Kashmir is the northernmost state of India located in Himalayan Mountains. From Buddhist Monasteries to Ancient Shrines, Char Dham Yatra to Himalayan treks, colorful gardens to serene valleys, amazing viewpoints, and Jammu and Kashmir undoubtedly is at the zenith when it comes to tourism.
There is no dearth of natural beauty excellence in Jammu and Kashmir. Vaishno Devi temple, Patnitop, be it the Dal Lake and nigeen lake in Kashmir, Betaab Valley in Pahalgam, Gulmarg, sonmarg, Gardens, every attraction promises to stay away from the heart of the visitors at once.
But enough of that; let the story begin.
Me and my colleagues decided to Visit Jammu Kashmir with our family in March 2018. It was my first visit to Jammu Kashmir. We planned our trip 2 months ago and decided to fly 3rd March 2018.
We landed on 3rd March at 2.30 pm, at Jammu airport, as we arrived, our taxi driver was waiting there, we checked in at a hotel “Roadway”, Katra. And our first stop was to Nau Devi temple.
Nau Devi Temple
Nau Devi Temple is a beautiful cave temple. A very religious temple is just 9Km away from katra. We visited this temple in the evening and weather was chilly at the time. It’s a small temple in the cave, you have to bend and go on your knee. You will experience the naturally made caves and the shakti pinds inside.
This place is surrounded by river and has a special power in it. The area of the Nau Devi temple is green and clean. Your soul and mind will be refreshed once you visit the temple.
Mata Vaishno Devi
A famed cave shrine situated in the Trikuta hills of the Himalayas, Vaishno Devi is standout amongst the most visited sacred places and second most-visited place of India, first being the Balaji Temple at Tirupati. The temple is located at an elevation of 5200 ft above sea level and one requires doing a trip of 13 km by walking to make it to this sacred place.
Natural beauty can be savored throughout the yatra. This sacred place is the trudging like experience it gives throughout the mounting path. Situated in the snow clad mountain ranges, this sacred shrine orders the pictorial beauty of the Himalayas. A wonderful atmosphere, pleasant weather, the enchanting darshan of the goddess makes the journey a worthy one.
The trek of 13 km can be done in around 6 to 9 hours depending upon the health, age and climate conditions. Most of the devotees prefer the pedestrian way or taking the stairs. People suffering from old age, physical handicap or any other issue can take ‘palkies’ carried by four men or on ponies/horses. It takes 2-3 hours to reach from palkies or horses. There is also a helicopter, but you have to book it 2 months before from their website (www.maavaishnodevi.org)
Nathatop is a beautiful hill station near Patnitop. Nathatop is situated at a distance of 14 km from Patnitop. When we visited, this beautiful place was fully covered with snow and a beautiful view of mountains from here… Wonderful greenery and attractive forests and above all most enjoyable environment. We spend a couple of hours Natha Top, clicked some photographs.
The Climate here changes in minutes to minutes. Carry Sweater or Jacket as while starting from Patnitop.
No doubt the place is scenic and worth a visit. I personally liked the place very much, because this was my first encounter with the fresh snow. I strongly recommend for tourists who visit Mata Vaishno Dev, Kashmir should stay some time at Patnitop.
After seeing some places in Jammu we left for Srinagar on 5th March. By air, it took 45 minutes to reach. When I got off the flight, the cold air touched my face. The temperature was 4 degree at noon. It was too cold. And we were all afraid of thinking that there would be much cold in the night.
After breakfast, we left for Dal Lake. We were going to stay in a houseboat for 3 days.
Dal Lake has always been the jewel of Srinagar and one of the most well-known spots in Srinagar. Dal Lake has its own frame.
A small boat known as Shikara ride is one of the most enjoying experience for the tourist. In the Evening we went for Shikara ride to explore the lake. The view was excellent and dotted with numerous beautiful sights. A shikara ride will definitely provide a unique way to experience the eternal beauty of Kashmir.
Along the ride there are other shikara’s who comes beside sell their wares like eatables, jewelry, beauty products, shawls, Keshar, coffee shops, ice cream stalls and you can take a photo with traditional Kashmiri dress.
There you can also enjoy water sports activities and water skiing at Dal Lake is considered to be one of the major extreme sports. One needs to negotiate for Water skating. They will charge you Rs 400/- along with photographs. Do not forget to do this if you are visiting Dal Lake. Skiing on water is a wonderful adventure and an incredible way to the splendid beauty of the mesmerizing land.
The ride takes through the floating market on the lake which houses shops offering clothes, furniture etc.
I spent 2 hours in Shikara but I still feel I could have got some more of it.
We stayed at Morningstar houseboat. Well to be honest if you want to experience the real Kashmir then stay at least for 2 days at houseboat. Morningstar has a unique interior. The food was so yummy and tasty. Staffs were also very helpful. There is a heater in the room and electric blanket so you will not feel cold at night.
They have made our Dal Lake stay memorable.
We will love to come again for houseboat again for a stay
Our next destination was Gulmarg which was 2 hr 30 min from Dal Lake.
Gulmarg – Oh! such a beautiful place. It is a tourist hotspot for people who are adventure lovers, searching for serenity and also serves as the ideal family escape from the hustle bustle of city life.
The mesmerizing beauty of Gulmarg reflects the purity of nature. Snow all around with incredible views of nature. This small town is heaven for the adventure seekers and nature lovers.
We went until phase 2 and took sledge ride along with us which coasted us 1100 pp with photographs. The ride took about 1 hr to reach 2nd phase. The 2nd phase taking us to above 8000 feet above sea level and it will cost you double if you want reach 1st phase(14000ft)… I recommend only up to the first phase. The ride was good but the breathtaking sights around you make it worth everything. The view from the 2nd phase was out of the world. I must say, Switzerland is nothing in front of this. Phase 2nd has many activities like skiing, snowmobiles etc. It also has a few dhabas where you can enjoy some pakoda and chai in the cold weather.
We got somewhat over ambitious and took the sledge ride down. Sledge ride is not easy as it looks. Though. But tons of fun!
Overall, the ride was good. There are few winter ware shops out there, where you can shop at very cheap rates.
We were very excited to visit Nishat Garden which is located at Dal Lake. But it was not that much good. I will definitely say, you should not go to see this place during Oct to march.
You should visit during summer and spring. We didn’t get to see any flowers.
After seeing some beauty of Srinagar , we left for the Nigeen Lake to stay in a houseboat for 3 days continuously.
The Nigeen lake is situated toward the east of the city of Srinagar, at the lower region of the Zabarwan Mountain. Nigeen, which means in local language as a jewel.
Unlike Dal Lake, Nigeen Lake is a calm, serene and peaceful getaway for those who want to spend a holiday in sheer nature. Surrounded hills offer great views of sunrise, sunset, and reflection of hills in water.
The houseboats also not too close to each other in Nigeen Lake therefore privacy.
The lake is beautiful, charm and blissful place to have fun. A peaceful Shikara ride can be enjoyed at Nageen Lake. Apart from Shopping, photography tourists can also enjoy water sports activities, motor rides and sailing over there. We took photographs on Kashmiri dress on Shikara ride which cost us 100 per copy. The houseboat stay was similar to the Dal Lake but this boat was spacious.
Sonmarg is situated at an altitude of 2743 m above sea level. Sonmarg is completely true to its name, which means ‘Meadow of Gold’. By the side river Sindhu, this place has a scenic beauty of snow-capped mountains and green valley. Sonmarg is on the way to Leh. The cold weather, drizzling snowfall, the frozen river, you can really feel the difference of breathing naturally.
Unfortunately, the snowfall was very heavy at that time. We could not stay long there.
Several Bollywood hit movies have been shot Bajrangi Bhaijan, ye Jawani Hain Diwani, Satte Pe Satta, Ram Teri Ganga Maili and Many more. The place can be visited by amid any part of the year as it experiences cool and comfortable climate conditions.
When you visit Gulmarg and Sonmarg, you have to hire coat and gumboots on rent. They charge you 200-300 rupees for both.
We wanted to see Pahalgam as well, but it is almost similar to Gulmarg. So I would suggest skipping Pahalgam and spend more time in Srinagar or Gulmarg instead.
After seeing some local sightseeing and shopping, we left for Srinagar airport to Mumbai on 9th March.
A noiseless night – a city person would require time to get used to it. No truck horns blasting, irregular lights radiating, no beats of music out there. Jahangir, Fourth Mughal Emperor has written a perfect line –
”Agar Firdaus bar ru-e-zamin ast, Hami ast o- hami ast o- hami ast.”
” If there is heaven on earth, it is here, and it is here it is here.”
I must thank Mrs. Pranita Panchal who organized our trip and made our trip most wonderful and memorable.