If you are planning a solo trip to Kashmir or Srinagar in particular, you need to read this travel blog.
In this blog, I have shared the reasons why I didn’t like the experience personally.
Other than my experiences, I have also shared some useful practical information too. This includes travel tips like how to travel from Delhi to Srinagar, where to stay there, what is the best time to travel, top places to see in Srinagar and so on and so forth. But before we get into the details, let’s talk about my personal travel experience.
If you are not interested in reading my experience on a solo trip to Kashmir, scroll down to a heading that says How To Travel from Delhi to Srinagar. From there, and further below to the end of this travel blog, you will find useful tips.
Now, let’s get started!
A Solo Trip To Srinagar, Kashmir
… is it safe to travel?
The many houseboats around Dal Lake seemed to be blissfully relaxing, allowing tourists to amicably enjoy the utopian state of Srinagar – a place which once stood with dignity and pride, and was only known for its beauty, or for being a ‘paradise on earth’, as locals still call it.
But today, the city can hardly breathe on its own. It seems – as you walk around its confusing and mystifying streets – that its very sustenance, now depends upon those wearing Green Camouflage Jackets and Army Track Pants.
A place that was once known as heaven on earth, and once stood with dignity and pride, today, suffocates under its own air!
After more than two decades of the cold war and raw politics, and with the Indian army taking affairs in its hands, does the future of tourism in Kashmir and its capital Srinagar look bright?
To me, at least, it doesn’t!
In the summer of 2015 (I revisited this place in 2018) this ill-famous, but of the popular holiday destinations in India – appeared as a biblical wasteland, where army check-posts and AK47s still rule the day.
Even if the town, at large, is declared safe, there’s always this fear and trepidation in your heart that suppresses the very tourist in you.
Though I am not claiming that Srinagar is not safe to travel or that you should not have a solo trip to Kashmir – as is often advised – but when you’re here, and a part of you is much aware of the insurgencies that keep happening in this region, you don’t feel that springy keenness to explore a place so striking and beautiful.
The Dal Lake in Srinagar is the real draw. And the experience of paddling slowly round it on a Shikara, birdwatching, is a highlight.
But if you can drag yourself away, there are many places to see in Srinagar – from some of the most beautiful lakes (which, unfortunately, are some of the dirtiest too) to the prettiest mosques in India including Khanqah of Shah-Hamdan, which reveals the roots of central Asian Muslim community like no other mosque does. And if that doesn’t interest you, the neighbouring town of Sonmarg and Gulmarg – that have always ruled the Indian film industry, with their superimposing beauty – would definitely do.
You can also rent a houseboat in Dal Lake for as much as 800 Rupees a night, one of the safe places in Srinagar for tourists. But if you look a little further you’ll find the Indian army guarding the adjoining streets – something which is a normal day’s routine here. Perhaps that’s why, I preferred a four-walled room, over the charm of sleeping in a houseboat.
My four-walled room was all dusty, as city buses chased each other on the nearby dusty roads. The mountains were close too, surrounding me from every direction, and creating a sense of suffocation.
During one of the afternoons, I met a couple of young boys smoking cigarettes in a hidden corner of the famous Botanical garden. It was the time of Ramadan, of course, they didn’t want to be spotted. A few minutes of chat and a quick mention that I am a Hindu built a sudden assurance among them. They invited me to show the shrouded, little intense parts of the city. “It’s not safe for tourists to come here, especially those who are white,” claimed one of them, as we walked around a few untouched neighbourhoods, leaving me confused if I should be happy for having Asian roots.
I found that whatever’s left of the tourism industry there lies just around the Dal Lake. You walk a couple of kilometres away from it, in any direction, and all you see is the emptiness of this place and a bunch of local shopkeepers sitting behind the counter looking wistful, sometimes wary. Or a group of young men indulged in a sad conversation around their people and politics.
But then again, this place has come a long way to revive itself after more than 20 years of brutal civil war. And that’s the reason why many nations including Japan and Britain, among others, have at least lifted their travel advisories against visiting the area.
But for a solo traveller looking for cultural experiences and a bit of fresh air to breathe, does Srinagar live up to the expectations of being an ideal and a blissful state? I don’t think so!