Places To Visit In JK

A Perfect 7 To 10-Day Trip Guide For First-Timers 2024

Often called the ‘Jewel in India’s Crown’, Kashmir is on everyone’s bucket list. Stunning scenic beauty, plenty of history and unique culture, exciting experiences, some seriously good food and shopping make sure that a typical Kashmir itinerary ticks all the boxes for a wonderful holiday and then some!

Best time to visit Kashmir

Indira Gandhi Memorial Tulip Garden | Image credit: Ubaid-Ullah/Shutterstock

For those eminently Instagrammable shots with blue skies, brightly coloured flowers, and beautiful sunshine, the months of June to August are the best time to visit Kashmir. But if you want to enjoy the cooler climes with fewer tourists around, we recommend the shoulder season in April-May and September-October. You’ll get better deals at hotels and be able to enjoy a deeper dive into the destinations during this period. Consider charting your Kashmir itinerary around the Tulip Festival of Kashmir in spring, usually held the last week of March through the first week of April (varies every year). At this time, the Indira Gandhi Memorial Tulip Garden, with 1.7 million tulip bulbs in myriad hues, is an absolute must-visit.

September also brings several days of rain, which may dampen your plans, literally. But if activities like apple picking are your thing, this might still be a good time to visit. Towards the end of this month and through October, you can also witness the autumn colours of the tall chinar trees (named Oriental Plane or Old-world Sycamore) transforming from vibrant greens to brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows. Snow enthusiasts will revel in winter, where you get the best of the freezing weather and ski slopes from December to early March.

Kashmir itinerary: Days 1 and 2

The Union Territory’s capital, Srinagar, is well connected to major Indian metros via direct flights and trains. If you fly in, you’ll land at the Sheikh Ul Alam International Airport, a 30-minute drive from the city centre. While the Srinagar Railway Station is operational (and connected to the Banihal Railway Station) for travellers coming from other states, the best route as of now is still to take a train to Jammu and then traverse the remainder of the distance by road (it can take you anywhere between six to 12 hours, depending on the season and route) by taxi or bus. We recommend renting a vehicle upon arrival for the entire duration of your Kashmir itinerary to make internal travel smooth and seamless.

Dal Lake | Image credit: Tappasan Phurisamrit/Shutterstock

Drive to Dal Lake and check in to your hotel or houseboat. Most houseboat owners arrange for a complimentary shikara (slender rowboat) pick-up from the shore of the lake. The scenic lake has numerous ghats, so make sure you know the number you need to reach, closest to your houseboat. We recommend staying in the Sukoon houseboat for the best experience of Kashmiriyat, from traditional-style luxury rooms to exceptional meals and live Sufi performances on the al fresco deck every evening (weather permitting). Explore our guide to booking a houseboat in Kashmir, types and costs included.

On Day 1 of your Kashmir itinerary, soak in the serenity of Srinagar. Watch the shikaras glide by from your window as you witness the locals go about their daily lives on these sleek slivers. Spot beautiful birds fishing and nesting in the reeds along the shore. If you’re in a hotel, stroll through the garden and simply breathe in the natural beauty and fresh air. Eat well and rest well to prepare yourself for the adventures ahead.

The best way to plunge into the sights and sounds of Srinagar is to take a shikara at dawn to visit the floating vegetable market. Start Day 2 even before the sun rises, serenaded by the sonorous prayers from the mosques around the lake as you step into the shikara. Be whisked away across the lake and down many of the narrow canals until you reach the spot where fruit and vegetable vendors congregate to buy and sell, chat and smoke, while tourists go click-click-click. The crisp air, the fresh produce, the friendly smiles, all of it make for a heady morning.

Many vendors will glide up to you, their shikaras abundant with interesting wares. You can buy many-hued flowers, lily bulbs, seeds, gorgeously embroidered leatherware, exquisitely handcrafted walnut wood artefacts and papier-mâché creations. Look out for the famous kahwa sold by Mushtaq off his shikara, whose signature blend of rose petals and secret spices with the tea is as much a delicious reason to get to this market as the chance to photograph it! Pick up some czot bread from a local bakery en route for the perfect floating breakfast, which will be the highlight of your Kashmir itinerary.

Hazratbal shrine | Image credit: Skorodum/Shutterstock

Next, we recommend a food tour around the iconic Hazratbal shrine. The gleaming dome of the mosque is a spiritual beacon on the western bank of the Dal Lake. Around this holiest of the holy is a market that has everything, from fresh vegetables to fabrics. But the most fascinating aspect is the food, especially the variety on offer on Fridays. Pick freshly baked bread for every occasion from one of the many bakeries, enjoy giant puris with delectable halwa made by merchants who came from Uttar Pradesh decades ago, snack on spiced lentils, and take home some homemade pickle to add some zest to your dishes.

Spend a pleasant evening in a shikara, visiting tourist stops such as the Char Chinar (an island with four Chinar trees), and others before you head back for dinner in your houseboat.


Book your stay at Welcomhotel by ITC Hotels, Pine N Peak via Booking.com


Book your stay at Welcomhotel by ITC Hotels, Pine N Peak via Agoda.com

Kashmir itinerary: Days 3 to 5

The Shankaracharya Temple (also known as Jyeshteshwara because it is dedicated to Lord Shiva) on a hill near Dal Lake is an ancient site of worship for Hindus and a beautiful spot for breathtaking Srinagar views. It’s an important stop for pilgrims on the Amarnath Yatra as well. On Day 3 of your Kashmir itinerary, spend a spiritual and uplifting morning here. Plan a visit to Awantipora, a ruined ancient capital city about 30 km away, where you can witness some exquisite architecture. Once back, head to one of the many nearby Mughal gardens landscaped using the Persian chaar-bagh model for perfect symmetry across the four quadrants. In summer, expect a multitude of flowers and pretty fountains at every step. Shalimar or Nishat, Chashme Shahi or Achabal, it’s a tough choice. The 17th-century Pari Mahal, with seven terraces perched on top of the Zabarwan mountains on the periphery of Srinagar, is another must-visit on your Kashmir itinerary.

Pari Mahal | Image credit: saiko3p/Shutterstock

On Day 4, get ready to relive some memorable Bollywood moments as you get to Pahalgam. This gorgeous town of meadows on the banks of Lidder River at 7,200 feet above sea level, is a 90-km drive from Srinagar and a great full-day excursion. Get a pony to ‘Mini Switzerland’ (Baisaran Valley) five km away, and Betaab Valley (actually known as Hagan), 15 km away. Adventure enthusiasts can try zorbing and zip-lining in Aru Valley. If you plan your Kashmir itinerary in May or October, you may get the chance to tee off at the 18-hole golf course in Pahalgam. If you have the time and inclination, you can visit the amazing Amarnath cave and stop by the scenic Sheshnag Lake. The Martand Sun Temple, dating back to the eighth century, is another interesting stop in the direction of Anantnag.

Here’s our selection of five hidden gems near Pahalgam to explore during your Kashmir trip.

Next, visit Sonmarg to make Day 5 of your Kashmir itinerary truly memorable. This gorgeous hill station, once an important part of the ancient Silk Route, is on the Srinagar-Leh highway. A glorious 80-km drive away from Srinagar, it can be done as a day trip or a longer visit. Accessible between April and November, the road to this high-altitude tourist hotspot is closed in winter. Whether it’s in its golden avatar in summer or wearing its snow coat in the cooler seasons, Sonmarg is simply stunning.

Explore our selection of the best things to do in Sonmarg.

Thajiwas Glacier | Image credit: Mohdashraf/Shutterstock

Trekkers and camping enthusiasts will love the trails to the Thajiwas Glacier, Vishansar Lake, and Gangabal Lake. Fishing and boating in the lakes and white-water rafting on the rapids are other popular activities here. If nothing else, it’s fun to see the amazing landscape in summer and have snowball fights, build snowpeople and make snow angels in winter. If you plan on staying longer, the Country Inn & Suites By Radisson, Hotel Snowland Sonmarg, and Hotel Village Walk are good options.


Book your stay at Country Inn & Suites by Radisson, Sonamarg via Agoda,com


Book your stay at Hotel Snow Land, Sonmarg via Agoda.com


Book your stay at Hotel Village Walk via Booking.com


Book your stay at Hotel Village Walk via Agoda.com

Kashmir itinerary: Days 6 and 7

Sonmarg | Image credit: Afzal Khan Photography/Shutterstock

Gulmarg, only 124 km away from Sonmarg, is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Kashmir. On Day 6 of your Kashmir itinerary, think of glorious flowers nodding everywhere, the world’s highest golf course, plenty of Hindi film shooting references, and ski slopes that rival those in Europe. Check into the sprawling Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa that has seen the who’s who as guests. Every spacious room boasts a big balcony with a fabulous view and the luxury of sunken bathtubs and personal butlers. Soak in their temperature-controlled swimming pool, enjoy a lavish picnic lunch on their lawn, get pampered in their luxe L’Occitane spa, and dine indoors in style at their cosy buffet restaurant or enjoy at their al fresco Nouf, presenting a mix of spectacular scenery and food. The heated floor ensures that this is an all-season treat. If you prefer something more boutique, the heritage Nedous Hotel Gulmarg, a Gulmarg staple since its inception in 1888, has a fantastic location.

Explore our guide for the best time to visit Gulmarg.

Gandola Cable car in Gulmarg | Image credit: ImagesofIndia/Shutterstock

Start Day 7 of your Kashmir itinerary with a great in-room breakfast spread on the balcony of the Khyber or a cosy one in any other hotel. When you step out, it will be well worth it… as you’ll ride the Gulmarg Gondola to reach the ski station above. Note that this ski lift needs to be booked in advance, as it often gets quite full. Spend a morning in the snow before you head back to Srinagar, 50 km away. Make a few stops en route. If you’re looking for a good place for lunch, the Pine View Restaurant at Tangmarg serves great pounded meat goshtaba and delicious vegetarian options. Further down the road at Batpora is Artisane, a wonderful space that not only sells carpets, pashminas, papier-mâché, and walnut wood creations, but also allows you to see some artisans at work, and perhaps witness live art by local performers, or poets in their café. If you want something less curated and more rustic, the loom village of Kanihama in the nearby Budgam district is where you can see shawls being made.


Book your stay at The Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa via Booking,com


Book your stay at The Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa via Agoda.com

Kashmir itinerary Day 8

Now that you’ve ticked off the touristy sights, get to know the ‘real Srinagar’. For this, we recommend a heritage tour of the old city on Day 8. Start at the Shah-e-Hamdan shrine, known for its intricate woodwork and papier-mâché decoration. This fascinating site showcases a blend of ancient Persian and Kashmiri handicraft traditions. This part of town is also home to numerous artisans, and you could stop by workshops of carpet weavers, coppersmiths, papier-mâché artists, pashmina shawl makers or embroiderers to understand the intricacy of each craft.

Shah-e-Hamdan shrine | Image credit: Daniele Gussago Photo/Shutterstock

Take your Kashmir itinerary to its zenith by enjoying a lavish wazwan lunch on Residency Road. This celebratory meal involves a staggering 36 dishes! Ahdoos, a century-old establishment known as the first restaurant in the Kashmir Valley, is famous for its wazwan, as is the almost equally iconic Mughal Darbar.

Close by is the premium Polo View market, a shopper’s paradise. Browse through Kashmiri handicrafts or pick from some popular high-street brands. Head to the colourful stretch near the Bund, where you can shop at the strangely named but famous Suffering Moses store, known for its papier-mâché collection since 1840 AD. Check out the little photo exhibition of old Srinagar at the neighbouring vintage photography studio Mahatta & Co. Before taking a breather at the charming café named Chai Jaai, admire the salty pink noon chai pouring from an ornate samovar – a quintessential Kashmiri experience. If you seek a truly memorable experience, indulge in their elaborate high tea.

Look no further than our Srinagar shopping guide for detailed insights into what to buy and where.

After a delightful shopping spree, burn off some of those calories with a walk along the Jhelum River. Explore the beautiful bridges, remnants of Srinagar’s past as “the city of seven bridges” (now numbering 11). The pedestrian-only Zero Bridge near the Bund is one of the city’s oldest, boasting deodar wood decks on either side.

Kashmir itinerary Day 9

Day 9 of your Kashmir itinerary may be a good day to switch to another hotel to experience a different side of Srinagar. Qayaam Gah, up in the same Zabarwan range, offers tranquil luxury with Kashmiri fine dining and stunning views of the lake. Nadis is a boutique beauty with homestyle food near the Dachigam National Park. The higher elevations within the 500-square-kilometre park are home to rare snow leopards, hangul deer, Himalayan serow, and Himalayan black bears. Indulge in a short hike or take an e-cart ride into the park to try and spot some wildlife. Consider stopping by the Trout Culture Farm at Laribal along the way. Depending on the season, you might witness flourishing trees, blooming flowers, or an abundance of fruits.

Go over to Harwan Bagh, right opposite Nadis, where you can see the ruins of an ancient Buddhist monastery dating back to Kashmir’s Buddhist era. Visit the Himalayan Cheese Company to witness Dutch cheese maker Chris Zandee collaborate with local Bakharwal and Gujjar nomadic herders to make artisanal cheese like cheddar and gouda alongside local varieties like kalari or maish krej (fondly called the ‘mozzarella of Kashmir’), and qudam, as well as preserves and honey.

Doodhpathri in Budgam | Image credit: Dua Sarwar/Shuttertsock

You could also explore off-the-beaten-track spots such as the Aharbal Waterfalls, about 70 km away from Srinagar; or Yusmarg, less than 50 km away, where you can see the Doodh Ganga, or Doodhpathri in Budgam, 45 km away, which has a lovely river running through the meadows.

Alvida Kashmir!

On Day 10 of your Kashmir itinerary, it’s best not to plan anything too elaborate to allow extra time for airport procedures. Expect unforeseen delays besides the innumerable security screenings to get your luggage through. We recommend a relaxed morning with some last-minute shopping and, perhaps, a stroll along the Boulevard Road around Dal Lake, and a final stop for delectable treats at Le Delice, the French bakery run by Paris-trained Kashmiri Chef Saqib Mir.


Book your stay at Welcomhotel By ITC Hotels, Katra via Booking.com


Book your stay at Welcomhotel by ITC Hotels Katra via Agoda.com

Things to remember while travelling to Kashmir

  • Some parts of Kashmir are protected areas. Foreign tourists are generally welcome in popular tourist areas that follow set itineraries, but some border regions will require prior permission from the authorities. Even Indian tourists should be aware of restricted areas.
  • Given the climate and cultural norms, it’s best to dress modestly at all times.
  • Given the history of civil unrest in Kashmir and to be respectful of the local culture, it’s advisable to steer clear of sensitive subjects in conversation and maintain a relaxed yet low profile as a tourist.
  • Remember, Kashmir is a popular destination – bargain respectfully with service providers like boatmen, drivers, and pony guides, keeping their skills in mind.


shop the best travel experiences here

(Feature Image Credit: ImagesofIndia/Shutterstock)

Related: TL Tastings: Savour A Taste Of Kashmir With OMO: Soul Food Community’s Special Pop-up

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

-How many days are enough to explore Kashmir?
A week is typically sufficient for a basic Kashmir itinerary, but exploring offbeat destinations offers a unique charm.

-Are there any day trips I can take from Kashmir?
Kashmir is vast, so day trips are best planned within the region. Leh in Ladakh can be a starting point for another adventure.

-What should I pack for my trip to Kashmir?
Packing depends on the season and locations visited. Spring and autumn require layers with light jackets and socks, while summer calls for breathable clothing, sandals, hats, and sunglasses. Deep winter necessitates heavy woollens, thermals, snow boots, gloves, headgear, and snow shades.

-How do I get around Kashmir?
For comfort, hire a vehicle. Otherwise, a good bus network connects popular spots.

-How do I get around Kashmir?
If your budget permits, a hired vehicle is the easiest way to get around. If not, there is a good network of buses going to all the most popular spots.

-Do I need a visa to visit Kashmir?
Indian citizens don’t require a visa, but foreign travellers need an Indian visa and permits for certain protected regions (not included in our Kashmir itinerary).

-What are some adventure activities to do in Kashmir?
You can indulge in trekking, hiking, skiing, white-water rafting, zorbing, and ziplining.

-Where can I find the best dining options in Kashmir?
Srinagar offers the widest variety of cuisines. Wazwan, a traditional Kashmiri feast, requires booking in advance.

-What activities are available in Kashmir besides sightseeing?
Nature trails, birdwatching, apple-picking, crafts workshops, heritage tours, food walks, and shikara rides are some options.

-What are the best things to buy from Kashmir?
Kashmir is famous for pashmina shawls, woollen shawls, leatherwork, carpets, walnut wood and papier-mâché crafts, saffron, and walnuts.

-What are the best hotels to stay in Kashmir?
Some of the top hotels in Kashmir include The LaLiT Grand Palace Srinagar, Vivanta Dal View, Radisson Srinagar, Four Points by Sheraton Srinagar, Welcomhotel By ITC Hotels, Qayaam Gah Srinagar, Karan Mahal Srinagar, Sukoon Houseboat, Nadis Hotel, Pine N Peak, Pahalgam, Country Inn & Suites By Radisson Sonamarg, The Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa Gulmarg, The Vintage Gulmarg, Nedous Gulmarg, and Skyview by Empyrean, Patnitop.

-What are the best restaurants in Kashmir?
The food of Kashmir is famous for its rich and well-balanced flavours. Plenty of vegetarian options made with ingredients such as lotus stem (nadru), wild morels (gucchhi), and haak (kohlrabi greens) are staples. Ahdoos and Mughal Darbar are famous for their traditional wazwan. Qayaam Gah offers the private dining luxury wazwan experience with the most stunning views of Srinagar. Street food in Srinagar is delicious too, especially in the older, non-touristy neighbourhoods. Local breads and kahwa is perhaps the best combination to try, if not at a basic joint, then at the bougie Chai Jaai.

Note:
The information in this article is accurate as of the date of publication.
We may earn an affiliate commission when you shop through links on our site.


Source link

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Back to top button
Close

Adblock Detected

You Have Adblocker Continue anyway