Romancing the Snow in Kashmir

Tripoto
8th Apr 2014

A view of heaven - Pehalgam

Photo of Romancing the Snow in Kashmir by Yamini Vijendran

Houseboats on Jhelu River

Photo of Romancing the Snow in Kashmir by Yamini Vijendran

Ice Scooter Ride in Gulmarg

Photo of Romancing the Snow in Kashmir by Yamini Vijendran

The snowcapped peaks from our houseboat

Photo of Romancing the Snow in Kashmir by Yamini Vijendran

Gulmarg covered in snow

Photo of Romancing the Snow in Kashmir by Yamini Vijendran

Shelter Group of Houseboats

Photo of Romancing the Snow in Kashmir by Yamini Vijendran

Ice walls on both side of the road at Sonamar

Photo of Romancing the Snow in Kashmir by Yamini Vijendran

Sonamarg

Photo of Romancing the Snow in Kashmir by Yamini Vijendran

Tulip Garden, Srinagar

Photo of Romancing the Snow in Kashmir by Yamini Vijendran

Avantiswamin Temple

Photo of Romancing the Snow in Kashmir by Yamini Vijendran

Dal Lake

Photo of Romancing the Snow in Kashmir by Yamini Vijendran

Sonamarg

Photo of Romancing the Snow in Kashmir by Yamini Vijendran

This was perhaps the biggest trip I had made ever in my life, and to simply put it, I loved the experience. I had the time of my life, and here I want to share with you the entire itinerary so that it would help you to plan a visit to the heaven on Earth, Kashmir.

Residing in Pune, we decided to fly directly to Srinagar. There are no direct flights from Pune to Srinagar, and one has to either go to Delhi and from there to Srinagar, or to Mumbai and catch the flight to Srinagar. We opted for the latter, and took a cab to Mumbai to board the flight from there.

Cab expenses - Rs.2000

Mumbai Srinagar Flight - Rs.17000 (3 persons - husband, kid and me)

Accommodation and Transport

We arrived in Srinagar at 2 pm and were transported to our guest house in a Tavera, which was to be our vehicle for our entire duration of stay there. It had been arranged for us by the managers at Shelter Group of Houseboats (http://www.tripadvisor.in/Hotel_Review-g297623-d2069765-Reviews-The_Shelter_Group_of_Houseboats-Srinagar_Kashmir_Jammu_and_Kashmir.html). They arranged all our accommodation and sightseeing requirements during our stay in a very smooth and efficient manner. We had opted to stay at their guest house (http://www.tripadvisor.in/Hotel_Review-g297623-d2214823-Reviews-Lonely_Guest_House-Srinagar_Kashmir_Jammu_and_Kashmir.html) for two days and in the houseboat for 4 days. The package included breakfast and dinner on all days, and we were treated to some delectable homemade vegetarian delicacies every day.

Package Cost - 32000 Approx (for 2 persons. Child below 5 years in complimentary)

Places to See - 

We visited the following places during this trip. The details of each place can be found in the next section.

Apr 8 - Dal Lake

Apr 9 - Avantiswamin temple, Mattan Temple, Pehalgam

Apr 10 - Srinagar local sightseeing - Shankaracharya temple, Chashmeshahi gardens, Tulip Gardens, Shalimar and Nishat gardens

Apr 11 - Sonamarg

Apr 12 - Gulmarg

Apr 13 - Yusmarg (We opted out of this and chose to spend the day in the houseboat)

Apr 14 - Departure

Things to Buy

We also did a lot of shopping on most days. Kashmir is famous for dry fruits, Kehwa - a type of green tea, Pashmina shawls and clothing, embroidery works, filigri work on silver, wood carvings etc.

Budget friendly, yet clean and luxurious, Shelter's houseboats are the best place to stay in Kashmir. the staff is warm and cordial, and always at your service. They are happy to accommodate requests from the guests and make them feel at home. The rooms are neat and clean, with lavish decors. They have heating options for cold nights and 24hrs hot water supply (which is a great and essential thing in Kashmir).
Photo of Shelter group of Houseboats in Srinagar | Kashmir Houseboats, Silk Factory Road, Press Colony, Srinagar by Yamini Vijendran
Photo of Shelter group of Houseboats in Srinagar | Kashmir Houseboats, Silk Factory Road, Press Colony, Srinagar by Yamini Vijendran
Photo of Shelter group of Houseboats in Srinagar | Kashmir Houseboats, Silk Factory Road, Press Colony, Srinagar by Yamini Vijendran
A centuries old ruins symbolizing the history of Hindu culture in the region. There are guides who will show you around. There is not a lot to see, but without someone telling you what you are looking at, you will probably be at a loss to understand the significance of the place.
Photo of Avantiswami Temple Ruins, National Highway 1A, Awantipora by Yamini Vijendran
You will mostly be spending 2-3 hrs here, but the drive from Srinagar to Pahalgam will itself take 3 hrs, considering that you might be stopping enroute at the Avantiswamin temple and a few other spots like Marthand temple (if you want to) or go dry fruits shopping / bat shopping. At Pahalgam, you will have to hire ponies to go around the various spots. Our houseboat manager told us what would be a decent rate for the ponies and how much to bargain. We paid Rs.850 per pony for 3 spots. As the kid was too small to sit on a pony by himself, he shared the pony with one of us. There is no need to be scared, for the Pony wallahs are always in control of their animals.
Photo of Pahalgam by Yamini Vijendran
You can spend a day visiting all the gardens in Srinagar - Tulip Gardens, Shalimar, Nishat and Chashmeshahi. The gardens are well maintained and beautifully landscaped. It is enthralling to be surrounded by such greenery and riot of colors. However, if you want to see the gardens in full bloom, the best time to visit is May-June. When we were there, the flowers had just started to bloom, so even though they did look beautiful, we couldn't see them in all their splendor.
Photo of Tulip Garden, Rainawari, Srinagar by Yamini Vijendran
We had our first tryst with Snow at Sonamarg, where it seems snow can be found 6 months of the year. You can try the sledges and skiing, or just fool around in the snow. We made a cool snowman much to the excitement of your young one. You need heavy gum boots and cloaks to visit Sonamarg. These are available on hire just a few kilometres before Sonamarg, as are the ponies that will take you to the main spot. The warm clothing can be hired for around 350 per person (good bargaining skills do come in handy).
Photo of Sonamarg by Yamini Vijendran
Photo of Sonamarg by Yamini Vijendran
Photo of Sonamarg by Yamini Vijendran
The main attraction at Gulmarg is the Gondola ride, a 15-20 minute cable car ride. These rides can be booked online for about Rs.600 per person (kids above 3 years are fully charged for). There are 2 phases in Gulmarg. The first phase is the first stop in the cable car ride and the second phase is the highest and the farthest point. It is said that the LoC is visible from the second phase. However, we did not visit second phase since it was snowing heavily, so there was anyway no point as we could not see anything. Also our hotel manager advised us against it since the oxygen levels are very low up there and it might cause the kid some discomfort. However, the first phase is more than enough. Here again you have sledges, skis and ice scooters. Gulmarg is the only place in Kashmir where the service providers of sledge, skis etc. will leave you harrowed with their constant peddling. We had a tough time enjoying the wonderful place with all these peddlers constantly at our back insisting we try the ski or sledge or ice scooter. We did give in and tried the ice scooter, which turned out to be too costly for a small 5 min ride (and one in which my eyes were closed all the time due to the snowfall). Nevertheless, seeing, touching and feeling snow for the first time was an experience to remember for us.
Photo of Gulmarg by Yamini Vijendran
Photo of Gulmarg by Yamini Vijendran
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