Kashmir Tourism may have suffered a setback due to civil unrest and militant activities but the presence of the military has restored the confidence of many a tourist drawn by these immensely picturesque and otherwise tranquil settings.
Visiting Kashmir bounded by the towering Himalayas is indeed a pleasure for those who love the cool mountain terrain, snow-capped peaks, dazzling lakes and stunningly verdant and colorful gardens.
Pretty sights that can keep you enthralled for hours together are aplenty, making it difficult to pick just a few of them. Here are some key attractions and activities, which can significantly enhance your travel experience and make it more enjoyable and memorable as well.
1. Stay At A Houseboat
Staying at a Houseboat afloat on the Dal Lake is indeed a unique experience. Observing the local life from the deck of the boat and the impressive views of the mountains against a clear blue sky, while treating yourself to some hot tea is a great way to start every day of your holiday here.
You also get to enjoy the local hospitality and cuisine as well!
2. Enjoy A Shikara Ride
Cruising through the clear lakes of Kashmir on a traditional wooden boat known as Shikara, you can sit back and witness the locals go about their daily life, in this spectacular setting.
Mountain ranges in the horizon, birds hovering over the waters, salient landmarks such as Hazratbal Mosque and famed gardens along the shores of the water bodies are but a few visuals that greet you on your Shikara ride.
Remember to watch out for floating markets where people sell vegetables, fruits, flowers and handicrafts from their Shikara.
3. Explore The Terrain On Horseback
Booking a horseback ride with the tour operator or tourist office is a great way to explore the scenic routes in a comfortable manner.
With able guides accompanying you through the tour, you can simply revel in the picturesque settings of this land, trotting along hilly pathways that run along streams and rivers!
Trails to Khilanmarg, Aru/Yusmarg Valleys, Pahalgam and Gulmarg are quite popular. Horse riding in Srinagar too is quite enjoyable.
4. Ride The Gondola At Gulmarg
Comfortable Gondola /Cable Car ride at Gulmarg allows you to catch glimpse of an aerial view of the stunning surroundings safely perched high above the ground.
The ascent from Gulmarg to Apharwat Peak happens in two phases with a break at Kongdoori.
The total duration of the ride is roughly about 22 minutes. The stretch from Gulmarg to Kongdoori is covered in 10 minutes while the further distance to Apharwat Peak takes 12 minutes. The smooth ride through snow covered terrain is indeed a delight!
5. Indulge In Trekking
The hilly terrain in and around Kashmir makes a great trekking trail during spring and summer when the snow has thawed off.
Verdant valleys lined with colorful flowers, sunlight dazzling against the waters gushing down from the melting glaciers, clear blue skies with the tall ice-capped peaks lining the horizon are simply breathtaking.
The tricky Chadar Trek on the frozen Zanskar River in Ladakh, and several other trails prove quite appealing and exciting as well.
6. Ski On The Snow Covered Slopes
A trip to Kashmir is indeed incomplete without spending time at the snow covered slopes.
Be it building a snowman, playing with the ice or skiing down the slopes, a tryst with snow is something enjoyable and cherished, especially for travelers from hotter parts of the country/world.
7. Challenge Yourself With White-Water Rafting
White water Rafting in rivers Lidder, Indus and Zanskar draw hordes of adventure enthusiasts to Kashmir. Summer is the ideal time to challenge the rapids rushing down from the mountains.
The different grades/complexity of the rapids on these rivers makes it possible even for novice adventurists to experience white-water rafting with all safety gear.
The Lidder River in Pahalgam with stretches of mild rapids (Grades II and III) are ideal for novices, while rafting in the Indus or Zanskar is more dangerous and require professional expertise to negotiate rapids.
8. Camp Outdoors
Outdoor camping is a great way to enjoy these scenic settings. Camps are however part of longer treks, but it is important to note that just basic amenities are likely to available when you pitch tent in remote areas of the terrain.
9. Tour The Pretty Gardens
The Shalimar, Moghul and Nishad gardens based on Moghul architecture are a pleasure to stroll through.
Neatly designed pathways that run through the flower bearing foliage make it a breeze for visitors to walk amidst the colorful settings offering exceptional views of the mountains ranges and the lakes as well.
Spring and summer are ideal for visiting the gardens washed by the warm glow of the rising/setting sun. Catch the riot of color at the Tulip Gardens as well!
10. Try Your Hand At Paragliding
The tall hills and deep valleys of Kashmir are ideal to experience the thrill of paragliding. Adventure clubs with experienced instructors even offer basic training to aspirants before the set out on their first flight.
With sorties lasting from 3 to 10 minutes or more, you get to lap up some of the spectacular aerial visuals in one of the most beautiful places on earth! Pahalgam, Gulmarg, Srinagar and few other spots are popular paragliding hubs.
11. Visit The Shankaracharya Hill Temple
This ancient temple dedicated to Lord Shiva dating back to 800 AD stands atop the Shankaracharya Hill overlooking the Dal Lake.
Located about 1,100 feet above the lake, the shrine is accessed via a flight of 100 steps of stone, offering visitors panoramic views of the surroundings and the waters of the lake dotted with Shikaras far below.
While the view of the hill is quite stark during winters, it gets colorful and vibrant during the other months of the year when life returns to the terrain.
Fishing in the rivers, parasailing, plucking tea or even apples at the fruit orchards make your trip more interesting and memorable.
Kashmir Tourism has revived in recent times with several travelers visiting the region during the holiday season. Time your visit right, travel safe and make the most of your trip to this heaven on earth!