Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Pahalgam: The colour of paradise
By Swetha Amit

What was once a humble shepherds' village is now converted into India's most scenic tourist spot. The mesmerising beauty of this place is what beckons Indian filmmakers. One can never feel bored here as time seems to fly just gazing at the exotic beauty of the streams and mountains. We drove down from Gulmarg to Pahalgam, on the way stopping at three must-visit places.

Ruins of an ancient temple: We first halted at the Avantipur temple ruins. This was built by King Avantivarman in the 9th century. It is well known for two huge shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. A guide showed us around and told us its fascinating history. The well-maintained gardens and ruins possessed a mysterious charm and we could see the past engraved on the walls. We were told that the Pandavas took refuge here during their exile. After capturing its beauty on camera, we continued on our drive.

Howzzat: Kashmir is known for its cricket bats which are exported globally. We stopped at a shop which exhibited a wide range of fine-quality bats at prices between Rs800-Rs1,000 and purchased one.

Ready for the rapids: The Lidder river, a favourite of rafters, gushed below. The adventurous streak in us exhibited itself as we stopped to indulge in some rafting. The two of us geared up and set off in a boat meant for six, following the instructions given by our guide. It was a thrilling ride and our breath froze as icy water splashed on us.

Tryst with horses, sheep and mountain goats: We spotted quaint cottages high up the mountains, which were rented out. The lives of local folk revolved around their horses, sheep and goats. The animals were left loose to graze. It was amusing to see the flock of sheep huddle into a big ball of wool, and the stoic mountain goats stare at us haughtily. At 10,000 feet, the sturdy creatures were more hairy than their lowland brethren.

Once upon a time there was a lake: Our next stop was Tulian lake, which was frozen for most of the year. Surrounded by mountains, it was just a patch of ice. We walked around for a while enjoying the scenery.

Himalayas instead of the Alps: We soon reached the abode of pine trees, carpets of green with the ranges of snow peaks in the background. We were at a loss for words as we stared at the picturesque view. Called the Baisaran Valley, one is bound to forget even Switzerland on seeing this spot. Replace the Alps with the mighty Himalayas; Kashmir would put its European counterpart to shame. We headed towards a waterfall in the Sheshnag river that flows down from Amarnath. It was a steep climb down.

Gateway to the Amarnath Yatra: We rented a Sumo for a ride to Chandanwari. There were numerous shops bustling with people and activity. Horses were available for the Amarnath Yatra which had commenced. Carrying luggage and people, ponies trotted up the rocky pathway effortlessly. Dipping our fingers in the Sheshnag River, we vowed to do the yatra the next year.
Betaabwadi: A site where numerous films have been shot, this valley is very aptly named after the movie 'Betaab', a major part of which was filmed here. We bumped into kids carrying furry white rabbits and lambs, which made for good photographs.

A walk to remember: The Aru valley is another scenic spot worth a visit. It was a short but fun-filled trek up the rocky pathway surrounded by nature at its best with wild horses grazing peacefully in green meadows.

Kashmir was the Mughals' favourite summer resort; now it is the most sought- after destination for film shootings and India's most beautiful tourist spot. Peace prevails in the paradise as it hopes to gain back its glorious days again. The snowy peaks of the Himalayas, pristine streams and green meadows beckon tourists. Life would be incomplete without a visit to this magnificent 'heaven on earth.'

How to get to Pahalgam
By road
: Pahalgam is 96km from Srinagar and well connected by road. Buses and taxis are available from Srinagar.

Best time to visit: The best time to visit Pahalgam would be between the months of March-September.

Things to do
River rafting in the Lidder river is a highly recommended activity. One needs to take a change of clothes.
One can also opt for horse riding for excursions and sightseeing around the valley.
Pahalgam is a fine destination for trekking. Some famous routes are: Pahalgam-Chandanwari-Sheshnag-Panchtarni-Amarnath cave temple-Sonmarg. The other option being Pahalgam-Chandanwari-Sheshnag-Rangamarg-Humpet-Kanital-Lonivilad-Panikhar-Kargil.

The cost for a two-night stay in Pahalgam would be anywhere between Rs3,000-4,000 per person.
Hiring an entire boat for the two of us cost us around Rs1,500. However it could work out to be more economical.
Horse riding up to Tulian lake and other places would cost around Rs1,200 per person.Lastly, hiring a local vehicle to visit Chandanwari, Betaabwadi and Aru valley would come to Rs1,500 per vehicle



Blogger A said...

Very nice.

(So many post all together...) Will read slowly

7:38 AM  
Blogger Whirlwind said...

Thanks A!

11:38 PM  

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