THE VALLEY THAT LEGITIMATELY BOASTS OF A HEAVEN ON EARTH!
Yashasvi Khushu || The CEO Magazine
Agar firdaus bar roo-e zameen ast, Hameen ast-o hameen ast-o hameen ast.
(If there is a paradise on earth, it is this, it is this, it is this)
The icing on the sugar, for the list of popular destinations, topping the charts has been the Switzerland of India, Jammu and Kashmir. The valleys plush and full of wildflowers, cozy wooden cabins, warm hearts, the fragrance of spices and snow-covered mountains only makes it more tempting.
This politically volatile city has gradually but beautifully unwrapped itself among the travelers globally and with time discovered as a state that does not just boast of being a ‘Heaven on earth’ but actually being so for the captivating seasons and rich heritage and culture.
At an hours distance by flight from New Delhi is the picturesque Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir. Popularly known among the tourists, the city of gardens offers the best strolls of your life. You can visit a plethora of gardens like Pari Mahal (angel’s abode), Shalimar Bagh (abode of love), Chashme Shahi (the royal spring), and Nishat Bagh (garden of bliss). The Mughal emperors, to enjoy the crisp fresh mountain air while the city was in the process of establishment as a summer capital built these splendors.
Srinagar’s Indira Gandhi Memorial Tulip garden at the time of spring comes to its full bloom, apart from being the largest tulip garden in Asia; it has a reputation of a Casanova in terms of the variety of tourists it attracts from all over the world. After the spring, enters the fall with burned chinar leaves leaving their abode and making Kashmir a golden delight to the eyes, it turns into a photographers dream in bright sunlight. A number of hotels stand tall overlooking the Zabarwan Mountains from their courtyards towering the city. Pamper yourself on those oversized cuddles worthy cushions and intrinsically designed bed from a variety of woods that naturally have a fragrance to them, each bit of the vacation feels like an extravagant affair.
You can miss on nothing in this city and the highlight being, houseboats, of course not! Who goes to Kashmir and not strike off Houseboats from their list, not us. On the scenic coast of the urban swanky Dal lake and full of country vibes Nigeen, sit these houseboats carved in long woods. These floating abodes come equipped with artistic and traditional décor from Kashmir and you can easily book 3-4 bedrooms in one houseboat. The abodes are ornate with delicately embroidered tapestry, hand-knotted wool carpets, paper-mâché cabinets, walnut carved furniture, authentic gears, service guys in traditional ‘Kashmiri Pherans’ pampering you with super warm Kashmiri hospitality of excess food and affection.
Remember all the Gondola rides you got excited about during your Venice holiday, the Shikara ride is just the same nature of thrill. The canopies covered over the head with comfortable cushions as long as a human on the wooden boats are just the thing to do at Dal Lake. The water will calm down all those nerves full of metro city hustle, while the paddler will navigate you through the floating villages and lotus gardens. There will be vendors scattered all around selling pashmina shawls, fresh fruits, silver jeweler, BBQ, leather bags, flowers from the dal, and little souvenirs to take home. The best time to visit Dal Lake for a Shikara ride would be at the crack of the dawn to witness the floating market bustling with vendors and locals for fresh produce.
Taste the authentic Kashmiri Muslim community flavor in the narrow lanes of the old neighborhood of Kashmir, amidst the monumental building, historically doomed mosques, and little shops selling dry apricots, almonds, walnuts and local restaurants simmering pots and pots of hot fresh lamb in copper vessels over hogs.
A drive of 30 minutes will take you to Gulmarg, the town popularly visited by the ski lovers. Sandwiched between tall lush pine and fir trees, the winter sports getaway is full of ski-friendly lodges and some very renowned schools for skiing.
Save your summertime for the majestic mountains of Himalayas and paraglide over them, you can also check out the highest golf course in the world adjacent to the streams filled with trout fishes. Spot nomad villages from the second highest cable car, Gondola free flowing through the alpine tree forests. In addition, wrap your evening sipping the traditional Kashmiri tea, ‘Kahwa’ made with cardamom, almonds, cinnamon and saffron.
Despite all the ado, the locals in Kashmir are pretty warm and welcoming towards tourists and anything negative in the air is just invisible. They are the kind of people who walk an extra mile to comfort one while making soft talk and offers for meals at home.