“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” -Amir Khusrau
As I descended upon the historic lands of Kashmir, I was welcomed into the valley by kind gentlemen. They were ensuring all the passengers were carrying the COVID appropriate paperwork. Juxtaposed between a lost time of 1586, when Kashmir was conquered by the Mughal emperor Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar and 2021 – the present day conquered by Covid-19: I embarked upon my journey into the lands of Srinagar. The beautiful capital of Jammu and Kashmir, home to the Dal Lake that lies at an elevation of 5,200 feet.
My itinerary owing to a mere 5-day objective was rushed towards Pahalgam in the Anantnag District of J&K: an extremely smooth 2-hour drive from the Srinagar Airport itself. For those who are looking to explore the relatively unknown and delve into the tales of the land.
Things You Can See En Route Pahalgam:
The Great Ruins of Avantipur: Excavated only in the 20th century, the ruins of the Avantipur Temple date back to AD 855-883.
Aishmuqam Dargah: Only 30 minutes away from Pahalgam, Aishmuqam is a famous mosque and shrine of the 15th century Saint Sheikh Zain Ud Din Wali, located inside a cave on the top of a hill. A sacred place for peace, this dargah is a sanctity for many to offer prayers and blessings and is also the very dargah where the song “Bardo Jholi Meri” from Salman Khan’s movie Bajrangi Bhaijaan was filmed.
On reaching Pahalgam, you will be awestruck by the sheer beauty of the clouds kissing the land, the lush green meadows, the incredibly tall pine trees, and the pristine, icy waters of the Lidder river that trickle down from the Kolahai Glacier in full gusto. Here, you can venture and explore the terrain on foot, cars, or ponies! I spent my time walking through the streets of the market, strolling across bridges, amazed by the cascading river. And you will stop to wonder, “Is this India?!” The clean, rich air, the cool breeze, the Kashmiri wazwaan, the land of Pashmina – this is heaven!
Also read about 12 things to do in Kashmir.
Places In Kashmir:
I took a car and ventured for a drive to Betaab Valley. A part of Anantnag district lying between two Himalayan ranges- the Pir Panjal and the Zanskar. Here there is evidence of human existence dating back to the Neolithic Age (The last stage of the Stone Age). Aru Valley is also a scenic drive away, a base camp for trekkers to the Kolahai Glacier, and a sight for sore eyes for its flawlessly textured land. For those who love walking, I highly recommend going to the Pahalgam Golf Course, where you can pay a sum to enter the property and again be spellbound by the encompassing highland mountain ranges.
The Kashmiri cuisine is rich in color as much as it is in flavor: a burst of spices and delicious gravies that date back to the 15th-century invasion by Timur. Gushtaba, Rishta, Nadru Yakhni, Mutton Yakhni, Kanti Kebab, Hakh, Dhaniya Korma, Mirch Wangon Korma, and Tabak Mass paired with the famous Walnut chutney , and Radish chutney is all I ate, every day!.
Dal Lake in Kashmir
Having spent four days in Pahalgam, I drove back to Srinagar. Here I spent the day taking a Shikara ride on the mesmerizing waters of the Dal Lake. Along with exploring the magnificent seven terraced gardens of Pari Mahal or “The Palace of Fairies”- a library and residence of the Mughal prince Dara Shikoh during the 1600s. And further, offering prayers at the HazratBal or Dargah Sharif shrine, renowned to be the holiest shrine of Jammu and Kashmir containing the “ Moi-e-Muqqadas” or strands of hair of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. After spending the day traversing through the bylanes of Srinagar, I retired for the night at the picturesque property of The Lalit Grand Palace. The place is located in the heart of Srinagar that overlooks the Dal lake and stands against the Zabarwan Range, built by the Maharaja Pratap Singh in 1910.
If you are wondering when the best time would be to visit Kashmir, I would say that every season holds its charm. Kashmir is utterly and glaringly beautiful no matter what the time.