Sonamarg in Winter

Places to visit in Kashmir

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Kashmir in India is a piece of heaven on Earth, period! This former princely state is claimed by both India and Pakistan – who would want to give up a paradise? Read further to know about the most beautiful places to visit in Indian controlled Kashmir.

India is so big and diverse, each part of it presents something different, it has a scenic road journey, pristine beaches, historical monuments, and bustling cities. Considering all of these, we can say that, Kashmir is not only the most beautiful place in India but one of the most beautiful places in the entire world. There is a conspiracy theory that Jesus Christ came to Kashmir and got the idea of heaven. Later he painted it in the Holy Bible. The heavenly Kashmir has been a target of the Governments of India and Pakistan for ages and due to different reasons, the people of Kashmir have also been seeking its independence. Because of this, the area becomes a war zone at times. So, you should not delay visiting Kashmir before it gets too late. Here are some of the most beautiful places to visit in Kashmir along with their photos.

If there is a paradise on earth, It is this, it is this, it is this.

Amir Khasru, Famous Poet of subcontinent in 13th Century

Mr. Khasru was absolutely right and you gotta go there to believe it.

Gulmarg

Gulmarg - Amazing Places to visit in Kashmir
A man is walking in the white – destination unknown!

In Kashmir, your base should be in Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir. From Srinagar, you can go to the most beautiful places of Kashmir mentioned here as a day trip. Your first destination should be Gulmarg which is about 50 Kilometers from Srinagar. This is also one of the few places in Kashmir where you can go round the year.

Mountains in Gulmarg
Some signs of houses in the desolate area of Gulmarg.

During autumn, Gulmarg is called the meadow of flowers because of the numerous colorful flowers. However, during winter, this popular hill station turns into absolute white with the thick snows.

Gulmarg - places to visit in Kashmir
The trees are trying to survive in the snow.

During winter, Gulmarg receives more than 13 inches of fresh snow. Because of the slopes and nature of snows, Gulmarg has become the most popular destination in India for Skiing and it is also one of the best in entire Asia (CNN international ranked is as seventh in Asia).

Cable Car in Gulmarg
Look carefully – those are the cable cars!

Gulmarg is so beautiful, you don’t need to join in any activities to enjoy. Even if you can’t ski, it’s alright! Just take a walk or sit somewhere. But, do not miss the famous Gondola ride in Gulmarg. This cable car will present you with panoramic views of the Pir Pranjal mountain range and surroundings. Located in 4200 meters, this is one of the highest cable cars in the world.

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Pahelgam

Pahalgam - Places to visit in Kashmir
These horses will take you for a ride in Pahelgam.

Pahalgam is famously known as the Valley of Shepherds and one of the best places to visit in Kashmir. Unlike most other destinations in Kashmir, Pahalgam is not covered in snow and more on the greener side. It is surrounded by thick pine forests. Because of its beautiful natural settings, Pahalgam had been the shooting set of many Hindi films.

Water Stream in Pahalgam
Water is flowing with thunderous sound in Pahelgam.

As Pahalgam is located near the Lidder river, you will often hear the thunderous sound of the river flowing. One of the most popular activities here is to rent guided ponies and explore different areas. You will be taken to Baisaran, which is also known as mini Switzerland. It is a wonderful green valley surrounded by mountains. If you explore on foot, you will encounter numerous sources of the flow of water along with gigantic rocks. Besides, do not miss Betaab Valley, Aru Valley, and Chandanwari once you are in Pahalgam. White water rafting is also a popular thing to do in Pahalgam.

Sonamarg

Road to Pahalgam
On our way to Sonamarg from Srinagar.

Sonamarg – the meadow of gold is one of the best places to visit in Kashmir. The road to Sonamarg from Srinagar is mesmerizingly beautiful. It is an ancient gateway to the Silk Road which connects Kashmir with Tibet. This hill station is closer to some of the tallest peaks in Kashmir.

Sonamarg in Winter
Sonamarg was gorgeously beautiful!

Sonamarg is located at an altitude of 2730 meters. When the sun shines on the snowcapped mountains of Sonamarg keeping the deepest blue sky as the background, it creates an amazing ambiance. Some of the major treks of Kashmir start from here. Also, you can move towards, Ladakh through the famous Zojila pass from here.

Sonamarg - Places to visit in Kashmir
You can rent a boot to walk on snow – however, many walks without them.

When I went to Sonamarg, I was literally attacked by the locals to rent sledges and trekking boots. They were pestering me so much, it gave me a headache. Although it’s understandable as they are poor and live solely on tourism, I didn’t like the atmosphere. But, once you can clear it off from your head, heaven awaits for you. Sonamarg is truly beautiful!

Road Trips

Kashmir Road Trip
Two horses on the highway of Kashmir.

Kashmir does not have any vibrant nightlife. It does not have skyscrapers or beautiful architecture. People visit Kashmir to experience nature to its fullest. Although I wrote about some of the best places to visit in Kashmir above, I loved the road trips throughout Kashmir no less than the destinations themselves. The roads are full of surprises, you will see thick snow at one point, green valleys in another, rivers flowing along with you, and even ponies to roam around. Get your camera ready on the highways of Kashmir, you might your best shot of the trip that way.

Explore Srinagar

Srinagar is the capital of Kashmir and works as the base of a trip to Kashmir. As the airport is in this town, many people land here and stay here. From Srinagar, tourists go to different places as a day trip. However, there are many interesting things to explore in Srinagar, too.

Dal Lake

Dal Lake - Places to visit in Kashmir
Dal Lake in Kashmir just before the sunset.

Dal Lake is the prime attraction of Srinagar. Overlooking Pir Panjal mountains in the background, this 18 square Kilometers lake is nothing but a marvelous gem! Nothing can beat a sunrise or sunset in Dal Lake. You will be surprised to see this in winter when the entire lake turns into ice at times!

Market in Dal Lake
Floating market in Dal lake is a popular place to visit.

The best way of enjoying Dal Lake is to hire a shikara – the beautifully painted wooden boat. It has throne-like chairs to make you feel like a king. You will eventually be taken to the floating market where dresses, ornaments, Shawl, or Saffron are sold. I won’t recommend buying from there as the prices are higher than the mainland. Ask your driver politely to not waste time in the markets rather taking you to a quiet place of the lake.

Houseboats in Dal Lake, Kashmir
Staying in the houseboat of Srinagar in Dal Lake is very popular.

You will find countless gigantic boats in Dal lake. Those are houseboats and work as accommodation in Kashmir. A houseboat contains most of the amenities of a hotel – like comfortable beds, toilets, restaurants, and balconies. The only difference is, the balconies or windows will give you a wonderful serene view of the water. It will be a different experience for most of the people to stay in the middle of the water in a houseboat.

Big Houseboat in Dal Lake, Kashmir
A big houseboat made of wood in Srinagar, Kashmir.

However, I will not suggest staying in a houseboat during your entire stay in Kashmir. To experience it, one or two nights are fine. If you fall in love with the stay, it’s different. However, the ever-growing number of houseboats are polluting Dal lake and causing the environmental issues. You might experience bad small from the lake if you do not get a good houseboat.

Kebab from Street Shop

Kebab Shop in Srinagar
Street kebab shops serve the best kebabs in Srinagar

When you will be tired of enjoying the beauty of Kashmir (this will never gonna happen, I can promise), sit back and grab some delicious food. The king of them all is the kebab. For the tastiest Kebabs, do not go to any expensive restaurants. Find or ask your driver to take you to a street shop. The carts in the street serve the best Kebabs in Kashmir.

Beautiful Tulip Garden

Tulip Garden in Srinagar
This is not Netherlands, this is Kashmir!

Dare, I say that, Kashmir has the most beautiful tulip garden in Asia? The tulip garden in Srinagar is known as the Indira Gandhi Memorial Tulip garden. Plan your visit to Srinagar during the beginning of Spring – between March and May. The garden hosts a tulip festival during that time and it is second to none.

Colorful Tulips in Srinagar
Waves of Red, white, purple and yellow.

When you will enter in the garden, you are already bound to be mesmerized by the surrounding mountains. The tulip garden adds color to that and it looks fascinatingly beautiful like a rainbow! The size of the garden is about 30 acres, with 1.5 million tulips of more than 45 species. Apart from the tulip, this garden also has roses, daffodils, and Iris.

Shalimar Bagh Mughal Garden

Shalimar Bagh Mughal Garden in Srinagar, Kashmir
Water fountain in Shalimar Bagh Garden, Srinagar.

When the Mughals ruled the Indian subcontinent, they built some fantastic gardens, the Shalimar Bagh Mughal Garden aka the Crown of Srinagar is one of them. Interestingly, you will find a garden with the same name in Lahore, Pakistan. The great emperor Jahangir built this garden for her wife Noorjahan in 1619. Like many other Mughal gardens, it followed Charbagh architecture. The garden is divided into three terraces, each of them serves a unique purpose. Shalimar Bagh eventually channels towards a part of Dal Lake.

Shalimar Bagh - Places to visit in Kashmir
Watch out for Diwan i Aam, and Diwan i Khas in Shlimar Bagh, Kashmir.

Inside the garden, there are two major architectures. At the edge of the public garden, you will find Diwan-e-Aam. This was the audience hall for the public where the kings listened to the mass people. The slightly bigger second terrace garden is the DIwan-e-Khas which served as the hall of private audience. The king used to meet the distinguished people there. You will find big Chinar trees and several fountains. The garden particularly looks beautiful during autumn and spring when nature changes its color. Imagine that, the king used to walk in the garden with his queen 600 years back, you will feel the charm of being there!

Best Time to Visit Kashmir

Kashmir is not a round the year destination. As, it snows a lot, it cuts some part of the area from rest of the world by road. Also, you won’t be able to do much if you visit Kashmir during extreme cold. Although, every season offers something unique, the best time for visiting Kashmir is between March to October.

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Fuad Omar

Fuad loves to travel! A lot! Carrying a Bangladeshi passport means he needs a prior visa for visiting most of the countries. He got detained in many borders because of his nationality but; he didn’t give up - he set his foot to 37 countries. He believes, if he could travel the world despite all the odds, you can, too. Fuad is a Computer Engineer by profession, and author of a travelogue in Bangla. He currently lives in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

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