Trip Report - Delhi to Srinagar Road Trip 14-20 Aug '12
rahulkrish
India > States in India > India Travel > Jammu & Kashmir
#1
| Member

Trip Report - Delhi to Srinagar Road Trip 14-20 Aug '12

I recently concluded a 7 day road trip from Delhi to Srinagar and back and am pleased to submit a Trip report.

Dates : 14th Aug to 20th Aug

Route : Delhi - Jalandhar - Patnitop - Srinagar - Pahalgam - Jalandhar - Delhi

Day 1 : 14th August

While we wanted to depart by 1700 hrs managed to do so only by 1830 hrs. We started from Janpath and headed towards Panipat. it started raining heavily by the time we reached Panipat (110 kms). Took us about 2 hrs to cover this distance, mainly owing to peak our rush on our way out of Delhi. Panipat to Karnal (40 kms) we managed in about 35 mins. We took a dinner break at Ambala which is 79 kms from Karnal at around 2220 hrs. From Ambala we drove to Ludhiana (118 kms) and reached Jalandhar via Phagwara (65 kms) at around 0130 hrs on 15th Aug. We stayed overnight at Hotel Cabbana, a very nice ecotel property on the outskirts of Jalandhar bang on the highway. Total distance covered 397 kms. It rained whole way through.What saved us a lot of time is night time driving as we could just breeze through Ludhiana & Phagwara without any traffic choke ups.

Day 2 : 15th August

Post breakfast we departed from Jalandhar at around 1024 hrs. It had stopped raining and surprisingly was a very sunny and bright morning. The target was to cover 366 kms to reach Patnitop. This stretch was a breeze as owing to 15th August traffic on the roads was minimal and seems people preferred staying indoors. We drove from Jalandhar to Pathankot (117 kms) -This stretch is under construction and hence a bumpy ride. From pathankot we reached Jammu by driving another 118 kms. The by pass is a very scenic and smooth ride. We entered J&K at Lakhanpur check post exactly at 1320 hrs. We headed towards Udhampur and reached Patnitop via Kud (110 kms) at 1700 hrs. We stayed at hotel Greentop in Patnitop. Again a very nice hotel with huge and hygienic rooms and not to mention decent food. Patnitop was nice sunny and bright and offered us a very scenic view of the mountain ranges. The reason we decided to stop at Patnitop was to avoid entering the Kashmir Valley on Independence Day. Or else if one starts from Jalandhar at around 6 can easily enter Kashmir Valley and reach upto Pahalgam.

Day 3 : 16th August

After taking an early morning walk around in Patnitop, we departed for Srinagar at 1100 hrs. Patnitop to Srinagar is a 193 kms drive and this is a tricky drive with sharp bends and curves in the valley with stones falling from the top during rainy season. Also you run into Army convoys very often and this slows down your speed considerably as it becomes difficult overtaking huge columns of army trucks. At a distance of 100 kms from Patnitop, we crossed the Jawahar Tunnel and entered the Kashmir Valley. This is a 2.5 km long tunnel and connects the Kashmir valley to the rest of J&K. Unfortunately i got stuck in the middle of an Army convoy and my journey all the way out of the tunnel was very slow. 6 kms from the Jawahar Tunnel is the Titanic View Point. This is the spot from where you get the first view of the Kashmir Valley. This spot is dedicated to a brave Border Roads Organisation officer who laid his life for the country. Believe me you, they have actually constructed a platform which resembles the deck of Titanic and you have a small platform under it for people to stand on and click pics "Titanic Style". Thats not all, it also has a Dosa Canteen :) . We spent around 30 mins here. You shall find a lot of vendors selling Kashmiri handicraft here. Avoid buying and wait till you get to Srinagar. After driving a few kms downhill from here we took a detour and visited Verinag. This place has an ancient "chasma" built by a Mughal Emperor. Its ab 84 ft deep and the water coming of it is amazingly blue. Its is surrounded by a a beautiful garden, which was blooming with flowers and reminded me of the Shalimar - Nishaat. We spent around 30 mins here and then departed for Anathnag (30 kms). Drove from Anantnag to Srinagar (55 kms) entangled in Army Convoys. Surprisingly the outskirts of Srinagar resembles paddy fields of UP and dry lands of Rajasthan. The drive is pretty flat and does not give you a feel of being on a hill station. We reached Srinagar around 1700 hrs and headed straight to our House Boat. We had booked a room at the Peacock House Boat at Nageen Lake. Decided to stay at this lake for two major reasons 1) its beautiful and very quiet, no commercial activity & is very calm surrounded by lotus and lily farms. 2) you can park you car right next to the houseboat if you like and dont need a shikara to go to houseboat each time. the houseboat was amazing. Very well done up and amazing service and food. We took a walk in the gardens behind the houseboats which was beautiful full of apple and pomegranate laden trees and a lot of birds. We decided to take a shikara ride late evening, around 1900 hrs when it was getting to be dark and trust me it was an amazing experience. Spent a lot of time in the sitting area on the houseboat.

Day 4 : 17th August

Woke up early and went for a Shikara Ride at 0600 hrs as we wanted to capture the sunrise from the middle of the lake. Awesome experience. We packed our bags and checked out of the houseboat at 1000 hrs, dumped all our luggage in our Pajero and took a Shikara ride from Nageen Lake to Dal Lake and back. This 4 hour Shikara Ride was a liftime experience. Enroute we crossed lotus farms and lily farms, villages, met village folk farming and experienced how an entire group of people live and manage life next to lakes on boats. We actually went and collected lily and lotus and other flowers from the water farms. Reached Dal lake in about 90 minutes and had our lunch at a floating cafeteria in the lake. Its called Raja Fast Food and it serves amazing pakoras, maggie and not to be missed kahwa. We returned to Nageen Lake through a different route and the Shikara took us through old Srinagar and we saw village life again. We also saw 3 old hindu temples which seemed to be old, damaged and shut. En route we got off the Shikara and visited a lady who farms different types of honey. She had lotus, lily, almond, walnut and opium honey. Though expensive she claimed that they have magical healing powers. loads of foreign tourists seems to be interested in the stuff. We got back to our houseboat and started our drive to Pahalgam at around 1400 hrs. This is when we encountered trouble for the first time in the valley. We drove right into a crowd of people who were coming in 1000's after offering friday namaz and we realised that the environment was tense. Blockages were erected all around and I could see sones being pelted at vehicles. luck was with us as we managed to reverse our pajero at the right time and manage to escape the angry mob. but this was not over. We asked a security man and he directed us towards Hazrat Bal as that was the only other way out. As soon as we reached Hazrat Bal we realised we are in for more trouble. It was a tense situation with anti India slogans all around and a huge security forces presence. The road was blocked and cordoned off by security forces by placing barbed wires on the road. in short we were stuck. So i decided to drive inside the Kashmir University Compound right across as that was the only open road i could see at that point of time. We drove inside and managed to reach a check post which was again closed and manned by security forces with 100's of vehicles stranded. We waited there for over 45 mins before i approached the security officer and asked for help. He was kind enough to offer me passage along with an escort. We finally managed to move out of this area and reach the dal lake on our way out of srinagar. It was almost 1700 hts but we decided to leave for Pahalgam anyways. We reached Pahalgam via Anantnag (90kms) by about 1930 hrs. The road from Anantnag to Pahalgam was very scenic. We checked into hotel Pine & Peak near the golf course. We wanted to stay at hotel Heevan by the riverside but most of the hotels were sold out. We had had a hectic day so decided to relax at the hotel itself.

Day 5 : 18th August

Post breakfast we headed straight to a spot by the river where we could spend a lot of time in the water. Had done the pony rides last time and didnt wanna do it all over again. so decided to spend a lot of time by the river. But privacy was an issue. Everywhere you go, you have these local vendors selling handicrafts following us on bikes and kept insisting us to buy stuff. it was annoying. We drove down to Aru Valley and spent some time there. In the evening I went to near the city centre next to the river and got my pajeor washed. There are scores of guys who are professional car washers and you can park your vehicle next to the river while they do a wonderful job. While the car was being washed i walked by the river side and collected some drift wood. In the evening we went to the local market and purchased few things. You can bargain upto 50% here. Back to hotel and pampered ourselves with some good food. Overnight at the same hotel.

Day 6 : 19th August

Left Pahalgam for Jalandhar at 0830 hrs. First stop was near Anantnag where be bought Kashmiri Apples and Plums. (apples around Rs 200/- for a crate of 8 kgs and plum @ RS 50/- a kg). We picked up three different varieties of apples here. Quazigund was our second stop where we purchased walnuts and almonds. They were good quality and cheap.We stopped at Peerah (about 27 kms before Patnitop) to have some amazing rajma chawal. This place is famous for rajma chawal. also the anardana chatni was out of the world. The drive through the patnitop valley was very slow as the visibility due to fog / clouds was almost zero. we traveled at 10km/hour all through this stretch. around 10 kms further down from Patnitop is a place called Kud. This place is famous for Patisa (mithai). There are plenty of shops but I would recommend Prem Sweets Shop which is oldest shop . Its sold at Rs 200/- a KG. After this we encountered heavy rains all the way to Jalandhar. As soon as we crossed Patnitop we came to know that Jawahar Tunnel has been closed and the highway is blocked due to landlside. We were lucky to have managed to cross before the landslide hit. Enroute to Udhampur we encountered slippery and slushy roads, landslides and falling stones, not to forget 3-4 army, CRPF and BSF convoys. Khatua before Pathankot was flooded with water and we hit very heavy rains. Thanks to the Pajero and 4 wheel drive me managed to sail through much of all this. We reached Jalandhar by 2000 hrs and stayed again at Hotel Cabanna. The hotel had live music and we got them to play many songs on request and had a relaxed evening.

Day 7 : 20 August

We started our journey back to Delhi at around 1000 hrs. This time we drove straight into day time traffic in Ludhiana and Phagwara. Also, we managed to bump right into the Lahore - Delhi bus service. Now this bus runs under police protection and has a pilot in front. The issue was that the police escort behind the bus wouldnt let you overtake the bus. :) so the bust was driving at 70 - 80 km / hr and we had no choice but to follow. However we managed to take the service road under one of the flyovers on the highway and overtake the bus. We stopped at "Haveli" restaurant for lunch and reached Delhi at around 1730 hrs. It was raining heavily all the while and post Ambala we were joined by 1000's of cars returning from the long weekend (from Himachal). Witnessed massive pile ups enroue due to heavy rains.

In Short

- Interestingly we were not stopped for any kind of check by security men either in punjab or in J&K during our entire trip. This was surprising even though we traveled on 15th August as well
- Must try the Shikara ride from Dal Lake to Nageen lake and visit the lily and lotus farms (shikara charges are a standard Rs 300/- per hour)
- Visit Verinag and get the excise slip of Rs 70/- from verinag check point as it is not crowded instead of getting it later where you would have to stand in long queues.
- Check each apple in the crate and select for putting in the crate. Usually they put nice ones on the top and bad ones at the bottom. It costs around Rs 180/- per crate of round 8 kgs.
- Buy walnuts, almods etc at Quazigund near Anantnag (33 kms). A kg of walnuts would cost you around Rs 150/- . Kagazi Akhrot are for Rs 200/- a kg. A little away from the main retail sellers is a shop called AAREY. they are whole sellers and would give you good quality stuff.
- Try a houseboat at Nageen Lake instead of Dal if you prefer peace and serenity.
- Avoid driving post 7 pm in Kashmir Valley.
- a 3G connection is active and works perfectly fine in Kashmir Valley. Phone signals hardly drop anywhere enroute.
- If you get stuck in an army convoy, try a 30 minute break for tea or snacks, let the convoy pass. Would make your driving easier.
- DO NOT try to overtake on any of the blind curves. It can be very dangerous.
- Dont miss the Rajma Chawal at Peerah for the world. Yummy is the only word i can think of :)
- Your family and friends would like the Kud Patisa more than the apples.
- While i drove a SUV (4X4), the roads are pretty ok and i think any kind of 4 wheeler can cover the distance. Saw a couple of people driving in Nano. :)
- Dont try to rush to cover long distances. Make sure you get good rest before you drive next morning.
- The valley has lots of bends and curves. Make sure fellow travelers take an anti nausea before you start driving on the hills.
- Talk to other travelers on their experiences of various destinations to take a call instead of talking to hotel guys or travel agents or taxi drivers or pony guys.
- Bargain hard. 20% discount is standard. 40% - 50% is manageable.
- Do not buy from road side or mobile sellers / vendors. Only buy from standard / established shops. They would sell you genuine stuff.
- I personally feel, you should book your hotels / stay in advance. Saves you a lot of time and energy. After traveling the whole day you want a warm bed to lie down on and not run around streets or lake to find a place. you end up compromising on the quality. Also, you might end up paying more if you start looking for a hotel / houseboat on the spot

wish you all a happy trip.

cheers!

Rahul

7 Replies

#2
| Sureshb
Thanks for the insight on your travel thru the valley...
Was really confused on whether to book the hotels in advance or to do it on the spot. But now i think i will rather book it in advance..
It will be great if you can provide the cost & contact nos. for the hotels you stayed in..
and also if possible if you can also upload the pics of the rooms y'll stayed in. The will be od immense help in deciding the our stay.:cool:
#3
| Member
I booked all my hotels through makemytrip.com
This i did after exploring all options. I did call the hotel / houseboat directly to check if i get a better deal but then surprisingly makemytrip offered the best rates. When you book the rooms do opt for the MAP plan (breakfast + 1 meal) because you would definitely end up eating bf & dinner at the hotels. I also checked on cleartrip and other sites before concluding that makemytrip is the most economical. The hotels i chose after going through reviews on hotels on both trip advisor and makemytrip. Also, makemytrip or the hotel website would have pics of all the rooms n facilities.

Hilltop Patnitop cost me Rs 3500/- with 2 meals
Peacock Houseboat cost me Rs 2780/- with 2 meals
Hotel Heevan or Pine & Peak at Pahalgam - Rs 7000/- with 2 meals (however i would suggest a hotel ab 500 mts away from Heevan by the river side which costs around Rs 3000/- )

There are loads of hotels available apart from the above mentioned hotels. You may want to check makemytrip or cleartrip for the same.

cheers!
#4
| Maha Guru Member
Thanks for the great report. Enjoyed every bit of it.
#5
| Member
Good Rahul,
Next time try to use an alternate road to Kashmir from pathankot bypassing jammu and reaching udhampur instead.
The road is called Dhar Road. and it starts from Samba (j&K) and is very scenic .on the way you will get to see Mansar lake also.
Try different tourist spots in kashmir, like the Aharbal waterfalls,Dodhpathri, a virgin meadow.Yousmarg and then to Nilnag lake by foot.These places are where you won`t find much crowds.Unexplored ,yet very beautiful.
Regards
Waseem
#6
| Member
Thanks Waseem!
I actually took the road via samba and enjoyed every bit of it.. Thanks for recommending the tourist spots for te next trip. Really appreciate and would surely try out during next visit.

Cheers!
#7
| Sureshb

Originally posted by: rahulkrish View Post

I booked all my hotels through makemytrip.com
This i did after exploring all options. I did call the hotel / houseboat directly to check if i get a better deal but then surprisingly makemytrip offered the best rates. When you book the rooms do opt for the MAP plan (breakfast + 1 meal) because you would definitely end up eating bf & dinner at the hotels. I also checked on cleartrip and other sites before concluding that makemytrip is the most economical. The hotels i chose after going through reviews on hotels on both trip advisor and makemytrip. Also, makemytrip or the hotel website would have pics of all the rooms n facilities.

Hilltop Patnitop cost me Rs 3500/- with 2 meals
Peacock Houseboat cost me Rs 2780/- with 2 meals
Hotel Heevan or Pine & Peak at Pahalgam - Rs 7000/- with 2 meals (however i would suggest a hotel ab 500 mts away from Heevan by the river side which costs around Rs 3000/- )

There are loads of hotels available apart from the above mentioned hotels. You may want to check makemytrip or cleartrip for the same.

cheers!


The general impression is that, if you book it directly from the hotel, then you can get good discount (specially in off-season), but when you book via make my trip, then no discount... pls provide your views on the same. Also did you try and check the rates (may be from other guests of the hotels) once you were there.
#8
| Member
hi it will be nice if you tell us the name of hotel near heevan which costs around 3000.

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