Journey to Heaven on Earth

Kashmir, You Beauty!


June 8, 2013 — Jammu & Kashmir, India

What a pleasant weather!

To start off, I could barely sleep last night because of my excitement to feel the snow for the first time. I have always wanted to visit Kashmir, and finally I’m here. My family, with two other families made a group of 12 persons. All of us tired, stood waiting at the Jammu railway station for a cab to take us to Katra, J&K.

Maa Vaishno Devi Temple, Katra

Maa Vaishno Devi temple can be reached from Katra. The place is the home to Hindu mythological goddess, Maa Vaishno Devi. To all my readers, I would like to notify that now you can reach directly Katra by Shri Shakti Express (22461) starting from New Delhi. We headed towards Katra via road which was 50 km from Jammu. The road trip was just an appetizer to what lied ahead. The temple is situated at 6200 ft from the sea level and, the distance from Katra to Temple is about 13 km uphill. Most of the devotees travel on foot, but ponies and palanquins are also available. Helicopter service can also be opted for a large part of the trip. We started, the next morning on foot.

A pregnant woman takes a palanquin to complete her journey

I would recommend everyone who wants to experience the various aspects of Indian religion must walk all the way on foot. Old people can try ponies and palanquins. All along the way you could feel the faith and the invisible force that keeps you on your foot. It gets colder and colder as you climb. It was in the evening at 4 when we finally reached our destination. We visited the main shrine, stayed there for over an hour and started our journey back to the hotel.

Road to the Temple

It was easier to secede from the mountain than to climb. We made our way back in 4 hours. We were so tired that we took one day off on trip to rest.

Going North

The next morning we packed our bags and headed towards Srinagar via flight. It is situated 300 km north of Jammu and takes half an hour by flight. I would recommend to take the flight over road, as the latter is prone to accidents.

Srinagar

Srinagar, lying on the banks of beautiful Jhelum River, is a place which truly symbolizes beauty and romance and is rightly known as the Venice of the East. Srinagar literally implies “city of affluence bounty”. It bears many scars as well as the unnerving (sometimes reassuring) presence of the army, making it a fortress.

Dal Lake

This lake, which is the second largest in the state, is important to tourism and recreation in Kashmir and is named the “Jewel in the crown of Kashmir”. The intangible beauty of this lake would change your perception about Kashmir. You could feel the importance of this lake in life of locals.

Dal Lake, Srinagar

As rickshaw on land, there were women rickshaw in Dal Lake. I could see the small occupations flourishing from Dal Lake.

A woman taxi in Dal Lake
Grocery

There are beautiful floating gardens on Dal Lake, on which you can even walk. They are restaurants, ferries, water games, surfing behind boat but the main attraction which you should not miss is staying in Houseboats in Dal Lake. They are work of magnificent art, which provides 3 star hotel experience.

A House Boat

And last but not the least do not miss Shikara ride of Dal Lake.

Mughal Gardens

Shalimar Garden is a Mughal Garden linked through a channel to the northeast of Dal Lake. The Bagh was built by Mughal Emperor Jahangir for his wife Nur Jahan, in 1619. The Bagh is considered the high point of Mughal horticulture. It is now a public park. You can visit these gardens to gather every essence of beauty.

Floating Garden

We spent our night in a Houseboat on Dal Lake and then next morning, we headed towards Gulmarg.

Gulmarg

Gulmarg (“Meadow of Flowers”) is a town, a hill station, a popular skiing destination in Baramula district of Jammu and Kashmir. The town is within the Himalayas. It is situated 50 km northwest of Srinagar, near Line of Control between India and Pakistan. It is a famous shooting destination of various bollywood movies.

Gulmarg Gandola

Gulmarg Gandola is the world’s second highest operating cable car project, which leads the tourist to the main attraction of Gulmarg i.e. the snow covered peak of Aparwat mountain (about 14000 ft above sea level). To all my readers, I would like to notify that you shoud get online tickets of both Phase 1(Gulmarg to Kungdoor) and Phase 2(Kungdoor to Aparwat) to reach Aparwat mountain peak, well in advance.

Gandola Gulmarg Cable Car (Photo Courtesy: http://sightofindia.wordpress.com/)

The Gandola trip takes around 6 hours to complete. So, you can take the rest of the day travelling to Pahalgam via road, which is 150 km east of Gulmarg.

Pahalgam

You will be aw-struck by the sheer beauty of Pahalgam the moment you arrive. A popular tourist destination and a favorite location for Bollywood shootings, Pahalgam is an ore with its virgin and unexplored natural beauty. On your way to Pahalgam you can observe the fields blushing with saffron. Pahalgam offers lots of treks: Aru Valley, Kohli Glacier, Tarsar Lake, Chandiwari and Leh. The road to Ladakh is now open after winter so jeep safaris and camping trips to Leh, Pahalgam offers Fishing. Adventurous water sports like rafting can be done in the valley. We reached Pahalgam at night and the next morning, we took a cab to Aru valley.

Sheep rearing is a major occupation in Pahalgam

Pahalgam offers many options for foodies. Nathu Rasoi is a budget restaurant (dhaba), is highly recommended by the locals, although it opens only during the peak season.

Locals use mule as a means of transportation

Aru Valley is a small yet self-sufficient scenic village located 12 km from Pahalgam. The location of the village among the grasslands, make this place a tourist delight. The village also serves as the start point for trekking to Kolahoi glacier. Another long trek for the serious trekker is to Sonmarg, which can be covered in 3 days. Besides, the valley is also known to be a good site for camping.Here, you can have a glimpse of Kolohoi Peak, 5370 mtrs. Trek from Aru leads to the most desired twin Lakes, Tarsar 3794mtrs & Marsar 3788 mtrs. We had a tight schedule so we were unable to trek.

Aru Valley

The cabs do not wait for more than an hour there as they have to take you to the next destination Betaab Valley.

Betaab valley is situated at a distance of 15 kilometers from Pahalgam. The valley got its name from the Sunny Deol-Amrita Singh hit debut film Betaab. It is located en route to Amarnath Yatra. Betaab Valley lies between the two Himalayan Ranges i.e. Pir Panjal and Zanskar.

Betaab Valley

Betaab Valley is a famous destination for camping and shooting of Bollywood movies. The crystal clear water of the river flowing beside the valley shines as a diamond on the crown.

Pahalgam acts as an base camp for many tourists, where you buy Kashmiri shawls, Electronic blankets, Muslin cloths and Saffron. There are many attractions in Kashmir but you cannot miss these.

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.

Saint Augustine

We reached back to Srinagar airport and took a flight back to Jammu, from where you can reach to any part of India. It took us total 10 days, and we crossed Uttrakhand on 17th of June, when those torrential rains started. We were lucky to escape that as the rain transformed into the biggest natural disaster India had ever witnessed.

We were the survivors!

Thank you.

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