We’re brought up on stories. We’re brought up on fairy tales, and dreams of magical wonderlands in places far beyond where our imagination can ever take us. We hear tales of kingdoms and kings and queens, of mystical forest nymphs, of fantastical creatures.. And in our mind’s eye, we visualise all of it. We see that world coming to life, our idea of what it could possibly look like, and what a life there could be like.
Sometimes, we may step into a place where we gasp, realising this is what you had seen in your mind’s eye. The magical land where tales of fantasy took place.
Kashmir. It didn’t take me very long to understand why it’s called paradise on earth. I run short of words to describe its beauty, I really do, because it’s just so damn magnificent. Srinagar is lined with trees wherever you look, and because I went in winter, the unadorned branches extended skyward like witches’ fingers, which added an air of moody mystery to the place. The mirror-like Dal lake shone splendidly every time you looked at it. The ice-cream like slopes of Gulmarg had me picking up my jaw from the floor, as did the lovely landscapes of Sonamarg. Pahalgam was a tiny adventure, and I’m going back for sure in summer or autumn to experience it in all its green beauty.
Such a land of paradoxes. It’s sad, in a way, that a place so beautiful is so fraught with tragedy. The Kashmir situation is something every Indian is aware of, and I’m sure so is half the globe. A land so magnificent has been ravaged by what took place years and years ago, and still remains unresolved.
I also understand this brings up a whole lot of questions in the mind of whoever plans to visit Kashmir. So let me get that out of the way right at the beginning.
Yes, the land is fraught with military and political tension. Yes, there is a curfew every Friday. There are bomb blasts every other week, and incidents of stone pelting reported across the state. Security is at an all time high. And I was asked so many times why I would go there knowing what the situation is like, and whether it would be safe to stay on for a couple extra days as a solo traveler.
Kashmir is safe for tourists. No traveler, whether in a group, or solo, will ever be harmed voluntarily. Whatever issues exist, NONE of them are against tourists. If you’re ever stuck in a ‘situation’, you WILL get out alright. Trust me. I did. So GO.
THAT BEING SAID
You need to exercise caution, and pick a time when the situation is relatively under control. Don’t plan your visit during a phase when the state is rife with tension.
Go and spend some time in this magical paradise because I assure you, you will never feel unsafe, you will never feel threatened, and you will come back delirious, and humbled.
So despite all the political tension, why should one visit Kashmir? Here’s why.
- It’s BEAUTIFUL
Mountains. Valleys. Snow. Trees. Flowers. Landscapes worth creating postcards out of. It’s a visual treat.
- The people will welcome you into their homes with open arms
Say what you want, the locals are super friendly and welcoming. They will show you the best of their land. They will treat you like their own. They will open up to you and talk to you. You’ll feel like you’re family, because that is exactly ho they will treat you.
- The food is SO GOOD
Kashmir is known for its lamb delicacies. The wazwan is a specialty, often served at weddings and other functions, but you’ll find it in a lot of restaurants. What I loved are the kebabs being sold right by Dal Lake. Melting right off the skewer, they were so tender and juicy, my mouth is watering right now as I write this! And don’t even get me started on the desserts! The halwa and phirni I had were the BEST I have ever eaten!
- There’s so much to DO!
The slopes of Gulmarg Phase 2 are popular worldwide for skiing. For laymen like me, there are skiing lessons, sledding, a whole range of snow activities.. It’s amazing.
- It’s a lifetime experience
There’s really no place like Kashmir. I haven’t seen the whole world, but I have seen a smattering of Europe, Australia, Southeast Asia, India.. There’s no place like Kashmir.
- It’s a land of stories
Activities and food apart, this is one place where you can really sit and talk to the locals and listen to stories of their lives. Where the word ‘perspective’ means something completely different. They’re not my stories to tell, and they’re stories you really should know about. For that, you need to go there.
We all talk about ‘immersive’ travel, and ‘doing it like a local’, but not often do we get an understanding of what the local life is actually like. The 5 days I spent in Kashmir gave me a tiny, tiny peek into what everyone really talks about. It’s – and I will keep saying this till you go and come back and then you can say it with me – like NOTHING you have ever seen before, and it is unlike ANY place in the world.
So get your pretty selves down there! And SEND ME A PICTURE on my Instagram (www.instagram.com/peppytravelgirl).
Oh, and yes, I’m totally telling you everything you need to do there – RIGHT HERE!