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Let's Explore Srinagar!

 

“The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”

Welcome back to another travel story by the team at 4Steps Voyage!

This 3-blog series narrates the story of that single step we took to explore the paradise on earth - Kashmir. Driving a total of about 1840 kms, we started our journey from Delhi, brimming with excitement and anticipation for the adventures that lay ahead. Come along with me as I take you through this six day journey.


 

We started our trip from New Delhi and took the NH44 (National Highway 44) passing through places like Panipat, Karnal, Kurukshetra among others. Taking a detour through the narrow roads of the rural farms, we avoided the road blockages on the Shambhu border and eventually found ourselves cruising along the Chandigarh highway, reconnecting with NH44.

We stopped at a small Dhaba for lunch and the owners were kind enough to allow us to take our own food inside too. After the half an hour stop we restarted our journey and arrived at The Dolphin Hotel in Udhampur just as the sun dipped below the horizon, after 12 hours of driving. We were welcomed warmly and our luggage was bought up to our rooms.


The rooms were quite spacious and well maintained and both the service and the food was satisfactory .We faced no problems during our stay and had a good nights' sleep, waking up feeling refreshed and ready to resume the trip the next day.


Admiring the beauty of the Syama Prasad Mookerjee Tunnel and the Banihal-Qazigund Tunnel, we then took a scenic detour towards Verinag and reached the serene Mughal Gardens. Covering a total area of 5.30 hectares, the garden fascinates the tourists with its beautiful manicured lawns, flower beds, majestic chinar trees and gushing spring at the backdrop of a lush forest.




This garden was originated from a mountain spring of Verinag, which is the source of the River Jhelum. Mughal Emperor Jahangir was impressed by the beauty of the spring and its surrounding areas. Soon then, he built an octagonal water tank of sculptured stones in 1620 AD. Seven years later, his son Shah Jahan added some attractive features to the garden and constructed fountains and cascades in row lines in front of the spring. He also built hot and cold baths in the garden of which only ruins are now left and preserved. Coming out of the Mughal Gardens we found a shop just around the corner and had the most delicious tea and fruit cake which I later found out was called Kashmiri cake and is available at every small and big tea shop in Kashmir.


Mesmerized by the beautiful scenes along the mountain roads we continued our journey, winding through Anantnag and back to NH44. For lunch we stopped at 'The Boulevard Kashmir', a spacious and popular dhabha in front of the beautiful Dal Lake.

Even though we reached a bit after the lunch hours (and were the only ones there) we were served with a sumptuous meal and every dish ( be it the chane ki daal, mutton kanti or mixed veg) resonated with the authentic flavors of Kashmir. Although we had to wait for some time, the food definitely made up for the wait.


Rejuvenated, we made our way to Eco Village in Srinagar, a tranquil retreat nestled amidst nature’s embrace. Its a bit higher than the main city and we were a bit skeptical initially when we had to drive up the narrow roads, but the beauty of the place is undeniable. There were two rooms each in multiple cosy hut shaped structures. There was a garden just outside our rooms which had cherry and apple trees and was lined with flowers of all kinds and striking colors where you could sit and enjoy snacks and the scenery. The only thing I would advise to people planning to stay there would be to avoid remaining inside the resort during the afternoon hours in the summer season as there is no air conditioner and even though the place usually remains cool and even cold at night, on some sunny days it can become unbearably hot. Apart from that everything was amazing be it the service, food or people.

There was also a beautiful waterfall flowing just behind the resort which was a 5 min trek away. We visited the waterfall in the evening and me and my father also trekked down to it in the early hours the next morning, which was definitely one of the highlights of the trip for me. You can enjoy both the breath taking scenes and dipping your feet in the calming water at the place. A bit higher than the resort is also a hand gliding spot, unfortunately we could not explore it but you can easily drive or walk there. Its a bit difficult to walk because of the extra steep roads but regular trekkers would find no issues.


The third day was dedicated to exploring the tourist spots in Srinagar beginning with a visit to the Shalimar Gardens. Adorned with vibrant blooms and steeped in historical significance we immortalized our experience by taking pictures in traditional Kashmiri attire - a really popular tourist to do list item there. The entry fee for Shalimar Garden is Rs. 24 per person (Rs. 12 for children). There are no photography charges and you are free to bring your cameras along. There is no doubt that Shalimar Garden has a glorious past. It was built by Emperor Jahangir in 1619 for his wife Noor Jahan and he called it ‘Farah Baksh’, meaning ‘the delightful’. In 1630, Emperor Shah Jahan assigned the work of extending it to governer Zafar Khan. He named it ‘Faiz Baksh’ which translates as ‘the bountiful’ in English. What remains now is a garden that although is not as glorious as it once was but is still beautiful. The remnants of the Mughal architecture and structures are still there. While the park can still be called well-maintained, a better job could have been done. It also gets a bit boring walking around and children would probably not enjoy it.



Next we went for a Shikara ride on the Dal Lake, a voyage through floating markets and vibrant culture. We opted for a smaller round of the lake which lasted for about an hour, the scenery was mesmerizing and we got glimpses of snow covered glacier tops peeking between the mountains. We were also approached by vendors on boats offering locally made jewellery, the Kashmiri special tea Kehwa, ice cream, coffee and many more things. This was something we had never seen before and we enjoyed looking at the offerings. We also encountered the different crops planted in the water and the house boats where you can choose to spend a day. I was deeply saddened though to look at the condition of the majestic lake and some people who were throwing trash in the river even after the boatsmen requested them not to.




Next we visited the bustling Lal Chowk Bazar, a hub of activity and commerce where we had a late lunch and then amidst the labyrinth of stalls and shops hunted for souvenirs to gift our families and friends. The roadside vendors selling customized wooden key chains and small sculptures, beautiful paintings caught my eye the most. The roads were filled with stationary shops, book stores and many other assorted shops. The Lal Chowk Bazar also had a big clock tower in the center and a sitting area where you could relax and look around from. As the sun dipped below the horizon, casting a golden glow over the city, we bid farewell to Srinagar, our hearts brimming with memories of a journey well-lived.


In the embrace of Kashmir’s majestic landscapes and warm hospitality, each day of our expedition unfolded like a chapter in a timeless tale. Join us in the next installment as we delve deeper into the heart of this enchanting land, uncovering its hidden treasures and unraveling its mysteries. Until then, may the spirit of adventure guide your path, wherever it may lead!


 


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