THE KASHMIR TRAVEL GUIDE

Last week, my two friends and I  went to Kashmir for 7 days and we had a ball of a time. This trip is more focused on appreciating nature, compared to my other past trips such as Yogyakarta & Hong Kong! We don’t have to hike mountains, go trekking or cross any raging rivers, thank goodness heh.

Prior to the trip, the impression of Kashmir being an unsafe destination for us girls keep looming above our loved ones’ heads. They kept asking us if this is the place you girls really want to go, what are the safety precautions that we have taken and can we skip Kashmir altogether. So, in the midst of all that prepping, we made sure that we have registered ourselves at MFA, bought travel insurance and swapped contacts between our guides & our folks, just in case.

So with that done, it’s time to explore new grounds! Curious and want to explore Kashmir too? Read ahead…

How To Get Around

We engaged our guides from Nishat Tours & Travels, and they helped to arrange EVERYTHING from domestic flights, to accommodations, to the activities that we will cover in our 7 days trip. All we need to do is just book a flight to Delhi! Our flight from SG to Delhi was a wee over five hours via AirIndia and it was unexpectedly pleasant. The leg room was sufficient, the food was great, and the in-flight entertainment is enough to keep us busy during that flight. Meanwhile, our domestic flights via Indigo and GoAir were mediocre but it was only for a short while as to&fro Kashmir only took around 1.5 hours.

In Kashmir, it is not recommended to go everywhere on your own, so engaging a driver & guide is definitely the option to go.

Where To Stay

We had three accommodations during our week in Kashmir! Our first three nights were spent at Hotel Metropolis located at Srinagar – our personal favourite out of the three. We were kindly bumped up to a suite, where there was sufficient space, firm yet comfy beds and had an awesome view of the hotel’s front lawn!

The second hotel was in Pahalgam, three hours from Srinagar, at Forest Hill Resort. This hotel was a tinge lower than Hotel Metropolis but its international TV channels and heated bads made up for it. We loved the staff there, they treated us like family! They would call us down for dinner and made sure that we won’t sleep on an empty stomach. Fantastic service!

On the last night, we drove back to Srinagar and stayed at a houseboat. There are many similar houseboats within Dal Lake, and ours was called Deluxe Athena. Us three were the only guests at that point of time and it was nice to be given undivided attention by the staff! However, do note that the necessity at the houseboat is really basic, so do not expect luxury during your stay. Nevertheless, it was an experience!

What To Do

Our Kashmir trip was split into 4 main parts – Srinagar, Sonamarg, Gulmarg & Pahalgam.

You can do these things in Srinagar, such as visiting the floating market at Dal Lake (we woke up at 430am for this one!), visiting their Mughal Gardens and also taking a relaxing Shikara ride in the evenings. Oh, while you are there, request your guide to bring you to one of Kashmir’s BBQ spots for lunch/dinner – you just have to, so sedap!

Meanwhile, Sonamarg is where you can find views of the snowy mountains so amazing that you can’t help but to gasp in awe. Hire ponies to bring you to the Thajiwas Glacier, where you can sleigh down the mountains! You can also trek there if you don’t wish to take the ponies. Also, be sure to prepare small change to tip Kashmiri men who will offer to bring you up the mountains.

As for Gulmarg, it is said to be the highest gondola served ski-lift in Asia. We had Mr Meer (in the picture above, making a snowman) to bring us up to the mountain tip and kindly waited for us to embrace all the snow! Being up there was downright amazing, just be sure to load up the sunscreen because the sun is for sure, stronger there.

Personally, Pahalgam was my favourite stop. That place is filled with valleys (Betaab & Aru), mountains, rivers, parks and open fields! Heck, they even claimed Baisaran as a mini Switzerland spot! Be sure not to miss this town when you are here in Kashmir.

Lastly, please note:
  • Wifi connection is very intermittent in Kashmir, so be sure to give your loved ones a heads up prior to the trip;
  • Power cuts on various parts of Kashmir happen from time to time – do not be alarmed;
  • Be sure to prepare small change as most of your money will go to tipping;
  • Don’t expect to do a lot of shopping – you can, however, buy cloth to make your saris, Punjabi suits & kurongs back home and;
  • Be sure to have fun wherever you go, respect their cultures and embrace Kashmir!

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To Baiz & Farhana, thank you for being the best company one can have during this trip!  In shaa Allah, we will be back together for another destination to explore – Love you guys!

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