It’s been a long time when I have traveled to Srinagar. Yet the experience is just a fresh one. I have spent 6 days in Srinagar including Sonamarg and Gulmarg (and 3 days in Pahalgam). It was all though a great trip including splendid natural beauty, appetizing foods and folks. Here’s some quick tips for the people looking to travel Srinagar.
Srinagar is a city of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Situating on the banks of the Jhelum river, this city recognised as the summer capital of the state. Surrounding with several lakes including Dal Lake and Nigeen Lake , this city has been called as the “Venice of the East”. Dal Lake is noted for its houseboats but Nigeen Lake is simultaneously popular for this also. Staying in houseboat is an absolute different experience. I have chosen to stay in a houseboat at Nigeen Lake ( I just felt like Dal lake to be a little bit over crowded ). My houseboat was New Golden Flower Houseboat and I have booked this through MakeMyTrip ( discounts are always amazing ).
The owner (Yakub Bhai) and staffs are so cooperative and well mannered. They have arranged a cab for us to pick up from airport. There is no direct flight from Kolkata to Srinagar (when we have traveled) so it was a one stop flight. From Kolkata to Delhi and Delhi to Srinagar. Reserved 2 nights of stay over the houseboat and the stay was so worth enough. The most important part of this staying is to see their lifestyle with Shikara (wooden boat) in lake. It seems like their whole world is within this lake. The floating lifestyle has made my trip so different. From morning tea to dinner everything is beneath the same. The food they provided us are so mouthwatering that it was a lifetime taste for me. From Kebabs to Gushtaba the flavours are so unique to make happy your taste buds. Flower sellers, Jewellery sellers, handicrafts sellers and saffron sellers used to visit these houseboats to sell their products to the tourists. Importantly, I have bought flower seeds, saffron and paper mache handicrafts from them. Paper mache handicrafts are so unique and sophisticated, even you can bring those as a memento. But the flower seeds and saffron were fake. If you have thought to buy saffron, try to buy it on the way to Pahalgam. Those are original. The houseboat is beautifully crafted by woods. The owner offered us a cab for the entire trip and the cab driver was so humble.
If you are planning to stay houseboat then it is suggested to take e written document (email) previously referring all the details they have to cover within their package. Because sometimes they used to harass tourists later on ( although I haven’t faced that).
Leaving the houseboat, we went to Pahalgam. On the way to Pahalgam from Srinagar, it is a rich cover of vegetations. Both sides of the roads are vegetated with saffron plants, apple gardens and others. Most attractive were the apple gardens, even you can actually pick apples from there and consume those immediately. Price for the apples are so cheap. Arriving at Pahalgam, our staying was at Hotel Bombay Palace. The scenic beauty from this hotel was so heavenly but the hotel was so so kinda. The Lidder river just 2 minutes walking distance from the hotel. The water of this river is like crystal transparency. We have taken another cab to cover the sightseeings from Pahalgam. It was a one day tour to cover all the points. Aru valley and Betab valley are the two important of them. I personally like the Betab valley. Green carpet like grass, chilly waters and lonely mountains will keep you spellbound. Without visiting there you will never understand why this is noted to be one of the most important Bollywood shooting spot.
Returning from Pahalgam to Srinagar, we have stayed in Hotel Wallisons, just opposite to the Dal Lake. It’s always been the privilege to stay in the centre of the city. You can easily communicate with the other part of Srinagar. It was a single day tour to Sonamarg. The snowy mountains and glaciers are the best part of Sonamarg. After reaching by cab there, we have taken an another cab for sightseeings. Don’t forget to bargain with the drivers ( here, you have to show your Indian talent 😉 ). They have asked for 8500 INR but fixed we it at 6000 INR. Viewing a Fish pond we went to zero point by Zoji La pass. Reaching out at Zero point it was a great surprise with snow fall. Sipping a cup of tea in the snow fall at Zero Point is a life time experience. But remember, the road is very dangerous and the drivers are always in a great rush. So, if you are a weak hearted person then this is not for you.
Next day, it was our city exploration. Mughal gardens ( Shalimar Bagh, Nishat Bagh, Chasma Shahi), Shankaracharya temple and Hazratbal Shrine are the most popular places to visit. On that very day, we have taken our lunch at heritage restaurant Mughal Darbar. The paradise of Mughal cuisines. The original restaurant is on the first floor. Don’t get confused as there’s an another restaurant in ground floor with the same name. Try Kashmiri Wazwan, the full meal over there. Shopping some woollen garments and Kashmiri shawls are always great idea.
On the very next day, we have traveled to Gulmarg. If you are a sports lover then this place will really impress you. Gondola cable car will take to Apharwat Peak. The white snow scenery will left you speechless.
Few Quick Important Tips :
1) Always carry your proper identification cards ( i.e. Passport etc.) through out the journey to Srinagar.
2) Take the full and last moment political conditions before setting off.
3) Check out from hotel for airport with keeping at least 2 hours in hand. There are several checkpoints and it is quite time consuming.
3) Tourists who are going from the rest of the India are suggested to take a local SIM card from your guide as no SIM cards became active over there. Else you can make your prepaid phone connection to a post paid one (I have heard that).
4) It is appreciated not to discuss any political issues openly.
5) While visiting in Hazratbal Shrine, cover your head with a scarf.
Photographs courtesy: Swarnendu Ghosh
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