Kashmir Travelogue – Apr 2024

Kashmir is just an amazing place that one has to visit. No wonder the persian poet Amir Khusro wrote – “If there is a paradise on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here.”

As always, this travelogue will give the detailed day to day plan that we followed with my comments in between; followed by some tips/important things to note; and finally contact numbers etc. This trip was coordinated by Deepika, a travel planner, who was recommended to me by a close colleague (who had a good experience with her recently).

Day 1: We left in the evening flight of Thursday (last day of school for kiddo) to Delhi. Reached pretty late due to a delayed flight (as always because of late arrival of incoming aircraft). Had booked at Bloomrooms at GK2 in Delhi. I am a big fan of the simple elegance of Bloomrooms (since my regular travel to Gurgaon during my travenues days).

Day 2: Had awesome complimentary breakfast at bloom. Did a one day sight seeing tour of Delhi. While my wife and me had lived in NCR for about 4 years long time back, my son had not been there. And he has been studying quite a bit of Delhi in history, geography, civics etc. So did the usual rounds – Lotus temple, Qutub Minar, India Gate, the new war memorial, Red fort complex, and finally Raj ghat (in that order). Had an awesome lunch at Haldirams Pandara Road. Airport pickup, drop, and the sightseeing was arranged by Deepika as well. This was the first time I had gone into the Red fort complex. It is HUGE. Dinner was at the nearby Bikanerwala at GK2.

Day 3: Caught the morning flight to Srinagar. Had breakfast at the airport.

We were picked up from the airport by our driver Riyaz Bhai, who would be our driving companion for the next 6 days in Kashmir. He was a soft, endearing and helpful person. (contacts below).

There was a slight mix up in the hotel stay for that day, but was very soon fixed by our very able travel planner, Deepika (contacts below). Be very careful about booking, and reconfirming hotel stays during peak seasons. We landed at Hotel Elaf Residency, but was told that they had only one night, but we needed two. We were swiftly shifted to Hotel Rose Petal. While this hotel was slightly off the main market area and slightly old, the rooms were good, well furnished, and the food was very good.

Srinagar sightseeing: We first covered the tulip garden. This was the highlight of the day. The tulip garden is open only for 3-4 weeks every year, and the bloom is just brilliant.

We then went to the Shankaracharya temple on top of a hill. The car gets to a certain point, and you have to cover 200 steps to the temple. It is a Shiva temple, where Adi Shankara meditated. Beautiful temple and a small cave shrine where he meditated. View of Srinagar and the Jhelum river from up here is awesome. There was some renovation going on when we went. There is a small walk from the car drop off point to the steps. If you feel tired, there will be autos that can drop you off for 150/-.

We then went on a Shikara ride on the Dal Lake. Its a slow paddle ride along the lake, where several vendors on other boats come and sell stuff like Kahwa tea (which I had, and was awesome by the way!!), flowers, jewelery, dress-up-like-kashmiri-and-take-photo etc. They take you to a floating market near the lake, show you the houseboats etc. Its a nice experience. You can also get some snacks in this floating market like French fries, maggi etc.

Lunch was at Raja Dhaba near the gardens. We had mentioned that we would prefer pure vegetarian places enroute – which is a toughie in Kashmir. We are usually ok with veg+non-veg food in larger establishments. Hence, breakfast and dinner was not a problem. The only pure veg places are Dhabas, and as everyone knows food in these places are unpredictable. They can be awesome or just so-so. Raja Dhaba was only so-so. There were many other gardens like the Mughal gardens, which we skipped.

Day 4 was supposed to be Sonmarg, but there had been an avalanche that had blocked the road to Sonmarg the day before. Thankfully Riyaz bhai had gotten this news through this driver friend network. While the road clearing work had been done, the traffic had increased significantly on that road, and Riyaz suggesed Doodhpathri as an alternate day trip location.

Doodhpathri is about 2 hours drive from Srinagar. As most places are, this is yet another valley with beautiful views and some pockets of snow (in early April). Doodhpathri is called so because in days of yore, a muslim saint had come by this place and struck the ground, and found water as pure and white as milk.

You can rent heavy jackets and boots here. You can purchase waterproof socks and gloves if you want as well. Your driver will take you here and recommend. Highly recommend you follow the suggestion of your driver in these. It costed us 450/- per person for boot + jacket.

Tourists are taken on a pony ride to a few viewing / experience spots. About an hour and half or so. There are a few ‘points’ that you stop at, take photographs, play in the snow, and view a rapid/river on the way. In most of these ‘points’ there were small shops selling kahwa, tea, maggi.

Note: We succumbed to a scam here. There was a photographer dude, who offered to come with us throughout the ride and take photographs of us during the entire time. His original rate was 40/- bucks for every photo we select and 50/- for every video. He did not tell us of any minimum number of photos. And we missed asking him. He came with us for the entire ride, and when we selected about 10-15 pics, he said that is not possible. He expected at least 4-5K. Thankfully with the help of Riyaz Bhai, got out of the very angry altercation by paying 2K/-. This was mainly due to a miscommunication. Riyaz bhai had told me at the last moment to give some tips to the horse men. At just that moment, the camera guy also had made an appearance and I misunderstood Riyaz’s point to be for the camera guy. We got into a big problem because we thought Riyaz was asking us to help/tip the camera guy. Be wary and confirm everything twice with your driver companion, if you are not clear, and choose what you want.

One of the horsemen was a cute young kid. Hatim was his name. All of 11 years of age. He was studying 5th grade. He does trips during the weekends. The pony I was riding on was his, and its name was Toofan. Hatim proudly told me that he rides Toofan every day after school. Such a heart warming moment, and a world so different from the one we live in.

Riyaz suggested that we should have lunch at a road side shack on the way back, which made only makki roti and sarson ka saag. He said we would never have tasted something like that before. I agreed with that sentiment, while wife and kiddo thought it was only ok-ok. Was a bit oily, and the oil had questionable freshness. But for me, this changed my opinion of makki roti and sarson ka saag – which I had hated until then, and thought was overhyped.

Dinner was back at Rose petal. Good clean buffet food.

Day 5: We checked out of Rose petal and started towards our most anticipated place – Gulmarg – the valley of flowers. Wherever we travelled between places in Kashmir, we saw so many fields of mustard with their bright yellow flowers.

The road to Gulmarg is so beautiful. Gives a full European vacation feel. So pretty.

We need to rent boots and heavy jackets here as well. Recommend to follow driver suggestions on where to get. It costed us 350/- per person for boot + jacket.

We checked into Hotel Green Park. Its a decent hotel, not as good as some others, we are told. But we were lucky to get this one, given high season. We did not complain. Its a quaint little inn type hotel. Slightly old. The location is amaze max though. Its in the middle of nowhere with snow all round.

Right after checking in, we left to the Gondola area, where Riyaz introduced us to Altaf, who was going to be our ‘guide’ for all activities in Gulmarg. Deepika had already purchased tickets for the Gondola Phase 1 and Phase 2 rides. These are two stages of the Gondola ride. This is apparently Asia’s highest Gondola ride. Phase 1 has a lot of activities like sking, snow scooter riding, and sledge riding. We did all three. These are paid, and need to be booked there. Our guide helped us ‘negotiate’.

Phase 2 is more of a view point. This is the highest point in that area, and also very close to the Indian border. You can see several Indian border outposts from this place.

On the advice of Altaf bhai, instead of taking the ‘sane’ path back using the Gondola ride, we took a sledge ride down from Phase 1 to base. If you have a weak back like me, avoid. Yikes. Every bone in my body creaked. But was it FUN or what !! The sledge driver sits in front of you and navigates. You pass through some breath taking scenery and you get to play in the snow as well. You need to pay Altaf Bhai for his services too.

To get back to the hotel from the base, we had to take a union cab. (Regular cabs are not allowed to take people to/from base to other places). Somehow Riyaz had managed to drop us off in the morning. You have to pay for the union cab drop. It was evening by the time, we reached back to the hotel. We were done for the day. Since we had snow all around us, we had some time to walk around and play in the snow in the evening. Dinner at the hotel, which was also very so-so, but manageable.

The next day morning, after we returned our jackets and boots, we also spotted a quaint little Shiva temple at Gulmarg base. Peaceful Shiva temple in his own abode amidst the snowy peaks.

There is a water fall called Drung water falls near Gulmarg. We went there only to see very less water. Go there only if you know that if there is enough water or the water is frozen – in which case it is supposed to be beautiful.

Day 6: We checked out of Green Park and headed towards Pahalgam. Riyaz Bhai had told us this was the longest stretch and would take us at least 3-4 hours. On the way, we stopped at Avantipura ruins.

We were told that this was a place where the Pandavas had stopped during the exile. We took a guide there, who explained that it was a misconception about Pandavas. This is a 11th century Vishnu temple built by the Verman kings of Odissa. It has 5 sub temples within the complex – hence the name got associated with Pandu or 5. There is nothing to do with Pandavas. The ruins are majestic to look at.

We also stopped at two shopping points – one for buying saffron and dry fruits ; and one for Kashmiri clothing/carpets. We did a bit of purchasing here and moved on towards Pahalgam.

Lunch was at Vishnu Dhaba at Pampore on the way. Shady place (filled with smokers), but decent food. We got a place to sit outside thankfully to avoid the smoke.

We reached Hotel White Water Pahalgam in the evening. These are a collection of resorts about 10km before Pahalgam and are on the banks of the River Lidder. Hotel was good and so was the food. We walked to the banks of the river in the evening and spent time.

Day 7 was Pahalgam sight seeing. We checked out of the hotel and drove towards Pahalgam town. We started off with a pony ride to Baisaran – also called Mini Switzerland. The pony ride was scary , adventurous, and fun. It had rained a few days before, and the path was super slushy. There were a couple of view points in the middle. Baisaran itself is just a large meadow in the valley with snowy mountains surrounding it. As in other places, it has its own share of Kahwa and maggi sellers. Our package had three view points (including Baisaram and 2 others). There are other viewpoints that they can take you to, by paying extra. We skipped.

After the pony ride, we went on the ABC cab ride. ABC stands for Aru Valley, Betab valley, and Chandanwadi valley. The union cab funda exists here also. Riyaz had to park the car in a parking lot, and we had to shift to a union car. Deepika had arranged for tickets etc here as well.

The union car takes you on a 1-2 hour ride to the three places mentioned above. The ride is breathtakingly amazing. Snowy mountains and coniferous forests all around you. Aru is just a valley view point. Betab is a park/valley famous for Bollywood shooting spots. The best was Chandanwadi, which still had snow by the road. We stopped and played with snow one last time.

Once we reached Pahalgam, we had lunch at Nathu’s – a proper vegetarian sit down joint. There was also a Punjabi Dhaba next door. We just chose Nathu’s arbitrarily. Food was good.

We then started back towards Srinagar. We stopped at Cricket bat making factory briefly for kiddo to see how bats were made. Quite literally no one even noticed us going through the factory. We did not buy anything – though the bats were cheap.

We reached Srinagar by evening. We were booked into Wangnoo Heritage house boats, which is not on the Dal Lake, but on Lake Nigeen. These are supposedly better and away from the crowd, and more sereen.

Houseboat is actually not that much of a boat. It is just a floating hotel with a few rooms, a common dining area, living room, and a deck, moored at the edge of the lake. The rooms were very tastefully decorated – mostly of carved wood.

Dinner was tasty. But somehow we all got a stomach upset that night and we could not enjoy the stay as much as we hoped we would.

Day 8 we checked out of the houseboat, summoned a shikara and reached the shore, where Riyaz Bhai was waiting with our car. We then headed back to the Srinagar airport. We flew back to Bangalore with a stop over at Delhi.

Net-net, a wonderfully satisfying trip (except for that last one night).

Couple of things that we liked:

  1. In every hotel, they had rubber slippers kept outside the bathroom so that you could go in with your socks on, and not worry about getting your socks wet.
  2. Kahwa is awesome. A bit sweet, but I liked it.
  3. If you go through a travel planner, your driver companion is your single point of contact for everything.

Tips / Points to Note:

  1. Wear warm layered clothing. Thermals, woolen neck protectors, woolen caps, and gloves. (all available on amazon).
  2. Heavy jackets and boots wherever there is snow – can be rented at those places. Be prepared for slightly smelly not very hygienic jacket and boots. If you have sensitive skin or otherwise, please go prepared with alternative arrangements. The jackets and boots will get dirty during the activities.
  3. Back-packs are preferable instead of handbags, because of the kinds of activities you will do (like pony rides, sledge ride etc)
  4. Bright sunlight and snow make most of these places very harsh for the eyes. Take sunglasses. Especially for Gulmarg (both phases).
  5. Make sure all your hotel and activity bookings are in place (or go through a reputed travel planner / agency who will ensure this). We found people who had landed there and not gotten Gondola tickets.
  6. Expect everyone to ask for tips (Khush kar dena). There will be people who will ask if you need photos taken with your own phone. They are not offering help, they will ask for tips after taking the photo/video. The photos are awesome though. Not just photos. Anyone who is helping with any rides will ask for tips.
  7. It is very dry here, and hence you will not feel thirsty at all. But keep drinking water all the time, to avoid dehydration and fatigue.
  8. Keep air sickness bags or equivalent with you all the time, just in case, you (or kids) have a stomach upset. You can get in amazon also.
  9. Keep basic medicines available – like ORS, Eldoper, Dolo, Ondem etc. Esp when during the houseboat, you don’t really have access to a medical shop immediately.
  10. A few others have also told me that they got a stomach upset during their houseboat stay. So just to be safe, keep the houseboat towards the end, so that you can enjoy the rest of the trip.


  1. Deepika, our wonderful trip planner – +91 97798 11662
  2. Riyaz, our driver for the entire Kashmir 6 day trip – +91 96823 46669
  3. Bloomrooms – link
  4. Hotel Rose Petal – link
  5. Hotel Green Park – link
  6. Hotel White Water – link
  7. Wangnoo Heritage Houseboat – link

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