Things To Do and Places to Visit In Kashmir
Back in the 1700s, the great Mughal Emperor Jahangir, who had power over Jammu & Kashmir, rightly named it “Heaven on Earth”, the moment he set eyes on the Kashmir valley.
As of the 21st century, millions of tourists flock Kashmir every year. The northern most state of India, which is location way up in the Himalayan mountain range, has been an epitome of natural beauty, and serenity, which makes it the perfect location for tourists to visit for all kinds of activities, be it adventure, or sightseeing, or honeymooning, or even just a weekend getaway.
After extensive research from various blogs, travel apps and websites, I have come up with the things that I would not want to miss while on my trip to Kashmir.
1. Shikara Ride on the Dal Lake
Well this is the most basic, and almost every hotel has an arrangement for a Shikara Ride on the Dal Lake. A Shikara is a type of a boat, which has a roof.
Shikara Rides are active almost throughout the year, when the lake is not frozen, which only happens during the peak winter times.
A Shikara Ride costs approximately Rs. 800 for a 2-hour ride around Dal Lake.
2. Stay in a Houseboat
Another thing the Dal Lake is famous for, besides itself, are the enormous collection of houseboats, with lavish rooms just waiting to serve you.
These houseboats are scattered all over the Dal Lake in Srinagar, and the tariffs for stays in them vary, based on the kind of houseboat you’re looking for. The high end houseboats could go as high as Rs. 11,000 a night, whereas the budget houseboats could cost as low as Rs. 800 per night.
3. Water Sports
One of Asia’s largest fresh water lakes is in Kashmir. Called the Wular Lake, this is the hub of all the water sports in Kashmir.
Water skiing and other such water sports are what have been started by the Government of India Tourism at this freshwater lake. Activities here cost anywhere from…
4. Golfing at Pahalgam
Although golfing is a sport for the enthusiasts and mostly a rich people sport, but the Pahalgam Golf Course is a site for sore eyes. A massive 9-hole golf course, at an altitude of 2,400 meters above sea level.
The only problem with this is the fact that you have to get a membership with this golf course, which could be expensive for some.
Wazwan is a traditional sit down on a carpet with bolsters, to enjoy a multi course meal of some lip smacking Kashmiri food, most of which are meat-based (mostly lamb and chicken). Foodies? Here is Kashmir’s biggest selling point.
Depending on the restaurants, the Wazwan experience could cost different prices starting from Rs. 500.
The best restaurant options for Wazwan are; The Chinar by The Lalit, Café 99, Crescent Lake View Restaurant, all in Srinagar.
6. Adventure Activities at Patnitop
Kashmir has many towns that offer adventure sport activities to the tourists, and Patnitop is one of them. At Patnitop, you have many options for different tastes of people. Activities offered here are:
- Aero sports
The fact about skiing at Patnitop is that the slope is even and doesn’t have too many sharp turns, which makes it a perfect location for beginners to start their skiing experience.
7. Visit the Indira Gandhi Memorial Tulip Garden
Easily one of the most popular tourist attractions of Srinagar is the Indira Gandhi Memorial Tulip Garden. The Tulips in the garden only bloom for about 30 days in a year, usually between March and April, depending on the weather.
After just a 9km long soothing ride along the Dal Lake, driving south, the breath taking carving of 7 terraces of parallel rows of all the colors of Tulips begin. The Tulips here are also multi colored and hybrid.
Entry fees here is just Rs. 50 for adults, and Rs. 25 for kids.
8. Adventure Sports in Pahalgam
Pahalgam is another major town in Kashmir, which offers a variety of adventure activities to the tourists, some of which are:
- Trout Fishing
- Whitewater Rafting
Other than this, Pahalgam also has a magnificent 9-hole Golf course for those golf enthusiasts, surrounded by the majestic Himalayan mountain range.
9. Shop at the Tibetan Market
Leh (Ladakh) sports a Tibetan flea/street market to the tourists, where tourists can buy their bits and bobs, or even clothes and accessories, at very cheap rates.
WORD OF CAUTION: Almost everything sold at this flea is a copy. So don’t let the sellers rip you off by selling it to you calling it an original.
10. Visit the Jamia Masjid
The Jamia Masjid of Srinagar is situated at Nowhatta in the middle of the Old City. It was built by sultan Sikandar Shah Kashmiri Shahmiri in 1394 AD. Under the order of Mir Mohmmad Hamadani, son of Said-ul-Auliya Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani. Sultan Sikhandar’s son Zain-ul-abidin extended the Jamia Masjid by including turret. It has similarities to Buddhist pagodas and is constructed in Persian style.
The Jamia Masjid is one of the Monuments that pertain to the founding of Kashmir, which is what makes it one of the places that are not to be missed by those history fans.
11. Experience the Magnetic Hill
Magnet Hill is a “gravity hill” located near Leh in Ladakh, India. The layout of the area and surrounding slopes creates an optical illusion that the downhill road is actually an uphill road. Objects and cars on the hill may appear to roll “uphill” in defiance of gravity when they are, in fact, rolling downhill.
The myth is that your car moves itself but contrary to popular belief, it is just an illusion as the road is a straight and long stretch, which makes the illusion that you’re driving uphill but you’re actually going downhill.
12. Gulmarg Snow Festival
Gulmarg snow festival was started in 2003 to promote and encourage winter sports and tourism here. A two-day-long snow festival has begun in Gulmarg, Jammu and Kashmir. The festival aims to attract tourists and is organized by the tourism ministry. A number of snow sports take place during the time of the festival and tourists can enjoy a large variety of delicacies the festival has to offer.
13. Dance at the Navratri Festival
Locals call it Chaitra Navratri, which is celebrated with utmost pomp and joy in Kashmir by Kashmiri Pandits. In 2017, Chaitra Navratri begins on March 28th and ends on April 5th.
First Day of Navratri is called Navreh, and it also marks the beginning of the Kashmiri Hindu New Year and heralds the onset of spring season.
Kahwa is a traditional green tea preparation consumed in Afghanistan, northern Pakistan, some regions of Central Asia and, in northern India especially Kashmir Valley. In Pakistan, it is made in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit-Baltistan and north Punjab regions. It is a popular breakfast beverage among Kashmiris, generally accompanied with special Kashmiri baked items like Girda. Kashmiris living in throughout Indus Valley, particularly in the urban agglomerations of Islamabad, Karachi, and Peshawar have also contributed to the tea’s popularity among non-Kashmiris (such as the Muhajir community).
15. Visit the Sir Pratap Singh Memorial Museum
The main museum of Kashmir is the Sri Pratap Singh Museum. Once the summer palace of the Maharajas of Kashmir, it was later converted into a museum in the year 1898. A major portion of the museum collection, at that point of time, consisted of objects from the Jammu and Kashmir toshkhana. The toshkhana collection of this museum of Kashmir, India includes shawls, paintings, arms and armory, silver images, copper and jade ornaments, copper and brass utensils and Ladkhi handicrafts.
16. Camel Safari in Ladakh
Camel Safaris are one of the star attractions of Ladakh. Riding on the back of a camel through the valleys of the cold desert is an experience of a lifetime. This is an activity which is a must do for every tourist heading to Ladakh, as it is a must do for everyone.
A camel ride would cost approximately Rs. 500 an hour, which is pretty decent for an experience of a lifetime.
17. Attend the Ladakh Festival
Many festivals are enthusiastically celebrated in Ladakh every year by the Ladakhis and the Tibetans. The top 3 festivals that are celebrated with a bash are the Losar Festival, Yargon Tungshak Festival, and the Matho Narang Festival, a.k.a Oracle Festival.
18. Mountain Biking in the Kashmir Valley
Be it for the more daring, mountain biking is an extreme sport which has a thrill like none other. It is scary, no doubt, but it is still a popularly practiced sport by adrenalin junkies.
Bike rentals are easily available at any popular market in Kashmir at a shoestring cost to every person at an hourly and daily rate, depending on the length of your ride.
19. Horse Riding in Gulmarg
Horse riding, although is a pretty cliché in mountains, but specific to Gulmarg, being one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world, Horseback riding is an extremely popular activity there amongst tourists. Riding all the way up to different peaks at an hourly rate of a few hundred rupees is something that everyone can and should do.
20. Street Food in Kashmir
The street food of Kashmir is a delicacy for every traveler. The warm crispy Nander Monje, which is lotus stems dried and deep fried to make long French fries lookalike snacks. The warm and goey Cheetos lookalike Shangram, which melts in your mouth and is usually served with Kahwah. The Monje Gaad, which is a fish preparation, which explodes in your mouth to satisfy your taste buds completely. All these dishes cost barely Rs. 20- Rs.100 which Is very affordable, and thus a must try.
21. Shop at the Floating Market on the Dal Lake
The floating market on the Dal Lake in Srinagar is a flotilla of boats all lined up selling fruits, vegetables and tiny bits and bobs that people would love to take home as a souvenir of their travel to this Heaven on Earth.
Products sold here are pretty cheap and extremely beautiful and are representatives of the different cultures and traditions in Kashmir.
22. Skiing in Gulmarg
Well needless to say, skiing is already an awesome thing to do, and skiing downhill in Gulmarg, where the view is so serene and adrenalin takes you over while you’re going downhill at an almost uncontrollable speed it what skiing feels like up in Gulmarg.
Again skis are easily available on rent at almost every popular market in the area, and is very affordable so everyone can have that once in a lifetime experience.
23. Shop for Authentic Spices
The power of nature is portrayed in one of the best ways in the spice markets of Kashmir. The authenticity and zero adulteration and 100% natural aroma and taste of these spices is what you have the chance to buy at the markets at an almost negligible price, usually pocket change for our foreign tourists.
24. Celebrate Bakri Eid the Kashmiri Way
Bakri Eid, being one of the most popularly celebrated festival amongst the Muslim communities, and since Kashmir has a large percentage of Muslim residents, Bakri Eid is very enthusiastically celebrated festival in Kashmir.
The best quality lamb is cooked into a lavish setup of multiple lamb dishes to be served to a group of people who sit down to enjoy a lip smacking meal together. Kind of like thanksgiving, but instead of the turkey, people eat lamb.
25. Bactrian Camel Ride
A Bactrian Camel is a camel with 2 humps on it’s back, and riders are meant to sit in the middle of those two humps. Other than the 2 hums, they are almost the same as regular camels, and they cost up to 800 rupees an hour to ride on the back of these camels, but adding this experience to your life is nothing but a positive addition.
26. Gondola Ride in Gulmarg
Gondola is the name of the cable cars that take you uphill and downhill in Gulmarg. While at a 2,000 meter altitude, and high off the ground, the Gondola ride is going to take the tourists all the way up the highest peaks in Gulmarg, while the snow covered hills and dry trees pass you by, it is one of the most killer views to the tourists.
27. Visit Shalimar Bagh
Shalimar Bagh is a Mughal garden in Srinagar, linked through a channel to the northeast of Dal Lake, on its right bank located on the outskirts of Srinagar city in Jammu and Kashmir. Its other names are Shalimar Garden, Shalimar Bagh, Farah Baksh and Faiz Baksh, and the other famous shore line garden in the vicinity is Nishat Bagh. The Bagh was built by Mughal Emperor Jahangir for his wife Noor Jahan, in 1619. The Bagh is considered the high point of Mughal horticulture. It is now a public park. This time it’s also called as crown of Srinagar.
28. Hot Springs in Verinag
A major tourist attraction of this place is Verinag Spring, for which this place is named. There is an octagonal stone basin at Verinag Spring and an arcade surrounding it which were built by Mughal emperor Jahangir in 1620 A.D. Later, a beautiful garden next to this spring, was laid out by his son Shah Jahan. This spring is known to never dry up or overflow. Verinag Spring is also the major source of river Jhelum. Verinag Spring and Mughal Arcade surrounding it is officially recognized by Archaeological Survey of India as a Monument of National Importance.
29. Trek the Hills
Well trekking is probably one of the most obvious activities while travelling the hills and it is no different with Kashmir. Trekking through the Kashmir valley, with it’s unseen beauty and serenity is to die for. Te fact that millions of tourists visit the Kahsmir valley every year is a clean as day sign that it is something that has to be done without fail. Trekking through the hills and the remote villages and camping out at night is an experience meant for every single person, which brings me to the last activity.
While trekking to the remotest valleys of Chatpal, Daksum, Karnah, and the many more, which are hidden far away from the civilization in the mountains are perfect places to camp out while trekking through the majestic Himalayas through the Kashmir valley. Needless to say, it is a highly budgeted expedition, as the stay is accounted for, travel is on foot, and food is cheap packed/canned goods.