I just returned from Kashmir after spending a week there with my family, it was amazing and thanks to IM’ers who helped plan the trip. We were 6 adults and 2 two year old.
It is a pretty long Travelogue, so first take a look at the pictures and then continue if you have time
DAY 1, DELHI: We took the early morning SPICEJET flight to Delhi, there we stayed at a hotel in Karol Bagh and spent the day shopping. At 8.30PM, we boarded the train to Jammu Tawi
DAY 2, JAMMU – SRINAGAR: The day started badly and progressed from bad to worse. As usual the train was late by 2 hours and we reached Jammu at 8.30PM. After breakfast, we left @ 10AM for Srinagar via taxi. On the way our vehicle had a flat tyre on 2 different occasions and we lost close to 2 hours. When we were about to stop for lunch, we encountered a really bad traffic jam which cost us a solid 2 hours. Finally somehow we managed to reach the Jawahar tunnel near Srinagar @ 11.30PM (the tunnel closes by 12AM) and after crossing the tunnel we lost another hour due to traffic jam in the middle of the night, it was just unbelievable. Completely exhausted we reached our Hotel @ 2AM and finally we got lucky as they had some food.
DAY 3, SRINAGAR: Yesterday was just the beginning, today was about to be even worse. In the morning we discovered that because of the oil price rise, there was a Hartal in Srinagar that was to last for 4 days. Manzoor bhai, our host @ Hotel Omam suggested that we do the Shikara ride on Dal lake in the morning and over late afternoon do sightseeing in Srinagar as things would have subsided by then. He also convinced our driver to take us out, as our driver was pretty adamant about not going out during the hartal. The Shikara ride in Dal lake was a really wonderful experience, the best part of the lake is called ‘The Golden lake’ and it houses the most expensive and best houseboats. We roamed for an hour and half in the shikaras. After lunch we managed to catch up on a few gardens in Srinagar, luckily the sun does not set until 7.45PM and we had good light to roam around.
DAY 4, SONMARG: To avoid the hartal, we decided to leave Srinagar each day early in the morning for Sonmarg, Gulmarg and Pahalgam over the next 3 days and return to Srinagar each day by nightfall. Today we left for Sonmarg, and weren’t so lucky. After traveling close to 1.5 hours, everything came to a standstill again. The road was blocked by the locals due to the hartal and they did not allow vehicles to enter Sonmarg. After an hour passed some government officials came and negotiated with the people to remove the road blocks, and we finally reached Sonmarg around 11AM. The only attraction in Sonmarg is the Thajiwas glacier and from the taxi stand one has to hire ponies to reach the glacier. The distance is 5km one way and it takes an hour to reach there. There were no clear roads, just narrow pony tracks in the hills, a bit scary for me. A little inside the mountains we found good roads but if you want to travel there, you gotta have army contacts. The Thajiwas glacier was good, but we should have gone there a bit early to see more snow, the entire ride took nearly 3.5 hrs. We returned to the taxi stand, had some lunch and then left for Srinagar. The rates quoted for the ride 1200/person, but they settled for 700/person for 5 people, a fair price would be 500-600/person and nothing more.
DAY 5, GULMARG: The ride to Gulmarg, 60 km from Srinagar, lasted for 2 hours. Our taxi did not have permission to take us for local sightseeing in Gulmarg, so we were dropped at the taxi stand. Due to the hartal local taxis were not available and the only option was ponies. After negotiating to 400/person from the original 700/person for the ponies, we suddenly had to disembark even before we started as the children started crying. The kids, who yesterday had such a good time at Sonmarg riding the ponies, today even refused to sit on it. Then the guy came to us with another offer, he said he’ll arrange us a taxi but whenever someone asks we just had to say that we were staying in Gulmarg since yesterday night. He mentioned a list of places to see and we settled for 2000 bucks. He took us to a few places and after an hour and half everything was over; I was ripped off 2k for nothing. There were hardly anything to see in Gulmarg, except for a Children’s Park and some other lesser known useless places.
Later I went for the Gondola ride, there was a huge queue and after an hour of waiting I got the tickets. The ticket cost 200Rs for the first part of the trip, once you reach the top you have a choice, either to roam around there and return to the starting point or buy another ticket worth 500Rs and go further high up. As I reached the first stop and got down, there was another huge queue waiting for tickets to go up and also the weather was getting bad; in case of inclement weather conditions the gondola service is simply stopped. After a few minutes there was a huge downpour and I scrambled to return to base. To get tickets and go all the way up, it is better to reach the ticket counter on or before 9.30AM. I had lunch in a Kashmiri hotel and tasted Waazwans (Kashmiri meats) for the first time, and they were simply too good.
DAY 6, PAHALGAM: Pahalgam is 104 km from Srinagar and it took us about 2.5 hrs to cover the distance. Again we needed a local taxi to roam around, but at least these guys had a common counter to hire taxis and the rates were fixed. We took a taxi to visit Chandanwari, Betaab valley and Aaru valley and it cost 1800 bucks. If you are going any later than May skip Chandanwari, we hardly found any ice there and this place was famous for ice covered mountains. Betaab valley and Aaru valley were simply fantastic and it was money wisely spent for visiting these places.
DAY 7, SRINAGAR HOUSEBOAT STAY: In the morning we visited another garden and Shankaracharya temple. Although the temple itself is not something that is amazing, the views from the top are out of this world, it is not to be missed. Unfortunately cameras are not allowed inside the main complex and also one has to climb 300 steps to reach the temple, the steps were steep and it was exhausting, more so for elders. After sightseeing we were transferred to a houseboat, the houseboat had 3 bedrooms and each bedroom cost 4250/night, we took two. As we opted for a full Kashmir package, we were not paying individually for the room and everything was adjusted for. The houseboats are fully furnished and well maintained. The only sore thing is that there is not much to do on a houseboat and every time you want to roam, you have to take a Shikara to reach land, but it’s a convenient place for honeymooners.
DAY 8, DELHI: We took the afternoon SPICEJET flight out of Srinagar to Delhi and spent the evening lazily in the hotel.
DAY 9, AGRA: We had one more day before we caught the flight to Chennai, so we decided to do Agra. We visited Sikandra Fort, Agra Fort and the Taj Mahal. I really wanted to visit Fatehpur Sikri, but the road to it was blocked on account of the Gujjar agitation. While returning to Delhi we visited Mathura en route.
Although interrupted by hartals every now and then, it was a deserved break and 9 full days of incredible fun.
KASHMIR PACKAGE Our Kashmir package cost 46000 INR (originally quoted price was 52000). It included transportation from Jammu to Srinagar and back, 5 nights stay in Srinagar, 1 night stay in Houseboat, and taxi for travelling to Gulmarg, Sonmarg and Pahalgam, for 6 people. Given that the room we stayed in Hotel Omam cost 2500/night (we took 2 rooms for 5 nights) and Houseboat stay cost 8500 (2 rooms for 1 night), the stay cost itself worked out 33500 and then another 12500 for roaming around, I thought it was pretty reasonable.
We took our package from Mr. Manzoor Siddique 94190 09966, he runs ‘York group of Hotels’ in Srinagar. He is a great guy, and helped us a lot.
Oh yes, in the end everything evenly balanced out. Nope, did not buy any warm clothing in Chennai. We took some old sweaters with us, unfortunately found no use for them with the weather being perfect. Over the last 2 days Srinagar turned into a cauldron, unbearable heat
In case you are looking for some good store in Chennai, there is one called 'Chellarams' in Mount road, close to LIC building. It is one of the famous shops, many friends who travel to colder climes abroad usually buy from there.
Hi Radjesh, excellent report. Great pictures! I am glad you could squeez in everything in your schedule. Well done. I can't believe all this was done with elders in your troop.
I was around Srinagar during that time. I went to Leh first (along with my spouse), spent few days there, and then came to Srinagar. I too was affected by that Hartal of taxi operators. Barring the Hartal, weather was excellent and it was a great time to visit the valley.
nice report, postcard perfect pics. BTW, the D in your name is because of numerolgy? why i am asking is usuaully Pondicherry people write their name in french and one of my friend write his name just like yours
Had a look at the pic. Really wonderful. I was there last May. The place looks so different from when I was there. Your is much greener and I saw more snow. Makes me feel like going back once again in a different season.
err....a question..this package of 46000 INR ..is it per person?
vidyam cavidyam ca yastadvedobhayam saha | avidyaya mrtyum tirtva vidyaya'mrtamasnute ||
One who knows the correct knowledge, and also criticizes false knowledge, for him, by criticism of false knowledge (which causes suffering), he overcomes suffering, and by practice of correct knowledge (which causes enjoyment), he obtains mukti.