Gar firdaus ruhe zamin ast, Hamin asto, hamin asto, hamin ast. “If there is a heaven on earth, it’s here, it’s here, it’s here.” This is how the Sufi mystic Amir Khusrow has described the Kashmir Valley, and Srinagar is at the heart of the valley. Smack in the middle of the city is the mighty Dal Lake, its placid water reflecting the vivid kaleidoscope of innumerous houseboats, shikaras (taxi-boats), and the snow-capped Pir Panjal range: a sight that will make your heart skip a beat. The city is home to the state-of-the-art Mughal Gardens, Shalimar Bagh and Nishant Bagh being the most famous of them. The gardens exhibit the Mughal taste of nature and the philosophy of disciplining nature rather than imitating it: fountain pools and canals, meticulously manicured hedges, and motley flowerbeds. Also known as the Kashmiri Venice, Srinagar is a place not to be missed by those seeking a tranquil refuge in the lap of the Himalayas.
Lahore is the intellectual and cultural capital of Pakistan and a journey to this bustling city will remain with you for a long time. From Lahore Fort to the Khizri or the Sheranwala Gate, there is so much to see and do here and it isn't just another run-of-the-mill city in a country. History, architecture, art and music envelop the city and everywhere you go, there is a story to unravel. You will also have an opportunity to experience exhilarating Qawaali sessions and a tryst with Sufism. Do spend time at one of the city's many rejuvenating gardens and a day exploring the many historical sites that the city is home to. If you happen to be here on a Thursday, a visit to Wagah border is unmissable. The intensity of the profound ceremony is so deep that it'll demand another visit from you! There is lots for shopaholics here as well, including Anarkali bazaar and the Pace and Fortress Stadium Market. If you have a little space in your itinerary, you can also squeeze in a visit to the largest museum in Pakistan, the Lahore Museum. With a collection of rare art, objects and paintings including the Fasting Buddha of Gandhara. There is plenty to choose from if you are looking for a decent place to stay including luxury hotels and budget accommodations.
Jammu is one of the fastest developing cities in northern India. Its Vaishno Devi Temple, which is one of the holiest places for Hindus, sees millions of devotees every year. The city also has many more Hindu temples that are believed to be of significant religious importance, such as Peer Kho Cave and Panchbhaktar temple to worship Lord Shiva. If you are fond of shopping, Jammu has a number of markets offering shoppers a variety of options. Bahu Fort is another must-visit for its magnificent architecture and overwhelming views of the mountains in the distance. The Bagh-e-Bahu Garden is beautiful at spring time, and even more so because the dazzling river Tawi surrounds it. The garden will take you back to the Mughal era with its lush green surroundings and historic aura. Don't forget to enjoy a meal of kalhadi kulcha at any of the popular dhabas in Jammu!
Gulmarg is synonymous with beauty so stunning that finding another place like it would be impossible. From its overwhelming ski-slopes, astounding meadows, numerous small streams to its hidden trekking trails, Gondola rides and Bollywood connection, Gulmarg is a must visit when you are visiting Kashmir. Gulmarg is visited by thousands of starstruck tourists every year and it's every bit worth the hype. Though at first glance it might seem like just another hilly resort, the serenity of the place will surprise you. Do try everything touristy here including the gondola and pony ride lest you miss out on a true Gulmarg experience. The route from Srinagar to Gulmarg is absolutely stunning and there are several places you can stop at including Baba Reshi Shrine and Tangmarg. There are quite a few resorts, cottages and hotels in Gulmarg so you'll be spoilt for choice though if you are visiting only for the day, the restaurants and dhabas here more than make up for a hearty meal. Do carry extra layers since it tends to get a little chilly here. Travelling here during winter is a little tricky so it's best to take a local taxi rather than driving yourself. And if you are lucky, you might just spot a snow leopard or two, though for that you'll need to go a little higher than Gulmarg. Another thing that stands out in Gulmarg is the effort to keep it clean, so if you happen to be there, do your bit.
Himachal is the throne of a number of 'mini-Switzerlands' and Dalhousie is widely known to be one of them. Named after the British Governor-General of India (1848), Lord Dalhousie, this place remains a popular summer retreat mainly for the charming walks it offers around the pine-sheathed valleys with views of distant mountains. There are a few British-era architectural sights here worth visiting. For instance, St. John's Church, or the Rang Mahal, an 18th century monument of British and Mughal style architecture with paintings dating back to the very same era with a souvenir shop. One can delve into Dalhousie's Deodar-enveloped natural habitat in the Kalatop Wildlife Sanctuary, home to many animal species such as the leopard, deer, bear, serow, barking goral and jackal and many streams flowing into the river Ravi. Nature and adventure enthusiasts should also try boating in the calm waters of Chamera lake or try the easy-level Dainkund trek. Tourists must visit the Tibetan Market to buy exquisite Himalayan handloom. Some popular restaurants for North Indian, Mughlai, Chinese and other multi-cuisine dishes are Moti Mahal, Kwality Restaurant and Hotel Mount View. Dalhousie is well connected by road and train, the nearest station being Pathankot, which is 80km away.