Actor Saniya Iyappan is unable to get over Kashmir. The snow-capped mountains, the Dal lake, the gondolas, the Mughal gardens, and the charming boat rides, she has fallen in love with this mini Switzerland. In her Instagram, she has documented her Kashmir diaries with pictures of her smiling from a boat in a traditional Kashmiri costume, posing from the snow laden mountains dressed in Trench coats and standing between ponies in the backdrop of pine trees. Inspired enough to make a trip to Kashmir? We have some suggestions as well. Do not worry, we have cross checked their COVID safety measures as well.
Discovering Dal lake
Every Srinagar journey typically begins with a trip to Dal lake, also dubbed “Srinagar’s Jewel” where you can stay at one of the several houseboats stationed there. You can hire a shikara (or tiny boats used as a mode of transportation) which takes you through the length and breadth of the lake where you will be inundated with shopkeepers luring you with their collection of chunky and silver jewellery and other artefacts. Try their mobile photo studios where you can pose in their traditional Kashmiri dress in a backdrop you want and get it delivered to your hotel room that evening. There are several makeshift tea shops where you can relish tea while you shop. The lake is linked to other lakes of the Kashmir Valley and houses over 500 Victorian era wooden houseboats, originally built during the British rule. Some of the must visit places in and around Dal lake are Tulip Garden, Shalimar Bagh, Shankaracharya Temple, Jama Masjid and Nishad Garden.
Gulmarg and Pahalgam
Gulmarg is more than an hour's drive (roughly 50 kilometers) from Srinagar, an exquisite hill station in Baramulla, and is one of the must-visit places in Jammu and Kashmir. Rated as one of the best ski destinations in Asia, they have fabulous ski resorts. Their gondolas which are Asia’s largest cable cars are a major tourist attraction. It can ferry 6 people at a time and 600 people per hour and the best season to visit would be winter. Post-pandemic, the Gondola was opened for a day on World Tourism day (September 27), and resumed its daily operations from October, keeping the COVID protocol (masks, social distancing) in mind. The cabins are disinfected before and after boarding and de-boarding of passengers. Also try the Gulmarg Golf club and some great powder skiing rides. Other attractions include, Gulmarg Biosphere Reserve (rare species of flora, fauna, bird species), Alpather Lake (or frozen lake as it remains frozen from November until mid-June), Ningle Nallah and Ferozepur Nallah (a water stream that flows through lush green valleys and ideal for trout fishing), Saint Mary’s Church (100 year old Victorian wonder) and Shrine of Baba Reshi ( a popular Muslim saint).
Pahalgam is 98 kilometres from Gulmarg and is primarily known for its scenic beauty. The place is also great for hiking, trekking, and fishing and is considered as the starting point of the annual pilgrimage to the Amarnath caves. Some of the popular Bollywood films were shot at Pahalgam’s Betaab Valley (think Bajrangi Bhaijaan). While there, do not forget to visit the following places—Mamal Temple (ancient Shiva temple that emit powerful spiritual vibes), Lidder Amusement Park (paddle boats, a miniature railway, bumping cars, the works!), Tulian Lake (hire a pony for a mountain ride) and Lolab Valley (waterfalls, treks and rivers).
All the hotels and tourist spots in Kashmir which opened in November are strictly sticking to the Covid protocol (temperature checking, masks, social distancing, sanitizing) and are only serving a select number of people. Most hotels are opting for room services. Now the only thing left to do is start planning your Kashmir winter vacations.