“Gar firdaus bar-rue zamin ast, Hamin ast-o, hamin ast-o, hamin ast” -J ahangir
It is rightly said about the valley of Kashmir that if there is paradise on earth, it is here, it is here! Kashmir is a valley of splendid beauty with its shapely meadows and lofty peaks. The dry, raw winters, as well as the blossom of spring and warmth of summer, are equally mesmerizing when one is traveling through Kashmir. Jammu and Kashmir have a visual appeal unmatched by any other place throughout India. Only if you have been to Jammu and Kashmir can you entirely grasp the amazing beauty that this place is!
The famous Amarnath Yatra begins at Kashmir while the pious Vaishno-Devi trek begins at Jammu. Both bring together loads of Hindu pilgrims along with lots of foreigners, the latter coming for the scenic pleasure while the former enjoys the best of both worlds. The terrific culture and delectable food are some of the other things that bring tourists to Kashmir. This is a place that you have to visit at least visit once in your lifetime and if you are planning a trip to Kashmir, here are certain places that you just have to visit.
Srinagar, the capital city of Jammu and Kashmir, is a fantastic place to start your journey into Paradise on Earth. The term Srinagar is derived from Sanskrit referring to a “city of wealth and abundance”. It is easy to reach and is well connected to all the places in Jammu and Kashmir. Srinagar is an important city and though it has no railway station, it still has its own international airport. The nearest railway station to Srinagar would be Jammu Tawi and you have to arrive here by road. The best time to come to this wonderful place is in the summer and monsoon seasons between April and October when the snow has melted. This time is perfect because all the flowers are in full bloom and in the later months see the beautiful chinar trees turn entirely golden. However, Srinagar has appreciable weather throughout the year and if you want time away from your daily life, you can easily hop on a flight to Srinagar any time of the year.
The Mughal Gardens were designed by the Mughals and give you picturesque artwork carved in a garden. Achar lake and Nagin Lake are attractive tourist destinations not to mention the ever-famous Dal Lake. You can enjoy Shikara rides in true Kashmiri style when you are on Dal Lake. There are even hotels built on Shikaras where you can spend the night on the lake. A walk through the old city will take you on a trance with all the ancient mosques and minarets available there.
Srinagar is famous for its Kashmiri Wazwan cuisine and Kawa tea. There are multiple kinds of kebabs and preparations from fish available in Srinagar. The market places are wonderful and you will find everything Kashmiri you can ask for at the best deals. Shawls, pashminas, rugs, walnut wood furniture, willow wood furniture, and all other things that Kashmiri is noted for is easily available in Srinagar and you will also find some of the best deals.
Gulmarg translates to the "meadow of flowers" and this valley has a vibrant collection to offer that will leave you enchanted. The town is located among the Pir Pinjal range making it an attractive destination for adventure seekers. It is nestled at an altitude of 2,730 m and even has the highest golf course in the world. It is just a 2 to 3 hours’ drive from Srinagar being only 57 km away. the road to Gulmarg is also fascinating and is thus a route which is frequented by bikers. The Jammu Tawi railway station is 290 km away while the nearest airport is situated at Srinagar.
If you want to get a blast of fresh blossoms, then the months April to June is the best time to visit Gulmarg. However, if you are more into adventure sports such as skiing or you simply want to build a snowman, you should visit Gulmarg during the snow-covered winter months between October to February. Khilanmarg, about 6 km from the bus stop, bursts with colors in the summer months and is a great place to visit. The Strawberry Valley is a visually pleasing place and will enamor you with the sweet scent and taste of the freshest of strawberries. Nilgiri Nallah is also an impressive place which is formed by the melting of Apharwat and Alpather glaciers and ultimately joins the Jhelum river. You will find everything that you can ask for in the Gulmarg mountains but you will surely get a better deal at the Srinagar markets.
Traveling onwards from Gulmarg along a 126 km stretch will take you to another amazing valley- Sonamarg. There are no direct flight or train routes into Sonamarg and it is only connected by road. However, the popularity of this place ensures that Sonamarg is well connected to the rest of Jammu and Kashmir and can be easily reached from major cities like Jammu and Srinagar. The months of April to October when there is no snow is the best time for you to plan your trip to Sonamarg.
Sonamarg is a scenic place and you can click some of the best photographs in this place. However, Sonamarg holds a special place in the hearts of any adventure lover. There are so many trekking routes coming out of Sonamarg. You can plan your Amarnath trek starting from Sonamarg. Other notable trek routes coming out of Sonamarg are Sirbal Peak, Kolhoi Peak, and Machoi Peak. It should be noted that the average elevation of all these high altitude Himalayan treks is about 5000 m at the summit and thus you should be well-seasoned for such a climb. Zoji La, the pass connecting Kargil and Srinagar at an altitude of 11,000 feet is a beautiful place and a must-visit site for nature lovers. Different kinds of Kashmiri cuisine and Kashmiri artwork is available in Sonamarg for you to browse through.
Pahalgam, known as Bail Gaon in the past, is situated in Jammu and Kashmir in the Anant Nag district. Though the place has a majorly Islamic populace, it brings together thousands of Hindu pilgrims. This is because Pahalgam is the starting point of the holy Amarnath Yatra and its older name, Bail Gaon, identifies it to be the place where Lord Shiva left his faithful companion, Nandi the Bull, before entering Amarnath Cave.
Sheikh-Ul-Alam Airport in Srinagar is the closes airport to Pahalgam and is located only 90 km away. you can also get down at Udhampur railway station and travel 217 km via cab or bus to reach Pahalgam. If you are in Srinagar or Jammu, you can easily reach Phalagam by road using cab services or bus routes. This beautiful pilgrim spot attracts tourists all year round. The summer and monsoon seasons witness pilgrims from all over India who have come to offer their prayers to Lord Shiva while the winter season welcomes the adventure enthusiasts. Many trekking routes are coming out of Pahalgam making it an ideal spot for adventure lovers. In the summer seasons, you can go for white river rafting on the wild tides of the mountainous Lidder river. The journey to Amarnath will take you through some amazing sites such as Chandanwari and Seshnag Lake. Other notable places that you can visit on Pahalgam are Tarsar Lake, Marsar Lake, and Kolahoi Glacier.
You will mainly find all kinds of Kashmiri delicacies available in Pahalgam. The market place is loaded with all kinds of shops selling carpets, wall hangings, shawls, Phirans, and so on. Be sure to visit the Zamindar-Home of Handicrafts to witness some of the most excellent and intricate artwork.
Vaishno Devi is a holy site for Hindus and attracts thousands of Hindu pilgrims all year round. The temple standing on the Trikuta Hills in the kisser Himalayas holds three deities- Mahakali, Mahalakshmi, and Mahasaraswati. Vaishno Devi is easy to reach and is a spot instantly visible as a sparkling jewel around a mountain at night. You can reach the base to the shrine at Ban Ganga bridge from Katra railway station, which is just 20 km away. Jammu airport is 46.7 km away from the base on NH 144.
Once you have reached Ban Ganga, it is a 14 km trek on foot from the base to the top where the shrine is. A shrine is a mystical place, located in a cave with the three deities sitting together. The climb is quite steep but not that difficult and you can always take help from battery operated cars and ponies. Recently, even helicopter services have been made available to directly reach the top. Once you are done offering your prayers to the Mother Goddess at Vaishno Devo Temple you can even go further to visit the Ardhkuwari temple. Further up, you will find a peaceful spot with the enthralling Bhairo Temple which brings you to the end of this amazing spiritual journey.
Ladakh, located in between the Greater Himalayas and the Kunlun Range, is one of the highest places in India. In fact, Taglang La, one of the passes that lead into Ladakh is the highest motor-able road you will find in the world. Leh, now capital of Ladakh can be easily reached from Srinagar and there is also a connecting road from Manali. Both the roads are intensely picturesque and are frequented by all kinds of travellers. Bike and cab services are regularly available and bikers love to travel through these high altitude motor-able roads. The nearest airport is the Leh Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport situated 3 km away from Leh. The nearest railway station is in Jammu and you have to hit the road to reach Leh from there.
The most striking feature of Ladakh is the arid beauty of the place interspersed with bright Tibetan prayer flags and an intricate weave of different cultures available. Since Ladakh is situated at an altitude of about 3000 m above sea level, the winters are very harsh and all roads are blocked. The summers in Ladakh between May to August brings out the best of the place. Pangong Tso is one of the most famous tourist destinations in Ladakh. The Zanskar river freezes in the early winters and gives way to the famous Chadar trek that can hold anybody in a trance. Ladakh also has Nubra Valley, a high altitude desert covered in white sand with the occasional two-humped camel giving way to the most wondrous starry night you will ever see. The sheer magnanimity of the vast universe is easily perceived in Ladakh with its huge expanses and open sky!
Much like the culture in Ladakh, the food is also intricate and unique. Cheese and meat form a majority of the diet and these are available in the forms of a delicious stew, delectable thukpas, and amazing steamed dumplings. Leh is filled with many shopping spots to get all kinds of souvenirs for yourself and your friends. You can find authentic pashminas, pearls, wonderful winter garments, Tibetan prayer paraphernalia, and much more!
One of the top tourist destinations in Jammu is Patnitop. A small hill station with breathtaking alpine vegetation and gentle slopes, Patnitop can be visited in both summers and winters. While the summer holds a warm, lush green beauty, winters in Patnitop is like the postcard winter wonderland. You can reach Patnitop from Jammu airport using cab or bus services and it is about 110 km away. you can also get down at Jammu Tawi station and take a cab to Patnitop. This place is easily connected to all the major roads as well as highways in Jammu and there are even bus services from Shimla and Chandigarh.
Bilo ki Powri si an attractive place to visit in Patnitop. You can also go for a peaceful day out away from everyday life at Kud Park. Patnitop is a very small hill station and you can easily cover the entire place on foot. You may want to go to Shiva Ghar and have to rent a cab for that as it is 11 km away. Madhatop, which is 5 km away from Patnitop is a great place if you like to go skiing or paragliding.
Shaped like a cup, the Sanasar valley is a picturesque valley and a must-visit site in Jammu. There is no airport or railway station as the valley is located in relatively higher altitudes where it is difficult to construct railways or airports. Both the nearest airport and railway station are in Jammu. It is 134 km away from the airport and 132 km away from the railway station via road.
The meadows are scattered with brightly colored flowers and give you a full view of the greater Himalayan ranges. It is a place where either individual adventurers or a family can equally have fin. The meadows give way too many trekking routes and there are different adventure sports like rappelling, rock climbing, and paragliding where one can participate. A family can have a quiet time camping around a bonfire along the banks of the Sanasar lake. Other notable places of interest over here are Suri Kund, Shank Pal Temple, and Nag Temple.
Doda is another picturesque meadow in Jammu which has a serene appeal and a calm, peaceful atmosphere. It is a priceless gem giving you exquisite views and has a religious appeal because of the many temples and an excellent mosque. Doda can be reached via road either from Jammu Airport or Srinagar International Airport. It is at a distance of 230 km from the latter and 170 km from the former. You can also hit the road from Jammu Tawi railway station. Recently, you can reach Doda using helicopter services that start at Jammu. The helicopter facility is started and run by Pawan Hans.
Doda has many temples that you can visit on your tour such as the Vasuki Nag Temple, Gupt Ganga Temple, Lakshmi Narayan Temple, and so on. The Jamia Masjid Bhaderwah is a fantastically built mosque with exceptional architectural constructions. Doda is also famous for the many adventure activities it offers such as skiing, mountain biking, camping, and paragliding.
If you have not visited Jammu and Kashmir, you are missing so much in life. This is a place worth the visit and you have to go there to know the kind of beauty this place boasts of. Kashmir valleys cannot simply be described in words and once you have visited this place, the mesmerizing beauty will forever be engraved in your mind. It is sure to captivate your soul and leave you enchanted. Thus, you should not wait any longer and plan your trip to Kashmir today only.
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