Have you ever thought to yourself what Kashmir looks like? Do you imagine water streams and snow-capped mountains? Yeah. That is exactly how Kashmir is. Amidst the ongoing conflict between India and Pakistan, exists a valley where God dwells.
I flew from Mumbai on the 30th September morning and l landed in Srinagar by afternoon but trust me, the plane ride itself was so mesmerizing! It felt like you are in some another world. I was sitting like a 6 year old staring in wonder at those snow-capped mountains!
Srinagar is the summer capital of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir and is the largest and most developed city of the Kashmir region. I had planned to keep Srinagar as my centre of all the journey so I spent all the nights here. I had hired an Auto Rickshaw for the tour around Srinagar and it cost me 800 INR. This included the stops and everything. Autos are the best means to go around here.
- Chashme Shahi Bagh:
My first stop was the Chashme Shahi Bagh, a Mughal Garden, discovered by a great female saint, Rupa Bhawani. It is located on the foothills of the Zabarwan Range. The view of the misty peaks on one side and Dal lake on the other takes your breath away. The garden with its landscaped terraces, sculpted fountains, natural springs, colourful flowers and views of the surrounding mountains are a photographer’s delight!
- Pari Mahal:
The next stop was the Pari Mahal. It is located around 2 kms from the Chashm-e-Shahi garden and it is a seven terraced garden surrounded by beautiful flowers, that sits on top of the Zabarwan mountain range and overlooks the Dal Lake. If there is one place from where you can watch the entire Srinagar, it has to be this place! The palace looks straight out of a fairy tale. The ruins of the Pari Mahal still echo the grand history of Mughal period and reflects the exquisite architecture style of the bygone era.
- Nishat Garden:
Nishat garden was the third stop for my journey. Also known as the Garden of Delight, Nishat Garden is a 12 terraced Mughal garden built on the banks of Dal Lake. Each terrace represent a zodiac sign and are filled with different colored roses, lilies, geraniums and asters. There are pools in every segment of the gardens with gushing fountains. Walk right till the end of the garden to have a panoramic view of the magnificent garden. It offers splendid views of the Dal Lake and far distant snow-capped mountain ranges of Pir Panjal. A famous picnic spot, Nishat Bagh also offers shopping facilities to its visitors. There are a number of shopping stalls and food stalls situated opposite the garden so be ready to eat some lip smacking Momos!
- Hazratbal Mosque:
The last stop for the day was Hazratbal Mosque. The holy muslim shrine is situated on the western banks of the picturesque Dal Lake. Facing the beautiful Nishat Bagh, the mosque offers a spectacular view of the lake and the mountain afar. As you walk down the corridors of this famous religious sanctum, you marvel at the intricate Persian and Iranian architectural influences.
- Dal Lake:
I chose to go to Dal lake to spend my evening instead of going to the hotel. The evenings at Dal are pretty chilly but you just cannot stop your aesthetic self from relaxing on the shore and enjoying the breathtaking view.
Dal lake, spread over 15 km, is Srinagar’s most valued jewel. A flat crystal like sheet, is a maze of intricate waterways and channels, floating islands of vegetation and reflects the wooden houseboats and the peaks of Pir Panjal mountains. The scenic views of the Shalimar bagh and Nishat bagh can be witnessed from the shoreline. You can enjoy the breathtaking views from the lake by taking a Shikara ride. Choose a shikara anywhere between ghat 2 to ghat 7. Bargain hard and don’t let them charge anything above 500 for a 1 and half hour ride. Be ready with your camera as you wouldn’t be able to stop clicking pictures of this scenic and serene lake.
There is always a great deal of activity on the lake and it even hosts a floating market where vendors sell their produce, directly from their boats. Sunsets at Dal lake are nothing but magical so make sure you spend at least one evening there.
This was my Day 1 in Kashmir. Stay with me as I will take you around the paradise and show you how beautiful the war-torn valley is!