If you’re in your twenties, it’s time to add Kashmir to your list of best places to visit in India. Experience its charismatic charm before the natural hits and turmoil spoils it all. And when would be a better time to explore flood-hit, terror-stricken heaven on earth if not now? !
Famously known as ‘Heaven on Earth’, Srinagar is located in the union territory of Jammu & Kashmir, on the banks of river Jhelum. As picturesque as the most stunning painting to ever be painted, Srinagar is known for the stationary houseboats and colourful Shikararas on Dal Lake.
The gondola-type rowboats, Shikaras are used by the tourists to see attractions like the Floating Vegetable Market, and the Mir Bahris – a lively community of people who live on the lake itself. Known as the summer capital of Jammu & Kashmir, Srinagar is home to some of the most exquisite Mughal-age gardens in India, with the top draws being Nishat Bagh, Shalimar Bagh and Chashm-E Shahi Garden. Kashmiri cuisine is famous all over the globe, so when in Srinagar, trying out the local dishes, which are rich in unique fragrant spices, is a must.
Heavy snowfall affects the connectivity of Srinagar during the winter months of December to February. Communal tensions also lead to frequent curfews in parts of the city. Make sure to check the situation before visiting.
Best time to visit : April to October
How to reach :
Attractions : Dal Lake (boating in shikaras & nightstays in houseboats), Nishat Bagh, Shalimar Bagh, Tomb of Zin-ul-Abidin, Jama Masjid, Hazratbal Mosque, and Shankaracharya Hill, Pari mahal, Indira Gandhi Memorial Tulip Garden
Dal Lake is everything you could ask for in a hillside lake, and more. Considered the jewel of Srinagar, the beauty of this pristine lake, spread over 26 square kilometres, only grows around every corner. Be it the beautiful wooden houseboats drifting casually through the waters, the colourful Shikharas that cruise by with awestruck passengers, the floating markets at the crack of dawn, or the manicured lush gardens from the Mughal era along the shore, Dal lake is practically a representation of the Srinagar itself.
Srinagar has always been a pleasant place to visit in summer, therefore, making it one of the favourite places the Mughals and the Britishers liked to go during summer. One of its main attractions was the Dal Lake which was not left unnoticed. The Dal lake consists of four main char chinars in the middle of the lake which is a means of its recognition. The Mughals saw the potential in the Dal lake and surrounded it with beautiful gardens and pavilions and also built the Shalimar and Nilshad Gardens exactly at a place where the beautiful outstretched lake can be seen in all its glory. The Britishers brought forward the concept of boathouses in the Dal Lake, which further promoted tourism to the lake. A tourist hub, one should not miss the pristine beauty of Dal Lake.
Mughal Gardens which have truly changed the face of the Mughal Empire is one of the most popular and the most visited tourist attractions of Srinagar. During their rule, the Mughals began to build several types of gardens in Persian architecture, and the combination of these gardens is referred to as the Mughal Gardens. The natural beauty of the place filled with lush green grass and the scented flowers is a stress-buster and pleasing to the eyes. The tourists who come here take long strolls in the garden or sit and admire the beauty of the place.
The Mughal Gardens in Srinagar comprise of Nishat Bagh, Shalimar Bagh, Chashme Shahi, Pari Mahal, Achabal and Verinag Garden. The grandeur of the gardens is dedicated to Emperor Jahangir who always had an undying love for Kashmir. Jahangir was responsible for the selection of the site and planning the requirements of the paradise gardens. It is always a lot of fun in exploring the history behind these gardens. They follow a Persian style of architecture and have been influenced by the Persian gardens. Some typical features of Mughal Gardens which are a treat for its visitors include canals, pools and fountains.
The Nishat Bagh in near Kashmir's Dal lake is a 12 terraced garden filled with endearing flowers and beautiful trees. It is the second largest Mughal garden in the Kashmir Valley after Shalimar bagh. It has a splendid Mughal central water channel with several fountains, which is surrounded by tall Chinar trees. The Bagh was designed and built in 1633 by Asif Khan, who was the elder brother of Nur Jehan. With the Zabarwan Mountains as its backdrop, Nishat Bagh is a garden of bliss that overlooks the lake beneath the snow-covered Pir Panjal mountain range to the west of the valley. The garden is very photogenic and attracts a lot of young couples and families.
Even though the layout of Nishat Bagh was based on the design of the Persian gardens, the actual landscaping of the garden was done in accordance with the terrain and water patterns unique to Kashmir Valley. The garden is sprawled over a vast area that gently ascends as one moves towards the interior of the garden. A stream of standstill water divides the garden into two halves, and each level of the garden is marked by a raised embankment which has its collection of kaleidoscopic flowers waiting to be photographed. Lush green grass carpets the garden floor which is embellished with flowers of all conceivable colours and trees such as chinar, Cyprus and almond. Today the Nishat garden is one of the historic and popular destinations of Srinagar valley.
Located in the sublime beauty of Kashmir, Shalimar Bagh is a beautifully laid out garden which is the largest of the three Mughal Gardens in the valley. This pristine attraction was built in the year 1619 by the Mughal emperor Jahangir for his beloved wife Nur Jahan and lies overlooking the scintillating waters of the Dal Lake. The term 'Shalimar' is a Sanskrit word meaning 'Abode of Love' and is known by several other names such as Faiz Baksh, Farah Baksh and "Crown of Srinagar". Exhibiting the exemplary craftsmanship of Mughals in horticulture, the place is quite popular with tourists from all over the world.
Sprinkled generously with well-trimmed gardens and exquisite architecture, Shalimar Garden is a gentle blend of natural allure and man-made structures. The entire premise is carpeted with lush green grass with endearing blossoms popping every now and then. Not only does the garden have a variety of blossoms, but it also has fruit trees such as almonds and walnuts. Currently, maintained and managed by Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Department, the chini khanas or arched niches placed behind waterfalls are a highlight on this place. The light and sound show is organised in the evenings.
Restaurants in Srinagar : Mughal Darbar, Cafe De Linz
Famous Lakes In Srinagar : Nagin lake, Dal lake
Vaishno Devi is a holy cave which holds major importance in India and every year experience a vast number of devotees coming there. This place is located close to the Trikuta Hills, which is 13 kms away from Katra. This Holy Shrine was incepted in 1986 and since then the devotees come to this place to seek the blessings. This is one of the most famous places in India which must be visited at least once in a lifetime.
Located in Trikuta hills, 13 kms from Katra (in Jammu and Kashmir); Vaishno Devi is a town that's home to the famous Vaishno Devi Mandir. This renowned shrine allures millions of devotees from all over the world. Popularly known as Mata Rani, Vaishnavi and Trikuta, Vaishno Devi is a manifestation of the Hindu Goddess Durga. It is believed that during the pooja and aarti, Goddesses arrive at the Holy cave to pay their respect to Mata Rani. Devotees believe goddess herself calls the devotees to reach here.
The Holy shrine board had inception in 1986, and the temple has witnessed an increasing number of devotees ever since. Vaishno Devi is a religious trekking destination where pilgrims walk about 13km uphill to reach the caves which are among one of the 108 Shakti Peetha. It takes about 6-9 hours depending on the weather and pace. Ponies and Palanquins, as well as helicopter services, are available by various vendors to take you up there. The whole way is decently paved with lots of shops selling snacks, food and religious goods. There was 85.87 Lakh of devotees in the year 2018.
Best time to visit : March to October
How to reach :
Attractions : Ardh Kuwari Cave, Bhairavnath Temple, Dera Baba Banda, Katra
Before making the Bhavan her abode, Mata Vaishnodevi was believed to have taken rest in this cave for 9 months. Today, this cave acts as a stopover for the pilgrims on their journey up to the Bhavan. An adventure for the kids, one has to crawl on his knees to reach the other side. Once on the other side, you can see a large shrine which is built dedicated to the three Goddesses - Kali, Laxmi and Saraswati. The darshan route is semicircular, so that you exit from a different opening at a small distance from the entry route.
No journey to Katra is complete without having visited Bhairavnath Mandir. The cave temple of Bhairavnath is dedicated to a saint by that name. A steep 2km journey from the Bhawan leads you to Bhairavnath temple. The temple provides picturesque views of the forest fed mountains. Ponies are available for the up down journey incase you can not climb the steep stairs.
Although most famous for its revered temple Vaishno Devi, this destination is an unlikely shopping destination as well. Shopping is mainly done by pilgrims, which includes Prasad, saris and shawls which are offered to the goddess. Gold and silver coins embossed with the images of the goddess are also sold here. Other goods that find a place here includes bangles, embroidered fabrics, saris and suits which are quite popular among women of all ages.
Vaishno has quite a few destinations and shopping areas within its bounds. The Katra Main Bazaar is the main shopping area here, and you can find everything that is native to Jammu here. You can find delicious dry fruits such as walnuts, almonds, berries and dried apples. The Bhawan market of Katra offers traditional goods that are offered to the holy goddess in the temple. The Sanjhi Chhat market of Vaishno has a wide collection of traditional fabrics, shawls and Kashmiri motifs.
Average Temperature : 11 Degree celsius
Restaurants : Sagar Ratna Restaurant, Mahduban, Prem Vaishno Dhaba