By Malika Kaloo
As you land at Sheikh-ul-Alam International Airport, “the paradise on earth” welcomes you with a fresh, cold breeze and mesmerizing views. Amid the tight security and strict vigil, you can see ever-smiling Kashmiris ready to take you on a journey around the valley of snow-clad mountains, lush green forests, golden Chinars and delicious Wazwan.
Where to Stay in Srinagar?
There are many luxury hotels in Srinagar that offer a window to stunning views of mountains and lakes within a wide range of prices.
The Lalit Grand Palace: AED 1000-5500 per night.
Vivanta by Taj- Dal View: AED 1000-3600 per night.
Radisson Srinagar: AED 800-2000 per night.
Additionally, you may choose to stay in a cottage or rent a hut.
Srinagar, the largest city in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, must be the first stop on your adventure.
The city’s bustling bazaars filled with shops showcasing world-renowned Kashmiri carpets, colorful shawls and other handicrafts capture every visitor’s attention. Small carts selling fruits, street foods and traditional jewelry block small alleys and narrow roads as you drive through the city’s interiors.
At the foothills of Zabarwan mountains is Srinagar’s jewel: Dal Lake.
The shimmering water of Dal is always bustling with vibrant houseboats and traditional shikaras (small wooden boats). As you drive around the boulevards, you can see a floating vegetable market, floating flower shops and even a floating post office.
On the periphery of Dal Lake are the magnificent Mughal gardens, reflecting Srinagar’s rich cultural legacy. Built by Mughal emperors in the 16th and 17th centuries, these gardens represent a blend of Persian and traditional Islamic architectural styles.
From Shalimar Bagh to Chashme Shahi, Intricate stone pathways, colorful flower beds and fountains of different sizes are some common features of all the Mughal gardens in Kashmir.
Not far from here, along the shores of Dal Lake, is the Indira Gandhi Memorial Tulip Garden, the largest tulip garden in Asia, which spreads over 30 hectares of land. During summers, the roads that lead to this garden are jam-packed with visitors from all over the world waiting to get their entry tickets to the most breathtaking view of over 1.5 million colorful tulip bulbs.
A visit to Srinagar is incomplete without visiting the old areas of Downtown, popularly known as Shahar-e-Khaas. As you walk around the streets, you can see traditional wooden houses with latticework, ancient mosques and busy markets. The air that engulfs Downtown is filled with the fragrance of brotherhood and old days. This old city is also home to some of the significant historical landmarks of Kashmir, like the Jama Masjid, Khanqah-e-Moula and many small shrines that reflect the spiritual side of Srinagar.
After a long day of exploration, you need to treat yourself to Wazwan, a traditional Kashmiri feast that includes up to 36 dishes such as goshtaba, rista, tabak maaz, rogan josh, aab gosh and kabab.
An inseparable part of Kashmiri culture, Wazwan is usually served on special occasions like weddings, Eid and family gatherings. This lavish meal is served on a large copper plate called “traem.” Usually, four people sit together around this large platter filled with rice and layers of dishes served one by one by the waza (a traditional cook). With an array of aromatic spices and dry fruits, slow-cooked meat, chutneys and pickles, Wazwan takes you on a culinary expedition of one of its kind.
Srinagar is a beautiful city filled with dreams and hopes. It’s a city that talks about the greatness of its people and their majestic past, a city that is a witness to the historical tales of Kashmir and Kashmiris.
So next time you decide to immerse yourself in nature and culture, don’t look any further than Srinagar, a city in the “paradise on earth.”