Jammu, 585km from delhi, is the gateway to the Kashmir valley. Situated on an expansive hillock, beside the river Tawi, it has an excellent setting surrounded by lakes and hills and studded with ancient temples.
The word jammu is perhaps derived from the name of its founder, king jamboo lochan of the 9th century. The present city, however, built by Maharaja Gulab sing in the first part of the 19th century.
Built in 1883, this shrine for lord shiva, apart from the main symbol of shiva, has twelve crystal symbols and thousands more fixed on stone slabs. This temple built by Maharaja Ranbir singh in 1883 and is north India’s biggest Shiva temple.
A km northeast of the old quarter on Circular road is the peer kho(cave) shrine on the banks of the River tawi. It is also known as jamvant gufa as it is widely believed the jamvant, the bear god mentioned in the Ramayana, meditated here. After half crawling half crouching through a low tunnel, you reach the highly enervated shivaling, where the ingenious priests have found a way to keep both lord shiva and themselves cool in summer – by fitting an air conditioner into the wall of the cave
Timing: Daily: 6.00 AM - 8.00 PM
Amidst a group of smaller temples consecrated to different gods and goddesses connected with the Ramayana, in the very heart of the city stands this shrine of Rama. The inner walls of the main temple are covered with gold. Here are galleries with lakhs of saligras – the rare sacred black stones. Also a Rama temple, this shrine depicts scenes from the lives of Rama and Krishna through paintings. The construction of temple initiated by founder of Jammu and Kashmir kindgdom Maharaja Gulab Singh in 1835 and completed in 1860 by his son Maharaja Ranbir Singh.
Timing: 5am to 930pm
After enjoying a view of the Ranbir canal, you can visit bahu fort on a rock face on the left bank of the river Tawi. The original fort is said to have been built by King Bahulochan of a remote past. The present fort was the work of later Dogra rulers. A temple dedicated to Goddess kali is also a place to visit and pray.
The fort is believed to be Jammu’s oldest extant structure, as it is said to have been built by the vedic-era king, bahu lochan, over 2 millennia ago. Maharaja Gulab Singh refurbished its low-slung ramparts in the 1820s and also built the Mansabdar’s palace within. In front of the fort are the lovely terraced gardens of Bagh-e-Bahu, full of seasonal flowers and fountains. Early mornings and evenings are the best time to visit.
Entry ticket: 10Rs. children 5Rs. Timing: 8:00 AM - 10.00 PM apr to aug, 9Am to 8Pm sep to mar daily
BAGH-E BAHU AQUARIUM
On the front side of the fort is a large, colorful building that houses the excellent Aquarium cum awareness centre. Run by the department of fisheries, it is a great place for children and zoology students, featuring video presentations, well captioned fish tanks, and rare species bottled in formaldehyde.
Entry Rs 20 per adult, Rs. 10 per child. Timings 9am to 9pm apr to aug, 9am to 8pm sep to mar daily
Food specialties to try in Jammu are the traditional achaar and delicious processed cheese made only during winters called kalaadi. Don’t forget to snap up your whole year’s supply of dry fruit when visiting Raghunath bazaar. You can also pick up traditional kashmiri or modern handloom items like pashmina shawls and even tweed cloth. You will also find plenty of small handicrafts and handloom stores in the lanes around residency road and raghunath bazaar. The popular city square mall on gulab singh marg has brands and a food court.
Scenic Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu And Kashmir State sprawls elegantly on both sides of the river Jhelum. This city of lakes and gardens was originally named as Srinagari and was founded by emperor Ashoka (3rd century BC). Srinagar was the summer resort of the Mughals, who built gorgeous gardens with fountains, waterways, pavilions and terraces placed between groves of chinar and willow. The city, 1768m above sea level, has bracing climate and the temperature varies from -2.30 C in winter to 30.8O C in summer. Heavy woolens are necessary in winter.
For the valley so associated with water, kashmir’s name surprises us with its meaning: ‘kashmir’ means ‘desiccated’. Till you realize that according to mythology, kashyapa muni had drained a huge lake to bring forth this land. Of course, he did not drain it entirely, so Srinagar in the heart of the vale of Kashmir is blessed with a river and several lakes cradled by the zabarwan hills.
Srinagar is the beautiful city of Shehr-i-khas. Srinagar lives up to these names even today; after years of insurgency, army occupation and also the three seasons of frenetic tourism. It shows off the natural beauty that had generations of Indians, from Mughal emperors to audiences of Kashmir ki kali sighing.
Hills, gardens and lakes; the best of food and delicate crafts; staying in houseboats, going water skiing or speed boating, and now even a breathtaking balloon ride.
This beautiful city has grown on the banks of the river Jhelum. On the edge of the city is the Dal Lake 8km long and 4km wide. Delightful Dal, the largest lake of the city is indeed the icon and focal point of Srinagar. The lovely lake is divided by jetty into four parts - Gagribal, Lokutdal, Boddal and Nagin. Both Lokutda and boddal have an island in the center – called as Rup Lank or Char Chinari and Sona Lank respectively. Nagin Lake at the foot of Shridhara Mountain is the smallest and most beautiful part of the Dal.
A novel experience awaiting the visitors is the opportunity to live in the house boats, some of which are quite sophisticated with all the modern amenities. Apart from the Dal Lake, they are available in the river Jhelum and the Nagin Lake.
The house boats spread their empire on the vast Dal, its water covering some 21 sq km. houseboats, shikaras, floating gardens, lily pads, lotuses, kingfishers, fish, water birds, islands given over to tourism. The colorful shikaras, with bright yellow canopies and dark maroon carpets will await to welcome you on board. A short trip around the lake costs Rs400 per hour. A shikara ride to char chinar and back costs Rs800 to 1000 for 4 adults and 2 children. These rides are like floating on an aquarium. You can also take an extended excursion on a shikara. It is rs2000 to 2500 for a circuit from Nehru park past hazratbal, nigeen lake, rainawari and back. Or take up the offer of a 2 days houseboat expedition to ganderbal. The typical houseboat has 2 to 5 rooms with attached bathrooms, a balcony rarely plain; intricate carving is common on the walls and roof, kashmiri carpets and rugs adorn most floors, and a dining room and sitting room are customary. The houseboats are run by joint families.
Water sport and adventure activities: on the dal has been converted to a park by the tourism department. For an idea Speed boats from rs.500 to 1000, water skiing rs300 per round and water surfing rs250 per round are on offer in summer.
Walking down the boulevard you come across a huge balloon gently inviting you to the skies. The ‘aero balloon’ can carry 5 people at a time and goes up about 100m, yielding wonderful aerial view of dal lake costing rs.500 per person for 10 to 12 minutes at zabarwan park.
CHASHMA SHAHI AND PARI MAHAL
The magnificent garden overlooking the city and lovely lake is 9km from the city laid out by emperor Jehangir and enriched by shah Jahan in 1632. It is the smallest of Srinagar’s Mughal gardens with three artistically designed terraces and a natural spring of water enclosed in a stone pavilion. The water of the spring is said to possess some curative properties. Located high above the Dal, on zabarwan hill; the garden shows off the lake in its bowl like setting among the hills to great advantage. Close by are the pari mahal gardens built by dara shikoh as a retreat for sufi scholars, with more panoramic views.
Timing : The garden is open from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm with the last entry time being 4:30 pm. The garden is closed on Fridays.
Entry Fee: Rs.20, rs. 10 for child
The white marble mosque is situated on the western shore of the Dal Lake opposite to Nishant Bagh. It is 7km from the city. Enshrines a holy hair (bal) of prophet Mohammed, which was brought to Kashmir in 1700 by khaja Niruddin from Bijapur. It is not allowed to be seen by people of other religion and is regarded as one of the holiest mosques of Kashmir.
Timing: from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm.
This garden of Bliss is situated on the banks of the Dal Lake that is 11 km from the city, in the lap of the Zabarwan hills. The garden is laid out in ten terraces, with cascades, chinar trees, flowerbeds and fruit trees. Largest of all Mughal gardens the 544 X 328 sqm. Nishat bagh was designed and built by Asaf khan in 1633, shah Jahan’s father in law, as a terraced garden surrounded by high walls. The 12 terraces represent 12 signs of the zodiac. Nishat was commissioned by nor jehan’s brother asif khan. Legend says that shah jehan, jehangir’s son, was so taken by the garden that he expressed his appreciation three times to asif khan in hope of getting it as a gift. This led to a minor falling out between the two; for a while shah jehan turned off the water supply for nishat, which came through his Shalimar!
Timing: From 9:30 am to 5:30 pm. closed on Fridays. Entry : Rs.20, child rs10.
The beautiful terraced garden was laid by emperor Jehangir for his beloved wife Nur Jahan and is situated 15km from the city. It has fine fountains in between and a canal runs through the middle of the garden which is supplied with water from Harwan. Among the four terraces of the garden the fourth one used to be reserved for the royal ladies. Panoramic view of the garden and lake can be enjoyed from here. Jahangir had named his garden Farah Baksh (delightful); he loved Kashmir so much that he and nor jehan visited Srinagar at least 13 times. Shah jahan had the garden extended, the pathan and sikh rulers of Kashmir used it too.
From May to October the India tourism development corporation presents a sound and light spectacle here.
Timing: April to October from 9:00 am till 7:00 pm and from November to March it opens from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. Best time to visit: during autumn and spring season (September-October and mid-Feb till mid-April) Entry Fee: Rs.20, child rs10
HARI PARBAT FORT
This hill 5km from the city is believed to have grown out of a pebble thrown by Goddess Parvati, was the site of a number of temples in the past. The hill fortified by Emperor Akbar 1592-98 and was further developed in the 18th century by Afghan governor Atta Mohammed khan. Presently the fort is in the state of ruins and the historic shrine of shah makhdum sahib on the slopes of har parbat hill. There are almond orchards around it, when in bloom they present a magnificent sight in spring.
Monday - Friday: 9.30 AM - 5.30 PM , Saturday: 9.30 AM - 5.30 PM , Sunday: 9.30 AM - 5.30 PM , Public Holidays: 9.30 AM - 5.30 PM
Reachable both by road and preferably by a long shikara ride, hazratbal mosque is located on the far side of the Dal, its white marble reflecting gracefully in the waters of the lake; it is the only domed mosque in the Srinagar area.
You can try bazaar around the mosque for kashmiri street food like puris.
The peak of shankaracharya hill is 1000ft above lake. This shiva temple is associated with adi shankaracharya 788-820AD, who is said to have meditated here. This hill was originally called the takht-i-suleiman. Later when adi shankaracharya stayed here in the course of his travels, the hill came to be known after him. The temple is believed to be 6th century jyeshtheshvara temple built by a king gopaditya. The panoramic views, old grey stones of the temple, the fresh wind, all manage to transcend the noisy modern devotional music that goes on here all day.
Timing: from 7:00 am till 8:00 pm., you must leave phones and cameras behind in your vehicle
Originally built by the infamous sultan sikandar butshikan in 1394, and enhanced by his son, the popular sultan zain ul abiding. Masjid was damaged by fire thrice, and each time rebuilt by the reigning local ruler. The most remarkable feature of the masjid is the 378 pillars of deodar wood that hold up the wooden ceiling, beautiful in their uncared simplicity. The courtyard is a pleasant space constituted by a fountain, lawns, chinar trees and a backdrop of the hari parbat hill.
Entry is free of cost.
The harwan gardens are not mughal at all but a modern imitation, dignified only by the presence of a few chinars. But at the top of the garden lies the reservoir that feeds the authentic gardens. Before you leave take the path immediately on the left as you exit harwan gardens and visit khandar or to harichandroz. A short walk along an irrigation channel and past apple orchards and you will find yourself at the historic ruins of the 4th – 5th century harwan vihara.
Entry fees rs. 10. Timing: 9am to 7pm apr to oct, 10am to 7pm nov to march.
Carpets, shawls, papier mache, walnut carvings, saffron. Kashmir’s legendary offerings have for so long justifiably dominated the popular imagination and Srinagar is indeed a shopper’s paradise. The main market at lal chowk, polo view road, budshah chowk, residency road and the bazaars on the banks of the banks of the Jhelum. Good bargaining skills will come in handy. Saffron makes a small, packable gift item, from rs 200 to 220 per gm. You can pick it up from shikaras that come hawking to your houseboat, from lal chowk area or producing fields of lethpora, pammore. The lal chowk area, especially kukar bazaar, has plenty of dry fruits. Another place to shop for food gifts is shehjaar bazaar in rajbagh.
DACHIGAM NATIONAL PARK
22km from Srinagar, this was a royal game reserve. It covers an area of 141sq kms. With varying altitude between 1700 and 4300m. A river with a large number of herons runs through lower Dachigam. This protected place provides shelter to the Himalayan black and brown bear, musk deer, and the hangul or the Kashmir stag – a cousin of the Scottish red deer, himalyan marmot, leopard, species of wild goats etc. exotic birds like the iridescent monal pheasant, crimson tragopan etc. can also be seen here.
Located 26km from Srinagar built by king avantivrman, the first ruler of the Utpala dynasty of Kashmir in the 9th century, the avantisvami temple to Vishnu has some recovnisable sculptures and carved stones.
Situated at an altitude of 1677m and 60km south to Srinagar, this mughal style garden was the retreat the Empress nur jahan. “The places of the princess” Jahangir laid out a fine garden over here for his beloved wife.
Achabal itself is a small town, just a short drive from the clamour of anantnag. Its justifiably famous for its garden, one of the most beautiful examples of a kashmiri mughal garden, playing out the symphony of water, wood and stone.
It was built in 1620 by empress for jehan and named begumabad in her honour. Though jehangir himself had not laid this garden, it has yet another name, after him sahebadad. The garden is laid with a hill in the background, whose rocks and trees are juxtaposed beautifully with the stone and tree of the garden. The garden laid out at the time of noor jehan was much bigger than what we see today. It had four terraces and a number of buildings there were pools, cascades and water channels. Later hammam was added to the garden in the 17th century by jehanara begum, the oldest daughter of shah jehan.
Opening hours: 9am and 5 pm. Entry Fee is Rs. 10 per head.
Gorgeous Gulmarg is 51km from Srinagar. At an altitude of 2653m Gulmarg is ringed by tall firs and pines. Gulmarg literally means “Meadow of Flowers” is one of the most unique hill resorts of the world. The region of Gulmarg becomes all the more beautiful as one season changes into another. Gulmarg is also famous for various outdoor sports like golf, horse riding, skiing, trekking.
Once known as ‘Gaurimarg’ in honour of Gauri or parvati by the shepherds who would graze their sheep here, this hill station was first ‘discovered’ as a resort town by the 16th century kashmiri ruler yusuf shah chak, who was so impressed with the flower carpeted meadow that he named it Gulmarg or ‘medow of flowers’. Gulmarg was also the preferred gateway for mughal emperor jehangir, no stranger to the charms of Kashmir. Then came the british, homesick for the glens of Scotland and seeking to escape the scorching heat of the northern plains. Much later, bollywood too discovered gulmarg’s blue skies and pristine slpes as the perfect location for dancing around trees. Name a star from the 60s or 70s and they will have pranced around trees in gulmarg.
Skiing, golfing, trekking or snowboarding whatever your heart fancies, gulmarg has some action for you. With wide open spaces, nature walks, bird watching and gondola and pony rides family may have better time with you.
Gulmarg is located within the gulmarg biosphere reserve under the north Kashmir wildlife division, which is headquarted in sopore. The reserve is the natural habitat of the musk deer, red fox, flying squirrel and black and brown bear. It also happens to be a bird watchers paradise.
It’s the best ski destinations in Asia, gulmarg’s gentle slpes are perfect for first timers, the more advanced skiers also have the option of slaloming down from higher points accessible thanks to the gondola cable car, which takes you up to either the first stage at kongdori a 3.5km or apharwat a 5.2km frun from height of 13450ft
Child (3 to 10 Year)
Child Below (3 Year)
Gulmarg to Kungdoor
Kungdoor to Aparwath
Kungdori to Marry Shoulder
Opening hours: morning 9am to afternoon 3pm
At the foot of the apharwat peak, 13km, away is the Alpather Lake which remains frozen till mid June.
Gulmarg is an ideal base for treks and at 2896m, it has the highest natural golf course in the world. A 500m long chair lift and 200m long ski lift have been installed.
Carpeted with flowers, Khilanmarg is only 40 minutes approx 1.5km uphill walk from Aparwath. It presents the magnificent sigh of the Nanga Parbat (8137m), one of the highest mountains in the world.
STRAWBERRY BALLY PONY RIDE
About half an hour into the pony ride on the outer ring road, you reach a ‘kashmir valley view’ from where you can see all the elements of the Kashmir valley. In another half an hour, you reach the strawberry valley. You get more than panoramic views of the valleys, apharwat peak, local villages, and the army area with ningli nallah stream, gurgling below. And you can see all this surrounded by peaceful sheeps. If you visit in april or may, the flowers are spread like a carpet through the forest. The ride costs rs800 for a pony and rs600 for guide for an idea, who can guide you for flora and fauna.
Tangmarg is a fruit bowl town an hour’s drive west of Srinagar in baramulla district, just 13km short of gulmarg on the narbal tangmarg road. Situated in the forested foothills of the pir pajal range, tangmarg is a quite little hill town in the vicinity of gulmarg. Most of tangmarg’s activity centers around the main drag along the narbal tangmarg road, starting with the colorful chandilora market on the outskirts of town. Tangmarg;s real beauty lies off the main road in its apple, walnut and cherry orchards and miles of flooded rice fields that are interspersed with wild flowers.
Sonmarg, the ‘meadow of gold’ at an attitude of2730m located 84km from Gulmarg is high altitude vvalley that packs it in all – rolling hills, craggy peaks, rushing streams, a glacier, a trout filled river, and mile upon miles of pine trees seems to do so.
During winters, sonmarg stays covered beneath a snow blanket, however during summers, thousands of visitors come down to this small town, which is also the last major supply stop for troops bound for kargil, drass and the battlefields beyond, and the stream of devotees handing to the holy amaranth cave, placing further strain on the ecology of this beautiful valley.
Is in the valley engraved nicely with the waters of the almighty Indus river. The prettiness of the flourishing valley full of alpine flower and towering conifers with incredible Indus meandering through it and snow clad peaks in the background, which brings a long lasting impression on the minds of the visitor.
Encircled by a dozen snow capped peaks and a pine and fir wood, pahalgam at an altitude of 2195m is 97km from Srinagar. The situation is exquisite, being at the junction of two streams, lidder and sheshnag. It is also the base camp for the journey to the sacred Amarnath cave.
Pahalgam means humble shepherd’s village (pahel means shepherd and gam is village), high up in the Himalayas at the confluence of two streams on the route to amaranth. Pahalgam lies along the Lidder. Pahalgam used to be a one and a half street town but has grown in the past few years. The center of the town has some shops, small restaurants, most of the hotels, the taxi and bus stands and the tourist reception center. The reason why pahalgam has long been one of the most famous hill stations in India are the lidder river and the simply stunning surrounding countryside.
Lidder river is what makes pahalgam so alluring. The lidder has two main tributaries lidder east flowing from sheshnag lake and lidder west flowing from kolahoi glacier.
About 2 km, from pahelgam is Baisaran, a glen commanding a charming view of the forest. This is 152m up on the mountain side. This is also known as ‘mini Switzerland of India’. From Baisaran you can have great panoramic view of Pahalgam and lidderwat valley.
Halfway along the chandanwari road lies betaab vally at 8km, a gorgeous expanse by the lidder offering fantastic views of the Himalayas. Made famous by the movie betaab starring sanny deol and amrita singh. Earlier was known as hagan valley is a picture perfect little expanse of green with a river flowing through it and mountains as a backdrop.
Lidderwat river rafting: pahalgam is also the right destination if you would like to take up adventure soprts in a serious fashion. The white water rafting season here extends from april 1st to august 15. Approved rates are rs400 for a short rafting ride of 2km and rs 800 for a long rids of 5km.
The valley around aru is a small opening in the narrow lidder valley, where the lidder is joined by naphran nallah coming down from katarang, whose twin peaks rise above the valley. The village is at the bottom end, and the rest of the valley is covered in a chubby green carpet. You can find a nice spot and enjoy the view around, or walk around and get different photography angles.
In the hinterland of rock and snow, at a height of 3962m is situated an unusual shrine not built by man but by nature.
A strange phenomenon continues to take place. Amaranth is 46km from pahalgam and 153km from Srinagar. The trek from pahalgam is arduous but exiting. The road leads through one of the most beautiful mountain regions of the world. The holy cave is at an altitude of 3962m is 2 feet long, 55 feet broad and 50 feet deep. It enshrines ice ‘Shivalingam’, which created naturally by water dripping through limestone roof. July to September is the time when thousands of people from all over India gather at Pahalgam and begin the journey. Trek to Amarnath takes 3 to 5 weeks.
62km away from Jammu this ancient cave shrine is situated in a recess of the Trikuta hill. The Trikuta bhagwati, popularly known as Vaishno Devi, draws lakhs of visitors round the year. The cave, at an elevation of 5300 feet, has three images of the devi representing her creative, preserving and destroying aspects.
Timing: the shrine is open round the clock through out the year. The cave is closed for darshan for 2 hrs, for aarti at sunrise and sunset.
Special darshan is possible in the shraddha suman vishesh pooja aarti which costs rs 16000 for one, rs 31000 for two, rs.46000 for three.
107km northeast of jammu and 191km south of Srinagar situated at the very top of a densely wooded hill above the Chenab river gorge, patnitop has long been jammu’s most famous hill station. At 6640ft it is the highest point along the jammu-Srinagar highway and one of the few low lying jammu that receives snowfall in winter.
Once home to a ski school for beginners, changing weather patterns have reduced patnitop’s winter snowfall from 5-6ft 10 years ago to barely 2ft today. Although annual snowfall is no longer deep enough for skis, happily, it is still perfect for sledges, snowmen, snow angels and snowballs fights.
The highway winds through patni top, where a row of shops sells chips, cold drinks and wooden souvenirs, whittled locally from cedar and pine. A gully leads down to the 600 years old Nag temple, heavily visited by devotees of lord shiva.
44km from patnitop. 4km short of sudh mahadev is Gauri kund, the legendary spring where Goddess parvati is believed to have bathed before her daily prayers at sudh mahadev. Sudh mahadev itself houses a famous shiva temple. The sudh mahadev shool paneeswar mandir.
7km south of sudh mahadev, a beautiful drive through thick deodar forests, is Mantalai, with its apple orchards and citrus groves. The pond at the Gauri mandir here is believed to be the spot where lord shiva married parvati.
49km east of jammu mansar lake is a quiet, laidback place, good for walks, boat rides and temple visits. A paved walkway rings the lake, backed by well-tended, manicured lawns. Ubiquitous paddle and woboats lie moored along the eastern shore, which is dotted with temples.
Mansar lake’s main shrine, the pracheen baba sheshnag-ji temple. A temple to durga, another to narasimha(vishu’s half man half lion avtar) and a third to umapati mahadev (parvati-shiva) lie in the vicinity.
Paddle boat fee Rs. 100 for one hr for 4 people. Timing: 7am to 7pm
FOOD OF KASHMIR
Here is a taste of dishes from kashmiri home kitchens and banquets that you will encounter throughout your visit. Few veg dishes to explain which you can try:
Chaman: paneer, which is made in a variety of styles; is a dish of fried paneer cubes in a creamy turmeric gravy, methi chaman flavoured with fenugreek and the simplest everyday chaman dish, ruwangan chaman with pannier cubes in a tomato gravy.
Phirni: milk and rice boiled with saffron, almonds, pistachios and cardamom.
Kahwa: the kahwa or ‘mughal chai’ is much more than kashmiri tea. It uses green tea leaves, certainly, but than using good old dall chini, elaichi and crushed almonds and sometime saffron.
THINGS TO BUY IN KASHMIR
Variety of Kashmir made pashmina shwls, hand wovan carpets, intricate wood work, cricket bats carved from willow should not be missed.
Kashmir pashmina shawls and woolen stoles are famous beyond india. While an original pashmina stole costs around rs1000 and shawls starts from rs4000. Pheran, this woolen knee length top starts from rs600.
Hand woven kashmiri carpets feature a uniue blend of Indian and Persian weaving styles. Prices start at rs3000 depending on size and fabric. Another handmade product is namdas or felted wool or cotton rugs. Starts from rs3000.
Saffron and dry fruits: most famous and known Kashmir valley is the king of spices, saffron. Extremely expensive and famous for its delicate aroma, saffron is an essential ingredient in many Indian dishes. Which you will find at rs200 per gram. Kashmiri dry fruit make their way into mithai and desserts across india. Walnuts, dried apricots, pine nuts, kiwis and almonds are available in all grocery shops.
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