Amidst The Mountains—Travelling Through Kashmir
The metaphor ‘paradise’ does not do justice to the beauty that is Kashmir—one of the most popular and scenic tourist destinations in India. There is so much more to this spectacle of nature than its post-card perfect landscapes. Although the state has unfortunately become a tale of tragedies owing to border issues, rising militancy, and mutiny, it still continues to attract tourists from all over the world because of its serenity, beauty, and warmth. Verdant valleys, sylvan landscapes, and snow-clad mountains are truly what makes Kashmir as beautiful as the tales of yore.
The second largest lake in the state is the highlight Kashmir vacation. Dal Lake is a misnomer as Dal essentially means lake. Though the city boasts of two other water bodies, namely the Jhelum Lake and Nagin Lake, Dal is unmatched in terms of beauty. The lake also provides the tourists to experience the rare opportunity of staying in a houseboat. Other astonishing features of this lake include a Floating market and a Floating Post Office. The ride in the Shikara, around the lake, left us in a state of calmness and tranquillity.
Gulmarg, translating to a meadow of flowers, is situated at a height of 14,000 feet above sea level. A three-hour drive away from the state’s summer capital, the tourist hotspot of Kashmir boasts of one of the highest Gondola trolleys in the world, which is at a height of 6000 feet above sea level. The ten-minute ride in the Gondola gives tourists a bird’s eye view of the breathtaking Srinagar valley. Consisting of two levels, the second level gives the tourists a view of the snow-capped mountains and spotless snow around them. While speaking to the manager of our hotel, he told us that in the winters, Gulmarg witnesses torrential snowfall and a deposit of 40 feet of snow in January. Despite this climatic severity, Gulmarg boasts of the highest golf course in the world, situated at an altitude of 2,650m.
Pahalgam, which literally means Shepherd’s village, is a quiet little village serving as the base camp for the Amarnath journey. The route to Pahalgam itself is absolutely breathtaking, with lush green open fields and the beautiful river Chenab. There are a lot of places to visit around Pahalgam valley. One of the main destinations is Baisaran, which requires tourists to travel for two hours on horses. It is a lush green patch of grass on top of a hill amidst the woods. The stunning view from the hilltop has earned Pahalgam the title of mini Switzerland. Other places of attraction include Aru Valley, Betaab Valley—named after the Bollywood movie shot here—and Chandanwari, where a glacier melts into a river.
Roughly translating to ‘meadow of gold’, Sonmarg has snowy mountains against a backdrop of cerulean sky. Surrounded by snow-clad mountains, a river bank, and an endless road vanishing into the mountains, Sonmarg is truly the highlight of one’s trip to Kashmir, purely because of the picture perfect landscape. Sonmarg is metaphorically named as the snow gleams like gold when the sunlight hit the surface. The trek to the vast glacier, though not for the faint-hearted, is an option worth considering. Trekking begins at Chandan wari, goes alongside River Lidder, with the highlight of the trek being the Kalohi Glacier.
The Mughal Gardens were built by the Mughals in the 17th Century in Persian style architecture. Chashme Shahi, Nishat Garden, and Shalimar Bagh, the three famous Mughal Gardens are built in the form of terraces, with mini waterfalls, along with a channel to the Dal lake with beautiful flower beds spread all over the garden. With ancient Chinar trees and flowers so outrageously beautiful and colourful, the gardens are a must visit for every traveller.
Of Kashmir, it was rightly said “Agar firdaus bar roo-e zameen ast, hameen ast-o hameen ast-o hameen ast” or “If there be a paradise on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here.” From the Mughal emperors to Led Zeppelin, the most turbulent and politically charged state in India is deservedly romanticised and has made its way into popular culture. We, collectively as Indians, pray for a better future—to preserve the sanctity and beauty of this paradise situated in the laps of the Himalayas.