Kashmir Valley, famous all over the world for its natural beauty and health resorts, is famous as the “Paradise on Earth”. Snow-capped mountains, flower gardens and pristine lakes, this is what Shrinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir is all about.
Located in the heart of the Kashmir Valley, Shrinagar is a scintillating hill resort with lovely lakes and spacious houseboats, dry fruit vendors and magnificent Chinar trees. At an altitude of 1,730m above sea level, it spreads on both sides of River Jhelum. Srinagar offers the spectacular sights of lovely houseboats on the picturesque Dal Lake. The city of natural wealth is quite often referred to as the “Land of Lakes and Gardens” owing to the abundance of both.
Historically, Shrinagar was founded in the 3rd century BC by Emperor Ashoka but it were the Mughal emperors who gave the city its due. They treated the city as a beloved summer destination and cultivated gardens, built pleasure palaces and Srinagar has many well-laid out Mughal styled gardens such as Chashme Shahi or the “Royal Spring”, Shalimar Bagh or the “Garden of Love” and Nishat Bagh on the Mughal concept of Paradise and are today very popular spots formpicnics and excursions. The greenery and bright colorful flowers against the backdrop of snow covered mountains would surely take your breath away. The drive around the area surround by the lake, not to mention the feel and fragrance of the air, is quite an experience in itself.
Located on the banks of the Dal Lake, Sirabagh is the largest tulip garden in India. It is a vast expanse of fertile land and is situated at the foothills of the Zabarwan mountains. Yellow, White, Pink, Purple, Red, Blue and crimson tulips impart a majestic look to the garden. These beautifully laid tulip fields are a romantic’s dream come true.
The Tomb of the Hazratbal, located on the outskirts of Shrinagar houses a relic believed to be a stand of hair from Prophet Mohammad’s beard which is also called Moi-e-Muqqadas. Entry for women is barred in the room that houses the holly relic. The shrine is know by many names including Hazaratbhal, Assar-e-Sharif, Mandinat-us-sani, Dargah Sharief and dargah. The moi-e-Muqqadas is displayed on various occasions related with the life of the Prophet and his four holy companions. There is a plush garden laid out by Sadiq Khan in AD 1923 and also a palatial building known as Ishrat Mahal or Pleasure House.
The Dal Lake has become an icon of Shrinagar. It covers 128sq. km. and is divided by causeways into four basins. A ride on the shikaras or the floating gardens is a delight in itself and the backdrop of the sunset infuses a magical charm to the view of the lake. Along majority of the shore of the lake is a boulevard lined with Mughal-era gardens, parks, and hotels. The waterworks in the gardens add to the beauty. During the winter season the lake somtimes freeze. The lake gets some of its water from many surrounding springs but is also supplemented by water from mountain lake, Mar Sar. The lake is a labyrinth of intricate waterways and channels, floating islands of vegetation and houseboats. The floating gardens, cultivated vegetable and melons make the lake quite interesting.
Shah Hamdan Masjid:-
The Khanqah-e-moulah is popularly known as the Khanqah mosque or the Shah Hamdan Masjid. This mosque is located on the banks of the river Jhelum. Tours and travel to this pilgrimage destination gives you the thrill of watching this ancient monument on the banks of the river Jhelum in its complete rustic glory. This mosque was constructed by Sultan Shah Sikander in the year 1395 to honor Mir Sayyid Ali Hamdani, popularly known as Shah Hamdan who used to visit Kashmir for meditation. The word Khanqah basically means a lodge or resting place for Sufi saints.Devotees throng to this shrine on the sixth day of Dul-Haj, as per Islamic Lunar calendar Dul-Haj is the last month, the death anniversary of Mir Syed Ali Hamdani. The shrine bears a wooden structure with marvelously carved roof space and hanging bells. The interior of the mosque is richly carved with ancient religious sermons and historical inscriptions.
Stay in Houseboat:-
If you believe in a picture saying a thousand words, the view you can see from the houseboat is poetry in motion. Adding to the experience of holidaying in this beautiful valley would be the cosily done up houseboat and the courteous staff here. The local cuisine that they whip up inside the moving house is unparalleled too. No female tourist in Kashmir moves out without getting dressed in the typically Kashmiri outfit and has several pictures taken.
Kashmir is a top Asian tourist destination popular among skiers, trekkers, anglers and river rafters. It offers verdant golf course at Shrinagar, Gulmarg and Pahalgam where one can play golf throughout the summer, with the mind whispering through enormous trees of Chinar and stately pine.
Skiing for fun:-
Skiing is another major attraction of the valley and can be enjoyed well at Gulmarg. The winter is the best time to be here, with the slopes are snow- laden and skiing is possible. There are a variety of options: gentle slopes for the first timers and steep ones for those raring to go. For those content with simpler pleasures, the vanilla – colored expanse provides many other options, like show fights, snow mobile rides and sledging. Alpheratz, a frozen blue lake, 13km from Gulmarg is another spot where you can skate in the winter. Skiing in winters attract the adventure lovers to Shrinagar.
What to Shop for
Shopping here in the valley is fun. Hop onto a shikara on the Dal Lake for some great deals on the floating market. Do not forget to buy saffron strands to remind you always of the valley.
With an identity that is both distinct and sought after, Kashmiri handicrafts are usually up for grabs. as beauteous and rich as the scenic endowments in Shrinagar are the arts and crafts of the valley. As the warm pashmina facinates you with its soft touch and warm feel, the captivating hand-embroidered designs go straight for your heart. Worth buying while in the valley are woven carpets, wooden carvings, sozni, crewel, and chain-stitched souvenirs. Papier mache handicrafts in brilliant colors embellished with gold paint are also very famous.
Nearby Places to visit
Gulmarg, a saucer – shaped bowl is laid out as a golf course in the main Kashmir valley. It is about 51kms from Shrinagar. The first view that strikes you as you enter Gulmarg is that of rolling, undulating green slopes and snow- covered mountains. Around it are fields of rice, clusters of walnut, pear and mulbery, meadows, ridges, fairy tale cottages and dense, green forests behind them.
This is a hauntingly beautiful place, where you can sit for hours and hear the wind whistling in the nearby woods. A walk along the circular road that encircles Gulmarg, provides scenic view of massif of Nanga Parbat, Harmukh, and the rigged slopes of Ferozepur, Sunset peak and Aparwat Ridge. To go to Khilanmarg from Gulmarg one has to take a 40 minute journey through the valley’s which offers a breathtaking view of the Majestic Peaks.
A picture-square resort, Pahalgam is 85 km south of Shrinagar and is a popular tourist place which has played host to many Bollywood hits. At 2,130m is a humble shepherd’s village with numerous hamlets and yellow saffron fields dotting its parameters. Situated at the convergence of the streams flowing from Sheshnag Kale and the Lidder river, Pahalgam is renowned for its natural beauty. The golf course here is well equipped with golf sets and provides instructions on demand. There are many places of interest and as the resort is set between fairly steep hills the only mode of transport available is trail riding on Horseback. For the convenience of the tourists pony fairs are posted at prominent locations. The beautiful and undulating meadow of Baisaran is surrounded by thickly wooded forests of pine.