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My first and most awaited trip to Kashmir


Tripoto.com
Duration: 10 Days
Expenditure 28000

This was like a childhood dream coming true. A trip to Kashmir was long awaited.

I had my air tickets booked via Air Asia but due to the unrest situation in Kashmir the plan was hazy. I was disheartened.

I decided that I had to go and the day came when I picked my bags up and left for Kashmir.

I booked my first night stay through Air BNB as it was comparatively cheaper than other hotels. The house owner came to pick me up at Srinagar Airport. I reached at his place, got myself freshen up and went off to roam around Srinagar.

To be very frank, at first I felt that the Kashmir I have heard about and seen in movies is not what it looks in real. Srinagar was a little disappointing against my expectations.

DAY 1

It was a 9 day long trip.

The best thing that happened to me was finding a homestay through AirBnb. It was cheap (700 INR for a day) and the house was clean. The house owner's name was Sabeel (young decent engineering guy). The moment we landed in Kashmir he took us for a free ride through the city and guided us about the place for the rest of our trip. To contact him, dial this no. (Mobile No.) I rented Sabeel's bike and roamed around Srinagar as I was running on a low budget and booking a cab might have left a huge dent on my pocket. Trust me Kashmir can be decently expensive trip.

It was lunch time. I took the bike and went off to roam Lal Chowk and by the way I was staying near Dal Lake, at a place called Nawpura.

Anyways, so I decided to dine in Mughal Darbar (quite famous at Lal Chowk) and did some shopping at Lal Chowk itself.

By the evening I was roaming around Boulevard (Dal Lake), took a heartfelt view of Dal (it is beautiful indeed). The boulevard stretch goes by the shore of Dal Lake and you can visit famous Mughal Gardens while covering the shore.

The first Mughal Garden you'll get to see along the banks of Dal Lake is Nishat Bagh. After a few kms you'll get to see Shalimar Bagh, then Chashme Shahi and Harvan at the end.

You can cover all these locations in one day. Its going to leave you with decent no of days to explore Kashmir further.

Tip: Get up early in the morning and visit all the gardens in a day. You'll probably cover all of them in a time span of 4-5 hours max. Visit Lal Chowk in the evening. Treat yourself with some Kashmir delicacies and roam around for shopping. There are some good North Indian restaurants at Boulevard as well.

DAY 2


One of the underrated and untouched beauty in Kashmir. The best part about this place is that it is not commercialised yet.

The place was used by Indian Army for firearms testing.

Now it has been evacuated and tourists have started pouring in.

Doodhpathri is more or less 40 km away from Srinagar. From Srinagar you have to reach Budgam district. From Budgam you will reach Khansahib and then Doodhpathri.

The road from Srinagar to Doodhpathri is not so smooth. Though it is motorable but a little tiresome ride.

Entry fees in Doodhpathri was 20 INR per person.

The moment I went through the gates, it was a different world altogether. Green meadows, rearing herds of sheep, clean blue sky. Trust me, I can't describe it in words.

We spent the whole day roaming around the place. We did our lunch at a restaurant inside Doodhpathri. Clicked some picturesque photographs. After a few minutes of riding, we parked our bikes and halted near the river.

I can wager one can't keep his/her legs for more than 30 seconds in that flowing water, it was chilling. From that point you can go for some treks further but it was not in our itinerary, we had different plans. We wrapped up from Doodhpathri, clicked amazingly beautiful pictures and rode back to Srinagar by the evening.

Tip: Avoid travelling after dark. The place is entirely safe but one should avoid unnecessary risk of getting into trouble.

Doodhpathri is a beautiful place to visit but the meadows are more or less same to Gulmarg. You can trek to further up the mountains from Doodhpathri. Contact a guide for that place in case you are planning to hike.

DAY 3

We had 2 days reserved for Gulmarg and 2 days are more than enough for the place. Stay in Gulmarg is expensive and in the peak season time its difficult to find a hotel even at the highest price. We decided to stay at "Tangmarg". Tangmarg is 11 km before Gulmarg. It's a small village. We booked the hotel "Pine view Resort" through Goibibo at mere 750 INR for a night.

The hotel room is clean and the restaurant serves delicious food. Do try their dosa.

The moment I entered Gulmarg, some locals asked me to park my bike and told me that I might have to face penalty if I roam around on the bike. I decided not to hear them and continued to explore Gulmarg on my bike.

Note: Some people might mislead you, I would suggest you not to throw away your money and get to know about the place. Kashmiri people can get a lot pushy while selling you something, so, keep that in mind.

Day 1 in Gulmarg was amazing. Coming from Delhi it was surprising to watch huge green meadows, thousands of sheep, superb weather all at once. We roamed around for a while appreciating its aesthetics. It was around 4 pm when we decided that we were going to Khilanmarg enjoying the pony ride. Well, if you are a first timer, I must tell you that pony ride is not so interesting as it sounds. You'll get to know more once you'll do it.

Gulmarg to Khilanmarg is around 5 km. Pony ride is going to cost you around 400 Rs.

You'll cross deodar and pine forests on your route to reach Khilanmarg. Once you'll reach the place you can enjoy skiing and sledging

as well. Though its not quite famous for its adventure sports but a ride on sledge will do no harm.

It was almost dark when we reached back to Gulmarg. We decided to leave for Tangmarg for our night stay. We had to come back to Gulmarg on the next day for Gondola. It was total dark on our way back. There was no other vehicle on the road except ours and it was horrifying.

Later in the morning, locals told us that there have been some cases of the encounters with wild animals between the route of Gulmarg and Tangmarg. That was the day when I decided that it was the last time that I rode at night in the mountains.

DAY 4

It was our second day in Gulmarg. We reserved this day for Gondola and local sight seeing.

Gondola costs you 1600 INR per person for both the phases.You'll encounter many local guides who will ask you to accompany on your ride to Gondola. One such incident happened with me. An old man in his 60's-70's approached me and asked to serve as a guide for Gondola. I politely told him that I want to explore the place myself and don't need his assistance. He was extremely persuasive and denied to leave my back. In the end I had to give him 50 bucks just to leave me alone and let me go on my own.

Note: You don't need a guide for Gondola. Take your passes from the counter and enjoy the ride. I would suggest you to cover Phase 1 and Phase 2 both.

In the second phase you''ll be able to reach Apharwat peak. On your left, you'll find Sunshine peak and Shark peak on your right. You'll be able to see Indo- Pak border as well.

Snowcapped mountains, cool breeze of air with skiing. This is what Apharwat is all about.

As the sun went down, we started riding back to Srinagar from Gulmarg.

While riding back, I felt that this was the best of Kashmir that I saw. It couldnt get better. Well, I was wrong.

DAY 5

I researched 100s of itineraries to plan my Kashmir travel. Almost every itinerary suggested 1 day stay in Sonmarg and kept Sonmarg as an optional destination.

To my surprise, Sonmarg is one place you can't miss on your trip to Kashmir.

We stayed for 2 days in Sonmarg. You can cover the important destinations in one day if you leave from Srinagar early and reach Sonmarg early in the morning.

Route: Srinagar to Sonmarg route offers you a picturesque view of huge mountains and flowing streams at one of your end. The road is superbly built. Biking is going to be a treat on these roads.

Distance: 80 km. 90- 120 minutes ride. We took a pitstop on "Kangan" for some refreshments.

Altitude: 2800 metres

You'll spot loads of riders in Sonmarg traveling to Leh. Sonamarg is one route every biker has to travel to reach Ladakh. Another route passes through Rohtang Pass (Manali).

The main attraction point in Sonmarg is "Thajiwas Glacier"

We rode our bike as far as we could have gone on bike to reach Thajiwas Glacier.

From that point there is just 1-2 km trek to Thajiwas Glacier.

Note: Local guides asked us to take a pony. Trust me, you don't need one. It's an extremely small and easy trek.

It is so difficult to get these local guides off of your back. They almost follow me for a km instead of my constant denial.

I decided that I'll not speak anything to any guide who is going to approach me next in a hope that it might work and they're going to leave me alone eventually.

So, this man came to me and said "Seth, sledge karega?" I said nothing, tilted my head low towards the ground and kept walking. Again "Ghoda, kar lo. Bohot door jana hai." I greeted him with my silence again. He stopped and said to his partner "Lagta hai saab behra (dumb) hai".

So, trust me, if you're going to ask them to leave. They will not leave you. If you are going to argue with them. Thats not going to work at all. Try to remain silent and stop responding. Keep walking. You might get lucky this way.

There are high chances that you'll get to see snow covered mountains. We visited in the month of June and it was fully covered in snow.

Thajiwas will offer you a perfect place for Skiing and Sledging. Rate depends on season and your bargaining skills everywhere in Kashmir.

I did skiing for 150 INR/person and Sledging 100 INR/person.

Thajiwas is beautiful indeed. We trek further up from the base of Thajiwas Glacier.

We came back to Sonmarg by the evening and booked our hotel. It rained for the whole night. Sonmarg is famous for its heavy rainfall throughout the year and the mornings of Sonmarg are priceless.

It rained all night in Sonmarg. The moment we came out of our hotel room, it was a different world altogether.

We reserved this day for "Zero Point". Zero Point lies approx. 10 - 15 km before "Dras". Dras is the world's second inhabited coldest place. You can continue from Dras to reach Kargil and then Leh.

Road from Sonmarg to Zero Point goes through "Zozilla Pass".

It was one eventful ride through Zozilla Pass. I would rate it in one of my most difficult and adventurous rides.

Note: The road condition is not good. It is narrow and might be muddy at times.

The scenic beauty on this route is unbeatable. Huge mountains covered with snow, piles of snow stocked on both sides of the road. It is a treat to the eye.

Zero Point is a happening place. It is one of the pitstops for the riders to Leh. You'll see a heap of people playing around the moment you enter the place.

You can enjoy skiing, sledging, snow biking here.

Maggi is definitely a treat, though a little expensive from the usual rates.

Don't rent the snow boots or clothes. I don't think it's a requirement.

We enjoyed for a while and had some chit chat sessions with other tourists from Delhi.

Stayed there for almost 2 hours and started riding back to Srinagar as the sun was falling.

We had a 110 - 120 km ride in front of us (Zero Point - Sonmarg - Srinagar). It started raining on our way and we reached Srinagar by night.

DAY 7


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