It has been more than 24 hours that I have returned from Srinagar but I am still hung over the alphabet K. It stands for both Khyber and Kashmir. The memories of snow-splashed Gulmarg, the wholesome hospitality of ‘The Khyber Himalayan Resorts and Spa’, the striking beauty of the 46 varieties of tulips in Srinagar, the colourful life of Dal and Nigeen lake, the rich and aromatic taste of Kahwah, the heritage of Awantipora, history of Martand Sun temple of Mattan and the beauty of houseboats has left me asking for more. I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said that I have lost a piece of my heart to one of the most beautiful valleys of the world. Kashmir is truly magical.
“Gar firdaus, ruhe zamin ast, hamin asto, hamin asto, hamin ast”,
“If there is ever a heaven on earth, its here”
The above lines were said by the Mughal emperor Jahangir.
For years, I have saved on the use of the word ‘heaven’ aka ‘jannat’ because I feared its frivolous use for a place that did not deserve it. The idea was to see Kashmir first and then take a call. I am glad I maintained the restraint. Many sobriquets and poems have been used to describe the beauty of Kashmir valley but there isn’t anything bigger and better than ‘paradise’. The urge to see and experience it with naked eyes was a deep hidden desire and now that it is fulfilled, I can only say that one has to see it to know what it is all about. I am not going to convince you to travel to this part of the northernmost state of India because you must understand that it is an experience of the soul and the senses, much beyond my words and jargons.
What happened when I said I was traveling to KASHMIR?
Last year, when I had traveled to Ladakh in September and Jammu in December, no one had said a word of caution but the moment I mentioned Kashmir, almost everyone in the family had a view about it. The concern around the safety issues and the breaking news from the valley got everyone talking. I knew they were not wrong at their place but my desire to see the valley was intense. I promised each of them that I would be vigilant. The apprehensions made me nervous too but the way my trip happened under the careful guidance of the locals, I have been asking myself, ‘Did I visit the same Kashmir that we often hear about in news and media?’
This seriously makes me question that why are we only talking negative about a place that has a positive side too. I do not deny the fact that there are areas which are risk prone but this doesn’t mean that entire Kashmir is unsafe to travel. In fact, during my stay, I met some extremely wonderful Kashmiri people who strongly spoke about their passion. They talked about their house boats, the importance of revival of tourism, the steps that must be taken for the cleaning of Dal lake, the trails that must happen for exploring the hidden gems of architecture and the need to protect the Kashmiri culture.
Gulmarg is gorgeous while Srinagar is spell-binding!
They say Gulmarg is beautiful in all seasons but since I have not seen it in other months, I have to say that fresh sheet of snow in April made it powerfully and mysteriously attractive. To add to it, the idea of holidaying in Khyber resorts and spa made it an wholesome and complete experience in itself. I could easily spend the whole day looking at the Pir Panjal ranges while sipping glassfuls of Kahwa. But when I stepped out to explore, I did not want to return. From doing a short road trip to oldest shrine of Babareshi, to the idea of walking down to Rani temple and St. Mary’s church and finally taking the Gondola ride, the time spent in Gulmarg was absolutely fascinating.
A shikara ride on Dal lake was the first thing that I wanted to do in Srinagar. I had nursed this dream forever and I am glad I lived it. The gardens of Srinagar are one of the best that I have seen all over the world. The Tulip festival is one of the best in Asia and no doubt it gives severe competition to the tulip garden of Holland. This city on the banks of Jhelum has many shades to it and I think I did see a bit of it when I walked around the boulevard road and bund (a pathway by the Jhelum) and peeked into its everyday life closely. The trip to Awantipura and Mattan via Anantnag were like adding a wealth of knowledge around the history and heritage of Kashmir. And no trip to Srinagar is complete without drinking the sweet water of Chasme Shahi and visiting the Shankaracharya temple and Hazrat bal mosque.
Each day in Kashmir was like discovering a beautiful secret and peeping into its soul a little deeper. As far as my food experiences are concerned, every indulgence deserves a separate story. I must tell you that I have brought back walnut fudge from ‘Just Baked’ and I am loving it.
7 days in Kashmir!
Day 1 – Delhi to Srinagar via Indigo. Road transfer to The Khyber Himalayan Resorts and Spa.
Day 2 – Explored the property as well as Gulmarg’s famous Shrine, Temple, Gurudwara and Church.
Day 3- The famous Gondola ride for the day and indulgence in spa at Khyber in the evening!
Day 4- Traveled to Srinagar after a short hike to Drung. Sunset at Dal lake made the day.
Day 5- Attended the Tulips festival (1st April to 15th April) and visited other famous gardens.
Day 6- A trip to Awantipora and Mattan in the day and Hazratbal mosque in the night.
Day 7- A visit to Shankaracharya temple and a leisure ride on the Dal lake.
Flew back to Delhi via Vistara.
Tourism should be above all religion…
Kashmir is still on my mind. I am glad that I have come back with a different picture of it which is quite different to what I knew about it through television and media. It is such a beautiful place that it needs to live and thrive. Instead of making it a paradise in conflict, we should do everything that it takes to revive its peace. The serenity of the place is magical. With no political inclination or influence, the last that I can say is that Kashmir is a paradise and nothing should stop us from visiting it for its beauty, its people and its tourism.
The 3 days of my trip in Gulmarg was sponsored by The Khyber Himalayan Resorts and Spa.
The other 4 days in Srinagar were taken care by Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Department along with Kashmir Trails!