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Road to paradise - Part II

  • Published at 09:44 am September 20th, 2018
WT_Sep 20_2018
Photos: Courtesy

7 day itinerary for Srinagar, Dal Lake, Sonamarg, Gulmarg (Gondola ride), Pahalgam (Valley of the Shepherd) and MORE: in-depth exploration of beautiful valleys, pony rides, mini Switzerland and ice capped mountains!

Kashmir (India) is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places on earth – in fact, locals and tourists alike have labelled it lovingly as “Heaven on Earth” and this name truly does do justice to the awe-inspiring beauty of this place! With that in mind, Feetpin Travel brings to you this particular itinerary which focuses on the unbridled beauty of Kashmir, and the treasures and memories that await you there!

Day 1:

Land in Srinagar Airport – try to arrive in the morning, the earlier the better. Sort out necessary practicalities and formalities. Check into your houseboat at Dal Lake and take an hour to freshen up and explore the houseboat. 

Make lunch a casual affair – Grab something small and light at any one of the numerous restaurants or street food stands by the “Ghats” (harbours) of Dal Lake.

After lunch, head out with your rented car and driver for local Srinagar sightseeing, with specific focus on the beautiful Mughal Gardens. Check out Pari Mahal, Chashma Shahi, Shalimar Bagh and Nishat Bagh – these should be your tops choices, if you are running short on time. 

Also remember to cover HazratBal Mosque – where a relic of Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) hair is said to be kept.

Enjoy an amazing dinner (with traditional Kashmiri cuisine – Wazwan dishes) at Shamiyana Restaurant (the best restaurant of Srinagar).

Overnight at houseboat at Dal Lake.

PRO-TIP: When in Srinagar, do NOT stay anywhere else except on one of the houseboats on Dal Lake, on ALL nights. Also, don’t miss the famous “Halwa Parath” opposite HazratBal Mosque.

Day 2:

Wake up early and drive to Pahalgam (also known as “The Valley of the Shepherd” for its picturesque beauty). Stop for an early lunch en-route to Pahalgam. If you’re lucky, you may also get the opportunity to have lunch inside an apple orchard. We did that and enjoyed it immensely. 

En-route to Pahalgam, make two stops:

Firstly, to check out the incredible purple saffron flower fields, if they are in season.

Secondly, visit one of the many local stores around the fields. We did and found wonderful treasures. 

Once you reach Pahalgam, check into your hotel right next to the beautiful Lidder River and take an hour to relax. Following that, jump on pony rides and head to Baisaran (also commonly known as “Mini Switzerland”). En-route to Baisaran, you will also pass the heart of Pahalgam valley, the Gold Club, Lidder river bridges, Badian, etc. 

Spend at least at hour at Baisaran and ride your pony back to your hotel. Have an early dinner and head to bed early. Fall asleep to the sounds of Lidder River.

PRO-TIP: When in Pahalgam, do NOT stay anywhere else except at hotels right next to Lidder River. We stayed at White House Pahalgam and did not want to leave! Ask your hotel to organize your pony rides to Baisaran as soon as you reach, to save time.

Purchase original saffron, walnuts, pistachios, cashews, honey, Kashmiri rose petal pickle and Kashmiri Kehwa (best tea ever!), en-route to Pahalgam from Srinagar, for unbeatable quality at cheap prices. 

Don’t forget to chat with your pony guide if you speak Urdu/ Hindi – some of them have amazing insights to share!

Day 3:

Wake up early and enjoy a leisurely breakfast right next to the river. Next, head out with your driver to explore the following:

-    Betaab Valley

-    Aru Valley

-    Chandanwari

There is a mini zoo en-route to Aru Valley, so you can check that out too (depending on preferences). We decided not to go in, but we did grab some street-food outside the zoo. 

Return to your hotel late in the afternoon and explore the grounds and surroundings properly. Dinner should definitely be enjoyed outdoors at sunset and perhaps even opt for a barbecue next to the river. 

Head to bed early or late. Fall asleep to the sounds of Lidder River.

PRO-TIP: Purchase traditional Kashmiri shawls from peddlers or shops in Pahalgam. Keep a special lookout en-route to Aru Valley for peddlers. 

Place your barbecue request before you leave the hotel for sightseeing, and they will set everything up for you. 

When at Chandanwari, definitely stop at one of the overlooking cafés for freshly fried pakoras (fritters) and hot Kashmiri Kehwa (tea). Also, on the way back from Chandanwari, ask your driver to stop at the special spot where you can view the entirety of Betaab Valley from the top. 

Day 4 (Optional extra day at Pahalgam – highly recommended):

Sleep in and wake up late. Enjoy brunch by the river. 

Leisure day to explore Pahalgam Valley and just generally get some rest. 

Pahalgam also offers the opportunity to enjoy river rafting on Lidder River, so if you wish to indulge in this, go for it! Just remember to wear a life jacket.

Last night of falling asleep to the sounds of Lidder River.

Day 5: 

Wake up early, grab breakfast and head to Gulmarg. 

Once at Gulmarg, grab a quick bite to eat and head to the famous Gondola ride. Enjoy the Gondola ride and drive back to Srinagar, reaching there in the late afternoon. 

Ask your driver to take you on a Streetfood tour around Srinagar City and sample all the culinary delights. 

Grab some takeaway for dinner and check into your Houseboat on Dal Lake. Enjoy dinner on the Houseboat and get some decent sleep.

PRO-TIP: Ensure that you check up on whether the Gondola is working prior to visiting Gulmarg. 

Purchase fresh cherries en-route to Gulmarg and whilst at Gulmarg. Amazing quality, for half the price at Srinagar!

Other attractions at/near Gulmarg include Manasbal Lake (a little disappointing) and a short trek up to see the remains of a hundred year old temple (also a tad bit disappointing). We covered them both because the Gondola ride wasn’t working when we reached Gulmarg.

Day 6:

Head out early for Sonamarg. 

En-route there, stop at this charming riverside joint, right next to the river where you can also make a rest room stop. I forgot the name, but it’s quite unmissable as it is literally on the road, next to the river. Spend an enjoyable half hour here, order some light snacks for breakfast and (of course) some delightful Kashmiri Kehwa. 

Once at Sonamarg, head immediately to Zero Point on a four-wheeler. Admire the gorgeous views en-route at the famous Zoji-La Pass. At Zero Point, enjoy sledding (if you want to) and admire the breathtaking scenery.

On the way back, stop at Fish Point to enjoy some Zorbing in the water and also at a few Glamping resorts to take a walk around and admire the view. Just ask politely – Kashmiri locals are very hospitable and hardly ever say no. 

Return to Sonamarg and enjoy a picnic lunch (we were lucky enough that a Srinagar local insisted on packing home-made food for us as a picnic - because apparently Sonamarg is the “picnic heaven” in the world). Alternatively, drop into any local restaurant for authentic local cuisine. 

After lunch, head to Thajwar Glacier on a pony ride. Explore to your heart’s content and then return. 

Stay overnight at Sonamarg (recommended, if possible), or else enjoy the sunset riverside drive back to Srinagar and stay overnight on a Houseboat.

PRO-TIP: If you are lucky enough to meet friendly locals and make local friends, do enjoy the opportunity of taking a home-cooked packed lunch to enjoy a picnic at Sonamarg. 

The beauty at Sonamarg is unparalleled. Ensure that you have enough battery on your phone and cameras to take enough photos. We were unlucky enough to have all three phones in our group die on us, during late afternoon. Carry a power-bank. Or two. Or ten!   

Day 7 (Optional extra relaxing day on houseboat – highly recommended):

Wake up on Dal Lake and have a late breakfast or leisurely brunch on the houseboat, whilst admiring the surrounding views. 

After breakfast/brunch, have a fun traditional Kashmiri photo session -  get glammed up with traditional Kashmiri outfits and jewellery, climb on a Shikara (traditional Kashmiri boat) and pose away with the beauty of Dal Lake, Srinagar mountains and houseboats in the background. 

Indulge in some light shopping during the early afternoon.

Late afternoon/early evening – take the mandatory Shikara Ride on Dal Lake. Opt for the two hour ride, so that you can enjoy a more in-depth exploration of Dal Lake and the markets. 

End your evening and celebrate your last day at Kashmir by enjoying dinner at the second best restaurant in Srinagar – Lhasa, where you can enjoy a wide range of options including Kashmiri Wazwan, traditional Indian food, Chinese food and a few continental options as well. Don’t forget to conclude your meal with a sweet cup of Kehwa, or any of the fresh fruit juices on offer. 

Overnight on houseboat.

PRO-TIP: Don’t confuse the Dal Lake photo-shoot with your mandatory Dal Lake Shikara ride. Opt for the two hour ride and enjoy delicacies on the boat. 

Although Lhasa has a wide variety of options, their best food is actually the traditional Kashmiri Wazwan cuisine. 

DAY 8:

Wake up in the morning and have a traditional breakfast (ask for “Pua/ Poa”) on your houseboat. Relax, until it’s time to start for the airport.

Even if it is a domestic flight, give yourself at least three to four hours time for airport security and check-in.

Depart Kashmir

Note: The days have been broken down into easy segments, so feel free to omit any of the days and adjust accordingly if you have more/fewer days available in Kashmir. It’s a vacation – enjoy it!

For more travel inspiration, follow "Feetpin Travel with Jennifer" on Facebook at facebook.com/feetpin or read more at feetpin.wordpress.com

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