Scenic Sonamarg (“Meadow of Gold”) is famous for its Thajiwas Glacier. What’s remarkable about this glacier is how accessible it is. From the highway, you can hike up to the glacier and back in around five hours. If you don’t have so much time to spare, it’s possible to ride a pony instead, or take a shared taxi. Scenes from many Bollywood movies have been filmed in the area, and you won’t have to try very hard to feel like you’re in one! There are a number of options for meals and accommodation in Sonamarg.
Location: On the Srinagar-Ladakh Highway, 2.5 hours northeast of Srinagar.
Travel Tips: Be aware of aggressive local touts, pony owners, and taxi drivers who try to exploit tourists. They quote really high prices, especially during peak season. Do bargain hard. The Tourist Reception Centre opposite the main market in Sonamarg is the best place to get information and approved taxi rates. Visit from mid-April to June if you want to go there for the snow.
Gulmarg (“Meadow of Flowers”) is India’s version of a ski resort. If you’re not into skiing, you may still want to let the gondola whisk you more than 13,000 feet up Mount Apharwat for outstanding views. Apparently, it’s the world’s highest cable car. Ubiquitous pony rides are available in Gulmarg as well, and their owners are also aggressive in pestering tourists for business. If you feel like splashing some cash, treat yourself to a couple of nights at the Khyber Himalayan Resort and Spa, one of the top Himalayan Spa Resorts.
Location: Less than 2 hours east of Srinagar.
Travel Tips: The ski season runs from mid-December to mid-March. The gondola is very popular, so do buy your tickets online to avoid long queues. Unfortunately, you’ll still have to wait to board it though.
There is very little left to say about the cold, bare and hauntingly beautiful desert of Ladakh that hasn’t already been said before. Tales of its beauty and mystique are sung far and wide, with people from all over the world putting the region on their bucket list of places to experience before they die. It’s cold, it’s crystal clear and it’s very, very photogenic up here.
The region is very used to tourists, so you will always find plenty of places to stay, eat and rest. Hiring local jeep drivers is expensive, so many people prefer to brave the terrain on yaks, bikes or on foot. Ladakh is a quiet, spiritual little town, steeped in tradition and Buddhist culture. Ladakh is a great destination you’re into travel photography or writing, or if you just want a good adventure and some alone time.
4. DAL LAKE
Dal Lake is its most popular attraction. It provides tourist accommodation in the form of house boats, which are parked in the lake in huge numbers. The street along this section of the Dal Lake is known as the Boulevard Street and makes for a pleasant walk in the evening, just in time for the sun to set into the lake’s crystal-blue reflection.
A shikara ride on the Dal Lake in Srinagar has become a must-do activity for any tourist. Shikara is a wooden boat used for the transport of people and goods in the lakes all over Kashmir. Here they are painted in bright colours and have colourful tapestry inside. It can seat 4 people and boatman rows from the upper bow.
While in the shikara, you will be approached by people trying to sell you all sorts of things. Photographers and their mobile photo studio shikaras are one of them. A sample photo album and all the props you need to go with the colourful Kashmiri dresses are provided to make you look like a ‘Kashmiri damsel’. They will take your picture, and by the evening it will be delivered to your hotel room.
5. INDIRA GANDHI MEMORIAL TULIP GARDEN
Here are a few interesting things about the Tulip Garden:
A smooth cruising drive of a mere 9 kilometres from the Srinagar along the soothing Dal Lake towards the south brings us to the Indira Gandhi Tulip Garden. This garden cradles in the gentle slopes of the mighty Zabarwan hills. It is flanked by a manicured lush green golf course in the north, and the pristine Dal Lake that almost washes its entrance to the west.
How to get there: The Indira Gandhi Memorial Tulip Garden is located at Siraj Bagh Cheshmashahi, in the capital Srinagar. It is a very popular location.
Entry Fee: The entry fee to the gardens is Rs. 50 for adults and Rs. 25 for children.
When to go: The flowers bloom only for about 15-30 days in a year. Depending on the temperature, the blooms may be delayed or arrive early, between end of March and early April.
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