12th May - We returned back with a very different picture of Kashmir as to what our Indian media portrays. Along with enjoying its beauty, we also learnt about the struggles of both, a common Kashmiri man and an Indian Army soldier.
Kashmir is the only place in India that looks beautiful in every season. It feels very unfortunate to see the condition of this heaven on earth & its warm & welcoming people. They are deeply hurt to know that people of India think of Kashmir as a dangerous place. Everyone we met had a request for us to go back home & tell people to visit Kashmir. Tourism is their major source of earning & its worst hit after the Pulwama attack. I feel everyone should visit Kashmir once in their life to experience the beauty of the place & the warmth of its people.
Recommended places with some travel tips
Srinagar: Stay on houseboats on Dal Lake or Nigeen Lake, Shikara ride on Dal Lake, visit Nishat Bagh, Shalimar Garden
Gulmarg: Better to visit in winter. During summer, snow is far from the base. Sonmarg & Yousmarg are also good.
Doodhpathri: Must visit for all nature lovers. 50km from Srinagar. Carry some dry snacks & water for the way.
Kokernag: Botanical garden is really good. Achabal is also known for its Mughal garden & its fresh water spring. Stay is not recommended as there are no good hotels here.
Pahalgam: Atleast 2 nights stay should be planned at Pahalgam. There are many good hotels available at Pahalgam. Betaab Valley, Aaru Valley, Aishmuqam Shrine (Dargah showed in the movie, Bajrangi Bhaijaan) are recommended places to visit. Chandanwadi, the start point of Amarnath yatra can be skipped.
Pahalgam has a nice market to shop for Kashmiri clothes & handicrafts. Danapani is a very good pure veg restaurant in the market. Pony ride can be done in Pahalgam, better than Gulmarg.
Sinthan Top, Daksum: Must visit for the snow covered views. Vehicle can be taken right up to the top if its not blocked by snow. Road is really beautiful. Carry enough dry snacks & water for a long travel. Woolen clothes are must.
Pampore: Only town on the Jammu-Srinagar highway where saffron is produced. So it should be purchased from here. It falls on the way from Srinagar to Pahalgam.
Imp to know: None of the prepaid connection will work in Kashmir. BSNL has a good network, so BSNL postpaid or any other postpaid sim should be carried along. Internet connection is on & off. Whenever the situation is bad internet is disconnected in many areas. Card payments are accepted at major tourist locations, but due to internet issues digital transactions become difficult. ATMs are available at all places, but carrying enough cash is advisable while visiting to remote or lesser known places. Travel during Ramzan month should ideally be avoided. Though all tourist locations & transport is functional during the month, but at lesser known places or on the way, it might be difficult to get restaurants.