One day, out of nowhere I decided to solo travel to Kashmir in December for my birthday. It was a very strong urge to explore Kashmir that I could not convince myself to not travel alone. It was by far the best decision that I ever took in my life. I did not even tell any of my friends about this trip because I did not want to answer any of the questions coming through.
Kashmir is truly blessed with an abundant grace of God, and undeniably the heaven on earth. The prettiest and the most beautiful state of India. Kashmir is decked up with the snow-clad mountains, pretty valleys, shikara rides, floating markets on shimmering Dal Lake, Kahwa tea, scenic meadows, alpine trees, bristling rivers, and that tranquil sound of river flow, the cold breeze which gently touches our cheeks and leaves the unforgettable feeling of being in mountains, the main market of Srinagar i.e., Lal Chowk, all these adds to the pristine and mesmerizing beauty of Kashmir.
Kashmir has a lot to offer and it has a different scenic beauty in each season. For winters, Skiing at Gulmarg, pony ride in Pahalgam, a shikara ride in Dal Lake to enjoy the warmth, cold and serene climate of Kashmir. I have enjoyed being there in winters and, I have heard that Kashmir in Summer is completely a different place altogether. For Summers, the Tulip Festival in Srinagar, white-water rafting in Sonmarg, camping, and trekking in the green valleys of mighty Himalayas is a different experience and I would love to see Kashmir in Summers.
The Kashmiris are so humble and gentle people, there are many instances where they helped me out right from deciding the itinerary to saving my money to my vegetarian food to my departure. The time I spent in Kashmir gave me an understanding that Kashmiris are not bothered and worried about worldly things they just want to row their shikara, herd their sheep, grow apples, and light their Kangri in peace. For them, this is their whole life, and they find eternal peace and joy in it. And look at us, we are never happy with what we have. Okay, let me put a stop here and tell you the relaxed Kashmir itinerary which I followed as suggested by my travel agent cum friend. Hope this helps everyone as well.
Once you are on the Srinagar flight, right before you reach the Srinagar Airport, you will get to see the amazing snowcapped mountains from your flight so do not miss out on that. The moment you step out from the flight, the pleasant weather greets you and you can see mountains everywhere around you.
As, I did not want to move much from one place to another So, I preferred to stay in one place i.e., Kingsboat Houseboat in Dal Lake for the next 6 Nights and 7 Days. By the time I reached, it was already evening. I would suggest, take that day in a relaxed manner instead of wanting to cover a few places, allow yourself to acclimatize with the weather. Enjoy your stay, have a cup of kahwa tea, and feel the weather. And that is what I did.
About 55 km from Srinagar, Gulmarg is a snow palace in winters because wherever you see and go, you will find a thick blanket of pristine snow. The huts, the hotels, and the cafes there all are surrounded by snow which makes it an attractive place and one must experience to understand its everlasting beauty. Many Bollywood movies have been shot here.
I enjoyed sledge the most and the cable car ride. Cable card ride offers a panoramic view of Gulmarg which is a visual delight, and it gave me a feeling that I am staying in a snow house just like the princess cartoons which I used to see in my childhood.
Things to Do:
Surrounded by Lidder Lake and Betaab Valley, Pahalgam is a magnificent place to visit for nature lovers, mountain lovers, and adventure freaks. I spent the most peaceful time with the most spectacular landscapes, soaring pines (chinar trees) ranging from green valleys to snow-clad mountains from apple valleys to saffron fields and from rugged terrains to mesmerizing lakes. Located at a height of 7200 ft, Pahalgam-called the valley of Shepherds is a scenic beauty to embrace.
Things to Do:
Srinagar is a beautiful and commercial place where you will find a lot of hotels, restaurants, cafes, shops on Boulevard Road. I enjoyed shopping in Lal Chowk and explored some eating joints. There are many gardens to visit in Srinagar like Mughal Gardens, Nishat Bhag, Shalimar, and Chashm-e-Shahi but in winter it does not offer a great experience but yes, their architecture is fantastic. The names of the houseboats in Dal Lake were colonial names like Kingsboat Houseboat or Buckingham Palace that made me smile.
Things to Do:
Kheer Bhawani Temple, about 35 km from Srinagar, one of the most important temples for Kashmiri Hindus or Kashmiri Pandits. The temple is constructed on the pond, surrounded by large chinar trees and few areas are covered with beautiful stones. A place that will give you spirituality and tranquility in mind. Also, do not forget to try Kheer which is served as prasad there. Any religious place such as Temple or Dargah or Masjid or Church or Gurudwara is more than stones and mortar, it is a place of faith and fasting, a place to attain spirituality and peace of mind, sanctified by sacrifice and service.
After Kheer Bhawani, we started for Manas Bal Lake, which was one of the exotic lakes, and bird watcher's place. The lake was very clean, surrounded by a lot of local people and the ‘shikara walas'. This place was having a poetic charm and it attracts individuals to feel that calmness. When I was in the shikara ride, there was ‘Azaan' going on in a nearby mosque which I could hear, and it was so soothing to hear and feel and it just provides calmness to your mind and soul.
Things to Do:
About 80 km from Srinagar, Sonmarg has a picturesque view to offer, a hike somewhere in the hills which will take you from half brown hills to a whiter one. Apart from locals offering snowboarding in the hills, one can just have a brisk walk down the road of Sonmarg to feel the cold breeze and hug that feeling from your heart to cherish it forever, so it never loses your memory.
While coming from Sonmarg, we stopped by one of the rivers and got some clicks, had a cup of tea and that was one of the chilling rivers with the views to offer.What I feel is, whenever we make the trip, it should be for ourselves or to spend some quality time with ourselves. It should not be like rushing everywhere or waking up early and hurrying to complete the checklist. It should be a relaxed one like sipping the Kahwa, taking in the morning sun, listening to your favorite music, exploring places, taking photographs, admiring the mountains, getting more and more closer to mountains, striking up the conversation with the locals, trying local cuisines and delicacies and losing yourself to the surroundings. Allow yourself to glow and grow in every perspective. Know yourself more.
I was touched by the people of Kashmir and it was very difficult to say goodbye. But I had to so that I can come back again and create more memories.
All these places and things to do mentioned above have been explored in winters or in December to be precise, December end. So, I think December to February would be the best time if you are a winter lover.
The itinerary is designed keeping in mind the minimum number of days required for exploring Kashmir. We can always choose to extend our stay depending on our location interest. Please do carry sufficient woolen clothes and don't forget to check the weather forecast.
Guided tours and multi-day packages are also available for those who prefer travelling this way.
Whenever planning your holiday to Kashmir, I would recommend making your bookings in advance including your stay, local taxi, and guide. Arrive prepared because it will save you from wasting your time as sometime during peak tourist season, it may leave you disappointed.
Always be attentive whenever you are traveling does not matter which part of the world you are traveling to. Through my Kashmir trip, I felt very comfortable and safe, despite being a solo female traveler. I was warmly welcomed wherever I went, and I received so much love and respect that I can never forget this. It is so difficult to leave a place where you were loved and respected so much.
Accommodation recommendation: Kingsboat Houseboat
The Majestic Kashmir Tour Package takes you to explore amazing Kashmir in 6 days. Kashmir is the place, where you can witness the flawless art of nature, heavenly beauty spread everywhere. The beautiful lakes, snow covered hills, springs, and rivers are the real charm of the Kashmir.