“Gar firdaus bar ru e zamin ast, hami asto hami asto hami asto ”
More than 400 years ago, the Mughal emperor Jahangir had said these words in praise of surreal beauty of Kashmir.
They translate to- If heaven exists on earth, it’s here, it’s here, it’s here!
And hence whole world today defines Kashmir with this supreme reference.
When I set my foot in Kashmir, I was all wide eyed and starry at the sight. The word ‘beautiful’ doesn’t do justice to this magnificent place. It is an inexplicable, speechless feeling that takes over as you absorb chilling but stupendous surroundings on a 360 degrees view. Snow clad mountains, lush saffron farms, mustard flower fields, woolen pheran (loose thick upper clothing that can even accommodate mini heaters, called kangdi) clad locals, awe inspiring scenic drives and stunning rivers flowing noisily on rock beds sum up this ethereal place.
I can’t wait to share 5 valleys of Kashmir that will be forever etched in my mind as most breath taking places.
Gulmarg accidently became our first go to place as soon as we landed in Kashmir. Our first destination was Sonmarg, but unfortunately army had closed it down due to heavy snowfall. Well it disappointed me because experiencing snowfall was the sole reason I had gone to Kashmir. But my prayers didn’t go unanswered because I enjoyed heart full of snow in Gulmarg too. I must say I was flabbergasted as soft cotton balls touched my skin.
Look at these pictures.
(On the way to Gulmarg)
(Aaaaah, here comes Gulmarg)
(Church out of nowhere, Gulmarg)
2. Chandanwari, Pahalgam
(On the way to Chandanwari, Pahalgam)
(Valley of Chandanwari…. Psst.. sorry for the foggy image.. can’t help it)
3. Betaab Valley, Pahalgam
Betaab valley as its name suggests, got its name from the blockbuster movie ‘Betaab’ that was shot over there. So many directors followed the suit and this valley came to be known as the valley for Bollywood.
(Nature at its best in onset of spring! – Betaab valley)
(Me outside a deserted house in Betaab Valley)
(Lamp posts in the snow established to shoot for movies in this popular valley)
(Walking by the riverside in Betaab Valley with locals enchanted by the sight of slowly melting snow merging in the river. Again fascinated by the local dressing style, pherans)
4. Aru Valley, Pahalgam
Can you see lush green and barren trees standing together in this picture? It was a mind blowing confluence of green pine trees, withered trees, snow clad bank of the river and the skyline peeking from the mountains. Breath-taking to say the least!
That’s Aru valley for you
I already informed you that we couldn’t reach Sonmarg. But that didn’t stop me from taking pictures! Can you see the snow behind me in this picture? That was the nearest we could go to Sonmarg. The road beyond it was blocked and snow clearing vehicles were at work. I had to marvel at the realization that how nature still controls human beings despite of our notorious shenanigans with it!
Look at me, all charged and naughty!
Well this is what happens when you touch the snow for the first time! (grins)
Important Takeaway to sort your trip:
1. Make Srinagar your base. It is easy to go to all the valleys while camping in Srinagar as these places are based out at approximately equal distances (2-3 hours’ drive) from Srinagar in different directions. Make a list of places to visit and set out early in morning every day to make the most of it. Visit Kashmir to experience the unrivalled beauty.
2. Keep expectations of gourmet food at bay, because food of even the most elite hotels of Kashmir has a slight Kashmiri touch to it which is not as good as authentic respective cuisines.
So if you don’t be finicky about food in Kashmir, you will have every reason to mark this land as the land of dreams, the land of best memories in your heart!
Fill me up with details of other valleys of Kashmir that you guys have been to. I might just take another detour to this ultimate place.