Kashmir Places to Visit: A visit to Srinagar wouldn’t be complete without exploring the spectacular countryside of the Kashmir Valley (after all, Kashmir isn’t called the “Switzerland of India”!) The Kashmir Valley lies between two major mountain ranges – the Pir Panjal Range in the southwest and The main Himalayan range in the northeast. It is filled with flowers in spring and snow in winter. Beautiful Kashmiri villages with traditional wooden houses and colorful roofs are located in this area. Read on to discover the best places to visit in Kashmir Valley on a side trip from Srinagar.
The easiest way to get around is by hiring a car and driver. Your hotel or houseboat owner will be able to arrange tours with ease. Otherwise, if you’re on a budget, the state bus company runs day trips. Tickets can be booked from the Tourist Reception Center in Srinagar.
Top 8 Places to Visit in the Kashmir Valley
Gulmarg (“Meadow of Flowers”) is India’s version of a ski resort. The ski season runs from mid-December to mid-March. If you’re not into skiing, you’ll still want to let the gondola go over 12,000 feet above Mount Afarwat for excellent views. Apparently, it is the highest cable car/aerial tramway in the world. If you feel like splurging some cash, spend a few nights at Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa, one of the top Himalayan spa resorts.
- Location: About 2 hours west of Srinagar.
- Travel Tips: The gondola is very popular, so buy your tickets online to avoid long queues. Unfortunately, you’ll still have to wait to board it.
Sonmarg (“Meadow of Gold”) is the last major Kashmiri town on its way to Ladakh. It is famous for its Thajiwas Glacier, and the really remarkable thing about this glacier is how accessible it is. From the highway, you can drive up to Glacier and back in about five hours. It is also possible to ride a pony or take a shared taxi ride along the way.
Scenes from many Bollywood movies are shot in this area, and you don’t have to try very hard to feel like you’re in one! There are many options for where to eat and stay in Sonmarg. The Swiss tents are there to shine at the Ahsan Mount Resort. Hotel Snowland is conveniently located but could be better managed.
- Location: On the Srinagar-Ladakh highway, 2.5 hours northeast of Srinagar.
- Travel Tips: Beware of aggressive local pimps, pony owners, and taxi drivers who try to exploit tourists. They quote really high prices, especially during the peak season. Bargain hard. The Tourist Reception Center located opposite the main market in Sonmarg is the best place to get information and approved taxi rates. If you want to go there for snowfall, then come here from mid-April to June.
Pahalgam (“Valley of the Shepherds”) is a popular destination for trekking and adventure tourism. Visitors usually visit the Betaab Valley (the Bollywood movie “Betaab” was shot there), its fresh-flowing Lidder River, and the surrounding snow-capped hills. However, note that you will only be allowed to drive your vehicle up to a certain point to reach the valley.
After that, you’ll need to either rent a prepaid vehicle provided by a local transportation association or go on foot. Entry into the valley is regulated and costs Rs 10. Other possible activities around Pahalgam include golfing, trout fishing, and river rafting.
- Location: About 3 hours east of Srinagar.
- Travel Tips: It is near the departure point of the pilgrims going on the Amarnath Yatra, so avoid traveling during July as it will be very busy then. Try to take the time to visit the impressive temple ruins at Awantipora on the way between Srinagar and Pahalgam.
- Yousmarg and Charar-i-Sharief
Yousmarg (“Jesus’ Meadow” – yes, locals believe he lived in the area) is a vast meadow that is refreshingly non-commercial and uncrowded, with only a few restaurants. Huh. The main attraction is the Doodh Ganga River, which reaches a picturesque location a 30-minute walk along a wooded trail down a hill. Alternatively, you can make a ponytail. (Don’t give in to insistent pony owners if you want to walk).
On the way to Yousmarg, you will pass many apple trees, as well as the town of Charar-e-Sharif. Stop by there, as it is one of the holiest Sufi Muslim pilgrimage centers in India, and has some of the biggest halwa parathas you will ever see! It is possible to stay right on the meadows at Yousmarg in wooden huts run by the Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Department and go on various 1-2 day local forest treks.
- Location: 2 hours southwest of Srinagar.
- Travel Tips: If you see someone selling apples on the side of the road, get some because they’re delicious!
Dudhpathri (“Valley of Milk”) is a secluded and undeveloped bowl-shaped valley that has recently been opened for tourism. This makes it perfect if you are looking for an offbeat destination to enjoy pristine nature near Srinagar. The name of the valley is often attributed to the legend of the Kashmiri saint Sheikh Noor Din Noorani, who is said to have been in search of water to wash. When he broke the ground with his stick, the milk came out rapidly and later turned into water. Some people say that the nature of the river is milky.
- Location: About 2 hours southwest of Srinagar.
- Travel Tips: It is possible to trek between Yusmarg and Dudhpathri in a few days. There is also a little-known route between Dudhpathri and Yusmarg between Budgam and Chadoora, which will enable you to visit both places on a single day trip from Srinagar if you leave early enough.
The Jhelum River which passes through Srinagar originates from Verinag, enters the Kashmir Valley at the foothills of the Pir Panjal mountain range. In the 17th century, the Mughal emperor Jahangir and his son Shah Jahan transformed the pool from which the water flows into a magnificent Mughal-style garden. Such gardens can also be seen in Humayun’s Tomb and the Taj Mahal in Delhi.
- Location: About 2 hours southeast of Srinagar via Anantnag.
- Travel Tips: Verinag is one of the top places around Srinagar to witness the stunning crimson fall of poplar trees in mid-November.
- Sinthan Top
Sinthan Top is an uninhabited mountain pass that connects the Kashmir Valley with Jammu at an altitude of 12,500 feet above sea level. The main attraction there is the snow – this is a place in Kashmir that has snow throughout the year, even when the grasslands of Gulmarg have turned green. Although the synthon top is not yet developed, there is a lack of facilities for tourists.
If you want to stay in the area, there are a few accommodations in Daksum or Kokernag. They are wonderful destinations to experience the great outdoors, including Rajpari Wildlife Sanctuary. A scenic route leads from Daksum to Sinthan Top.
- Location: About 3.5 hours south of Srinagar via Anantnag and Kokernag, and 2.5 hours south of Pahalgam.
- Travel Tips: Stop at Duxum, downhill, which has tourist facilities. The road from Duxum to Sinthan Top has many sharp turns, which can be a problem for people who are car sick.
- The Great Lakes Trek
Most people would say that the true beauty of the Kashmir Valley lies in the hidden parts which are inaccessible by road. The Great Lakes Trek is often referred to as the most beautiful trek in India. This moderate, seven-day trek will take you into a magical world filled with sparkling turquoise alpine lakes, meadows of vibrant flowers, and rugged mountains covered with snow. Even more interesting are the names of the lakes, which are associated with Hindu gods and Hindu mythology. The challenge of long high altitude trekking days, with steep climbs and descents, is well worth it!
- Location: The trek starts from Sonmarg and ends at Naranag.
- Travel Tips: Best time to visit is from July to early September. This region, on the other side of the Pir Panjal mountain range, receives much less monsoon rainfall than the rest of India. Summer rains encourage flowers to bloom. This is a rather ideal offbeat (though difficult) trek to the Valley of Flowers in Uttarakhand.
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