No. of days : 4/5
Cost per person: 4500
Route: Ropar- Jammu- Srinagar- Gulmarg
So I visited Kashmir (Again) between 23 and 28 March 2016. Travelling off-season is always good for my wallet. Also, less people mean more natural beauty for me.
Few points about Kashmir- There are army men everywhere and there are local people who hate India.
23rd March :
So we began our journey on 23rd March from Ropar. We took a bus to Jalandhar, from there we had reservations for train to Jammu Tawi. It was around 8 PM. So we reached Jalandhar around 9 PM and after a light dinner took train to Jammu Tawi. We reached Jammu Tawi around 5 AM.
After reaching Jammu, we were planning for direct bus to Srinagar. But we have history with bad luck. Jammu-Srinagar highway was running as a one way due to heavy land sliding. Vehicles were flowing to Srinagar on one day and returning on other. Obviously, it was not our day. So we had our breakfast and enquired about buses to Srinagar. We finally managed to book a bus which was leaving Jammu at 10 PM. We had a day to kill. So we took a bus to Mansar lake.
Mansar Lake, Jammu
Mansar Lake is a quiet place near Jammu Tawi. You can see some snow peaks on the way. We were travelling in standing so I enjoyed the road itself. Mansar Lake is not exactly a beautiful lake. Population of fishes in the lake is horrifying and these fishes are not even beautiful but area near Mansar Lake is well maintained and photogenic. We took a walk around lake, clicked lots of pictures. There is public zoo which is good. Then we took a return bus to Jammu.
We still had around 6 hours to kill, so we went to a movie theatre near Bus stand. After that we had dinner and took a sleeper bus to Srinagar.
What we didn’t know was the bus was going to stop outside Jammu till 6 AM. Check post didn’t let our bus to go till 6 AM. After that, journey was pleasant. We did encounter rain once a while but overall road to Srinagar is a treat to eyes. After Patnitop, you can see snow peaks around. River was flowing alongside and bus was travelling through clouds. Low temperature was a cherry on the top.
We reached Srinagar bypass by 5:30 PM. Here we first time encountered ‘tourism’ mind-set of Kashmir. All auto owners were demanding no less than Rs.200 for 8 Km. Here is a tip to save money, always choose bus. We took bus to Dal Lake, and started negotiating with houseboat owners for room. We finally settled for Rs.550 per day which was again affordable in 3 people. We took time to freshen ourselves and went for Shikara trip in Dal Lake. It cost us Rs.250 per head. It was a quiet evening. Dal Lake was calmer than ever. Rain had just stopped so freshness was in the air. It took around 2 hours to take a round trip in Lake. We visited some market which was in the lake. Took some pictures with houseboats and returned to our houseboat.
We went for a walk afterwards, had our lunch and returned to room.
We had reserved this day for Gulmarg. It takes around Rs.1200 to book a jeep for Gulmarg. We first took bus to Tonmarg (Rs.33) and then shared jeep to Gulmarg (Rs.40).
We took shoes for walking on snow (Rs.80), if you want jacket too it costs another Rs.80.
Gulmarg is a cool place to visit. If you are rich, go directly to Gandola. It costs Rs.700 for first level and another Rs.900 for second. View from up there is magnificent and lot of sports can be tried up there.
Otherwise just walk through snow which is all around you. We took a walk to Gandola, captured lots of pictures. Two of us went through Gandola and returned.
We left Gandola by 5 PM and reached Lal Chawk, Srinagar.
Laal Chawk, Srinagar is local market for tourists. We had our dinner there. If you are non-vegetarian try local Kashmiri dishes. For vegetarians few options are there. After dinner we returned back to hotel.
We left our houseboat by 10AM. Took our bags and headed towards local restaurant. Near Dal Lake gate, restaurants are quite expensive. But you must try ‘Krishna restaurant’. It is cheaper than others and food is great too. After that we took shared jeep to Tulip Garden.
Tulip Garden is just too beautiful. I am not exactly flower loving guy, neither I enjoy capturing pictures of flowers like other ‘Photographers’ but this is something else entirely. Well aligned variety of tulip flowers.
After Tulip garden we took a walk to Mughal Garden, Chasheshahi. We have seen such gardens in Delhi, Rajasthan etc. So I won’t recommend this place.
It was a day of India vs Aus T20 world cup match. Pakistan was already out of world cup and India needed to win this match to continue. We were walking back to main road when we heard this conversation.
Local guy to army man: Hamari Pakistan to bahar ho gayi aaj tumhari India bhi bahar ho jayegi.
After that we took shared jeep to Nishat Garden. It is almost as same as Mughal Garden but much larger and beautiful than it. We spent quite a time there.
After Nishat garden we took bus back to Srinagar Bypass. Luckily we got a sleeper bus to Jammu and we left to return hostel.