Rightly known as the ‘Paradise on Earth’, Kashmir is a destination that needs to be lived and felt. A combination of picture-perfect landscapes, verdant valleys, fabulous food, and warm locals gives you a glimpse of just how special the place is. Whether you’re a nature lover, bon vivant, adventure junkie, or a shopping enthusiast, a visit to Kashmir will never disappoint.
Probably the best way of getting the most out of your trip is by trying out all the offbeat activities the place has to offer. Here’s a list of the top 10 things to do in Kashmir that you must put on your itinerary to get an experience that shall be etched in your memories for a long, long time.
Dotted with colorful wooden boats with misty peaks of Pir Panjal Mountains in the backdrop lies the beautiful Dal Lake. As one of the most prominent lakes of India, your visit to Kashmir will be incomplete without witnessing the pristine waters of this Srinagar’s jewel. And what better way to dive in the experience than enjoying a traditional Shikara ride on the Lake.
Available in various sizes and used for multiple purposes, a Shikara is a wooden carved boat usually seen at Dal Lake and Nagin Lake. With pointed ends on both sides, these shikaras are a cultural symbol and can only be spotted in Kashmir. These gaily-painted shikaras are extensively used for boating tours, daily travel, and for getting back and forth from the houseboats.
Floating amidst the clean blue waters of Dal Lake, away from the hustle and bustle of city life and soaking in the beauty of the snow-draped mountains is definitely a unique way of experiencing the Kashmiri lifestyle. The flower markets and traditional shops lined on either side of the lake only add to your wholesome experience of the tour. You can enjoy a shikara ride on all days of the week, usually between 6 am to 5 pm, and the cost per person could vary between INR 150 – INR 250.
Kashmir is a testament to blended traditions and beliefs of various cultures and the art and architecture of the structures in the union territory are all proof of that. Influenced by three different styles and religions of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam, these structures represent the pluralism of a diverse society. And one of the best ways to explore this rich heritage of Kashmir is by taking a stroll through Srinagar.
Jama Masjid featuring over 370 pillars made of the maple tree is one of the main attractions of Srinagar. The structure represents the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture and depicts the amalgamation of two cultures. Khanqah-i-Maulla is another captivating mosque in the old city of Srinagar. Decorated with papier mache, the mosque represents wooden architecture and is similar to the Buddhist chaitya halls.
Along with these prominent structures, you can also admire the old markets of dry fruits, spices, and threads while walking through the lanes of the old Srinagar. From houses with ‘Zoon Dub’ or the balcony to houseboats carved intricately, the marvels of Srinagar are truly a pleasure to all eyes.
Also Read:Best Homestays In Srinagar
If your heart isn’t full after soaking in the beautiful landscapes of Kashmir, a gondola ride at Gulmarg Valley is exactly what you need to complete your experience. Probably the best way to enjoy the mesmerizing views of the majestic snow-capped mountains, lush green meadows, and serene lakes is through the cable-car gondola ride. As the world’s second-highest operating cable car, the gondola ride offers you a bird’s eye view of the Gulmarg Valley.
The months from January through May are ideal for enjoying either the snow-capped mountain views or even the lush greenery around you. The ride usually takes place in 3 phases. First from Gulmarg to Kongdoori (Phase 1), followed by Kongdoori to Apharwat Peak (Phase 2), and at the end from Kongdoori to Mary Shoulder (through chair lift) in Phase 3. The cost per person for the ride starts at INR 600 and varies with every phase. The gondola ride is truly a one-of-its-kind experience and it leaves you awestruck with all the breathtaking views of the Gulmarg Valley.
With alpine meadows and mountains generously hovering over the Valley, Kashmir is a complete package for experiencing the best of the trekking world. From short hikes and treks for beginners to some of the most difficult treks of the country, Kashmir has everything to quench your thirst for some thrill and adventure.
For all adventure seekers, the Great Lakes Trek, the Tarsar and Marsar Lakes Trek, and the Aru-Kolahoi Trek are some of the most challenging treks in Kashmir. If you have the guts and are an experienced trekker, you can also check out the Chadar Trek which is coined as one of the toughest treks in India. Taking you to an elevation of over 11,000 feet, this trek unveils the beauty of nature in its purest form. If you’re just venturing into the world of trekking, short treks to Thajiwas Glacier, Aru Valley, and Khilanmarg are something to look out for.
You can also explore the green valleys and the gushing river by trying out mountain biking. The location, terrain, as well as the scenic vistas make Kashmir an ideal destination to enjoy mountain biking. Srinagar to Gulmarg, Pahalgam to Srinagar, Sonamarg to Manasbal Lake, and Gulmarg to Pahalgam are some of the popular cycling routes to experience the thrill of mountain biking.
Relishing the local cuisine has to be on your checklist when visiting Kashmir. As mesmerizing as the landscapes are for your eyes, the famous Kashmiri Rogan Josh and the mouth-watering Chicken Biryani are sure to tickle all your taste buds. Kashmiri Kahwa or tea is yet another delicacy you definitely cannot miss out on during your trip to the Valley. A few other sumptuous dishes of Kashmir include the aromatic Dum Olav (Dum Aloo), Paneer Chaman, the traditional Yakhni or Yogurt Lamb Curry, and the Matschgand (minced meatballs cooked in spicy red gravy).
Mostly consisting of non-vegetarian dishes, the traditional form of Kashmiri cooking is known as ‘Wazwan’. But the vegetarians need not be disappointed. The Kashmiri Modur Pulao or sweetened rice made with saffron, ghee, dry fruits, milk, and sugar, as well as the Lyodur Tschaman (cottage cheese cooked in creamy turmeric-based gravy) are dishes definitely worth trying. All these dishes are as flavorful as their names; so be ready to dig your spoons and get your hunger palate going.
If retail therapy works best for you, then the Kashmir markets are definitely your place to be. And we aren’t just talking about the Pashmina shawls that you’ve always heard about. From wooden carvings and antique copperware to exquisite handlooms and local garments, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the variety of things you find in these markets. If you like the scent of flowers and are looking to buy some, don’t forget to hop on the shikaras and explore the markets at Dal Lake. You can also shop around for some sweet fruits and vegetables over there.
Some unique items that you could be laying your hands on in Kashmir include a ‘Namda’ or a Kashmiri hand-woven carpet, Kashmiri crewelwork wall hangings, lac ornaments, a ‘Ferin’ or a long garment cut out of local tweed, and Kashmiri red chili as well as saffron. If you’re in a mood to splurge, you can also look out for the ‘Doda Sapphire’, a piece of jewelry found exclusively in Kashmir. Just be ready with a heavy pocket and brush up your bargaining skills, for you’ll definitely be spoilt for choices when walking around these aesthetically pleasing markets of Kashmir.
Have you ever dreamt of staying amidst the calm waters with a serene view of the moonlight falling like glitter and the stars lighting up the world around you? If that’s something you’d definitely want to check off your bucket list, make sure to indulge in a pristine houseboat stay, popularly available at the Dal Lake jetty. Whether you’re traveling solo, are on a honeymoon, or traveling with a group of friends, spending a night on the houseboat is definitely an experience you wouldn’t want to miss out on.
The houseboats docked at the Dal Lake jetty are equipped with Wi-Fi and also offer airport transfer facilities. But if you want to unwind from the hubbub of the city life and are looking for the calm in the chaos, spend a night at the houseboat that makes you feel closer to nature with panoramic views creating a special space in your memories. This offbeat experience is surely not the one to miss out on.
Kashmir isn’t just a paradise for its scenic views and natural beauty, but also for all adventure lovers out there. From camping, trekking, paragliding, river rafting, skiing, to hot air ballooning, there’s everything to satisfy your cravings for some thrill and adventure. While paragliding and hot air ballooning give you a glimpse of the majestic view of Kashmir’s beauty, river rafting and skiing are perfect activities to satiate your adrenaline rush.
Sanasar, Harwan, Sonamarg, and Gulmarg are popular places for paragliding. As for river rafting, you can check out the Short Lidder River Rafting, the Medium Sindh River Rafting, or the Long Sindh River Rafting. The easy to moderate water rapids make it ideal for enjoying river rafting as a group activity. Pangong Lake is yet another popular destination for camping and appreciating the glory of nature.
Also Read: Experiencing Paragliding In Bir Billing
Since the time of Hindu rulers like Emperor Ashoka, Buddhism has been an important part of the classical Kashmiri culture. You can spot a number of monasteries not just in Kashmir but also in parts of Jammu, Leh, and Ladakh. Popularly referred to as a ‘Gompa’, meaning a solitary place, the pristine vibes of these monasteries bring along a sense of calm and offer peace to your inner mind and soul.
A majority of these Buddhist monasteries are located near Leh and Ladakh. Some of the most popular ones include Thiksey Monastery which symbolizes Buddhist art through wall paintings, swords, statues and thangkas and is home to over 500 monks, Hemis Monastery, (popular for its masked Hemis Festival), Phyang Monastery, and Likhir Monastery. Alchi Monastery and Basgo Monastery are amongst the few you might also find in Kashmir. The welcoming vibes and calm atmosphere of these places only add to their architectural charm.
Along with adventure activities, you should also try your hand at golfing when visiting Kashmir. Home to some of the world-class golf courses, golf tourism is one of the main attractions of Kashmir. The refreshing weather and invigorating surroundings make it an ideal destination for golf enthusiasts to enjoy the sport for as long as they like. The peak season for playing golf in Kashmir is between April to November with summers being the best time to enjoy the sport.
Kashmir has around four world-class golf courses with the ones at Pahalgam and Gulmarg being the most popular. The 9-hole golf course at Pahalgam, also popularly referred to as ‘Plateau’ by the locals, is considered to be the most elevated golf course on Earth and offers some of the most remarkable views of Kashmir’s beauty. The Gulmarg golf course also holds the record of being the highest green golf course with scenic views of the chinar and pine trees. You should definitely keep your phone or camera handy to capture the beauty of these photogenic locations.
What Are The Main Tourist Attractions In Kashmir?
Kashmir is filled with pockets of wonder and is a popular destination for tourists to explore from all over. Srinagar, Gulmarg, Pahalgam, and Sonamarg are some of the main tourist attractions in Kashmir. Here’s a list of all the places you should definitely be exploring in these towns and cities:
Srinagar: Dal Lake, Shalimar Bagh, Floating Post Office, Jama Masjid, Pari Mahal, Nehru Park, Chashme Shahi, and Shankaracharya Hill Temple.
Gulmarg: Khilanmarg, Strawberry Valley, Maharani Temple, and Apharwat Peak.
Pahalgam: Betaab Valley, Aru Village, Sheshnag Lake, Lidder River and Amusement Park, Saffron Fields, Mamleshwar Temple, and Anantnag Sulpher Springs.
Sonamarg: Manasbal Lake, Ganderbal, Narang Temple, and Thajiwas Glacier.
Apart from these, the Indira Gandhi Memorial Tulip Garden, Mughal Gardens, and the holy shrines of Vaishno Devi and Amarnath are also some of the main tourist attractions in Kashmir.
What Is The Most Famous In Kashmir?
The ‘Paradise on Earth’ is rightfully famous for a lot of things. From mesmerizing landscapes and scenic beauties like the Dal Lake, Pangong Lake, Tulip Garden, and Apharwat Peak, to lip-smacking Kashmiri cuisines like Nadroo Lakhni, Lamb Mutton Rogan Josh, Dum Aloo, and Gushtaba, Kashmir has everything that you would want to explore. All adventure junkies also flock to Kashmir to experience the thrill of paragliding, river rafting, hot air ballooning, skiing, camping, and much more.
How Can I Go To Kashmir?
Kashmir is well connected to all major parts of India by air, rail, and road. If you’re opting for air travel, Srinagar Airport (also known as the Sheikh Ul-Alam International Airport Srinagar) is located at a distance of approximately 14 km from the city center and it has flights connected to all major cities of India like Mumbai, Delhi, Goa, Bangalore, and more.
Jammu Tawi Railway Station operates several daily trains to and from all major Indian cities. If you want to reach Jammu and Kashmir by train. By road, the National Highway (NH) 1 and NH44 connect Kashmir to all major cities of India.
Which Fruit Is Famous In Kashmir?
Kashmir is most famous for its apple fruit production, but over the years, the state has also been recognized as a leader for its strawberry production.
What Are The Do’s And Don’ts In Kashmir?
Kashmir is a beautiful place waiting to be explored, but there are a few things that you need to keep in mind when visiting Kashmir. While you should definitely go and enjoy the must-visit attractions, try and return back to your hotel or homestay by dawn. Additionally, make sure to carry all your necessary medications as they may not be easily available in some parts of Kashmir. Avoid venturing into the upper destinations of Kashmir, if you’re suffering from some health ailments. Keep all important IDs on you and make sure to use Google Maps while using public transport. In the end, wear comfortable clothes and shoes, and be ready to explore the picturesque beauty of Kashmir.
What Is The Best Time To Visit Kashmir?
The months between March and June are the best time to visit Kashmir as the climate is ideal for sightseeing as the weather is neither hot nor too cold.
How Many Days Are Enough For Kashmir?
7 days are a good amount of time to explore Kashmir's major towns like Gulmarg, Sonmarg, Srinagar, Pahalgam, Dudhganga, and Yousmarg.
What Should I Wear In Kashmir?
Since Kashmir sees heavy snowfall and gets quite cold, make sure to carry heavy woolens like jackets, sweaters, cardigans, coats, socks, caps, mufflers, gloves, and thermal warmers.