Kashmir – A Heaven on Earth
Jammu and Kashmir, India’s one of the most picturesque state lies on the peaks of Himalayan Ranges with varying topography and culture. Jammu was the stronghold of Hindu Dogra kings and abounds with popular temples and secluded forest retreats. Kashmir’s capital city, Srinagar offers delightful holidays on the lakes with their shikaras and houseboats.
Kashmir,the upper most alpine region of North India’s the ethereal cold desert that goes by names such as “The Last Shangrila”, Moonscape, Little Tibet and so on. Ladakh is an endearing abode of scenic charisma and diverse adventure activities like rafting, jeep safari, water sports and much more. Nestling in the lap of the dazzling, snow-capped Himalayas, the Kashmir valley is undoubtedly a jewel in India’s crown. An inspiration for so much art, music and poetry, Kashmir is also honeymooners’ paradise, a nature lover’s wonderland and a shopper’s dream come true.
Over the years, Kashmir tourism has come a long way, to love and look after its tourists, fulfilling their every whim. Tourists are everywhere, soaking up all that Kashmir has to offer – the walks, the pony treks, the shikara rides at sunset on the Dal lake…
and once you have visited Kashmir,, you will agree that what began as a dream, lives on as an unforgettable experience.
Set like a jeweled crown on the map of India, Kashmir is a multi-faceted diamond, changing its hues with the seasons – always extravagantly beautiful. Two major Himalayan ranges, the Great Himalayan Range and the Pir Panjal, surround the landscape from the north and south respectively. They are the source of great rivers, which flow down into the valleys, forested with orchards and decorated by lily-laden lakes.
The Mughals aptly called Kashmir ‘Paradise on Earth’ where they journeyed across the hot plains of India, to the valley’s cool environs in summer. Here they laid, with great love and care, Srinagar’s many formal, waterfront gardens, now collectively known as the Mughal Gardens. Anecdotes of four and five centuries ago describe their love for these gardens, and the rivalries that centered around their ownership. They also patronized the development of art & craft among the people of Kashmir, leaving behind a heritage of exquisite artisanship among these people and making the handicrafts of the land prized gifts all over the world.
Kashmir is a land where myriad holiday ideas are realised. In winter, when snow carpets the mountains, there is skiing, tobogganing, sledge-riding, etc. along the gentle slopes. In spring and summer, the honey-dewed orchards, rippling lakes and blue skies beckon every soul to sample the many delights the mountains and valleys have to offer. Golfing at 2,700 m above the sea, water-skiing in the lakes and angling for prized rainbow trout, or simply drifting down the willow fringed alleys of lakes in shikaras and living in gorgeous houseboats are some of the most favoured ones.
Kashmir has four distinct seasons, each with its own peculiar character and distinctive charm. These are spring, summer, autumn and winter.
Spring, which extends roughly from March to early May, is when a million blossoms carpet the ground. The weather during this time can be gloriously pleasant at 23 degree Centigrade or chilly and windy at 6 degree Centigrade. This is the season when Srinagar experiences rains, but the showers are brief.
Summer extends from May until the end of August. Light woollens may be required to wear out of Srinagar. In higher altitudes night temperatures drop slightly. Srinagar at this time experiences day temperatures of between 25oC and 35oC. At this time, the whole valley is a mosaic of varying shades of green – rice fields, meadows, trees, etc. and Srinagar with its lakes and waterways is a heaven after the scorching heat of the Indian plains.
The onset of autumn, perhaps Kashmir’s loveliest season, is towards September, when green turns to gold and then to russet and red. The highest day temperatures in September are around 23oC and night temperatures dip to 10oC by October, and further drop by November, when heavy woolens are essential.
Through December, to the beginning of March is winter time, which presents Srinagar in yet another mood. Bare, snow-covered landscapes being watched from beside the warmth of a fire is a joy that cannot be described to anyone who has not experienced it. Some houseboats and hotels remain open in winter-these are either centrally heated or heated with ‘bukharis’, a typically Kashmiri stove kept alight with embers of wood, quite effective in the winter.
Srinagar – The capital of Kashmir
Srinagar is located in the heart of the Kashmir valley at an altitude of 1,730 m above sea level, spread on both sides of the river Jhelum. The Dal and Nagin lakes enhance its picturesque setting, while the changing play of the seasons and the salubrious climate ensures that the city is equally attractive to visitors around the year.
Kalhana, the author of ‘Rajtarangini’, states that Srinagri was founded by Emperor Ashoka (3rd Century BC). The present city of Srinagar was founded by Pravarasena-II, and Hiuen Tsang, who visited Kashmir in 631 AD, found it at the same site as it is today. Laltaditya Muktapida was the most illustrious ruler of Kashmir in the Hindu period, which ended in 1339 AD. King Zain-ul-Abidin (1420-70 AD), popularly known as ‘Budshah’, was a great patron of Sanskrit. Akbar captured Kashmir valley for the Mughals, who endowed Srinagar with beautiful mosques and gardens. The Sikhs overthrew the last Muslim ruler in the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1819. In 1846 the Dogras secured the sovereignty of Kashmir from the British under the Treaty of Amrjtsar, and in 1947 the state of Jammu and Kashmir with Srinagar as its capital, became part of the Indian Union.
Today Srinagar is a resort for the tourist who can experience, at first hand, the peculiar beauty of the valley that has attracted the Chinese, the Mughals and the British to it.
Its waterways with their own quaint lifestyle, the unique Houseboat, the blossoming gardens, water sports activities, shopping for lovingly hand-crafted souvenirs and the nearby resorts make it a cherished spot among those looking for a memorable holiday.
How to get there?
Indian Airlines operate regular daily flights to Srinagar from Delhi, Mumbai and Jammu. They leave from Delhi directly, from Delhi via Jammu, and from Bombay via New Delhi and Jammu. Jet Airways also operate daily flights to Srinagar from Delhi as well as Jammu. Indian Airlines has its city office in the Tourist Reception Centre, while the Jet Airways office is close by.
Srinagar airport is 14 kms from the city. The taxi ride to the Tourist Reception Centre costs about Rs.250/-. Jammu & Kashmir State Road Transport Corporation (J&KSRTC) operates special coach services between the airport and the city.
Indian Airlines: Airport Office Tel. : 2430334, 2430163
City Office Tel. : 2450256, 2450247
Jet Airways: Airport Office Tel. : 0194-2433035, 2433007
City Office :
Tel. : 0194-2480801-06.
Note: All foreigners are required to register themselves at the Foreigners Regional Registration Office, at its Airport counter.
The nearest railhead for Srinagar is Jammu Tawi (305 kms) where trains arrive from Delhi, Calcutta, Pune, Mumbai, Kanyakumari, Ahmedabad, etc. As with flights, train bookings have to be made well in advance. During the holiday season, additional trains operate to and from various parts of the country.
National Highway 1-A, connecting Srinagar with Jammu, is a good, all-weather road with several sharp inclines and hairpin bends. It is maintained by the Border Roads Organization (BRO), which clears the road of any obstructions resulting from natural causes like landslides and heavy snowfall. The famous Jawahar Tunnel that connects Jammu with the Kashmir Valley across the Pir Panjal range falls en route.
Super deluxe, A-class, B-class busses are operated by J&K SRTC as well as other transport agencies. These take approx. 11 hours to cover the journey and the cost per seat in J&K SRTC bus is Rs 150/- for super deluxe, Rs.110/- for A-class and Rs.100/- for B-class coaches
From Delhi an express coach service is available, which takes 26 hours to reach Srinagar at the cost per seat of Rs.750/-. For booking contact J&K SRTC Office, Kanishka Shopping Plaza, Ashok Road, New Delhi.
It is also possible to travel by taxi from Jammu to Srinagar in about 8 hours. The cost is Rs.2100/-(Tata Sumo) & Rs.2400/- car taxi. If you are travelling alone, it is worth enquiring at the taxi stand in the Tourist Reception Centre, Jammu (Tel 2546266) about the availability of taking a shared taxi at an approximate cost of Rs.460/- per head in car taxi Rs. 300/- per head in Tata Sumo.
For those wishing to travel to Srinagar by a private car from Jammu, there are several places en route which have been developed for the convenience of the motorist. Among them Jajjar Kotli, Kud, Pantnitop, Batote, Ramban, Banihal and Qazi Gund, all having tourist bungalows and provisions for meals, snacks, petrol pumps and repairs.
Coaches: The J&K Tourism Development Corporation (J&K TDC) and the J&K Road Transport Corporation (J&K SRTC) operate luxury coaches for tourists. For reservation and bookings contact:
J&K TDC Booking Office, TRC,
Tel. Nos. 2457930, 2472644,
J&K SRTC Booking Office, TRC,
Tel. No. 2455107
Taxis for local sightseeing as well as long journeys out of Srinagar can be hired from the following Tourist Taxi Stands mentioned below:
Tourist Reception Centre
Tel. No. 2452527,
Nehru Park Tel. No. 2453657,
Dalgate Tel. No. 2472146
Lal Chowk Tel No. 2474898
The most widely used local transport is the Mini Bus, which operates, all over the city as well as the suburban areas on fixed routes. Auto rickshaws are also easily available from all points in the city on negotiable rates.
Houseboats- Best place to stay
Many tourists are attracted to Srinagar by the charm of staying on a houseboat, which provides the unique experience of living on the water in a cedar-panelled elegant bedroom, with all the conveniences of a luxury hotel. Srinagar’s thousand or so houseboats are moored along sections of the Dal and Nagin Lakes and river Jhelum, each decorated fancifully and named romantically and even whimsically. Like hotels, houseboats vary in degree of luxury and have been accordingly graded by the Department of Tourism. A luxury houseboat, like a luxury hotel has fine furniture, good carpets and modern bathroom fittings, while the ‘D category’ (the lowest category) of houseboats, like low-budget hotels, is spartanly furnished. Like hotels too, houseboats vary widely in their locations. Some overlook the main road, others look out onto lotus gardens and yet others face tiny local markets and villages, all right in the middle of the lake! All houseboats, regardless of category, have highly personalized service. Not only is there always a “houseboy” for every boat, but the owner and his family are never far away. The cost per day of hiring a houseboat includes all meals and free rides from the houseboat to the nearest jetty and back, as no houseboat on the lakes is directly accessible from the banks.
Every standard houseboat provides a balcony in the front, a lounge, dining room, pantry and 3 or more bedrooms with attached bathrooms. All houseboats not moored to the bank of the river or lakes provide a shikara as a free service from the houseboat to the nearest ghat (jetty). Virtually every houseboat in Srinagar has been provided with a municipal water connection.
Category and location of houseboats
The State Tourism Department has classified the houseboats into five categories – Deluxe, A, B, C and D, corresponding more or less to the degree of comfort and service of hotels.
There are 1087 registered houseboats in Srinagar of which 702 are anchored in the Dal Lake, 173 in the Nagin Lake, 142 on the River Jhelum, 5 on the Dal Lake near Naseem Bagh, and the rest in other water bodies. Among these, 349 houseboats with a combined capacity of 1007 double rooms are in the Deluxe class and are mainly anchored in Dal Lake, Nageen Lake, and Naseem Bagh. In addition there are 129 A-class houseboats, 124 B-class houseboats, 134 C-class houseboats and 351 D-class houseboats.