Kashmir, the Real Paradise on Earth
Dominated largely by long stretches of Scenic Mountains, the Valley of Kashmir covers an area of 224,739 sq km. The Great Himalaya range separates Kashmir from Ladakh, whereas, the Pir Panjal range confines it as a valley by drawing a border and separating it from the northern plains. Therefore expect serene, scenic and sensual landscape that nurtures the valley as an ideal destination for holidays in Kashmir. The prized possession of Jammu & Kashmir state, the Valley of Kashmir renders opportunities to experience nature’s best. From splendid Srinagar to isolated Gurez valley, the gamut of awe-aspiring vista is endless here. Travel to Kashmir to cherish the impeccable natural beauty, where inhabits a gentle race of people.
Guidelines for Travellers
1. Sim card operators:
Any Prepaid connection bought from anywhere in India will not work in J&K. (except local prepaid connection bought in J&K). All Postpaid connections bought from anywhere in India will work in J&K. And the current operators in J&K are:
2. Things to carry while traveling to Kashmir in April, May, and June
With the shift from spring to summer, the month of April, May and June offer a bit of everything; rain, heat, and cold. The city is at its peak then, you can stroll in Mughal Gardens, take shikhara rides on the Dal lake, go for trekking, skiing and rafting. It is all here, and it can all be done in this pleasant weather. A couple of things you want to carry to enjoy your trip to the fullest:
- Umbrella/Raincoat– You might experience brief showers and its best to keep yourself protected.
- Trekking boots- These are usually helpful in Sonamarg and Gulmarg, where the ice level is high.
- Moisturizers- Remember to carry your cold creams for the night and other parts of the day if it gets cold. Also, do not forget to carry sunscreens as higher altitude are likely to give sunburns quickly.
- Small traveling bag - They will be suitable to carry important things like cash, mobile phone, and medicines.
3. Clothes to wear in Kashmir in summers (April, May, June)
The month of May marks an end to the spring season in Kashmir and celebrates the onset of the summer season. The average temperature in Kashmir from April to June is 25 degrees Celsius, and the city is covered with lush greenery. So, if you plan to visit this heavenly place anytime between April to June, these clothes are a must:
- Cotton Clothes- With an average temperature of 25 degrees Celsius, cotton clothes will do just fine during the day. Especially, if you plan to visit more than 1-2 destinations on foot. It is important to keep yourself light and enjoy the pleasant weather. One can also choose to wear linen or khadi. Full/half sleeves tops or t-shirts, preferably full selves because if it rains, the temperature drops down by a few degrees. A comfortable pair or denim would be just fine for the trip. However, if you plan to trek, you can pack a pair of track pants or leggings that allow easy movement.
- Woolen Clothes- Though the weather seems pleasant for most of the day, the temperature drops slightly at night, and therefore, carrying light woolens would be a good precaution. Perhaps a pair or two of woolen pants, thermals or zippers would do just fine.
4. Clothes to wear in Kashmir in Winters (November, December, January)
The end of November marks the beginning of the winter season in Kashmir when heavy woolens are a necessity. The city is covered in layers of snow and is as beautiful as a picture on a painter’s canvas. Savouring a cup of ginger tea or cappuccino beside a bourn-fire, in this weather is a pure joy! With an average of 7 degrees Celsius, Kashmir is freezing during winters, and we suggest you should adopt the idea of layered clothing.
Where one garment can be worn on top of another, to trap the body heat and to keep you warm! You can carry:
- Thermals – Wear them as a base layer underneath all your clothes for added warmth.
- Full/cut sleeves sweaters- To protect yourself from the cold.
- Coat and Jackets – Winter coats and jackets are worn to keep the torso and arms protected from cold. Types: fur coats, pea coats, leather coats, ski jackets, bomber jackets, parka or puffer coats/down jackets.
5. Prescribed Medicine
Do carry all the medicines you require for your summer or winter trip. Many of us suffer from motion sickness in Hilly regions; remember to carry medicine for that.
If you take a medication prescribed by your doctor, you’ll need to bring it with you if you’re traveling to Kashmir. Take your medication routinely and consistently. Do not reduce or stop taking your medication.
6. Amarnath medical guidelines
Please ensure that you are physically and mentally fit to perform the journey. As the Yatra involves trekking at an altitude of 14,800 ft, do have yourself medically examined and certified for the journey and keep the medical certificate handy for examination by the registering authority. The compulsory health certificate would have to be obtained from authorized doctors and medical institutes.
7. Horse / pony ride
Pony riding or horse riding is a popular tourist’s activity in Kashmir. Tourists can find horse (ponies) in popular holiday resorts especially in those places where some roads are not motorable in highlands. Tourists hire ponies to carry out trekking activity in the highlands of the valley. Places like Gulmarg, Sonmarg, Pahalagam, Yusmarg in Kashmir valley. The prescribed rate for the pony ride is Rs.800/= per person.
8. Gulmarg Gondola Ride
Gulmarg Gondola is considered as Asia’s one of the longest and highest cable car plans. The entire ride comprises two stages - Gulmarg to Kongdoori and Kongdoori to Apharwat Peak. The first phase of the ride takes around 9 minutes while the second takes about 12 minutes.
Gondola Tickets are available online at ( www.gulmarggondola.com) and at Gondola E-Ticket Block in Gulmarg, TRC Srinagar, Srinagar International Airport, and JKSCCC Office Katra & Jammu @900-00 per person for both the phases.
(Phase 1) Gulmarg to Kungdoori
(Phase 2) Kungdoori to Apparwat
10. Shopping in Kashmir
- Shopping Attraction : Saffron, Shawls, Carpets, Paper Mache Articles, Kashmiri Crewelwork, Honey, Almonds And Fruits.
- Shopping Destinations : Jammu, Srinagar, Gulmarg, Leh and Pahalgam.
- World Famous For : Saffron, Shahtoosh and Pashmina Shawls, Kashmiri crewelwork, Hand Woven Carpets and Silk.
Shop From : Lal Chowk, Badshah Chowk in Srinagar : Walnut Wood Carved Articles, Paper Mache, Kashmiri Handicrafts. Spices and dry fruits.
J & K Arts Emporium : Pashmina Shawls, Shahtoosh Shawls and Knotted Carpets.
Tibetan Market And Moti Market In Leh : Wool garments, Thankga Paintings, Hand-woven rugs and carpets. Main Bazaar Road, Ladakh : Handicrafts, Tibetan Silver Jewelery.
Do Not: Bargaining Should not be done as the Price of these Articles are Already Minimal.
• Must Buy: Shahtoosh Shawls, Walnut Furniture, Brass and Silverware.
11. Local taxi allowed only at three sites in Pahalgam
Three main sites in Pahalgam are : Chandanwari, Betaab Valley,(so called because the Hindi film Betaab was shot there) and Aru valley. You can only take local taxies- Sumo, Tavera or similar 7 seater car as taxis from Srinagar or Jammu are not allowed to take you sightseeing here. It will cost you about Rs 1500 as there is no bargaining. Personal vehicle from other state also not allowed to make Sight seen at betaab valley , Aru and Chandawanri Only Local vehicles and Army vehicle. Note that you are asked to pay an entry fee of Rs. 25 per head to enter Aru wildlife sanctuary, but there is no wild life there. You are just taken to a market place. Similarly an entry fee of Rs. 100 per head is charged to enter betaab valley, it is not worth it, you can see the valley while going to Chandanwari and judge for yourself. You get to play on snow in Chandanwari, special clothes or shoes are not needed but are available for rent. You are usually asked Rs.500 per head but you can bargain it down to Rs. 50. Next thing to do in Pahalgam is Pony ride. Pony rides are available to a scenic meadow called Baisaran or 'Mini Switzerland' from city center and with full bargaining! At first you are asked to pay about Rs 1000 per person, but at last they will come with you at Rs 800 or even less.
12. Separate cab is to be taken from Sonmarg to Zero Poin
Zero point is located at around 35 kms from Sonamarg. Main attraction of this place is Thajiwas Glacier. Be very careful from the pony & car touts. This will always miss guide you and ask handsome amount to access them. Your travel car will not have access to reach Thajiwas Glacier. You must need to hire either pony or local car to reach there. It is just about 5 minute drive by car. They may be ask you about INR 900 for pony/person or INR 5000 per car . Always negotiate with them. You can easily negotiate them for INR 700 for three point (Thijiwas Glacier, Fish Pond & Sarbal Park). In Thajiwas, you will get the snow but tout will misguide you for not having over there. At last if you want to enjoy snow in Thajiwas Glacier, Hire car for INR2000, I'm sure you will get it over there.
13. Temples & Shrines of Kashmir
- Shankaracharya Temple: The sacred temple of Shankaracharya occupies the top of the hill known as Takht-I-Sulaiman in the south-east of Srinagar. Shankracharya TempleThe site dates back to 250BC. The Saint Shankaracharya stayed at this place when he visited Kashmir ten centuries ago to revive Sanatan Dharma.Before this date, the temple was known as Gopadri, as an earlier edifice on the same site was built by king Lalitaditya in the 6th century AD. In fact, the road below the hill, with residences of high- ranking State Government officials, is still known as Gupkar road.Built on a high octagonal plinth and approached by a flight of steps with side walls that once bore inscriptions, the main surviving shrine consists of a circular cell. It overlooks the Valley and can be approached by a motorable road. An inscription in Persian within the Temple traces its origin to the reign of Emperor Shah Jehan. The dome- shaped ceiling and the brick roof, it appears, is not more than a century old.
- Hari Parbat Fort & Temple of Sharika Devi: The Mughal emperor's fort crowns the top of Hari Parbat hill. There is little left of its former glory, but the ramparts are still impressive and the old apartments within the fort, even though in a state of ruin, still convey at least a little of the grandeur of the Mughals’ summer retreat in ‘paradise’. The fort was later developed in 18th century by an Afghan governor, Ata Mohammad Khan.The hill is considered sacred to the Hindus due to the presence of temple of Sharika Devi, which is believed to be a form of Goddess Durga. The wall around the hill was built by Akbar in 1592-98 AD. The hill is surrounded by almond orchards, which make a lovely sight during April when the trees blossom, heralding the advent of spring in Kashmir.
- Kheer Bhawani: The Goddess Ragnya Devi is symbolised as a sacred spring at Tula Mula village, 27 kms from Srinagar. Within the spring is a small marble temple. The devotees of the Goddess fast and gather here on the eighth day of the full moon in the month of May when, according to belief, the Goddess changes the colour of the spring's waters. The temple-spring complex is affectionately known as Kheer Bhawani because of the thousands of devotees who offer milk and 'kheer' to the sacred spring, which magically turns black to warn of disaster. According to the legend, there were 360 springs surrounding the main spring but all of these seem to have disappeared as the land has become marshy all around.
- Martand: Located atop a plateau, close to the township of Anantnag, has a temple dedicated to Lord Surya, the "Sun God". Built by king Laitaditya Muktapida (7th to 8th century AD), it is a medieval temple with a colonnaded courtyard and the shrine in its centre. The temple complex has 84 columns and offers a commanding view of the valley of Kashmir.
- Awantipur: Founded by Avantivarman who reigned Kashmir in the 9th century, this ancient township is 29 kms from Srinagar. The site has two imposing temples, the larger one of Lord Siva - Avantisvara is marked by huge walls, some half a mile beneath the town on the outskirts of village Jaubror. The subsidiary shrines are to the rear corner of the courtyard. The complex has, over the years, lost its grandeur and been reduced to ruins, though it is still visited by the devout. Half a mile up is Avantisvami - Lord Vishnu, a better preserved, though smaller temple.
- Jama Masjid: The Jama Masjid at Nowhatta, in the heart of the old city, is the other important mosque in Srinagar at which thousands of people congregate for the Friday prayers. Of imposing proportions, the mosque is built around a courtyard and is supported by 370 wooden pillars. The hushed quiet of the mosque counterpoints the bustle of the old bazaars surrounding it. Originally built by Sultan Sikandar in 1400 AD, and enlarged by his son, Zain-ul- Abidin, it is a typical example of Indo-Saracenic architecture. Destroyed thrice by fire and rebuilt each time, the mosque, as it now stands, was repaired during the reign of Maharaja Pratap Singh.
- Hazratbal Mosque: Hazratbal Mosque is located in a village of the same name on the banks of the Dal. Hazratbal MosqueIts pristine white marble elegance is reflected in the waters of the lake. Hazratbal's special significance is derived from the fact that it houses a hair of the prophet Muhammad. This is displayed to the public on religious occasions, usually accompanied by fairs. Apart from these occasions, Friday prayers are offered at Hazratbal and attended by throngs of people. Hazratbal is remarkable for being the only domed mosque in Srinagar; the others having distinct pagoda like roofs. The shrine – mosque complex is situated on the western shore of the Dal Lake opposite Nishat Bagh and commands a grand view of the lake and the mountain beyond.
- Khanqah of Shah Hamadan: Situated on the banks of the river Jhelum, between the third and fourth bridge, it is the first mosque ever built in Srinagar. The original one was built in 1395.Shah Hamadan's full name was Mir Sayed Ali Hamadni, the surname being derived from the city of Hamadan in Persia. Shah-i-Hamdan, who came from Persia in the 13th century, was responsible for the spread of Islam in Kashmir. Khanqah-i-Mualla, on the banks of the Jhelum, was the very spot where Shah-i-Hamdan used to offer prayers.After staying in Kashmir for many years, he left for Central Asia via Ladakh. A mosque established by him at Shey (near Leh) attracts devotees from far and wide. Chhatti Padshahi GurudwaraThe Khanqah is a wooden structure whose chief aesthetic feature is its beautifully carved eaves and hanging bells. The interiors are richly carved and painted, and the antique chandeliers give it an air of opulence.
- Chhatti Padshahi Gurudwara: The sixth Sikh guru travelled through Kashmir, stopping to preach occasionally. A gurudwara has been built at the exact site of each of these halts. The most important one among these is Chhatti Padshahi gurudwara, situated near the Kathi Darwaza, in Rainawari, Srinagar, which is held in great reverence by devotees of all faiths.