Hope many of you find this to be useful. I spent a week in the Srinagar valley in June 2007 and also managed to make few side trips of the surroundings. Special thanks to friend Gary Wong (fellow IM’r) who provided great tips.

Security situation in Srinagar India

I found Srinagar to be quite normal and peaceful. Of course there is heavy presence of military. But that doesn’t come in the way of any tourist activities. There could be occasional frisks when travelling in hired vehicles. The main tourist hub around Dal Lake (Boulevard and Dalgate) was buzzing with tourists till about 10:30 pm. But the Lal Chowk market area would close at about 7 pm. I didn’t hear of any street crime, mugging or theft. Overall it felt safe.

Weather in Srinagar India

Well, June is the height of peak season and it was actually hot during the day. It was pleasant towards the evening. There were odd showers mostly in the nights. The days were often bright and clear. This is perhaps the best time May till September to undertake outdoor activities like trekking and climbing.

Transport in Srinagar India

 Dal lake By Radjesh
I won’t write about getting into Srinagar.

From airport there is a JKSRTC coach service to Tourist Reception center (TRC). It costs Rs.35 for a single ride. There is a booth in the Arrivals hall where one can purchase ticket.

Within Srinagar and surrounding, there is no problem to move around. Auto Rickshaws are available even past midnight. However it is advisable to negotiate before hiring. They tend to charge double the fare after 9 PM.

There are plenty of local "coach buses" (TATA 407s) used by locals and run by private operators. But I won’t recommend them. They run without a time table. They are often overloaded and it’s almost impossible to find a seat. The routes are put up in Urdu. These coaches are driven dangerously with a suicidal zeal. They mostly originate from "Bat-maloo" bus station.

JKSRTC has proper coach services to all major towns and cities in the valley and other parts of Kashmir, and even to Delhi/Jammu. The tickets can be booked at TRC. There are also plenty of taxi vehicles (Tata Sumo / Omni / Indicas) available for hire. The government has put up rates applicable for different destinations (in all taxi stands) and one can bargain around that price.

Staying in Srinagar India

Even during the peak season, I feel there is no need to do any advance booking of a Hotel room or Houseboat. However if you are touring with your family, then it may be good to have some name to spend a night, just to escape the harassment from touts waiting to bait you. There are a good number of hotels suiting all budgets. Arrange for one or two night stay in some place, and then explore around to find the place that suits your taste and budget.

I stayed in a "guest house" run by a Kashmiri family. Well it was almost a home stay type of thing. They have few spare rooms in their house and they rent it out. They can provide food upon request. The location was OK. It was about a KM from Dal gate. I really liked the whole experience of being able to stay close to a Kashmiri household and experience a bit of their life. The hosts were quite humble and eager to please. Rooms were clean. It had cable TV. Food was excellent! (I being a strict veggie).

The owner of this place, Mr.Javed speaks good English and was a nice fellow. He was quite helpful and provided some great tips for site seeing and shopping. The best thing was that he didn’t pester me to buy Kashmiri stuff or expensive houseboat stays. In fact, I didn’t stay in HB at all as I was much comfortable staying in his guest house.

He can also arrange trekking trips around Srinagar valley and other outdoor activities. He spoke about his experiences of taking people on treks spanning about 6 days. He seem to know great trekking routes and also a tempting "lake-to-lake" trip done wholly on Shikaras (From Dal to Wulan to Anchar and back). He has access to the necessary gear and transportation.

I highly recommend Mr.Javed’s place if you are an outdoor type of person, or want to experience Kashmiri way of life, or want to just explore things on your own without being harassed. This place may not be suited for typical Indian families with small children or elders.

If you want the contact details of Mr.Javed, please PM me.

Side trips from Srinagar India

 Gulmarg By Radjesh
Gulmarg, Sonmarg, Pahalgam and Yousmarg are the popular destinations from Sringar. Each of them can be done as a day trip. JKSRTC offers return trip day tours for these places. Tickets can be booked at TRC. It is recommended to book tickets at least one day in advance. Buses depart around 8:30 am and return back to Srinagar by 9 PM.

I managed to do only Gulmarg and Pahalgam trip. Gulmarg had snow on the peaks even at this time of the year. It has a Golf course and some expensive looking cottages. There are pony rides available from main bus station to visit one of the "Glacier" type snow meadows. It costs a total of Rs.600-800 per return ride. You may hire fur coats and boots for Rs.100 if you have come unprepared. Its really cold in the mountains. One can do sledging or skiing there (at extra cost). There is also a Gondola (cable car) up the mountain.

Pahalgam is mostly scenic and its a gateway for Amarnath yatra. On the way the bus stops at Pampore (well known for Safforn trade), Avantipur (ancient Hindu temple ruins) and Martand (Surya temple). At Pahalgam itself one can hire a taxi to go to either Chandanwari or Aru. I recommend trip to Aru.

I think I will stop now. Any critiques and questions are welcome!