The journey from Jammu to Srinagar took all of 30 minutes, but flew us over gorgeous snowcapped mountains that had me gaping. That’s the very moment I knew these 5 days in Kashmir were going to be unlike any other journey I had ever embarked on.
But truth be told, even THAT didn’t prepare me for the stupendous, spectacular, stunning landscape that Kashmir was; the warm, welcoming, wonderful people who accept you like one of their own (I have a thing for partial alliterations, apparently, if that even is a thing). Nope. Not even close.
If you’ve been following along on my stories on my Instagram, you’ve probably seen a bunch of my photos from Kashmir. From the response to them, I think I can happily say I am THRILLED there are SO MANY of us who want to visit Kashmir, and I hope this piece helps you plan the trip of a lifetime.
Fly in to Srinagar Airport. Book in advance, though, as flights can get expensive.
So I would totally recommend hiring a guide to take you around. I had taken one. He was AMAZING – he managed EVERYTHING for us, right from accommodation (he got us good rates), to local tours, to permits, to transport.. And he is one of the friendliest people I have ever met. He even took me to his home and introduced me to his family, and they are WONDERFUL people.
You can reach out to him if you’re planning your trip to Kashmir, and he will take care of everything you’d ever need.
Gulzar – +91 70062 49040
Tell him you got the contact from Preethi 🙂
Where to Stay
Asian Park Hotel in Srinagar. It was pretty good, with clean, comfortable rooms, hot water, helpful staff, and decent food.
Hotel Royal Park in Gulmarg. Same as above! 🙂
Grand Mumtaz is another hotel I’ve heard good things about, you could check it out.
What to Do
Srinagar – 2 days
Be that tourist who takes a Shikara ride on the Dal Lake. At sunset.
Glide across the mirror like dal lake is a gorgeous little shikara. Lay back and take it the views of the mountains around you on one side, and the houseboats on the other. Marvel at the stunning reflection of the world in the water. And watch the water gobble up the sun while it colours the world in brilliant shades of orange.
Also, be the traveler who wakes up at 5 to catch the sunrise at Dal Lake.
Perks of waking up that early – you’re the first shikara on the lake, you have it ALL to yourself. Visit the vegetable market, where the local vendors are selling their wares on shikara.
Visit the gardens
Shalimar Bagh. Nishat Bagh. The Tulip Garden (mid March to mid April only). The gardens are overflowing with gorgeous blooms all through Spring.
Visit the Dargahs
The splendid architecture of the dargahs in Srinagar is definitely worth a visit. Hazratbal Dagrah is by far the most popular one, and attracts locals and tourists alike. You could also visit Dastgeer Sahib. Step in for a moment of introspection. The stained-glass windows and stunning interiors make it a visual treat.
Eat the kebabs near Dal Lake
They are DELICIOUS. Take your pick from lamb, chicken or fish (or all, like, who’s even stopping you), and watch how they sizzle and pop on the barbecue right in front of you. Dig in with a roomily roti and those AMAZING chutneys. Yum.
Gulmarg – 2 days
You’ll depart from Srinagar early morning to get to Gulmarg by midday. Use this day to settle in and head up to Phase 2. Take a skiing lesson on Day 2. You won’t regret it 🙂
Gondola to Phase 1, and then Phase 2
No one goes to Phase 2. Seriously. It’s right up there, at 14000 ft, and the views will take your breath away (literally, in some cases, so pop a Diamox if you are prone to altitude sickness). If you have a good guide (and you will, if Gulzar is the one showing you round), then you can hop across the rope barricade and crunch your way through the snow to a point where you can see Lahore and PoK. The only people you will see are the ones you’re with. The only sounds you’ll hear are those of the wind whistling through your hair.
Imagine standing on a rock and gazing out at miles and miles of white, against the blue sky shot with clouds that move at a crazy pace. I did that. I didn’t want to leave.
Grab a meal at Phase 1.
When in Kashmir, be sure to try the lamb delicacies and biryanis. Also, local desserts – moong dal halwa and phirni. So delish!
No better way to get back down from Phase 1 than to plonk yourself in a sled and get whipped around the slopes till you’re back down (it’s safe)!
Take a skiing lesson
Wake up nice and early and hit the skiing zone for learners. For a basic 1 hour session (costing around Rs. 2000), you’ll get to learn the basics of skiing – posture, balance, moving ahead, speeding up, slowing down, stopping.. It’s a TON of fun! If you find it’s your thing, go for the whole 7-day course that involves skiing down from the slopes of Phase 1, or even 2! *adrenalin rush WOOHOO!*
Walk through the markets
Familiarise yourself with the local wares, chat with the locals, and get some fun pictures as you walk back to your hotel through the market area.
Sonamarg – day trip from Srinagar
Head back to Srinagar from Gulmarg and stay the night. Leave early the next morning – around 8 – for Sonamarg. Here’s where you will find the BEST snowscapes ever.
Here’s the thing. You can only go up to a certain point in your vehicle. After that, you will have to switch to a local taxi with a local guide. You will also have to switch over to rubber boots if you’re going in winter, and trust me, you’ll need them.
These guys will charge exorbitant rates for the sightseeing. Don’t fall for it. Please please, bargain, you can easily bring it down to 60% of the cost they began with!
Pahalgam – day trip from Srinagar
Pahalgam is 3-4 hours by road from Srinagar, so an early start (Yep. Lots of these, people!) will help. Pahalgam is a land of valleys, and to experience the best ones, I hired a pony, along with a WONDERFUL guide.
Visit the valleys
Aru Valley and Betaab Valley are by far the most famous ones, and if a day is all you got, hit ‘em.
Hire a pony!
Some of the best views of the valleys and the mountains can only be seen from beautiful points across the mountains, and you need a pony to get you there, because the roads aren’t motorable, nor are they too convenient to quickly hike up and down from.
Bollywood fans – this is where Bajrangi Bhaijaan was shot. It’s a GORGEOUS, sprawling meadow, with trees fanning out, and the mountains towering over at you. Think ideal picnic spot. You can totally bring a picnic basket and a blanket, along with some board games and spend the entire day relaxing here!
The Lidder river
This flows through Pahalgam, and I’m recommending this because the visual of the river gurgling over rocks in the valley is stunning.
A Few Tips
The locals will try to sell you their wares and services at Dal Lake, and they will try HARD. Don’t fall for it. If you want to pick up anything authentic, do it on the way back from Sonamarg.
The first price is always the highest price, and there is ALWAYS scope for negotiation. Use them skills!
Keep AMS medicine with you. I don’t normally get sick, but I am prone to headaches at high altitudes. Diamox is my trusted tablet.
If you’re going in winter, pack layers, because it WILL get cold.
I hope this helps you plan the BEST trip EVER! If you find this useful, send me a picture from your adventures on my Instagram 🙂