Salam-ale-Kum! I know there are many places to visit in Kashmir but I have listed down the best places below which are not only easy to reach but extremely beautiful. The state of Jammu and Kashmir in the Republic of India is internationally recognized for various reasons. Also maybe for reasons not much appreciated like terrorism, political unrest and everything negative one must have heard through the media. But after our travel through the state, we can confidently vouch for Kashmir’s Tourism and in reality, this paradise on earth contradicts the image built by notions and hearsay.
The Himalayan mountain range nestles some of the most magnificent holiday destinations spread across four countries, namely, India, Pakistan, Nepal and China. In this article, we will cover the best places to visit in Kashmir, India’s share of this paradise on earth, and surely will be able to tempt you to make a travel plan here, leaving behind all the inhibitions and false impressions.
The first interaction with local Kashmiri people will woo your mind as their hospitality and humility are beyond compare. The state may not be facilitated like the modern world, but the people here will make up a million folds for this.
Places to Visit in Kashmir:
SRINAGAR- Srinagar is the state capital through summers, and when the temperature drops in the winters, the Secretariat office moves to the city of Jammu. A bustling tourist hotspot through summers, the city of Srinagar is rich in history as it was a popular summer escape for the emperors of the Mughal dynasty through to the British viceroys and high officials. Famous for the Dal Lake, golf courses and Moghul gardens, Srinagar is thriving with colour and cultures. Of course, the food goes without saying and around a 1.5-hour drive south will bring you to a beautiful and picturesque village of Yusmarg, famous for its nature treks to Nilnag Lake and Doodh Ganga river.
YUSMARG- 47 Km from Srinagar is an untouched hill station of Kashmir. Do not forget to add this if you are planning a road trip in Kasmir. Not very popular amongst the tourist. This small town is very green and filled with tall beautiful Pine trees and meadows. It’s Hidden treasures are just a few miles away. The drive is through the town of Charar-E-Sharief.
PAHALGAM– Approximately 2hrs and 26 minutes or 88KM east of Srinagar, Pahalgam is a small establishment by the Jhelum river valley and offers panoramic views of snow-capped mountains around. Also around are very popular and beautiful meadows accessible by a pony ride or an average hike for the fit traveller. Famous for access to the Meadowlands of Baisaran and Aru Valley, the valley garden of Betaab Valley and base camp Chandanwadi where people start their pilgrimage to Amarnath, an avatar of Lord Shiva in the Hindu mythology. Pahalgam is very popular in the Bollywood Industry as it is extremely scenic and it should be in your “Sightseeing in Kashmir list.”
GULMARG– A must do in your Kashmir itinerary and one of the best places to visit in Kashmir, Gulmarg is approximately 1 hour 42 minutes drive 51 KM east of Srinagar, the drive itself is very beautiful after the town of Tanmarg, leading through beautiful Alpine forests and offering panoramic views of the land below as you climb up the mountainous roads to reach the hill station of Gulmarg. Famous for a massive golf course, but more popular for the gondola ride which takes people another 2500 meters up into the snow-capped Alpathar mountains. A great snow trekking opportunity for enthusiasts and personal snow gear is highly recommended. Gulmarg is a hot spot in all the Kashmir honeymoon packages.
SONMARG– Situated on the banks of the river Sind which would have followed you along most of your travel on the NH1D (National Highway 1D). It is approximately 2hours and 15 minutes drive 79 KM from Srinagar. The town of Sonmarg, though not very big, earns full marks for its location. No matter where one is in the town, cannot miss the view of the majestic Thajiwas Glacier overlooking the town from the nearby mountain. Numerous hikes are run from the town centre taking people closer to the Glacier. Again, personal snow gear is highly recommended.
ZOJILA PASS- Heading towards Kargil from Sonmarg, the road passes through Zojila Pass, considered to be one of the most difficult motorable roads in the entire world. In winters, this part of the otherwise closed NH1D is covered in up to 50 feet of snow. In summers when the road opens, the road authorities have a difficult task of clearing the snow and restarting the only road which connects Kashmir to Ladhak, the eastern region of the state. Early summers still have a lot of remainder snow and roads carved out of snow. The highway normally opens for summer in mid-May to the first week of June. However, the best time to visit Kashmir is from May until early September. Zojila Pass is dangerous and difficult to drive, and is operated one way for heavy vehicles and has timings on either side of the traffic to access. The pass will distract its travellers with some stunning breathtaking views.
Make sure to stop at Zero Point for a photo stop. The locals also offer plenty of activities here like skiing, sledge rides etc. as part of snow activities. The temperatures can go up to 0ºCelicus.
DRASS- Another small town, wouldn’t seem of much importance, however, claims the second spot for the coldest inhabited place on earth after Siberia. In winters temperatures drop to a record low of -60ºC. In summers Drass has a few eateries frequented by travellers.
KARGIL- Heading further east in the NH1D, leads to the town of Kargil which became extremely popular due to the War of Kargil fought back in the year 1999. If you are headed to Kargil from the west as we did, you will witness the Kargil War Memorial which built to commemorate the fallen heroes of the war. A must visit place in Kashmir for a patriotic countryman. Irrespective of nationality, people will feel the valour of the Indian Army. The War Memorial also plays a documentary (only in language Hindi) about the wars and victories of their brave soldiers which is worth your time.
Another 30 minutes drive east leads to the town of Kargil, again beautifully situated by the confluence of the river Suru. Kargil is the only way to access the Zanskar Valley which will add another 200 km to your journey through one of the most difficult motorable roads. You will experience the change in climate, vegetation and cultures from that of Kashmir, as you have now entered the region of Ladhak. The climate becomes drier and vegetation becomes sparse as Ladhak is considered to be the highest desert in the world. You will also start to notice a drop in oxygen level here. You will find it a bit difficult to breathe as you are now in the Ladak Region.
After a night in Kargil, we are nearing our road trip through Kashmir as we are left with the last segment of the drive from Kargil to Leh. A drive covering a distance of 215km/134 miles lasting approximately 5 hours if driven non-stop. But why do that when we have a lot of things to see and photo stops in between.
Places to Visit between Kargil to Leh/ Instagrammable places in between Kargil to Leh:
First, stop at Lamayuru monastery. A Buddhist monastery located on the outskirts of the town of Lamayuru stands as a symbol of peace and soulfulness. The access to the monastery is chargeable for INR 50 or USD 0.70 and is a great opportunity for photo enthusiasts.
Driving along the road towards Leh will take you through a place of strange rock formations making it look like the surface of the moon, hence, the locals named the place Moonland. Again, a great stop for photo enthusiasts.
The next three stops mentioned are in very close proximity to Leh city, so you may decide to keep it for a quick trip from your stay at Leh city, or visit it in the way.
The first being, Sangam( meaning “merger”). Here, the River Zanskar merges into the River Indus and is very iconic due to their distinguishable colours. An elevated viewpoint provides for a great photo opportunity. You may also choose to be driven down to the merger but its best viewed from the viewpoint.
The second stop is the magnetic hill. The signboard claims that this place defies gravity. Visitors try various experiments to get their vehicles to roll uphill with the engine turned off. Does it work? Find out for yourself 🙂
The last stop before entering Leh city will be the Sikh temple, Gurudwara Paththar Sahib. Be mindful that this is a Sikh temple and entering one requires people to cover their heads irrespective of gender.
After this, you would have reached Leh city which concludes our road trip from Kashmir to Ladhak.
Things to Remember before you plan your road trip to Kashmir.
Unfortunately, even though all these above-listed destinations are a part of Kashmir, each City has a separate union that they follow. What I mean is a car that is registered in Srinagar or a Srinagar number plate car cannot run in Pahalgam. So if you want to go sight-seeing in Kashmir you have to book another car or check with your tour operator if they are authorized to go around on the above-listed places in Kashmir.
Same applies for Gulmarg or Yusmarg. However, these cities are very small and practically walkable but your car rentals will only have the authority to drop you to the hotel that you have booked your stay and then head back to the common parking area. If you want to go around then you will have to book the car rentals from that city. If you are looking to book a car for you or your family do leave a comment And email me at email@example.com. I will be happy to share Jigme’s number who always plans and customises my Road trips in Kashmir. It’s because of him I could visit these best places in Kashmir hassle-free.
Secondly, there are plenty of tracks that one can choose to do from any of these cities, but, the local so-called “Ghoda Wala’s” (horse owners) have highly dominated the market and would literally harass you till you do not agree to ride on their ponies. So, to ensure they get their business, none of these hiking tracks is marked. Not that these tracks are difficult to cross. The small tracks in Phalagam or Yusmarg are bearly 3 KM return, but, to make it worse all these are covered in heavy mud slush, either intentionally or not I would not like to comment on that.
If you would like to go on walking trails as we did the only way is, do not get convinced or influenced by these Ghoda Wala’s and ensure you have good hiking shoes as they will say all the possible things to scare you Like: “the track is bad and covered with mud slush up to your knee level.” Your “shoes will not handle the mud slush” Or there is a long queue to get the tickets for the Gondola and we can ensure you get an extension for the tickets”. ” you will lose the track and never find the way back”.
If you are confident or an average hiker like us and would want to explore the wilderness of Kashmir and want to experience its raw beauty then go on these tracks on your foot. We have seen the horses slip as well so it depends on what you prefer.
- Kashmir is extremely safe, especially for Tourists. It is normal to find army officers stopping your car to ask questions, but bear in mind it is just their security protocol. These Army officers are extremely friendly when they know you are a tourist they will guide you, greet you, and warmly welcome you to Kashmir.
- Don’t get fooled or influenced by the Ghoda Wala’s IF you are intrigued by hiking. It is safe and it is not as exaggerated as they claim it to be.
- Don’t forget to check with your tour operator if these places to visit in Kashmir can be accessed by the car that will be assigned to you or do they have arrangements made with other local car rentals.
I hope you have enjoyed reading and have found important information that you need before you plan to visit this best places in Kashmir on a road trip or by Kashmir tour packages. Look out for our next post which we will be focusing on the things to do around these cities and Places to visit in Ladak. Like mentioned earlier if you do need some contact information of the Tour Guide, feel free to leave a comment below on how you liked the post AND Email us on firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get in touch with you in maximum 48 hours. Don’t forget to Share, Follow and Subscribe until then Safe Travels and enjoy your trip.
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