Day 01: Delhi / Srinagar

“Agar Firdaus Bar Roo-e Zameen Ast, Hameen ast-o Hameen Ast-o Hameen Ast”.

These words by the famous poet Amir Khusro and echoed by Jehangir, aptly describe Kashmir.

Translated, these words mean

“If there is a paradise on earth, It is this, it is this, it is this”.

Known as the Jewel of the Crown of India, Kashmir attracts all kinds of travellers – whether a thrill seekerskiing at the peaks of Gulmarg, a nature lover camping in the valleys at Pahalgam or a foodie experiencing the delights that Kashmiri cuisine has to offer.

Our first tour of the city will take us to the sights of Mughal garden visiting Nishat Bagh (Abode of pleasure) and the Shalimar Bagh(Abode of love). The second largest Mughal garden of Kashmir, the Nishat Bagh was built by Asif Khan in 1633AD, brother-in-law of Jehangir. Laid out as a cascade of terraces lined with Chinar trees, it had twelve terraces which represented the 12 zodiac signs. Out of which only 9 currently exists.

Photo Credits: © R Vaidhyanathan – Houseboat

The Shalimar Bagh was built by Emperor Jehangir for his wife Empress Noor Jahan, in 1619AD. Influenced by the Persian gardens, the Shalimar Bagh is spread over three terraces, each of which house the Diwan-e-Aam, Diwan-e-Khas and the Zenana Garden respectively. One of the unique features of the garden are its arched niches (Chini Khanas), behind the garden waterfalls. These niches now hold flower pots that reflect the colours in the waterfall. Originally, oil lamps were lit which gave the waterfalls an ethereal appearance.

Also accessible through Shikaras, these gardens are situated on the banks of the Dal Lake and the breathtaking Zabarwan mountains in the backdrop, complete the scenery.

Accommodation has been arranged at a houseboat or at a hotel depending on availability of houseboats.

Houseboat – a stationary boat, anchored on the lake, is the major tourist draw in Srinagar. Intricately carved with walnut or Deodar wood, these houseboats are a wonderful alternative to a conventional hotel. The beautifully lit floating market in the vicinity adds a festive charm to the experience.

Day 02: Srinagar / Sonamarg / Srinagar (2 ½ hrs ride each way)

Photo Credits: © Aparna Vaidhyanathan – Sonamarg

A day excursion to Sonamarg, also known as the “Meadow of Gold”, is located at a height of 2690m. The place also serves as one of the two gateways to Amarnath.

Home to the Sindhu river and the Thajiwas Glacier, Sonamarg also serves as the base camp for Ladakh and it is also strategically important to the Indian Army.

A pony or a jeep ride (optional) will take us to the Thajiwas Glacier where one can enjoy a sledge ride. Famous for Trout fishing, the place is also a camper’s delight and serves as the base for the treks to Harmukh range.

Accommodation is arranged at a houseboat or at a hotel depending on availability of houseboats in Srinagar.

Day 03: Srinagar / Gulmarg (2 hrs drive)

Gulmarg Gondola
Photo Credits: © R Vaidhyanathan – Gulmarg Gondola

An overnight trip to the Meadow of Flowers, Gulmarg situated at the altitude of 2730m, has been planned for us today.

Famous for its blooming wild flowers such as daisies, butter cups and forget-me-nots, it is said that Emperor Jehangir collected 21 different types of wild flowers for his garden from Gulmarg.

One can enjoy leisurely walks on the lush green meadows of flowers with a backdrop of the snow capped mountains. Comes winters and Gulmarg embodies the spirit of the Alps and becomes a skier’s paradise.

Gulmarg Gondola
Photo Credits: © Aparna Vaidhyanathan – Gulmarg Gondola

Optional acitivity – One can take a leisurely pony ride around the town or a Gondola ride (rope way) upto Kungdoor (Phase I) or Apparwath (Phase II), subject to weather conditions.

A joint venture between the Government of Jammu and Kashmir and the French firm Pomgalski, the Gulmarg Gondola is currently the second highest operating cable car in the world. It ferries up to 600 people per hour to and from the Kongdoori mountain (4,200m).

Day 04: Gulmarg / Pahalgam (3 ½ hrs drive)

Shimla City
Photo Credits: © Aparna Vaidhyanathan – Awantipora Ruins

We embark on a two night’s excursion to Pahalgam, Valley of Shepherd’s, located at 2,194m, a popular Bollywood destination as well as the other gateway to the holy shrine of Amarnath.

We will make a brief stop at the world famous Saffron growing fields (subject to season) and at the Awantipura ruins.

Awantipura has a number of ancient Hindu temples built by King Awanti Varman when he chose this site as his Capital.

Saffron Flowers
Photo Credits: © R Vaidhyanathan – Saffron Flowers
Baisaran Valley
Photo Credits: © Aparna Vaidhyanathan – Baisaran Valley

On arrival in Pahalgam, the first trip is to the Baisaran Valley. The valley’s alpine meadows and snow capped peaks resemble that of Switzerland, thus giving it the name – Mini Switzerland.

Baisaran is also a camp site for trekkers who want to trek up to the Tulian Lake. One can enjoy a pony ride up to the valley or the more adventurous travellers can attempt a trek.

Day 05 In Pahalgam

Betaab Valley
Photo Credits: © Aparna Vaidhyanathan – Betaab Valley

Today we will visit the most scenic spots of Pahalgam, namely the Aru Valley, Chandanwari and the Betaab Valley.

Aru is the small scenic village located 12kms from Pahalgam- Its location among the grassy meadows make it seem like we have been transported to the English countryside. The village serves as the base point for the trek to the Kolahoi Glacier.

Chandanwari is about 15kms from Pahalgam. This is also the starting point for journey by foot to the holy Amarnath Caves. Small waterfalls can be spotted all along the way to Chandanwari.

Photo Credits: © Aparna Vaidhyanathan – Chandanwari

The raging Lidder river, the main attraction here, flows with sheer force forming a musical background to the whole scenery. One can enjoy an optional sledge ride here.

The Betaab Valley (15kms), earlier known as the Hagan Valley, got re-Christened after the block buster movie Betaab was shot here in the year 1983. Surrounded by mountains featuring Deodar and Pine forests, Betaab valley is a perfect place to unwind after an exhilarating excursion.

Meandering through the valley, the Lidder river that rages in Chandanwari turns placid here, adding to the ambience.

Day 06: Pahalgam / Srinagar

A morning drive this morning will take us back to Srinagar. Rest of the morning is at leisure. One can take an optional tour of the Shankracharya temple and the Hazratbal Shrine in the city.

As a memorable end to our tour, we will enjoy a Shikara ride on the famous Dal Lake. Made famous by the song, Taarif karun kya uski, from the film Kashmir ki Kali, 1964, Dal lake is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Kashmir. Also referred to as the Jewel of Srinagar, the lake is mentioned in ancient Sanskrit text as Mahasarit. The 15.50kms shoreline of the lake is surrounded by the Mughal gardens, parks, hotels and houseboats.

A romantic Shikara ride on the calm waters of the lake will take us through the floating markets and gardens.

Photo Credits: © Aparna Vaidhyanathan – Shikaara
Floating Markets
Photo Credits: © Aparna Vaidhyanathan – Floating Market
Photo Credits: © Aparna Vaidhyanathan – Houseboat

Day 07: Srinagar / Delhi

Snow clad Himalayans valleys, Arcadian meadows, floating markets on the shimmering Dal Lake, we return this morning, experiencing all this and much more from the Crown Jewel of India.