262 Kms from Gurez
Best time to visit - June to September
This beautiful town happens to be located in Jammu & Kashmir and is an abode for those who wish to pursue Buddhism. The place is surrounded by tall mountains, clear blue water, a white surrounding and many monasteries. The people here are warm and welcome tourists. Found midway between the Karakoram and Himalayan mountains, the beauty of Leh is beyond words, making it a hotspot with the tourists. Visiting the local markets here is a treat as one will get to browse through Tibetan jewelry, carpets, woolens and much more. Be sure to carry an extra bag to fit in all your purchases.Read More
This beautiful town happens to be located in Jammu & Kashmir and is an abode for those who wish to pursue Buddhism. The place is surrounded by tall mountains, clear blue water, a white surrounding and many monasteries. The people here are warm and welcome tourists. Found midway between the Karakoram and Himalayan mountains, the beauty of Leh is beyond words, making it a hotspot with the tourists. Visiting the local markets here is a treat as one will get to browse through Tibetan jewelry, carpets, woolens and much more. Be sure to carry an extra bag to fit in all your purchases.
We started from Uleytokpo towards Leh. We heard there is a magnetic hill and a kargil memorial before we reach Leh. After some time , we reached magnetic hill . Our driver tried to show magmetic property of this hill how vehicles go by themselves but in vain. May be there is a procedure for it to work or may be because of latest changes, it is not. Then we headed to Kargil war memorial which displayed all the things, weapons and stories happened in Kargil. We headed to our hotel checked-in, had our lunch and started to Leh palace. In Ladakh , taxis from outside are not allowed to drive. They just drop us and go. Local guides here will be through Ladakh with us. There was one guy, Stenzen , who was very knowledgeable about Ladakh. So we went to Leh palace. It was not that huge but ok. I was a little afraid in palace because of the habit I have to read everything about a place before going. It was in scary houses lists of India. I managed to be with my husband and crowd all through , had a look at palace, had a look at Leh city from there. Then was our travrl to Shanti stupa during sunset. Shanti stupa was a very peaceful place . Very huge and there were awesome views of Leh. We enjoyed our sunset there and headed to our hotel.
The Hall of fame museum constructed and maintained by Indian Army in memory of the brave soldiers who lost their lives in Indo-Pak wars, built in a two storey building with a war memorial at the back, there are lots of sections inside of Army, Air force, ITBP and Ladak Scouts showcasing their contribution to the service of the nation. You will get to see the artifacts which were captured during the Kargil war such as light machine guns, assault rifles and letters by Pakistani soldiers to their families, they have a vast collection to put forward all the hardship a soldier goes through in those climatic conditions. Not just that they have shown about the flora and fauna of the city too, where you can find out in which region what kind of climate you will experience and wildlife you get to see. Also there is a section for Siachen glacier showcasing how they survive and the equipment and machinery used by the soldiers.
Leh is the perfect spot to start your year with. Winter is at its peak and there are no tourists around. That makes January the best time to visit the monasteries without the crowds, as they stay open all round the year. Leh’s most famous monasteries are Thiksey and Hemis. If you are lucky, you can also drive to Pangong-Tso and see the lake absolutely frozen. A minimum of two days are required to acclimatise, so plan your trip for around seven days. Expenditure on hotels will be minimal; you will only need to pay the full price for the taxi you take to go around. Leh is the perfect off season destination in India to visit!The airport receives flights every alternate day in the week. The main highways are closed though. The only way to reach Leh in January is through air, at the Kushok Bakula Rinpoche Airport. It takes 1 hr 45 mins to reach Leh from Delhi.
Leh-Ladakh Start working out right away, because a bike trip to Leh-Ladakh is going to need some serious muscle. Put your friendship and stamina to the ultimate test as you hike through glacial melts, freezing streams and the roaring Himalayan winds. As you come face to face with the stark realities of nature, hang on tight to your heart and hope it doesn't fly away.Take a break at the surreal Pangong lake and revel in the glorious view. You finally have a chance to put those dusty DSLRs to use!
Ladakh, Jammu & KashmirAs the temperatures all over the country are soaring, there’s one place that is particularly chill. And that’s Ladakh. The tourist season begins in June, and be ready to be swept away by the panoramic scapes, the turquoise skies and the infinite mountains that’ll surround you. Word of caution: prepare yourself for a dramatic drop in the temperature post sunset. There’s your summer retreat!
The two-day long journey was tiring indeed, but one look out the window and my whole life was sorted. Some may think I am exaggerating but every single worry or any ounce of tiredness would just vanish as I gasped in awe while witnessing nature at its best. We had our own personal tempo traveller so it was great having the freedom to stop anywhere we wished to and we took numerous tea breaks. While we were on the go, our staple diet became Maggi and Thukpa and Momos. After reaching Ladakh, I definitely missed the varied landscapes of the heavenly highway but the sand dunes at Nubra valley and the enchanting blues of Pangong Tso were a welcome change from all the brown rugged rocky mountains. Needless to say, the scenery throughout was so alluring that it will forever be etched in my heart and my memories. Coming to the people of Ladakh, well they were very friendly and helpful. Almost everyone there was called Stanzin. Our homestay hosts, driver and other people around were extremely welcoming. September 2014 was the time when Kashmir was hit with the infamous floods caused due to torrential rains in the region. The weather in Ladakh region was also not very clear and on keeping account of the flights leaving Leh we came to know that the flights were disrupted for almost the entire week that we were there. But I guess that the weather Gods were not too angry with us and cleared the skies the day we were leaving. We went in Early September and didn’t expect much cold but we got rain, snow, closed roads and what not but there was no change of plan and we could visit and see all the places that we had intended to. The mountain roads were not very good and I would advise self-drive only for those who are well accustomed to hill-driving. The amusing road signs from BRO (Border Roads Organisation) were cool and witty and BRO does an amazing job in managing and maintaining the hilly roads there. Leh is at an altitude of 11,500 ft. To put things into perspective, the elevation of Manali is 6,700 ft. and that of Delhi is a mere 700 ft. Before taking the trip I had read at a lot of places about AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) and how low levels of Oxygen at these high altitudes can make one uneasy. Infact I also read that taking the road trip from Manali to Leh for gradually gaining altitude would be better as compared to directly flying from Delhi to Leh. We took the former plan but unfortunately, one of our friends fell sick after Tanglang La which at 17,500 ft. elevation is much higher than Leh. As soon as we reached Leh, he had to be admitted to the hospital because of breathlessness and high altitude sickness. At the end, everything was OK but we learnt it the hard way that even the healthiest person can have a tough time there so AMS must be taken seriously. We then decided to carry portable oxygen cylinders as a precautionary measure when we went to Nubra Valley and Pangong Tso. Now that I fondly look back at the memories of this wonderful week, I can hardly pick out an experience that was my personal favorite. The road trip from Manali to Leh, the excitement of passing the high passes, the night at a riverside camp in Jispa, the awesome food and chilled out luncheon in Leh Market, the quiet evening stroll at Pangong Tso, eating the apples and apricots plucked from trees at our camp, the time with the cutest and most innocent Ladakhi children, playing midnight UNO with my new-found friends and the feeling of immense national pride at Indian Army's Hall of Fame museum. Every experience was unique and remarkable in its own way.It was the trip of a lifetime indeed and they definitely don't call it PARADISE ON EARTH for no reason.
59 Kms from Gurez
Best time to visit - April,May,June,July,August,September,October
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.Read More
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.
We finally reached Srinagar around 1 am and what made it better was a full moon night. Honestly speaking, it felt pretty scary at first. After hearing all those stories about Kashmir, landing there after midnight, when there is pin drop silence around you , you tend to feel a little chicken-hearted. With no prior reservations made, my dad went outside to get us a houseboat for the night. While we sat in the car next to Dal Lake, suddenly two kashmiri men dressed in pheraan came to us and called us outside the car. We were scared to death at first, but then seeing my father with them was quite a relief. We stepped into their small boats called shikara , sailed across the Dal Lake, with chilling water, risen up to the level of the boat. On finally reaching our houseboat, we just crashed. Next morning, on waking up we realised that our houseboat was a luxurious dream. With beautiful wood carved dining tables to sparkling chandeliers, it outran the lavish hotel ambience. Moreover, it was floating on the Dal with a scintillating view of the Pir Panjal Range. Nothing in the world could have matched that.
This was my most memorable trip. We were in Srinagar by night. We took a houseboat stay and it was awesome. We shared a house boat with other couple. This houseboat which named Khybar was so awesome. Food was delicious. Next day morning, we woke up with pleasant Dal lake before us. We didnot care to go into Srinagar city as we were at peace in Dal lake. We were seeing pretty shikaras all over Dal lake. There were water sports on Dal lake . We too tried our hands in one of them. Just stand on a plank with rope in hand and speedboat takes you around Dal lake. It was fun. Then at sunset, we did a Shikara ride and it was magical. We were om shikara with mountains and pine trees all around. It called it a day, had our dinner and hit the bed.
Srinagar is nothing short of paradise and the people who have visited this extraordinary valley will agree. The colours of the valley change every season. In the summers, the valley is a fresh green, in autumn you will see it painted in shades of mandarin and in winters, which start in December, you will see the valley wrapping itself in hues of grey, blue and white. Crisp-cold winds blow in the valley indicating that winters are finally here. The temperature drops down to minus degrees and all you will need is a cup of warm kahwa and firans to keep you cozy at times like these. From Kashmir, you can go further to explore places nearby, such as Gulmarg, Sonamarg, Gurez Valley. Srinagar is one of the best holiday destinations in India.How to reach Srinagar:The easiest way to reach Srinagar is through air. Srinagar is well connected by road and rail, the nearest railway station is in Jammu. Regular buses ply for Srinagar as well.
Srinagar, Jammu & KashmirIt’s’ Venice of the East’ calling this summer, and it is the retreat. Be it the Dal Lake and its shikaras or the Mughal Gardens and their state of spring – they will all leave you with many a story.
Houseboat is a wooden boat that designed in a beautiful manner to make it a perfect dwelling place for tourists over the waterways. Moored along the edges of Dal Lake and Nagin Lake, Houseboat in Srinagar is counted as one of the key tourist’s attractions of the Kashmir valley. Large numbers of tourists are attracted to Kashmir by the mesmerizing charm of houseboat, which provides ethereal experience of living on the water in a wooden paneled bedroom, with all modern amenities of a luxury hotel. Houseboats of Kashmir are not only modern, beautiful and elegant but also comfortable in all respects.
One could sense the tension on the street. Strict and frequent checks on the road; restricted traffic movement of men and machines, no shops open. Yes, the situation could go anyway as the day progressed. In the forty minutes from the hotel to the airport, numerous calls from friends. Irritating a wee bit, but touching too. Good to have such people in our lives. The scene at the airport, pretty much the same as the previous day, crowded, except much more people waiting outside to receive returning pilgrims. Security at this airport is much higher as is the presence of uniformed men and women, but all, very courteous and polite, not afraid to smile and wish back greetings as they went about doing their job dedicatedly.It was a long wait for our 3 pm flight back. Fortunately, there was shopping to keep the irritation of wife in check. Did we enjoy our mini adventure? But of course. Would we do it again? But of course, and encourage others too, to follow suit.
Day 14: Arrive in Srinagar: Explore Srinagar.Day 15: Take a flight back to your home destination (Note: If you want to save days, then be wise and book your return tickets from Leh well in advance). A humble request – Garbage disposal in the region is a major issue. Please carry your trash with you and dispose it at the appropriate place. You can view more pictures from my journey at www.unpluggedlife.inP.S – Special thanks to Vinay Shukla, Pratiksha Kapoor, Ojas Mhatre, Reeti Trivedi Pandharipande, Supreet Kapoor, Pranav Inamdar & all others who helped me with the slightest of things to make this dream come true. This trip was originally published on Unplugged Life.
Day 1 & 2 - We left Pathankot early in the morning by 8. The next stop Srinagar, was only 360 kms but it took us almsot 17 excruciating hours on the NH1 to reach Srinagar later in the night at 1 which led us to bunk in our traveller for the night till it was 6 in the morning when we set out to look for a place to freshen up. That's when we were told that since the Rohtang Pass (Leh-Manali highway) is closed, the traffic from Leh has to be diverted down through Srinagar and that has led to the traffic being closed for that day from Srinagar to Leh. In the planning of the whole trip we had included 3 days as buffer, in-case these kind of events take place. In order to utilise the whole day we went to a place called Yousmarg near Srinagar, which is just 47 kms from Srinagar. It is an alpine valley which invloves a mild trek to the base of a tributary of river Jhelum, called Doodganga.
257 Kms from Gurez
Best time to visit - March,April,May
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.Read More
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.
Dalhousie, perched at the end of a dusty backbreaking road through Himachal Pradesh, is perfect to disconnect from the world.
Retaining not only the colonial looks but also the name, Dalhousie is a hill station with beautiful surroundings and weather.
Buses are very easily available from Dharamsala to Dalhousie and take less than four hours.(If you want to head straight to Khajjiar take a direct bus.)You can start your journey in Dalhousie from Subhash Chowk and proceed to either of these three small hikes. Enroute Lakkad Mandi, the road diverges towards Kala Top Wildlife Park, Khajjiar and Dainkund Peak. So, before heading to Khajjiar, you can take easy hikes to both Kala Top and Dainkund. These peaks provide a great panoramic view of the Kangra Valley.
Dalhousie is palpably more colonial in flavour as compared to the strongly Buddhist feel at Dharamshala and Mcleod.The journey back to Dharamshala the next day was uneventful. After a hearty breakfast at the hotel we did not even need to stop for lunch but one member of our party who was sick on the way from Delhi decided to skip the bus jorney and fly back. We said our goodbyes at the Dharamshala airport and then made our way back to the very same cottage we had occupied a night ago as the caretaker had very kindly agreed to rest there for an hour or two before we caught our bus back to Delhi.The return journey to Delhi was much smoother than the onward one, not least because the hairpin bends and ghat roads were over by 10p.m. and after that it was just any other normal bus journey. I wanted to record the dinner stop on this route. The bus pulled into an imposing driveway and in front of us stood a palatial building called Haveli built in sandstone. It was eerie and weird...exactly the sort of setting for a low-budget horror flick where a bus-full of passengers disembark in the middle of a lonely highway and one by one inevitably they die. As we walked up the 50 or so steps into the grand main hall and had our dinner the feeling of eeriness and unease never left us for a second. As I kept teasing my friend, it seemed as though many skeletons were literally buried in the closets of this house. We felt infinitely better when we were back on the road.The bus reached Delhi at around 4:30a.m. and dropped us off at ISBT Kashmiri Gate. This was the end of our trip and we headed homewards. The memories, however, will stay with each one of us.
Next morning we set off for Dalhousie in an upbeat mood. First stop was the Dharamshala Cricket Stadium which is the highest stadium in the country. Beautifully kept and fringed by mountains, it provided numerous photo-ops for tourists.On the mountains every hairpin bend, every curve, throws up a different dimension of the view. The scene keeps shifting so there's never a dull moment. The movie business churns out hundreds of songs each year but all the hill-stations in the Himalayan region of India are caught in a time-warp of 1990's Bollywood cheesy romantic numbers. Unfailingly, if the taxi/car you hire has a stereo, the driver will play these almost-forgotten songs. One such ditty stuck in our heads like chewing gum would not come off till we recorded a dub-smash duet rendition of it. A bit of crazy on the trip!
Amritsar to Dalhousie (Punjab to Himachal)We started at 7am in morning from Amritsar to Dalhousie through batala, Gurdaspur, Pathankot. We reached at about 1pm so we decided to move to Khajjiar. It was really a beautiful place for mountain lovers. We return back to Dalhousie in evening, it was started raining and guess what it was an ice rain. Beautiful rainbow comes up in sky. We took rooms for 1000 bucks. And it was a hell of scenery from the balcony of room. You can see mountains range.
29. Dalhousie, Himachal Pradesh -Dalhousie will transport you to another world. Although located at Kalatope, the spread of cedar and pine paint a different picture. The magic of the forest coupled with the wide expanse of the grasslands will make you feel isolated from the world. If you want to skip the more touristy places in the area, you can. Instead, you can choose to stay at the forest rest house situated in Kalatope. You will find a golf course, a temple and a lake surrounding the area. What more can you hope for when you are on a romantic escapade?
16. The picturesque hills of DalhousieAnother beautiful destination in Himachal Pradesh is the hill station called Dalhousie. Named after the British General, Lord Dalhousie, this hill station once a summer retreat for the British, still retains its popularity. Situated at an altitude of 2,400 metres, Dalhousie spans across five hills and is one of the most picturesque hill stations reflecting plush green hills dotted with ancient Hindu temples and Scottish and Victorian architecture as seen in its quaint bungalows and modest churches.
Dalhousie- Named after Lord Dalhousie. Well this is place is for those who seek peace and look for space within themselves. Beauty of this place can not be explained in words. A must visit destination in Himachal Pradesh. Paanch pula is the main attraction of the place. You can enjoy shopping on the Mall road and the tibetan market.
263 Kms from Gurez
Best time to visit - N/A
This is as valley as well as a town in the Dustrict of Chamba. Situated on the banks of the Ravi River, Chamba is a beautiful place and a popular tourist destination of Himachal Pradesh. The town was founded in 920 AD by Raja Sahil Verma, after he moved his capital from Bharmour till here. The temple of the Chamba valley are also famous for theire beautiful wood carvings. The main influence is of Hindus here unlike most of the other hill valleys of Himachal. The Raghuvira Temple is the most famous temple here. The blooming flowers all around is a blissful sight. The Chowgan Field is the place for the traditional Minjal Festival of Chamba Region.Read More
This is as valley as well as a town in the Dustrict of Chamba. Situated on the banks of the Ravi River, Chamba is a beautiful place and a popular tourist destination of Himachal Pradesh. The town was founded in 920 AD by Raja Sahil Verma, after he moved his capital from Bharmour till here. The temple of the Chamba valley are also famous for theire beautiful wood carvings. The main influence is of Hindus here unlike most of the other hill valleys of Himachal. The Raghuvira Temple is the most famous temple here. The blooming flowers all around is a blissful sight. The Chowgan Field is the place for the traditional Minjal Festival of Chamba Region.
The trek from Dalhousie to Chamba takes you through the valleys of Kangra and Chamba. This route is a beautiful way to enter the Chamba Valley on foot, and is best enjoyed during winters. The camping sites on the way are on comfortable terrains, making them ideal for families.The starting point or the first basecamp of the trek is in Dalhousie. From there you trek for five hours to reach Kalatop, a picturesque mountain peak, and then camp again at Khajjiar the next night. You will spend more than a day exploring the Mangla Village, and then head back via the same route.
Early next morning we woke up and got ready for the long Journey awaiting us .We had to reach Gangotri which is 300 km from Haridwar, by night Since there aren’t any straight buses to Gangotri from Haridwar, we were to go to Uttarkashi first and then take another bus to Gangotri. So we took a bus to Uttarkashi via Rishikesh around 5.30 am. We reached Chamba around 9 am where the bus stopped for quick refreshment for the passengers and driver. From there we saw the snow covered tops of theHimalayan peaks from the distance for the first time in our journey. The tallest mountain ranges in the world, the natural barrier of our great nation was shining so bright in the sunlight. But disappointingly that was the last time we saw that magnificent view till we reached Gangotri. The driver of the bus rushed through the narrow road which snaked across the valley. Soon after crossing Chamba you will get a companion up to the destination, it is none other than the mighty 'Ganga'. But at that point its name is Bhagirathi, the river which came to the earth from the heavens because of the prayers of King Bhagirath! It becomes Ganga after joining with Alakanandha at Devprayag which is not quite far from Chamba. Bhagirathi looked like a lake in those areas because of the Tehri dam which is constructed across the river at New Tehri, I thought. But as we passed a few kilometers we could see the real face of Bhagirathi. She is very thin but flowing really fast, cutting the mountains into two parts. One of the things that astonished me was that there are countless numbers of small streams joining Bhagirathi from its source in Gaumukh but still I felt the water level of the river is the same as its beginning. May be it is because she flows very fast! There are huge rocks in the river that got there probably because of landslides.
I reached Chamba as I planned. I booked a room nearby bus stand to leave for Bairagarh the next morning. It's 130kms and HPTDC runs only 2 buses in the morning. I interacted with locals and roamed the streets. There wasn't much to do.
18. The stunning mountains of ChambaThe Chamba Valley in Himachal is a mysterious place dotted with a number of temples dedicated to Lord Narayan. Considered to be a paradise for those who love to connect with nature, Chamba provides one with an awesome view of all the mountains around the valley.
60 Kms from Gurez
Best time to visit - May,June,July,August,September,October
Fondly called the 'meadow of gold', Sonamarg is situated on the banks of a tributary of river Jhelum in Kashmir. A spellbinding valley 80 km from Srinagar, en-route to Ladakh, it is on every traveller's list for its colourful views, serenity and charm. Much has been said about the beauty of Kashmir and one may wonder what the hullabaloo is about. But a visit to Sonamarg is all you need to understand the ways of nature! From Sonamarg, you can trek towards Krishnasar Lake and Vishnasar Lake, amongst others. A perfect place to camp and also to enjoy leisurely afternoon picnics, it would be best if you have a local showing you around. Though there are no well-defined touristy spots within Sonamarg, there are umpteen spots around it. Depending on what you'd like to explore, do gather information and then plan your day here. Read More
Fondly called the 'meadow of gold', Sonamarg is situated on the banks of a tributary of river Jhelum in Kashmir. A spellbinding valley 80 km from Srinagar, en-route to Ladakh, it is on every traveller's list for its colourful views, serenity and charm. Much has been said about the beauty of Kashmir and one may wonder what the hullabaloo is about. But a visit to Sonamarg is all you need to understand the ways of nature! From Sonamarg, you can trek towards Krishnasar Lake and Vishnasar Lake, amongst others. A perfect place to camp and also to enjoy leisurely afternoon picnics, it would be best if you have a local showing you around. Though there are no well-defined touristy spots within Sonamarg, there are umpteen spots around it. Depending on what you'd like to explore, do gather information and then plan your day here.
This day , we took a horse ride to Thajiwas glacier in Sonamarg. Almost everything in Sonamarg will be closed for 6 months because of snow. As I said guide is important for us to enjoy, this time we were not at all lucky. We got a very cranky horse which I first sat on, got panicked and made my husband sit on it. Scenery was perfect but because of our horses and guide we were not enjoying anything. We asked guide why the horse was cranky and the answer we got was these two horses donot get along well. We were ascending a mountain. Route was very scary too! And at a point there was only one way for horses and other way horses were standing beside a huge valley. My horse almost slipped its leg into valley and my head was spinning with fear. We reached Glacier and it was murky ice too and didnot seem like a glacier. And yeah it was a bit irritating seeing guides following us. This happened because our guide was not good else you will truly enjoy. While return , we got down of horse after sometime and started walking and that was when we started enjoying the beauty of Sonamarg. We were so tired after all this and were sleeping the next moment.
SonemargNext morning, we were introduced to Sonam (a ‘Ladakhi’ as Mushtaq bhai called him) to drive us to Leh. We passed by lush green valleys, rippling streams, lines of conifer trees & finally reached the picturesque Sonemarg. Glacier laden mountains, green fields, fascinating ponies made for a perfect backdrop of a Yash Chopra song – only the chiffon saree was missing!
Day19:-Leh to sonamargWas really very happy to hear the news that the roads of srinagar were open. I wanted to create a loop of the route by entering through Manali and exiting from srinagar and in no way I wanted to return by the same roads to Manali. The actual plan was to visit tso moriri and tso kar but I was already short of days because it took additional days to reach Leh . Skipping tso moriri and tso kar was a toughest decision but had to take it. Travelling through Srinagar was a risky thing as for the last 50 days Srinagar was under curfew and around 100 people were killed because of their conflict with army. I left with a thinking that I will meet some other bikers on the route so that I can travel with them till we cross Srinagar. Finally I was leaving Leh . But there are few places to see enroute. Initially planned to reach Kargil and next day cover Srinagar but changed my stopover from Kargil to drass the worlds second coldest inhabited place as it will be easy to cross Srinagar the next day. Few kilometres from Leh reached magnetic hill where the stationary vehicles moves uphill defying gravity. So I turned the engine off to try it. It really worked so I tried again just to confirm and it worked again. Small fear was there in my mind as I was still alone. Next I stopped by sangham which is the confluence of zanskar river and Indus River after which it flows through Pakistan before reaching the Arabian Sea. After sometime came across a group of riders who were traveling all the way from Kerala to Leh and back. Initially when I saw them they were having their breakfast I didn't stop there and moved ahead thinking we will meet ahead. On the way I crossed fotu la pass and reached a place called moonland, the place was good and scenic the surface of that place resembles a moon surface. On the way I met on of the biker from the Kerala group and had a word with him and asked where are they headed today for which he said by night they are planning to cross Srinagar,so at first I was planning to reach drass by evening and halt. Now decided to travel with them. I went ahead of them and reached Kargil and started looking for the Kargil war memorial. Upon asking found that it is located in drass and not Kargil. Had my lunch and reached drass in few hours. Spent some time in the war memorial looking at the sacrifice made by our soldiers during the Kargil war. I waited there for the Kerala guys to reach as I wanted to travel with them till we cross Srinagar. After a wait of around 45 minutes they reached. Finally we all left and planned to cross Srinagar at night, thinking that it would be safe to cross at that time. Though the situations were not good in Srinagar. By the time we left drass it was already near 7 pm and it was getting dark and we had to cross zojila pass. And by the time we reached there it was pitch dark with hardly any soul around. As we proceeded the road were rough and it started raining. We were driving on no roads and due to rain it was covered with slush and under darkness for several kilometres by 11pm we reached sonamarg. The army stopped us at the checkpoint and said they will allow us only by 5am. So we had our dinner for which we got only dal and rice , after requesting he made some omelettes. Then found some accommodation nearby the checkpoint and decided to ride early in the morning.
I had never seen snow, the very first glimpse of the snow laden heaven in Sonmarg brought twinkles to my eyes! Many tourist were gathered to ski in Tazivas glacier which made the highway jam. We were surrounded with snow. It was up, below and around us. There was a beauteous brown landscape when we climbed towards the most vicious and precipitous ‘ZojiiLa’ Pass’. I wonder, I crossed it and still alive. The narrow road (let’s call it road) had hardly any space to cross even one car. And just when I thought it could not get more adventurous than the 6km truck jam happened and we had to cross those trucks side by side, it took nearly 3 hours to cross that road.
If Gulmarg and Sonamarg makes you feel warm and fuzzy, Sonamarg is exactly the opposite. Don’t take me wrong, the beauty of Sonamarg is indeed breath-taking, but the grandiosity of the snow mountains make you feel like a Lilliput, someone without any power.The changing weather further adds to the mystery of ‘what’s next?’ The Sindh River cutting across the Sindh valley brings glamour to this hill station. Sonamarg is a contrasting beauty; green meadows on the banks of the Sindh River and the cold rustic mountains leading to Kargil.Instead of following the crowd to a snow field, I would advise you to rent a guide and ask him to take you some place which is less commercial. Yes, I particularly stress on hiring a guide because snow is dangerous (partly because there are melting glaciers). If you fall and cut yourself, you can bleed to death before any help arrives. There is also a trekking route that you can take that reaches the Pahalgam Valley. The trek is strenuous and the weather conditions determine whether you can trek that route.I would suggest an overnight stay at Sonamarg valley. Once the one day tourists leave, the place becomes quiet and it reveals true beauty to its night audience. The Sonamarg market is about 1 km. long. Most of the places serve fabulous food and like I always say, always order what the locals eat!
Sonamarg is named so because when the sun's rays fall on the mountain cliff it appears bright and golden, hence a road of gold, Sonamarg (And not Sonmarg). Beware that the tourists are not allowed to Sonamarg in their own vehicle. They are forced to use the local transport which is basically business for the local residents. We again came back to Srinagar for the final stay.
One of the prettiest hill stations in Ganderbal, Jammu and Kashmir, Sonamarg really is a meadow of gold considering its picturesque landscapes. Its lakes, glaciers, alpine flowers and imposing conifers will enthral you and coerce you to stay. The icing on the cake is the fact that it is the gateway to our beloved Ladakh.
125 Kms from Gurez
Best time to visit - May,June,July,August
This beautiful district in Ladakh has been part of many significant moments in India. Its close proximity to Pakistan makes Kargil an integral part of India's geographical dominance and its awe-inspiring beauty makes it a must visit for travellers. If you are making your way from Sringar to Leh, Kargil is a definitely stopover. The Sani monastery here is one of the oldest monasteries in the world and is home to a 20 feet tall Stupa and a Buddhist shrine. Other notable monasteries here are Mulkbeh Monastery, home to a laughing Buddha sculpture; Phugthal Monastery, Zongkhul Monastery, Stongday Monastery and Karsha Monastery. If you are here for a day or two, do walk around the villages to experience life in one of India's coldest regions. The people are warm and welcoming with myriad intriguing stories to share.Read More
This beautiful district in Ladakh has been part of many significant moments in India. Its close proximity to Pakistan makes Kargil an integral part of India's geographical dominance and its awe-inspiring beauty makes it a must visit for travellers. If you are making your way from Sringar to Leh, Kargil is a definitely stopover. The Sani monastery here is one of the oldest monasteries in the world and is home to a 20 feet tall Stupa and a Buddhist shrine. Other notable monasteries here are Mulkbeh Monastery, home to a laughing Buddha sculpture; Phugthal Monastery, Zongkhul Monastery, Stongday Monastery and Karsha Monastery. If you are here for a day or two, do walk around the villages to experience life in one of India's coldest regions. The people are warm and welcoming with myriad intriguing stories to share.
2. Kargil to Srinagar via Drass
Leaving Mulbekh, we directly drove to Kargil. We were startled to witness how the barren desert-like mountains slowly transformed to greenish ones and how Buddhism gave way to Islam. Kargil is a district and is the second largest town of Ladakh division after Leh and is situated along the banks of the Suru River (Indus). The town lies near the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan to its north.
We reached Kargil shortly and first visited Kargil memorial. My husband was wearing a shawl and behaving like he worked in army. It was Kargil diwas few days later and all preparations were going on. We were happy to see whole army preparing for the event. We saw Vijay path, we were shown tiger hill where attack took place. Then a shop for souvenirs where we picked two. There was a museum which displayed all things used in war and all paper cuttings after victory. Then we came to our hotel.
Kargil & the story of warThe Kargil memorial built in the memory of all those who lost their lives during the 1999 war, is a vast space in front of the Tololing range. Vijaypath, a long walk way, leads up to the lit up torch, under an Indian flag. A wall with the names of the Shaheed from various gentries stands right behind. In the vicinity, you will notice an MiG that was extensively used during the war, captured Pakistani bunkers & possibly a 100 grave stones of the buried soldiers.There is a small museum built exhibiting details of the war, including photographs of the soldiers, scenes from the war, weapons used, a salutation poem by Harivansh Rai Bachhan & a wall for people to leave messages onMore than the museum, it were the stories from local people that kept us mesmerized for hours when we halted for the night at a hotel in Kargil, overlooking the valley with the Batalik range around it and the LOC just 20kms from it. Clearly, the locals took pride in the fact that it was because of them that the war was won...”koi Madrasi army mein pahaad kabhi chadh payega?”Kargil is a story of valour & heroism. One fine summer morning, a shepherd while walking his sheep, noticed some strange looking faces – ‘alag’ as the locals called them, comfortably staying in the bunkers up on Tololing Range. When he reported this suspicious activity to the army, little did he know that this information would be the start of a war that will go down in history as one of the first conventional warfare between 2 nuclear nations at a high altitude in mountainous terrain?The Pakistan army had infiltrated into the LOC & had occupied the Indian bunkers in the peak of winters, when the Indian army had receded back to the base camp owing to severely cold conditions. What ensued was Operation Vijay, which lasted almost 3 months - surely leading to some wins - recapture of 4 mountain peaks, but many losses – of lives.While there were these heroic tales at one end, on the other, the locals gave us their version of the story of war. Lots of locals had volunteered to help during the war – some carried ammunition & food for the army as they could climb mountains easily, some worked for them in the kitchens & bunkers, some even agreed to fight against the army risking their lives – all in the hope that once the war was over, the government or army would appreciate their effort & provide them an opportunity to serve in the army, ensuring a sustained profession. However, it was disheartening to hear, how none of them were even recognized leave alone any kind of appreciation or a permanent job! This left some bitterness among the locals who therefore weren’t ever as over-awed as us, by the great effort that the army put in for our tomorrow.What if the shepherd hadn’t noticed anything suspicious, what if the Pakistani army had moved closer, what if they had bombed & captured NH 1D, oh what if there was no partition at all – would we have saved thousands of lives, would we have had more harmony, would the Indian map have changed completely & would we have ever been able to travel to Ladakh today – with a million questions cropping in our minds, we silently sat in the car, staring outside the window as the landscape changed gradually – the lush green valleys of Kashmir, giving way to the barren, rugged, desolate, yet colourful rocky mountains of Ladakh.
Not too many people are aware that Ladakh forms the third region of J&K after Jammu & Kashmir – wonder why the state isn’t called J, K & L? Despite, Ladakh being over-shadowed by its more popular cousin Kashmir, it’s still been in the to-do list of travellers from all over the world. Indians however, began to throng this place, only after it was made famous by the Kargil war in 1999 & of course Aamir Khan’s ‘3 Idiots’.
Day 3 - The next day was perhaps the most crucial days of the trip, as we couldn't afford to miss out on the highway timings for upward traffic due to the closure of Rohtang Pass. We left Srinagar at around 9 am with an aim to reach Kargil by the evening, which is approximately 213 kms on the NH1D. Once we reached Sonmarg, which is approximately 80 kms from Srinagar, we took a preordained halt for an early lunch because of the upcoming Zoji La Pass, which is considered one of the most dangerous passes in the world, with roads covered with slush, mud etc from the melting of snow of the Himalayas. As we left Sonmarg at around 11.30 am, with Kargil just around 120 kms, the situation went out of hands when we saw a traffic jam at-least 10-15 kms, starting from upper Baltal till the end of Zoji La Pass. The road was filled with trucks carrying good and supplies to Leh and beyond. With hardly any movement for 2 hours, the ITBP (Indo-Tibetan Border Police) came to our rescue and helped our traveller move ahead instead of the trucks (which apparently were officially stopped because of high load intolerance of the Zoji La Pass). The ITBP contingent kept on moving ahead slowly but surely and along with them our traveller and all the other tourist vehicles. It was almost 5 in the evening that we were able to cross the Zoji La Pass and that's when we decided not to move ahead to Kargil and instead bunk for the night in Drass, which is approximately 60 kms before Kargil.
Due to the ongoing riots in srinagar I decided to make my trip back to delhi via manali itself.Hence i decided to travel to kargil. Kargil is 240 km from leh so I started early so as to reach kargil before dusk.I started my journey by seeking blessings at Gurudwaara Sri Pathar Sahib.Situated 23 kms from leh,this place is a gem of a place to be at.This place is completely maintained by our own Indian Army.Three cheers for them for such great hospitality and warm welcome there.I was fortunate enough to enjoy that delicious langar there.After some great food i had some interacting session with the armymen over there and then i asked them to tie a sikh turban for me as well.I was a bit anxious as i didn’t want to offend them but they were so generous that they instantly agreed to my request and Mr. Sarmukh Singh ji turned me into a sardaar..:)Now was the time to start my journey further after a few kilometres came the famous magnetic hill. This place is said to defy the properties of gravity but the fact is that it’s an optical illusion. I tried some off-roading there and then went on to carry on my journey towards kargil.The road is excellently maintained by BRO. Kudos to them for executing such a great effort at such height. I reached kargil by 5 in the evening and took halt for the night.
Since our initial plan had changed, this was the most awaited day in the trip for me. We were to visit Kargil war Memorial. My friend had visited this last year and said to me “no matter if you don't visit any other places but you got to visit this one. This place give you Goosebumps when you come here.”Well on this note, we had decided to move out around 9 so that we can reach Kargil in time. There is a place in Nimmoo which is famous for Samosas, The Puran hotel. Tasty samosa, chole bhature, Namkeen and Tea was a great start of the day.
We reached Kargil in the evening. kargil is just another small town in the region. There isn't much to do in Kargil but there are some great war stories to be heard. One such was about Plateau Nath Baba, ingeniously named after the topographical feature said baba resided on. Story goes that enemy shells refused explode around him, but did so when immersed in the river; leading the troops to believe that the nameless mad man was indeed a divine being. Presently a Shiva temple, maintained by the Army, stands near his hut with an ante-room dedicated to him.Kargil to Leh
73 Kms from Gurez
Best time to visit - January,February,March,April,May,June,July,August,September,October,November,December
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.Read More
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.
This day we started off early and headed to Gulmarg. It was a day trip to Gulmarg and we went to Sonmarg for stay from there. Gulmarg was one beautiful place with lot of pine trees and valleys. Way to Gulmarg was fabulous.W e saw a valley flowing by road and stopped there for a while. After we reached Gulmarg , we had two options : Afarwat peak through gondola and khilanmarg through horse with several stops. We chose Khilanmarg as we experienced Gondola and snow a lot. And this was our best decision. We rented out jackets and we were on horses the next moment. In these places , the guide you get is as important as place. We got a very good guide here. The horses soon went into pine trees. We were seeing nature at its best. Our horse even crossed small water bodies and we felt like kings and queens. Then we were at a point where there were all snow capped mountains and the view was perfect. Next stop was view Reshi baba mandir/mosque from a mountain top. Then we headed to a childrens' park and this was magical. Park was green and there was water flowing through it with a small bridge across water. We were into water the next moment not even caring about how cold the water is. We spent a lot of time there. Then we headed to Khilanmarg. Khilanmarg had very murky ice. It was long time it snowed there as it was summer. We didnot do much there except for sledging in ice. Then we came down and started for Sonmarg. Our Sonmarg hotel was right in front of the mountain. We checked in to hotel, had dinner and relaxed for our next exciting day.
Around 56 km south west of Srinagar, the magical town of Gulmarg is home to some of the most stunning snow-clad slopes you can find in Kashmir. The town of Gulmarg is not just a centre for winter games but also boasts of a training centre that helps novices learn the nuances for many winter adventure sports, including skiing and snowboarding. Adhoc Sub Center Gulmarg is functional during winters every year and specialises in skiing courses.Read more: Ayandrali Dutta's trip to snow-covered Gulmarg.
The initial need that I had to reach the top had now being overtaken by the amusement of being on the track-path and sitting down at the cottages, having Nun chai (salt tea- Kashmiri tea). After a long journey up the mountain we finally reached. I could tell by the beams of sun that landed on my face, a reward for making it up so far. It was the most miraculous feeling I ever had, maybe it was the reason I was brought to India, to watch the blue skies kissing the mountain top, which was in the veils of white snow. I felt that I was on the peak of the world, and everything else is below my feet, and no one can reach me. I could see people climbing up below, like tiny dots. They would reach anytime soon. The feeling was so magical that I had not realized my palms turning red, with the unbearable cold that my body was exposed to for the first time in my life. Blood ran up to my top layer of paled skin to fight the strong breeze against me, but it was not powerful enough to kill the smile on my face out of the happiness. Surprisingly, Abid was not scolding me for not bringing proper winter clothes. Instead he was beaming, with a broad smile on his face that touched the corners of his ears as he watched me gradually picking my breath. He was equally happy as I was, to have been the pioneer to bring me to Kashmir, which till now has become a home than any other to me and will always be.
Snowy peaks in the backdrop, freezing winds, blooming varieties of flowers and vast snow cover for skiing as well as a breathtaking ride in world’s highest cable car, Gondola.
Gulmarg: February is an excellent time to get your gear on and go snow boarding and skiing in the the snow-clad meadows of Kashmir. Gulmarg not only becomes the hub of adventure activities in this season but also promises surreal landscapes and a clear night sky for those who want a peaceful vacation.The nearest airport is in Srinagar, 56 kms from Gulmarg. Taxis and buses are available from Srinagar to Gulmarg everyday at regular intervals.Read more: Snow-Covered Gulmarg In Photos by Ayandrali Dutta
God himself showers light upon this place. And the people there, they couldn't be any more generous in their attitude. Even in a state of curfew, they helped the tourists, the families to get to a safer place, and offered them all the help they could give selflessly.
This summer vacations, my family decided to land on the one place that hits every Indian Middle class family's vacation list, yes-Kashmir! It truly is the 'Heaven on Earth', with the green flowing all around,naturally growing flowers making it even more beautiful, those horses, the hills, and the clouds completing the image of a fairyland.
Gulmarg ("Meadow of Flowers") is a town, a hill station, a popular skiing destination and a notified area committee in Baramula district in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. The town is within the Himalayas and is within miles of the Line of Control between India and Pakistan. ccording to CNN, Gulmarg is the "heartland of winter sports in India." Gulmarg was being mooted as a possible host for the 2010 Commonwealth Winter Games. As such, Gulmarg has been rated by CNN International as Asia's seventh best ski destination. This resort is famous because of its "Gulmarg Gondola," one of the highest cable car in the world, reaching 3,979 metres. The two-stage ropeway ferries about 600 people per hour to and from the gondola main station in Gulmarg to a shoulder of nearby Mt. Apharwat Summit (4,200 m (13,780 ft)). The ropeway project is a joint venture of the Jammu and Kashmir government and French firm Pomagalski.
213 Kms from Gurez
Best time to visit - January,February,March,October,November,December
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!Read More
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!
On arrival at Jammu tawi , you can see a little hustle and bustle of the city life.Pretty guarded though. Instead of loitering around in the city of Jammu, we decided to head straight to valley. So we hired a car and took up the Jammu-Srinagar Highway. With picturesque mountains on one side and trenches on the other, the route surely gives you an adrenaline rush. Yes, there was a jam too. Loads of private cars, corporate SUVs and army trucks, all lined up on a National Highway. On our way to Srinagar, we did have the fortune of eating the famous rajma chawal with a generous portion of ghee and we stopped a cup of tea in the lush greens of Patnitop.
1) Scenic beauty: Nested in the hills of Jammu, the temple — frequented by the thousands of devotees daily — is surrounded by picturesque beauty and natural splendor. In case you want to club your trip to hills with a pilgrimage, especially if you are a north Indian, then there can’t be a better place than Vaishno Devi in Jammu. The verdant hills and cool surroundings will make the pilgrimage memorable.
Day1: On the morning of 8th June, we took a flight to Delhi and then waited for the night train for Jammu. Having decided to travel at the end moment, we couldn’t manage to get train bookings to Jammu from Mumbai. Thanks to the holiday season, railways had announced a holiday special train between Delhi and Jammu. Our travel company managed to get us 3 berths in that train just in time. Everything fell in place! Day2: Morning around 8 o clock, we reached Jammu Tawi railway station. Since we were the first ones to arrive, (rest of the group was coming by train including the tour manager and would reach Jammu in the afternoon) we booked ourselves a prepaid taxi to our hotel- Jammu Ashok. We took short nap and till then other group members arrived in hotel. After lunch and introduction, we left for some sightseeing in Jammu city. First place we went to was ‘Bahu fort’ situated on the banks of Tawi river- but on a hilltop. Bahu fort is a simple but impressive structure from outside. According to Wikipedia, this fort is approx. 3000 year old- but was refurbished by Dogra rulers to its present state in 18th century. Except from outside, this fort is nothing like a fort. Today all that’s left inside is a garden and couple of temples- the famous of them being- Bawe wali Mataji ka Mandir. Most of the stuff including wallet and camera is not allowed inside. Although lose money can be carried inside. Just a few minutes’ walk from the fort is Bagh- E- Bahu garden. There is not much information available as to when was this beautiful garden laid. This garden is designed and laid on the concept of Mughal gardens. Bagh- E- bahu has many characteristics of a Mughal garden i.e. stepped gardens, symmetry, fountains, water streams etc. This garden has two entry points one at the top and one at the bottom (since the garden is sloped) Hence it is advised that you enter through the upper entrance and descend down rather than climbing the steps upwards. This garden also has an aquarium (near its upper entrance) which has a separate entry fee of Rs. 10 (in 2014). Even though it is called the largest underground aquarium in the country, its quite small and houses mostly small species of fishes. The aquarium itself is shaped like a huge fish which is entered through its mouth. Our next destination was the famous ‘Raghunath mandir’ in the bustling Jammu market. The temple is heavily fortified and hence NO cameras, cellphones, wallets, bags are allowed inside the temple. Front facade of the temple is quite attractive. Once you enter inside the main gate of the temple, there are many many other temples in this complex. Beware of touts once inside! Few minutes’ walk from Raghunath temple is another temple called- Ranbireshwar temple. The bazar outside Raghunath temple is worth a stroll. It is filled with shops of dry fruits, sweets and woollens. I also spotted a chat shop diagonally opposite Raghunath temple. I made sure to eat Golgappas there before heading back to hotel. Another place worth visit while in Jammu is the Amar Mahal palace. This charming palace of erstwhile Dogra rulers is now converted into a museum. Sadly it was closed that day and we couldn’t have a look inside. If you find museums boring, at least go and have a look at the palace’s stunning exterior which is designed in European style.
When you board the train or a Bus from Delhi it leaves you at Jammu. This is just like another city and though would have much to offer we did not stayed here for long as we needed to move to Katra. We did stopped here for the food and the place has a lot of dhabas and local food outlets which will give you the world’s tastiest vegetarian food. The name Jammu has been termed after its ruler who founded it. Raja Jambulochan, founded this city and named it Jambupora which later changed to Jammu. It’s well connected with the Railway station, Bus depot and the airport. You can even drive to Jammu. Since it is also a focal point for the pilgrims going to Vaishno Devi and Kashmir valley as it is second last railway terminal in North India, the tourism flourishes here. If you want to know about the specialities, its sund panjeeri, patisa and its exotic local food — rajma rice. Another specialty of Jammu is kalaadi, which is processed cheese.
The Kashmir Railways: From Jammu to Udhampur Now picture yourself riding over a difficult, snowy terrain, tracks that took utmost effort to lay but when they were done, they formed the mesmerizing Kashmir Railway, one of India’s most challenging engineering projects! A journey through temperatures that fall below zero and covers the world around you in white is as beautiful in Kashmir as the same journey in summers where the sun, the lakes and the conifer tress everywhere make a postcard-perfect picture. A train ride anywhere by the Kashmir Railway is an breathtaking experience, and what adds to the fun is- you can pass through around 20 tunnels and 158 bridges across the rivers and valleys of the Shivalik Mountain Range making this even more exciting!