Srinagar - Is the capital of Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir. The place has historical importance and finds mention in the ancient Hindu texts. This is established by the fact the ruins of Awantipura date back to 9th Century AD and even Sakaracharya established a temple atop hill by same name that overlooks the entire city. It is was favourite retreat for the Mughal rulers who built several gardens to beautify this place. Srinagar can be reached both by land & Air. You can either take a train upto Jammu and from there book a Taxi or take a bus to any destination in Kashmir. There are regular flights operating out of New Delhi and all the airlines offer flights to this destination including budget Airlines. The journey takes about one hour & forty minutes, however, the scenery is breathtaking from air as you enter the Kashmir Valley. Places of interest - Dal lakeis the most well known and famous spots in Srinagar, it is divided into four parts by cause waysand called as Gagribal, Lokut Dal, Bod Dal & Nagin. There are large number of house boats available for hire but near the Boulevard they are towards the higher end but as you approach towards the Jhelum River end the costs continue declining. The shikara ride in the lake is a really pleasurable experience, but you will be continually pesetered by shikara borne vendors, especially if some ladies are accompanying you.Sankaracharya hillboasts of a old Hindu temple stated to have been built during 200 BC by Ashokas Son placed atop this hill. The present temple is said to have been re-established by Shankaracharya and it takes a good forty minutes by car and an hour & ten minutes by auto to reach this spot from city centre and charges can vary anywhere from Rs.250/- to Rs.500/-, Srinagar is a city where one must bargain in all facets. Nishat bagh is one of the gardens laid down in typical mughal architectural style,the view of the garden is really refreshing and has a broad collection of varous flowering plants & fruit trees -
Nishat bagh panoramic view
Chasme Sahiis another of the mughal gardens, it is comparatively small but has a Chasma/spring whose water is said to have rejuvenating properties and hence enjoyed by the mughal kings. The other mughal garden is the Shalimar bagh which is situated on back side of lake & reached by a small canal. The other places visited by tourists in Srinagar are theHazratbal Mosque, Chattepadsahi Gurdwara, Jama Masjid etc.
Excursions from Srinagar (1) SONAMARG
Sindh river flowing - like picture post-card
Sonmarg also known as the 'Meadow of gold' and has been attributed the name as there are many wild flowers blooming in the valley. However, after visiting this visually breathtaking valley, in my opinion the name emnates from the fact that the entire valley contains paddy fields and during the harvesting season the entire valley glows golden brown and hence the name 'Meadow of gold' or Sonamarg. This place is situated about 96 Kms. south of Srinagar and is best accessed by a hired taxi (cost you around Rs.1,800/- to Rs.2200/- up & down for one day). The road meanders along the Sindh river and the journey is really a visual delight. One finally reaches Sonmarg situated at height of 2740 meters from where the trek to Thajiwas glacier begins and is best undertaken by pony as the climb is ardous. There are many small glaciers on the way.
Panoramic view of a small glacier in its entirity
The Thajiwas glacier.
Meadow of flowers - Gulmarg
Gulmarg is situated 52 Kms. from Srinagar and best accessed by a Taxi (round trip should cost around Rs.1600/-to Rs.1800/-). The road passes through the picturesque valley with poplar lined trees along the route. The hill track starts from tanmarg and reaches Gulmarg situated at height of 2730 metres. This meadow boasts of a golf course and a ropeway ride upto Kondongri & beyond to Aparhawat mountain top. The place is over crowded and hence did not charm me at all.
The route of Pahalgam (also known as the 'Valley of shepherds') a pristine hill station of J&K is situated at a distance of 95 Kms. from Srinagar and is on the banks of the Lidder river where Sheshnag river conjuncts with Lidder. The place is best accessed by taxi and costs around Rs.1800/- to Rs.2200/- for a round trip. Although Pahalgam as such does not offer any major attractions except that it is a very windy place and therefore, much sought after during the hot Indian summers. Pahalgam is also the major base for Amarnath yatra. Around Pahalgam there are many small excursions like Chandanwari, Baisaran, Aru and lake tulian.
Baisaran - the alpine meadow
Baisaran is 5 Kms from Pahalgam and the steep climb is best undertaken by pony which are available at Pahalgam and cost around Rs.300/- per pony for a round trip. The excercise undertaken is worth it as the view of the entire Pahalgam Valley is visible from View Point enroute. The view of the alpine meadow at Baisaran is stupendous and a reward in itself for the ardous journey undertaken by the traveller. The journey further takes you to lake Tulian but this journey is difficult and time consuming.
(4) AWANTIPUR RUINS
Awantipur ruins of Vishnu temple
Enroute Pahalgam one passes through ruins of Awantipur temple dedicated to lord Vishnu (larger one) & lord Shiva (smaller one). These temples were built by King Avantivarman during 855 to 883 AD and display fine relief sculptures and columns. It is now a protected monument by the ASI.
(5) MATTAN TEMPLE
Mattan temple complex - Shivling
Mattan is an old Hindu temple complex enroute to Pahalgam. One has to take a brief detour from the main road to reach the site. Once seat of Kashmiri Pundits, the place is now heavily guarded by para-military forces and entry is permitted after heavy frisking.
The journey is worth undertaking as the beauty and serenety of the place makes a deep impression on your mind & body.