As you step off the airplane, you’re greeted by the aroma of spices and pine, an enveloping cloud of humidity, a boundless blue sky. Just over the nose of the plane, you make out the towering mountains of Kashmir, India. As the car rushes over the rough roads, the peaks of the mountains draw ever nearer, and, nestling among them, is the shining expanse of water called Dal Lake.
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Dal Lake is perhaps the most famous lake in all of Kashmir for its gleaming vastness as well for its splendid backdrop of a lean and bold mountain range. You can stroll along the perimeter of the lake and take a ride in a shikara, a rowboat. In a single boat ride, much may be perceived about Kashmir and the people who make a living extracting weeds from the bottom of the lake, the vendors selling hot white rice balls by the side, the hawkers wielding pots of coconut as they sidle up to the edge of the lake, the houseboat renters who live on the water in order to work on the water. You can see in their eyes an elegant simplicity found nowhere else.
Afterwards you may be interested in the food options available. While there are restaurants* offering foreign foods as well as a plethora of bakeries, perhaps the best fare can be found in the fire stoked by the lady selling sizzling sun-kissed corn, or in the magical tub that yields a creamy “kulfi” frozen dessert.
After dining, you can visit the gardens adjacent to Dal Lake: Nishat, Pari Mahal, and Shalamar. They are organized into levels, permitting a spectrum of scenic views. Nearby is Zabarwan Park, where you can enjoy the traditional music performed by reputed Kashmiri singers, venture into the arcade, sail away in a hot-air balloon watched by eager crowds, and, of course, stroll along and admire the greenery.
Then there are the more distant but considerably exciting destinations. Gulmarg offers guided hiking through the base of the Himalayan ranges, and skiing and ice-skating during the winter. A prestigious green golf course is also available for tourists. The Gondola Ride is particularly popular; reach the apex, and you stand above the clouds! And for those interested in some history, St. Mary’s Church offers a look at the religious past of Kashmir.
With raging rivers and adventurous activities, Pahalgam offers attractions such as horse-riding and water rafting. The horse riding takes you through a sloping forest patch up to the summit, where there is an open, expansive field, perfect for letting your steed gallop (or walk) to your heart’s content.
Finally is a piece of lush heaven, feathered by grass and caressed by countless hooves: Dodhpathri. The undulating fields are dotted with people here and there, but more prominently marked by the beautiful coats of horses. The surrounding forest and rolling meadow and trotting foals render a picturesque view. Farther below is a maze of streams, and due to the rocks, the rush is just slow enough to preclude any real danger. It’s an enjoyable stop for a picnic, as there are facilities available and children will love splashing in the streams. For adults, hiking the steep mountains provides an unforgettable and adrenaline-filled rush.
Kashmir is an oft-overlooked part of India with something for everyone: thrilling adventures, serene settings, and unique cuisine. Perhaps most remarkable is its relationship to nature, which has assimilated with civilization rather than grow apart from it. Kashmir, India, presents the ideal excursion to uncover more about a land dominated by nature. Perhaps it’s time for you to discover it.
*Names of Cultural Restaurants:
Cafe Coffee Day[American]
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