182 Kms from Mansehra
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.
“Heartland of winter sports in India”, its the title that was given by CNN to this place. Its a heaven for skiers. Apart from skiing, this place offers winter games like snowboarding, tobogganing and heli skiing.Apart from this, Gulmarg is also the home to WORLD’S SECOND HIGHEST OPERATING CABLE CAR since 2008 named GULMARG GONDOLA. It is a two stage cable car, the first stage being at the height of 3080 m from sea level and the second stage is at the top Apharwat peak at height of 3950 m from sea level.Imagine yourself travelling in mid air with a white sheet of snow beneath you and tress covered with snow surrounding you! I traveled when I was in 5th grade and it was so beautiful, that I still remember each and every detail of that ride! I still remember, as soon as we reached the second stage, there was hut arranged for us. Since it was too windy, we went in there, elders sitting in one room doing the usual boring talks, and we kids in the other and you can imagine, when kids are left alone in a room, what fun do they have! Playing charades, drinking kahawa (forced by parents), sitting near bonfire, chatting, playing I had the time of my life. SONMARG
4. Gulmarg:Located in the Pir Panjal range of the Himalayas, Gulmarg is a part of the Baramulla distric of Jammu and Kashmir. Known for being the heartland of winter sports in India, Gulmarg offers visitors with all kinds of winter sports ranging from skiing and tobogganing to snowboarding and heli-skiing. The Gulmarg Gondola is also one of the highest in the world. For people looking to beat the harsh April/May heat, Gulmarg is one of the best places to visit in Spring in India.
I guess this is the beauty of travelling, where you meet new people and they etch a place in your heart, no matter what language we may speak, no matter what culture we may follow, the language of kindness and love is one, the entire world is our home, and everyone's family, all we need to do is go, explore and connect.
Despite the shiver it will send down your spine, the sun beating down on the snow-white mountains of Gulmarg is a sight that is worth travelling for hundreds of miles. And during the day, you can always take some skiing lessons!
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.
Day 9 - July 17thAnd then finally at 2:oo AM they did let us go. And there we were holding on to everything in the car as our drivers raced the Innova like Lewis Hamilton in close competition with Nico Rosberg. On the way we saw army men every 500 meters, glasses shattered! In no time we had reached Srinagar airport (Around 4:00 AM). We thanked our drivers for dropping us safely to our destination and bid good bye. The airport was going open only at 6:00 AM. So we sat outside waiting like many others there,there were small fights going on to give us the feel of Srinagar, when they did let us in (after number of security checks) the airport felt entrance felt something so different so many people camping there on the lawn chai,samosa,sandwich stalls (because of the curfew). We knew a person from airport security department so he arranged for a quarters where we rested and had hot parathas, divine!!! Then we boarded the flight at 1:00 PM.
137 Kms from Mansehra
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.
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.
258 Kms from Mansehra
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!
Never forget the spiritual aspects of travellingNext short road trip was to a Holy place, a 14Km trek to the Temple of Vaishnodevi in Jammu. This was the final destination for my recovery journey, and I made sure that the higher power was involved in my ordeal for a healthier life. It seemed like a fitting “rite of passage”. There, I worshipped and thanked God for giving me a new life. I was grateful for a new reason to live in happiness, after being through some hardships.
In the enchanting valleys of Kashmir, and the supernatural landscapes of Ladakh, Jammu is easily forgotten by travellers.Situated on the banks of Tawi River and a busy hub for domestic pilgrims, Jammu gets its name from Raja Jambu Lochan, founder of the city. He named it Jambupur, but eventually decided to change it to Jammu.While Kashmir and Ladakh are infested with tourists every year, it's unfortunate to see Jammu not being celebrated for its share of distinctness from its beautiful cousins.And let me assure you, there's more to Jammu than just Vaishno Devi. In this article I'm going to show you a different side to Jammu, where you can walk by gushing rivers and have a gastronomic affair with the street food of 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.
245 Kms from Mansehra
Sitting on river side is another privilege we had there. A tributary, actually, that flows like a river in monsoon. The thrust can be felt by just listening to the sound of it. With each passing turn and level, the sound changes and thus it starts a conversation of its own kind. Sitting on the rocks, during sunset and being a 'part' of it, is incomparable to the materialistic pleasures.
Day 8: Today was going to be a really really reallllly long journey- back to Katra (Vaishnodevi) near Jammu from Srinagar- which was going to consume almost 12 hours. After a sleepy, tiring and back breaking journey, we reached Katra and checked in into a very nice hotel in Katra market. Katra has infinite number of hotels, eateries, dry fruit shops, chaat shops and what not! ….. and soon started, what was the last thing I needed and expected that time. All of a sudden I had diarrhoea and couldn’t move even bit from my place i.e. the hotel washroom. I had heard it from so many people earlier that ‘agar vaishno ma se bulawa nahi aya hoga toh aisa kuch zaroor hoga ki aap vaishnodevi ja nahi paogey’. At the end of it, I actually couldn’t help but believe this. Sadly I had to spend that night in hotel room itself despite having a strong wish to climb the holy mountain, while rest of my folks and group members went ahead for the pilgrimage. Day 9: With a pledge and promise to myself to return back to Vaishnodevi sometime soon, we caught the evening train to Delhi and then further flight to Mumbai the next day!
It was a shivering night in a sleeper berth of Amritsar-Jammu train, during peak winters of January. Even the shawls and blankets that we bough in Amritsar was not enough to protect us from the spline chilling cold. Anyways we reached Jammu Tawi station at about 9 am on 22nd Jan and straight away left off to Katra in a hired taxi. We checked into a budget hotel in Katra and after some light refreshments we started off to the Darshan Darwaza (the starting point of the 14kms trek up hill to Bhawan (located at 5200 above MSL). Our pilgrimage cum trek flagged off at 2 pm with the "Jay Mata Di" on lips and on the bright red head band. Most of the pilgrims were climbing with minimum or no baggage at all, but we three had some clothes and blankets in our back pack, besides my DSLR and lenses. The trek no doubt strenuous and tiresome but the electrified atmosphere created due to chanting of Jai Mata Di, undying will power and nevertheless the blessings of Mata Vaishno Devi, we kept on climbing up, sometimes by longer & less steeper routes, while in some cases, to save time, we took the 45 degree steeper staircases. I personally was getting quite exhausted some times, but the destination was clear on sight whenever I used to raise my head. This used to give me a lot of strength every time to move on. After about 7 hours of trek, we reached at Sanjichhat via Adhkuwari, at about 9 pm. We checked into our double bedded single room accommodation (with extra bedding) at Mangal Bhawan. We got freshened up within some 45 mins, and then resumed our trek to Bhawan (the abode of Mata Vaishniv Devi) which was about 2.5 kms from there, but the route was quite levelled and flat. Since it was a peak winter night, we could come across carpets of snow only along the path (since the shrine board administration would have cleared the snow for the comfort of pilgrims). It was the first sneak peek to snow for us before the Patnitop trip. Finally we reached Bhawan, after a half an hour of relatively comfortable walk. We had to deposit our shoes at the cloak, and bare foot, we had to walk around there (sometimes even on the snow !). The moment my bare feet touched the snow, I felt a shock of 440 V and after few minutes of walk on them, my feet had gone numb. We had to rub them against the heaters, wherever we used to get there. We eventually reached the holy cave and was to our surprise, was hardly crowded, though it was 10 in the night. Probably, since we were crazy enough to climb up in the peak winters, we could fortunately have a 5 to 10 mins. long "Darshaan" of the three Holy shrine called as Three Pindies ( manifestation of Supreme Energies of Mata Maha Saraswati, Mata Maha Lakshmi and Mata Maha Kali). Thereafter, my co-travellers, in the pursuit to formally complete the pilgrimage of Mata Vaishnov Devi, started off to Bhairavnath Temple, about 1.42 kms from Bhawan, on ponies, while I preferred, honestly, to return to our room in Mangal Bhawan. Next day, I woke up quite early at 8 am (keeping in mind the 14 kms trek uphill the last night) and had a quick breakfast consisting of Poori and chole curry (you truly won't have much of option there for neither break fast or lunch, besides rajma rice or chole rice, other than poori). Then it was the time for me explore Sanjichhat, and the landscapes nearby. With my DSLR in hand, I went on a spree capturing each and every scenery that was equally breathtaking and captivating. One can see, in winters only, snow on roof tops, dripping down from the edges of leaves and roof tops. At some height a short distance away, one can see the helipad from where, at present, helicopter services are being provided by Pawan Hans Helicopter Ltd. and Global Vectra Helicopter Ltd. We had our lunch and rushed to the Sanjuchhat Helipad, for our maiden experience of flying in a helicopter, back to the Katra. The total flying time was around 10 mins., thought quite short, was really an experience to cherish. We did some souvenir shopping in Katra in the evening and prepared ourselves for our next destination.
329 Kms from Mansehra
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
234 Kms from Mansehra
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.
Its an alpine valley situated around 80 km from Srinagar. Its situated on the banks of Nallah Sindh (the largest tributary of Jhelum River). From Sonamarg, trekking routes lead to the Himalayan lakes of Vishansar Lake, Krishansar Lake, Gangabal Lake and Gadsar Lake, stocked with Snowtrout Brown trout and Satsar, glacier-fed and surrounded by banks of alpine flowers.An endless stream of stunning flowers and undulated trekking routes are its attractions. Sonamarg has to be in every visitors’ list of places to visit in Kashmir for its mesmerizing aura and breathtaking views.AMARNATH TEMPLE
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.