You think tourism equals terrorism in Kashmir and this is keeping you away from travelling to Kashmir. Going around Srinagar for 5 days did change a lot of my perception, rekindled my love for unspoilt Nature and reassured my belief in the couplet coined to describe Kashmir,
“Gar firdaus bar-rue zamin ast, hami asto, hamin asto, hamin ast.”
As a tourist, terrorism in Kashmir was not a problem for me, my pre-paid mobile going completely dead was the real real issue J Jokes apart, yes Kashmir is terror striven but I feel it is more in the mind than on ground. For years, through news we have built an image of Kashmir where every Kashmiri is a terrorist. Kashmir is a dichotomy. It is beautiful yet scary. Every time I saw a kashmiri clad in a phiran, the Bollywood storyline of guns being pulled out and shootout in middle of a crowded market kind of thoughts rattled my mind. Every time, I would sit in a taxi, scenes from Roza where the hero was kidnapped and the heroine left behind howling crossed my hyper imaginative and Bollywood inspired mind. However, after 5 days of stay and trips in and around Srinagar, I realized that Kashmir is eulogized and glamourized (both in good & bad sense) to an extent that our own perspective, our own view, and our own understanding stands paralyzed. We see Kashmir from a borrowed lens, a perspective that has been repeatedly ingrained in our mind through breaking news and Bollywood.
Yes, terrorism is prevalent but not always, not everywhere (Kashmir valley is huge) and is not the bread & butter for everyone. There are common people who are heavily dependent on tourism as their daily jobs and can meagrely earn just 200 to 300 rs a day or even less as tourists are ever dwindling. I was thoroughly mesmerized to see the beautiful Kashmir – the chinar leaves, the mughal gardens, shimmering dal lake,
I will leave out the adjectives because much has been said and written about the beauty of Kashmir by acclaimed expressionists and what more can I add to that effervescent beauty.
Around Srinagar in 5 days Itinerary
Day 1 – Dal Lake and 3 Mughal Gardens
- Highlight activity – Shikara ride
- Shikara ride costs around Rs 500 – 700.
- Not to miss: Must have kahwa while on shikara.
- Boats that sell stuff will be irritating.
- Going beyond tourist – Morning vegetable market shikara ride that starts at the break of dawn and is only for an hour should be done by photography enthusiasts. You will get to see local essence and perfect light for the click.
- Not recommended – To stay in a houseboat especially if you have little kids. It gets boring by evening, difficult to manage in a constricted space with danger of falling in water looming at parent’s mind and hygiene issues.
We stayed in a premium houseboat at Nigeen bank of Dal Lake called Sukoon. It is important to choose the right houseboat to have the perfect experience. Details about our Sukoon houseboat experience in my next blog.
Day 2 – The Greens of Yusmarg | Day Trip Around Srinagar
An offbeat destination which I chose on recommendation of my blogger friend, Sakshi, Yusmarg is 1.5 hours from Srinagar and is absolutely soulful. Let the pictures do the talking.
Day 3 – Gulmarg – Phase 1 and 2
Gulmarg Trip Tips:
- Have loads of snowtime and family time 🙂
- Rent coat, gloves and boots from the shop on way before you reach Gulmarg as on top you will be hustled by throngs of sellers most of whom have bad quality stuff.
- Buy ticket for both phase 1 and 2 together to save time. Opt to go to Phase 2 first and then stop at phase 1. Phase 2 is the real stuff.
- Going up in cable car with complete view of valley is a breathtaking experience.
- You can do sledging and skating
- No food stalls in Phase 2 so go prepared with bottle and some snack.
- Phase 1 has proper restaurant.
- Feet tend to get frozen as there is quite a lot of snow. You must stuff the corners of your snow boot with plastic or any such stuff to avoid snow to seep in. My 4 year old son got snow bite and was extremely uncomfortable. We applied vicks vapour rub to reduce the bite. Must carry extra pair of socks.
We reached Gulmarg early in the morning and ended the trip with sumptuous lunch at the Khyber Himalyan resport & Spa, a property that takes your heart away. More details to follow in the next blog.
Day 4 – Sonmarg and Zero Point
In Sonmarg, there are two points that you can see – one on horseback and other in car. We chose Zero Point which was to be reached in a car through a bumpy road, amidst snow tunnel and some amazing scenery.
- Highpoint Activity– Snow scooter, sledge, skiing and hot bowl of maggi amidst snow.
2. Reach early to avoid traffic snarl. The place where vehicles are parked is narrow and by 4 pm trucks are allowed to commute which makes it even worse. Timing is important.
We had the best snow experience at Zero point.
Day 5 – Srinagar and Fly Back
Last day was for shopping and enjoying delectable Wazwan.
What did I buy?
There are so many things to buy while seeing around Srinagar. On Gulmarg to Sringar way you will find many big shopping outlets.
- Kashmiri carpet – Rs 12,000 – They will courier
- Kashmiri silk saree – Rs 3500
- Electric blanket – Rs 1800
Important tip – Too many security checks at Srinagar airport so time yourself properly.
Can You See Around Srinagar With Kids?
Yes, ofcourse. It is super fun. For my son, boating at Dal Lake and snow masti time was the Srinagar trip highlights.
Thoughts on Kashmir Tourism
I found it absolutely safe for tourists. You need to haggle & hustle like in any other tourist town; you have to be careful about your own safety like you would in any other tourist town. That’s about it and yes, one more thing rethink the perceptions
Of late, there was a whatsapp message doing rounds claiming that amajor in Army urges you not to visit Kashmir and this way if we plug their source of income through tourism they will not be able to fund terrorism.
Appalling! I am wife of an Army officer and I am proud of the beauty of Kashmir and wish to showcase it to every citizen of the world. Yes, it is a difficult terrain to be posted and there have been much causality. But you can’t equate tourism with terrorism.
Terrorism is a completely different ball game and their channels and sources are much discreet and structured.
Rest, I leave it to you to decide.