Kashmir – ‘Paradise on Earth’
Jammu and Kashmir, India’s one of the most picturesque state lies on the peaks of Himalayan Ranges with varying topography and culture. Kashmir is the northern most place in India. It is surrounded by China in the north, Pakistan in the west, Himachal and Punjab in the south and Tibet in the east. Jammu was the stronghold of Hindu Dogra kings and abounds with popular temples and secluded forest retreats. Kashmir’s capital city, Srinagar offers delightful holidays on the lakes with their shikaras and houseboats.
Set like a jeweled crown on the map of India, Kashmir is a multi-faceted diamond, changing its hues with the seasons – always extravagantly beautiful. Two major Himalayan ranges, the Great Himalayan Range and the Pir Panjal, surround the landscape from the north and south respectively. They are the source of great rivers, which flow down into the valleys, forested with orchards and decorated by lily-laden lakes.
The Mughals aptly called Kashmir ‘Paradise on Earth’ where they journeyed across the hot plains of India, to the valley’s cool environs in summer. Here they laid, with great love and care, Srinagar’s many formal, waterfront gardens, now collectively known as the Mughal Gardens. Anecdotes of four and five centuries ago describe their love for these gardens, and the rivalries that centered around their ownership. They also patronized the development of art & craft among the people of Kashmir, leaving behind a heritage of exquisite artisanship among these people and making the handicrafts of the land prized gifts all over the world.
Kashmir is a land where myriad holiday ideas are realised. In winter, when snow carpets the mountains, there is skiing, tobogganing, sledge-riding, etc. along the gentle slopes. In spring and summer, the honey-dewed orchards, rippling lakes and blue skies beckon every soul to sample the many delights the mountains and valleys have to offer. Golfing at 2,700 m above the sea, water-skiing in the lakes and angling for prized rainbow trout, or simply drifting down the willow fringed alleys of lakes in shikaras and living in gorgeous houseboats are some of the most favoured ones.
Places to see in kashmir
Srinagar : The city of lakes nestles in the heart of one of the loveliest areas of the country, The Kashmir Valley. Srinagar is located in the western part of the State of Jammu and Kashmir and is famous for its lakes and the charming rows of houseboats floating on them. Srinagar is the first place in the world to offer a stay on luxurious accommodation world over know as “ houseboats” which offers the facility of almost 5 star hotels. The northern most state of the Indian mainland is rightly called “paradise on earth”. It is also known for traditional Kashmiri handicrafts and dry fruits. The Mughal Gardens are an important tourist attraction. The best time when tourists can seize an opportunity to travel to Srinagar is from June to early November to enjoy the extended summer and from December to February in winter.
Gulmarg: Gulmarg is also known as “The Meadow of Flowers”.The meadow of Flowers is a world famous tourist spot in the Baramulla Distt of Kashmir. With pretty views of green undulating country in spring and snow blanket in winter, its often called Switzerland of India. Gulmarg is famous for skiing, often national level skiing competitions take place here. Gulmarg has a fine 18 hole green golf course which is highest in the world. Gulmarg also has the longest cable car of Asia which takes you to an altitude of 30,000 feet above sea level.The meadow of flowers “Gulmarg” is in the shape of bowl, it is 3.5 Km in length and 1 Km wide. The bowl is encircled by hills, and in the distance are snow-covered peaks.
Pahalgam : Pahalgam, a world famous hill station is 45 Kms. from the District Head Quarter at Anantnag and located on the banks of river Lidder at an altitude of 7200 ft. from sea level. Pahalgam is one among the five tehsils of Anantnag district and tehsil head quarters are located in the main town of Pahalgam. Once a great tourist puller and favourite place for shooting of Bollywood films is perhaps the best health resort in the country. Pahalgam also serves as base camp for the famous Amarnath Ji Yatra. The Pahalgam Valley presents glamorous look due to its pine forests, snow clad mountains, healthy climate and vast meadows and pastures. Pahalgam skirts Lidder river and torrential flow of water in Lidder river enriches the awesome beauty of the Valley.The region is extremely popular among tourists for its outdoor activities like fishing, horse riding, golf and trekking. Tours and travel to Pahalgam usually offer opportunities for outdoor activities.
Dal Lake : Located in close vicinity of the lake are the blooming Mughal-era gardens teeming with a wide variety of beautiful and colorful flowers. The gardens boast of amazing terraced lawns, lovely fountains, numerous flowerbeds, wonderful trees and shrubs and blissful environment, which never fail to impress visitors.If you really want to experience and enjoy life on water, then Dal lake is the best bet. It is dotted with a variety of houseboats, which serve as interesting accommodation options for tourists. Some houseboats are highly luxurious and some are simple. You can take your pick depending on your budget and taste. Their interiors are decorated in traditional style with beautiful handicrafts such as amazingly carved furniture, mesmerizing paintings, arresting carpets, elegant chandeliers etc.
Houseboats : Many tourists are attracted to Srinagar by the charm of staying on a houseboat, which provides the unique experience of living on the water in a cedar-panelled elegant bedroom, with all the conveniences of a luxury hotel. Srinagar’s thousand or so houseboats are moored along sections of the Dal and Nagin Lakes and river Jhelum, each decorated fancifully and named romantically and even whimsically. Like hotels, houseboats vary in degree of luxury and have been accordingly graded by the Department of Tourism. The cost per day of hiring a houseboat includes all meals and free rides from the houseboat to the nearest jetty and back, as no houseboat on the lakes is directly accessible from the banks.Every standard houseboat provides a balcony in the front, a lounge, dining room, pantry and 3 or more bedrooms with attached bathrooms. All houseboats not moored to the bank of the river or lakes provide a shikara as a free service from the houseboat to the nearest ghat (jetty).
Yusmarg : Yusmarg is approximately 47 km from the Srinagar and lies in the Badgam district of Jammu and Kashmir. The two-hour drive to the place is an enjoyment in itself. Grassy pastures stretching to acres of land, the dense forests full of pine trees, with the backdrop of splendid snow capped mountains leave you almost speechless. Neel Nag of Yusmarg would have been one among the sources of Jehlum, the second source (present) day source at Verinag was the third source of the river. However, the geologists widely are of the opinion that Neelnag (Yusmargh), whose water level always remain constant even in the rainy days owes to the reason that it must be contributing its precious water to ‘Verinag’ owing to the transfer of water from lake at higher altitude to the lake at lower place.
Sonamarg : Situated at an altitude of 2730 m, Sonamarg (‘The meadow of gold’) has, as its backdrop, snowy mountains against a cerulean sky. The Sindh River that meanders through the valley abounds with trout and mahaseer. Ponies can be hired for the trip up to Thajiwas glacier, which is a major local attraction during the summer months.Sonamarg is the base of a major trek that passes along several mountain lakes –Vishansar, Kishansar, Gadsar, Satsar and Gangabal. Sonamarg is also the take off station for the drive to Ladakh across the Zojila, a major pass in the Great Himalayan Range, through which the Srinagar-Leh Road passes.
Sonamarg is also a base for undertaking the yatra to the holy Amarnath cave, during Sawan Purnima. For details about the yatra, refer to the Amaranathji Yatra Link. The drive to Sonamarg is through the Sindh Valley which presents yet another spectacular facet of countryside in Kashmir.
Manasbal : Mansbal is a Scenic Quiet Lake situated just 30 Kms from Srinagar City Center. In spite of its proximity to the city, Manasbal is one of the least known and least visited Resort near Srinagar City when Compared to Dal Lake, Mughal Gardens etc. This makes it a perfect place for a quiet day out with friends and family.
The lake also has facilities for Shikara Riding. Shikaras are the Kashmir Counterparts of Gondolas of Venice. They are small wooden boats suited for ride by 3-4 people. The ride is an experience a few people can forget.
The Lake is surrounded by mountains from three sides. A beautiful and well maintained Garden overlooks the Lake. Its a nice place for having lunch before a boating trip.
Manasbal is situated in GANDERBAL District. Its about 15 Kms from Soura and 18kms from Hazrathbal Shrine and just 7 Kms from the Khirbawhani Shrine at Tulmulla.
Ladakh: The two of the world’s most powerful mountain ranges – the Karakoram and the Great Himalayas – make Ladakh a much preferred adventure destination. The altitude in Ladakh ranges between 3505 m and 2750 m. Ladakh has been described as “The Last Shangrila”, a living museum of Tibetan Culture. Nestled high in the Himalaya and surrounded by two of the world’s mightiest mountain ranges, the Great Himalaya and the Karakoram, it lies athwart two other, the Ladakh range and the Zanskar range. Accessible by road just 2 months out of the year, this isolated ancient Tibetan Kingdom is home to one of the last surviving authentic Tibetan Buddhist cultures. It is magical, remote, with delightful gentle people. It is an otherworldly place with strange monasteries perched on soaring hilltops, ancient palaces clinging to sheer rock walls and landscapes splashed with small but brilliant patches of green. Ladakh beckons for more than one reason. The raw beauty of its barren landscape ,its unique flora and fauna, its culture ,its clear blue skies and clean air ,’ the land where snow never melts and only corn ripens’, has more to offer : a good holiday.
Leh : Leh is located in the Indus river valley at a crossroads of the old trading routes from Kashgar, Tibet, and Kashmir. Its importance as a trading town slowed down with the partition of British India, and ended with the closure of the border in 1962 during the Sino-Indian war. Since the 1999 war with Pakistan, and the consequent development of the Manali-Leh highway, it has become a bustling tourist town, with large numbers of Kashmiri traders.
It’s a small town, easy to get most places by foot. The old town is a compact area of mud brick houses and narrow lanes directly to the east of Main Bazar. Changspa is the agricultural “suburb” northwest of the center, with many guesthouses.
Its elevation is approximately 3500 meters (11,490 feet), so take it easy on your first few days there or risk possible altitude sickness. Even experienced high altitude travellers (Andes) might have some trouble.
Kashmir has four distinct seasons, each with its own peculiar character and distinctive charm. These are spring, summer, autumn and winter.
Spring, which extends roughly from March to early May, is when a million blossoms carpet the ground. The weather during this time can be gloriously pleasant at 23 degree Centigrade or chilly and windy at 6 degree Centigrade. This is the season when Srinagar experiences rains, but the showers are brief.
Summer extends from May until the end of August. Light woollens may be required to wear out of Srinagar. In higher altitudes night temperatures drop slightly. Srinagar at this time experiences day temperatures of between 25oC and 35oC. At this time, the whole valley is a mosaic of varying shades of green – rice fields, meadows, trees, etc. and Srinagar with its lakes and waterways is a heaven after the scorching heat of the Indian plains.
The onset of autumn, perhaps Kashmir’s loveliest season, is towards September, when green turns to gold and then to russet and red. The highest day temperatures in September are around 23oC and night temperatures dip to 10oC by October, and further drop by November, when heavy woolens are essential.
Through December, to the beginning of March is winter time, which presents Srinagar in yet another mood. Bare, snow-covered landscapes being watched from beside the warmth of a fire is a joy that cannot be described to anyone who has not experienced it. Some houseboats and hotels remain open in winter-these are either centrally heated or heated with ‘bukharis’, a typically Kashmiri stove kept alight with embers of wood, quite effective in the winter.
How to get kashmir?
By Air: Indian Airlines operate regular daily flights to Srinagar from Delhi, Mumbai and Jammu. They leave from Delhi directly, from Delhi via Jammu, and from Bombay via New Delhi and Jammu. Jet Airways also operate daily flights to Srinagar from Delhi as well as Jammu. Indian Airlines has its city office in the Tourist Reception Centre, while the Jet Airways office is close by.
Srinagar airport is 14 kms from the city. The taxi ride to the Tourist Reception Centre costs about Rs.250/-. Jammu & Kashmir State Road Transport Corporation (J&KSRTC) operates special coach services between the airport and the city.
Note: All foreigners are required to register themselves at the Foreigners Regional Registration Office, at its Airport counter.
By Rail: The nearest railhead for Srinagar is Jammu Tawi (305 kms) where trains arrive from Delhi, Calcutta, Pune, Mumbai, Kanyakumari, Ahmedabad, etc. As with flights, train bookings have to be made well in advance. During the holiday season, additional trains operate to and from various parts of the country.
By Road: National Highway 1-A, connecting Srinagar with Jammu, is a good, all-weather road with several sharp inclines and hairpin bends. It is maintained by the Border Roads Organization (BRO), which clears the road of any obstructions resulting from natural causes like landslides and heavy snowfall. The famous Jawahar Tunnel that connects Jammu with the Kashmir Valley across the Pir Panjal range falls en route.
The beautiful Kashmir valley looks like a paradise on earth. The valley is so beautiful that you will fall in love with it at the first sight itself. Infact, the charm and magnificence of Kashmir are beyond the scope of mere words. In the following lines, we have provided some quick information on Kashmir, India. Read on to know fast facts about Kashmir.
Area: 105 sq km
Altitude: 1,730 m
Climate: Summers – 29.5 deg C to 10.6 deg C
Winters - 7.3 deg C to1.9 deg C
Rainfall: 52.9 cm
Population: 930,136 (2001 Census)
Best Time to Visit: March to October
Airports: Srinagar, Jammu and Leh
Clothing: Spring and autumn – Light woolens
Summer - Cotton
Winter - Heavy woolens
Languages: Kashmiri, Urdu, Hindi and English
Religions: Islam and Hinduism
Major Festivals: Eid-ul-Fitr, Eid-ul-Zoha, Lohri, Baisakhi and Navratri
Major Fairs: Jhiri Mela, Bahu Mela, Mansar Food and Craft Mela, Pumandal Mela and Chaitre Chaudash
Tourist Attractions: Dal Lake, Nagin Lake, Houseboats, Mughal Gardens, Dachigam, Gulmarg, Sonamarg, Pahalgam, Patnitop, Charar-I-Sharif, Shankracharya, Hazratbal, etc.