was delivered at our houseboat! The best part is the rates of all these small accessories were so feasible.
A pre-dawn vegetable market sets up in the Dal Lake every day. A shikara ride can be arranged for this. It is supposed to be the best time to take this ride. We arrange this ride during night and went to explore boat market and lightning.
Started in morning, reached there by 12PM around. It was a very thrilling moment. We played in snow till evening and had Maggi noodles. Gulmarg is the best place to ski in India as it is largely covered in snow. We took skiing equipment on rent and also hired an instructor for each one of us. Did skiing and sledging.
Gulmarg also boasts of the world’s highest ski lift in the world. The Gulmarg Gondola cable car ride is a two-stage ropeway, riding in Gondola will gave us an unimaginable feeling, something you will never be able to forget all your life. We explored the nearby mountains by walking.
Explaining fun we had is a difficult part but yet I have tried to put in all my efforts. We tried Kahwa (a special drink of Kashmir with Kesar(Saffron) and dry fruits powder). While returning back. Met lots of people, kids they are all different from people of rest of India in cultures, costumes, food but still there is some kind of connection. It felt amazing to know about them, their life, and their traditions.
Started for Sonamarg next morning, the drive to Sonamarg is through yet another spectacular facet of country side in Kashmir, Nallah Sindh, the largest tributary of the Jhelum River in the valley of Kashmir goes with you. We reached there and enjoyed that spectacular view, snow, took loads of pictures explored various places. The river looked very beautiful, it felt amazing sitting on the rocks besides the river in between the snow-capped mountains.
Next early morning checked out from house boat reached Pahalgam by 11 AM checked into another hotel. Pahalgam visit consisted of another great excitement. As no cars were allowed, we hired ponies and got pictures clicked in Kashmir’s traditional wear (phiran) and even traditional jewelry. Ride on pony was so awesome, snow and rocky hills made ride more adventurous and thrilling. It was super awesome. On our way we were talking to them about the horses how they behave in what conditions and were trying to know about people there.
We did very less shopping mainly from Boat market during night time while we were in house boat, Famous products there are Pashmina Shawls, jackets, phiran, on way back to Srinagar we once bought dry fruits, apples, Kesar as these are either manufactured or cultivated there.
We started for Katra next morning and boarded train from Katra to New Delhi.