One of the most memorable trip I have ever had in my life- a visit to the heaven on Earth–The valley – as Kashmir is commonly known – conjures paradisiacal images with postcard perfect landscapes. Kashmir undoubtedly is one of the most picturesque locations in the country.
Main Attractions: Srinagar [covered in this blog], Gulmarg, Sonmarg, Pahalgam [to be covered in part 2]
Best time to visit: June to October, December and January
We decided to fly directly to Srinagar summer capital of Jammu & Kashmir from Delhi. Srinagar, or as it is more fondly called- Venice of the East is situated in the Kashmir Valley and lies on the banks of the Jhelum River, famous for its magnificent beauty in lakes, historic gardens and indulgent houseboats.
Srinagar is beautiful and provides a complete sightseeing experience especially the lake area.There is much more to the tourist trail of Srinagar as I pen down my ‘Kashmir ki kali’ experience of the valley decked with beautiful locals in bespoke jewelry, saffron, flowers, and local Kashmiri costume- phiran.
Places to See in Srinagar-
-Mughal Gardens (Nishat Bagh, Shalimar Bagh, Chashm-e-Shahi)
1. Dal lake: Topping my list of places to visit; we headed out straight for the Shikhara ride on the wee hours of the morning. Facing the twinkling yellow lights from wooden cottages, yawning my way up I saw a mesmerising sunrise- big and bright with a splash of purple and pink across the sky.
I was in love, ready to get soaked in the breathtaking views of the wide stretches of the beautiful snowcapped mountains that surround the lake glistening bright. The lake stretched parallel to the hotel-lined Boulevard from which a colorful array of houseboats form a panoramic view.
A stay in Houseboats on back waters of Dal Lake is an experience one must have once in a lifetime.
2. Nageen Lake: Crossing over into the Nageen Lake, a smaller lake adjacent to the Dal lake, under a bridge, we moved past endless floating lotus and lily fronds.
3. Hazratbal: After an enriching shikara ride around on the calm waters, we next decided to visit Hazratbal Shrine. It is the biggest and regarded as the holiest shrine in Srinagar on the banks of the Dal lake opposite Nishat Bagh.
The shrine is believed to house a holy box with a strand of hair of Prophet Mohammed. This is what gives Hazratbal its exalted standing. Its pristine white marble elegance is reflected in the waters of the lake. Remember to cover your head before stepping inside.
4. Nishat Bagh: Right adjacent to the Hazratbal Mosque is the impressive Nishat Bagh. This garden of bliss commands a magnificient view of the lake and the snowcapped Pir Panjal range.
5. Shalimar Bagh: Right adjacent is a beautiful garden with terraced lawns, cascading fountains and flowerbeds with the panoramic view of the Dal.
6. Chashm-e-Shahi: Next we moved to Chashm-e-Shahi. Arctitecturally the most charming of the gardens in Srinagar, the garden is built around a fresh spring with the Zabarwan mountains at the backdrop. The beauty of the garden is timeless.
7. Pari Mahal: Once the royal observatory, Pari Mahal has a charming laid out garden close to Chashm-e-Shahi.
8. Shankaracharya Temple: A spiralling road that diverges up the hill from the Boulevard Street goes to the Shankaracharya Temple atop the hill called Takh-e-Sulaiman. Amidst the pine and fir trees, surrounded by Himalayas the temple gives a panoramic view of entire view of Srinagar – the river Jhelum, the poplar and Chinar trees that make its green cover, the typical wooden houses – all stretched up to the horizon.
Photography and luggage not permitted after a point where vehicles have parked. From there it’s a 5 minute walk up the stairs to the temple.
9. Hari Parbat Fort: Next we moved towards Hari Parbat- sacred to Hindus due to the presence of temple of Sharika- form of Goddess Durga/Shakti. The Mughal emperor’s fort crowns the top of hill.
10. Jama Masjid: The mosque is built around a courtyard and is supported by 370 wooden pillars- a typical example of Indo-Saracenic architecture.
11. Lal Chowk: By now the sun had started melting away. We pinned in for a lovely walk alongside Dal lake housing Lal Chowk. Often referred to as Ghanta Ghar, it is the busiest commercial centre of Srinagar with hotel lined streets and a bustling market in Boulevard Street.
Lined with incredibly carved houseboats, these boats are one of a kind to fantasize for but before checking in be sure the houseboat is approved by the Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Department.
A paradise indeed; with melodies sugar and sweet, the place left me with a very fitting trail of exuberant landscapes, art, craft and the rich culture of a complete new world.