Tucked away from the mainstream portrayal of India, Kashmir is truly a hidden treasure. A region that’s misunderstood by many, it’s one of those places that you simply must experience for yourself.
Kashmir is definitely for you if you love…
1. Getting lost in nature
Lush greenery, flower filled meadows, snowcapped mountains… what more can you ask for? From popular destinations like Pahalgam to untouched gems like Naranag – their scenic views will be imprinted in your mind forever.
Credit: Saad Akhtar on Flickr
The adventurous should make the most out of this and go for a few days’ trek! Do it during the summer, when the temperature would be perfect and the flowers in full bloom.
Credit: @asaida_chan on Instagram
In spite of that, Kashmir promises a magical experience all year-round. My friend and I went in early spring and although the blossoms were only beginning to bud, we had a misty forest all to ourselves. It was like the pages of a storybook coming to life!
Credit: Free Visuals 4 U
2. Waking up in a bygone era
Walking through the streets of Lal Chowk, one can’t help but wonder if they have travelled back through time. The bustle of locals and the architecture in the old city has a rustic charm like no other.
You’ll notice that some places of worship are built in a pagoda style, influenced by the neighbouring Ladakh. Be sure to check out the Shah-I Hamdan mosque – the interior is colourfully decorated and it was constructed without using any nails!
Tea is so special in Kashmir; it deserves a point of its own! Kahwa is a brew of green tea leaves and spices such as cardamom, cinnamon and saffron. It has been claimed to be a relief for many ailments. Milk is optional.
Credit: Beautiful Kashmir on Facebook
Have a sip of salt tea (noon chai) while you’re there too. As the name states, it has a salty taste and gets the pink colour from baking soda!
Credit: Aamir Mehmood on Facebook
4. Tranquility… and boats
Dal Lake is Srinagar’s main attraction. The lake is enormous and there are a number of ghats surrounding it. Staying at a houseboat is the best way to experience traditional life in the wetlands. Go for a shikara (wooden boat) ride too. You wouldn’t want to miss the floating vegetable market and the backwaters!
Credit: Colin Tsoi on Flickr
Unwind and take an evening stroll along Boulevard street. That is where you’ll find main shops, hotels, restaurants and dhabas. It will also lead you to Lal Chowk and Dalgate.
#HHWT Tip: Look out for India’s one and only floating post office!
5. The warmth of people
Rich in culture, the Kashmiris are predominantly Muslim. Most will be happy to offer you chai in exchange of conversations. Having been through much conflict and natural disaster, they have plenty of stories to tell: especially that of struggle and resilience.
Phone coverage might not be available for tourists but not to worry! The locals are friendly and will go out of their way to assist you. Talk about the kindness of strangers, huh?
6. The adrenaline rush
Tourists flock to Gulmarg for the breathtaking scenery and activities such as skiing and snowboarding. The cable car ride, known as the Gulmarg Gondola is Asia’s highest and longest – definitely a must-do. There are 2 phases to the ride: Gulmarg – Kungdoori and Kungdoori – Apharwat.
Credit: Ishfaq Ahmad Dar on Facebook
Credit: My Concierge Group on Facebook
You can opt for Pahalgam if you’d rather spend your day horse riding through the Betaab valley or even water rafting in the milky white Lidder river!
Credit: draskd on Flickr
Credit: Prayag Asia on Facebook
Paragliding is also available at many spots. One of them is Astanmarg – it’s great as you would be able to see the Pir Panjal range. As always, prices are usually negotiable so don’t be shy to ask!
#HHWT Tip: You can purchase the gondola tickets at the counter yourself. The ‘guides’ will tell you that the queue is too long, but that’s not the case during off-season.
7. Trying out local delicacies
Kashmiri cuisine is a heavenly blend of three different cooking styles: the Pandits, Muslims and Mughals. They don’t skimp on spices here. Non-vegetarian options are abundant, and best of all, most are halal! Be sure to hunt down mutton rogan gosh, dum aloo and goshtaba.
Credit: @himanshu_punjabi86 on Instagram
Wazwan is a traditional feast served during special occasions like weddings and Eid. Comprising of 36 delicious dishes, it’s one elaborate meal!
Credit: Souls of the Valley on Facebook
8. Awesome road trips
Driving through Kashmir itself is gorgeous, but do consider driving to Leh and buckle up for more than 400 kilometres of epic!
Credit: Saurabh Chatterjee on Flickr
This route offers a gradual ascent up to high altitude, passing by Drass (the 2nd coldest inhabited place in the world), the Zoji La pass, and Lamayuru before reaching Leh. The roads might be harsh but there’s nowhere else in the world quite like it.
As the saying goes, begin with the end in mind. If you need an extra push to go… Remember the last scene from the Bollywood blockbuster, 3 Idiots?
Credit: Best Things In India on Facebook
It was shot at Pangong Tso, a beautiful saline lake that is shared by India and China! That’s what’s waiting for you in Leh.
Credit: alex hanoko on Flickr
#HHWT Tip: A journey isn’t complete without good music. I personally recommend this Led Zeppelin classic.
Can’t make it to Keukenhof? Make a beeline to Indira Gandhi Memorial Tulip Garden instead. The sea of colourful bulbs and the Zabarvand range will delight your eyes!
Named after India’s first female prime minister, it’s the largest tulip garden in Asia. The other Mughal gardens such as the Pari Mahal and Cheshmashahi Garden are nearby too, so you can easily visit them all in one day.
Credit: Arith Krishnanandan on Facebook
#HHWT Tip: Opening dates depend on the weather, but April is a good bet. You can check the schedule online!
10. Helping the economy
A.K.A shopping! Great handicrafts are aplenty: cashmere scarves, colourful crewelwork, papier-mâché and more. Kashmir is also one of the few places in the world that grow saffron! Bring them home along with an assortment of yummy dried fruits and nuts.
#HHWT Tip: Always check the authenticity of items before purchasing them. And if you’re pleased with the services, don’t forget to leave a tip!
* Pictures not credited were taken by the writer herself.
Kashmir is just so full of wonderful things to do and beautiful sceneries. This should definitely be top on your travel bucket list.
Visited Kashmir before? Let us know your favourite Muslim-friendly eateries there in the comments below 😄