This trip has been really a “Dream come true” for me. I had always seen snow either in movies or checked it out on Facebook pages of my friends, with a heavy heart – thinking I wish I was there too… Alas!!! One fine day, my Dream did eventually come true. Travelling for me is the “Best Gift” – I gift myself every year and fill my empty diary with my travel expeditions, how I feel about the place that I am visiting, my emotions, a passion which I love to relive everytime I wander out of my comfort zone. Today I pen down my experiences, my rendezvous with Kashmir.
Kashmir one of the most picturesque state, which lies on the peaks of Himalayan Ranges with varying topography culture, popular temples and secluded forest retreats. Kashmir’s capital city, Srinagar offers delightful holidays on the lakes with their shikaras and houseboats. If in Srinagar, you must spend a night at the Houseboat and enjoy their hospitality. The Houseboat gives you a feel of how the Rajas used to take their queens out on a full moon night and spend some romantic moments together. The day I landed in Srinagar, I spent a night at the Houseboat, felt like as though I am a “Queen”. Welcome drink – a delicious, aromatic kahwa was served with lots of crushed almonds. Drinking that hot Kahwa, sat in front of a bonfire – which gave a relief to my shivering and practically cold hands and feet. It was biting cold, very foggy. Thankfully you will find a cosy bed with electric blanket in the houseboat, so you won’t feel the cold waves.
The shikaras are also provide with a unique kind of shopping experience. You can never be alone in a shikara, you will always find some vendor in their own shikaras selling their stuff. The whole Shikara ride takes almost two-hour, where you can see the beautiful scenic beauty of snow-capped mountains and enjoy the calm and tranquil waters of Dal Lake. You can just enjoy that lill
sunshine on your face, click some great pics, During the relaxing Shikara ride, one can also experience floating lotus on Dal Lake, which is one of the add-on moments, grab the fantastic experience of the Shikara ride in Dal Lake. It’s a trip that will turn into an experience, you will not forget forever.
These shikaras usually sell traditional Kashmiri jewellery, shawls, authentic street food, and original saffron. During your Shikara ride, you also get ample opportunity to witness fishing and also indulge in the breath-taking views of the scenic Dal Lake that is truly an experience. Not only fruits and veggies, some boats even sell flowers, handicrafts, ornaments, jewellery, and snacks, chips, biscuits, barbecues, and kebabs to approaching Shikaras. Doing such shopping remains a memorable experience for travellers. These rowing boats will surround you to purchase the items, at times it is quite disturbing as one is coming to find some relaxation, see the scenic beauty of the place, bask in the sun and enjoy the ride.
The Mughals aptly called Kashmir ‘Paradise on Earth’ where they journeyed across the hot plains of India, to the valley’s cool environs in summer. Here they laid, with great love and care, Srinagar’s many formal, waterfront gardens, now collectively known as the Mughal Gardens. Anecdotes of four and five centuries ago describe their love for these gardens, and the rivalries that centered around their ownership. They also patronized the development of art & craft among the people of Kashmir, leaving behind a heritage of exquisite artisanship among these people and making the handicrafts of the land prized gifts all over the world.
Sonamarg - The winding road, changing landscapes, lofty snowy mountains were my constant companions. The virgin tall green chinar trees, swelling river, gushing water streams, snow-capped mountain ranges, jaw-dropping glacier, hidden lakes, and scenic meadows all welcomed me with open arms; Sonamarg will spoil you with choices, the way it did to me. The wind in my hair, blowing it away, my nose little red and the wide smile on my face said it all. Welcome to Sonamarg - a picturesque hill station in Jammu and Kashmir, located 80 kms, north-east of Srinagar. At an elevation of around 2800 km from sea level, Sonamarg is known for its snow-laden fields, surrounded by majestic glaciers and serene lakes which casts subtle spells on the travellers, a popular place for adventure sports tourism, which also acts as the base camp for the trekkers, during winters, remains inaccessible, closed down due to heavy snowfall and avalanches. The winding road is 25.8 km long and it passes Baltal and Matayen valley on its way. The spectacular views of the valley with snow-capped mountains let you admire the scenery throughout. Don’t be surprised if you are stuck in a traffic jam caused by hundreds of sheep with the shepherd.
Baltal Valley is situated at almost 2,743 meters and located 15 kilometers north of Sonamarg. The beauty of the valley is spectacular, as it is dotted with snow capped mountain peaks, waterfalls & glaciers, while the Sindh River flows happily. Those who love photography and nature will find that this is the ultimate place to visit. From here, your eyes are also treated to an awesome visual of spellbounding views of the Zoji La Pass and the mountains surrounding it. Baltal Valley is a famous base camp site for pilgrims going to the Amarnath Yatra.
Gulmarg : Situated at an altitude of 2730 m above sea level - popular skiing destination, surrounded by snow-covered lofty Himalayas, meadows of flowers, deep ravines, evergreen forested valleys, Gulmarg also has the world's second-highest Gondola ride. Once you reach the top, you can do snowboarding, skiing or simply pose yourself in a chiffon sari, get ready to be featured in the next Bollywood film.
Betaab Valley is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Pahalgam which is a breathtaking combination of picturesque surroundings encircled by tall deodar trees and pine forests, with the Lidder River flowing right through it. The valley is located at a distance of 15 kilometres from Pahalgam in the Anantnag district of Jammu and Kashmir. Betaab Valley got its name from the Bollywood movie Betaab starring Sunny Deol and Amrita Singh shot here, the cottage where they shot the movie still stands strong.
The valley falls between Pahalgam and Chandanwadi on the way to the Amarnath Temple Yatra and is one of the three angelic valleys of Pahalgam, the other two being Aru and Chandanwadi. Sprawling fertile pastures, snow-capped mountains and meandering streams are characteristic of Betaab valley. Apart from being well-known for this stunning landscape, the valley is also a renowned as a famous trekking base and camping site for travellers who want to explore the nearby regions or set out for the Amarnath Yatra.
Shankaracharya temple is located on a hill in Srinagar, it was built by Raja Gopadatya in 371 B.C.E, during those times, the temple was known as Gopadri. The great saint Adiguru Shankaracharya has stayed here when he visited Kashmir to revive Sanatan Dharma in the early part of the 9th century. This perhaps led to the renaming of the temple as Shankaracharya Temple. Shankaracharya was also instrumental in popularizing the worship of Lord Shiva in Jammu and Kashmir. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva, and apparently the oldest shrine in Kashmir. After the construction of stairs to the temple by the Dogra ruler, Maharaja Gulab Singh, the accessibility has become quite feasible.
The temple, besides being a prominent religious place for Hindus, is also of great archaeological importance. The temple offers a magnificent panoramic view of the Srinagar city.
Avantiswami (Avantipur) Temple
At Avantipura itself King Avantivarman erected two magnificent temples, one dedicated to Lord Vishnu called Avantisvamin and the other to Lord Siva called Avantisvara, the former built before his succession to the throne and the latter obtaining sovereignty. During medieval times, these temples witnessed mass destruction and were reduced to ruins.
The smaller one is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is still in daily use. The other, Avantiswami Temple, which is now in ruins, was a famous Vishnu Temple. Both the temples show an outward appearance of Greek architecture.
Kheer Bhawani Temple
This Mata Rani temple is constructed above a sacred spring, which is said to change its colours. Goddess Ragnya Devi – an incarnation of Goddess Durga – is the presiding deity of this temple. The temple attributes its unique name to the famous Indian dessert kheer, which is the main offering to the goddess. Maharaja Pratap Singh built this temple in 1912, which was later renovated by Maharaja Hari Singh. The shrine has a hexagonal spring and a small marble shrine where the goddess' idol is installed.
As a human being, we all have the tendency to be very repetitious. We end up doing the same thing every single moment of our lives. We wake up in the morning, go to school or work. Come home, eat, sleep, watch TV – do all the mundane jobs every time, why because - It's our comfort zone. I have always asked myself – is such a life really worth a living, without any risk, without any adventure? If we aren't living our lives to the fullest, with a lot of zeal, then why are we here at all? This is why it's important to live a life with a little adventure. Adventure is an experience that greatly impacts one's life and begins to define how they live after, the exact definition that can be different for everyone, people learn valuable lessons that ultimately changes their lives. There are so many reasons why we should embrace adventure in our everyday lives - we only live once. I know it's the cliché saying that everyone goes on about, but it's true. Why spend our lives holed up in a little town with work that is actually pretty insignificant and wait for the adventures to come to us. But that is not how life works. Life wants you to go out and make stories—you to go out there and find the meaning of life. And unless you don't take that little step—that little risk—you will never experience adventure and, in return, live a LIFE. That’s my Mantra of LIVING..