The beauty of Kashmir is not unknown to most people of the nation. The revival of tourism in the state in the post-conflict era has of late proven to be a boom. Bollywood movies, as well as South Indian movies have done a great deal in raising the curiousity levels of the consumer/viewer, though sometimes in a negative context. Whether negative or positive, it can be safely assumed that almost everyone (at least me) who has seen those beautiful valleys, apple orchards, snowfall and streams, wants to visit it. With winter ready to set in, it is a good time to visit the place for the weekend.
The state of Jammu and Kashmir has three regions – Jammu, Kashmir Valley and Ladakh – which are quite distinct from each other. The part which we have been made aware of mostly is the Kashmir Valley. It is here that most of the tourist sites are located. Though it will be impossible to list them all out in this blog, we can certainly take a look at the most important ones for your short trip.
The very first place you will have to disembark at in order to head to other places is the capital city of Srinagar, known as ‘Venice of the East’ or ‘Kashmiri Venice’. The city with its wooden structures set in the magnificent backdrop of hills will steal your heart. Visit during the time as winter is setting in and you will see the first snowflakes too. Once you get acquainted with the snowfall, try out the Dal Lake. Get on board a shikara or houseboat and witness the beauty of nature. Try out this place in the morning after sunrise or an hour or two before sunset. There are many gardens in the city, but the one you ought to visit is the Shalimar Bagh built by Jahangir, the fourth Mughal emperor in 1619.
If you are seeking spirituality nearby, Charar-i-Shareef located at a distance of 28 km to the south-west of Srinagar city is where you need to pay a visit. The town is famous for the 600-year-old wooden mausoleum of Sheikh Noor-ud-Deen Noorani, who preached Islam in Kashmir via his poetry. Legend has it that the saint’s coffin flew some distance before landing on the place where he currently lies buried. It is a prime attraction for people of all faiths.
You are in a place which experiences snowfall and the tour can’t be complete without some winter sports, right? Yes, you will not be disappointed. Just two hours away from Srinagar lies the picturesque hill station of Gulmarg – the site of many Bollywood movie shoots. History has it that Emperor Jahangir once collected 21 different fauna varieties from here. You will also be a witness to the beautiful snow-capped mountains as well as hillsides of fir with villages in their midst. The international news network CNN has described it as “heartland of winter sports in India.” As a traveler you need to be here to try out skiing (which starts from mid-December) and skating on the snow-covered hills at prices ranging from Rs. 400-600 per head.
With a short two-day trip to the Valley, these are the places, not worth a miss. The experiences here will not make give you a feeling of monotony or boredom. Be sure to try out the samovar tea served by locals. After all, this is just the safe drink to keep you warm in the snow.