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Updated: Sep 12, 2023



Our journey through the valley of Kashmir


Day 1 - Arriving at Srinagar


We arrived at Kashmir at around lunch time and checked into the iconic houseboats. The weather was good and the check in was fun as we got into a small boat called ‘shikara’ which ferried us to the houseboat.


The view of Dal lake at sunset


Dal Lake


Dal in Kashmiri means ‘lake’ and possibly called so because it needs no introduction! Dal is a natural freshwater lake that covers an area of about 18 sq. km. with a length of over 7 kms. and a width of over 3.5 kms. Its average depth is about 5 feet and reaches a maximum depth of 20 feet. It has four basins- Bod Dal (big lake), Nagin (serpent), Gagribal and Lokut Dal (small lake). There are also some islands or ‘lank’ on the Dal - Sona Lank (gold island) overlooks the shrine of Hazratbal and the Rupa Lank (silver island) on Lokut Dal , has four Chinar trees at its four corners and therefore called Char (four) Chinar. There are several gardens (baghs) and parks built in the Mughal era that border the dal, most notable being Shalimar Bagh and Nishat Bagh.


One of the many tuj stalls selling tuj to food lovers by the Dal lake


After checking in and taking the shikara back we drove along the dal and stopped at the stalls to eat Tuj – barbecued meat on skewers served with bread and dips. The smokiness wafted though the air and without realizing we had polished off a lot, evident through the pile of skewers we created! Happy and fed, we headed to Hazratbal Dargah.


Hazratbal dargah with mountains in backdrop


Hazratbal Dargah


Hazrat in Kashmiri means 'holy or respected', and ‘bal’ means 'place'. It is also known as Assar-e-Sharief, Madinat-us-Sani and Dargah Shari. In the year 1623, Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan's officer Sadiq Khan constructed a palace for pleasure ‘Ishrat Mahal’ however when the emperor visited this palace he apparently order for it to be converted into a prayer hall with some modifications and tweaks. Shah Jahan had some passion for buildings of grandeur and commissioned the construction of two great mosques, the Moti Masjid (Pearl Mosque) and the Jami (Jama) Masjid (Great Mosque), as well as the superb mausoleum known as the Taj Mahal.


Harzratbal houses a relic known as Moi-e-Muqqadas which is believed to be a sacred hair of Prophet Muhammad's beard. It arrived in India with Syed Abdullah (alleged descendant of the Prophet) when he left Medina and settled in Bijapur. After his death the relic was inherited by his son Syed Hamid. Abdullah was a purported descendant of the Prophet. Following Abdullah's death, his son, Syed Hamid. During the Mughals conquest of the region, Syed Hamid was stripped of all his estates, Syed Hamid sold it to a wealthy Kashmiri merchant Khwaja Nur-ud-Din Eshai. However, when this came to Aurangzeb’s knowledge, he had the relic seized and sent to the shrine of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti at Ajmer, and had Khwaja Nur-ud-Din Eshai imprisoned in Delhi for possessing the relic, he later died in prison. However later Aurangzeb decided to restore the relic to Kashmir. There, Inayat Begum, daughter of Khwaja Nur-ud-Din Eshai, became a custodian of the relic and established the shrine. The relic is brought out to public only in rare occasions. It was since once stolen in December 1963 and returned in January 1964.


History aside, the shrine is both beautiful and imposing, with its marble dome structure against the stunning backdrop. The grounds of the shrine are used by the public to relax and get stunning views of the dal. We ventured into the back alleys and experienced the local food and merchandise.


Water system and walking paths of Nishat Bagh


Nishat Bagh


On our way back we stopped at Nishat Bagh (Nishat means vitality or energy or happiness and Bagh is garden). Nishat Bagh is second to size compared to Shalimar Bagh and was commissioned by Asaf Khan, brother of Nur Jahan, the twentieth wife and chief consort of the Mughal emperor Jahangir. Therefore it is not a royal garden, but of historic and architectural importance nonetheless. It is based on Persian garden design called char/chahar bagh (four gardens) which can be defined as a quadrilateral garden divided into four parts by water channels. The oldest known garden of this type is at Pasargadae in Iran. About a thousand years on, 'four' gardens, in Mughal India, became associated the concept of Paradise from the Quran as having four rivers of wine, honey, milk, and water.


As the Nishat Bagh is not located on flat ground, the source of water is not the traditional centre of the square garden but the highest point of the garden. It is divided into only two sections, the public garden and the private zenana (harem, or women's) garden. When the garden was created, the zenana garden was used by the women of Asaf Khan's household. Within the two sections, the garden has twelve terraces. The first terrace which connected the garden to the Dal is now a road, the twelfth terrace is located in the zenana garden.


Dal lake at sunset from Nishat Bagh


It is beautifully manicured and offers wonderful views of the Dal especially as the sun starts to set and the sky displays a beautiful array of colours. We left the garden and went closer to the Dal to enjoy the beauty of the silhouette of the serene shikaras against the vibrant sky. We enjoyed a relaxed cup of tea in a beautiful café and then headed to have a meal. By this time Srinagar was ghost town, we were the only ones in the restaurant which is hard to get entry into during the day. A bit of banter of dinner and when we headed to the car, our local friend realized that he had left the keys at the café which had closed by then. But there is so much goodness on the planet, the café owners drove back, opened the café and helped us look for the keys! With a heart full of gratitude and stomach full of Kashmiri feast, we headed back to the houseboat.


Shikaras by Dal and house boats in Dal


The hospitality was great, the wood carvings immaculate, but the bed linen and bathroom were basic. However tourism has started again in Kashmir and hopefully more funds lead to better facilities and not more rubbish on the lake from more insensitive tourists!


Day 2 – Local sightseeing in Srinagar


Early morning local brining their produce to be traded at floating market


Floating Market at Dal


On Day 2 we were up at 4 am and in the darkness waddled into the shikara to get a glimpse of the iconic floating markets at Dal. This was perhaps one of the most beautiful experiences. The glistening waters of the Dal, the rhythmic sounds of the oar breaking through the surface of the water, the gradual emergence of colours in the sky, and being able to touch the waters while being wrapped warm in the fleece blankets of the shikara. It was serene and humbling, one of those moments when you feel one with the universe, you see and experience everything around you in high definition, because you are present and undistracted. The lotus standing tall on the giant leaves on the surface of the water, and birds perched high to catch up some fish for breakfast!


Trading of local businesses at Dal lake floating market


As the sun rose we arrived where a lot of other boats had arrived, with fresh flowers, vegetables and also Kahva. There were more tourist boats than the sellers but it was still an amazing experience. We hope the interest and Instagram craze keeps these traditional markets alive for the next generations to witness. On the way back, we had little boats speed up to us and sell jewellery and other knick knacks. We stopped to pick some bread before heading back to the houseboat to get some breakfast.


600 years old Jamia Masjid of Srinagar


Jamia Masjid


After breakfast we headed to Jamia Masjid, which is over 600 years old, situated in Nowhatta in the heart of Srinagar city. The foundation for the mosque was laid by Sultan Sikandar Shah Kashmiri, in the late 14th century and took 4 years to complete. The mosque is accessible from the north, east and south. The southern gateway forms the main entrance which leads to an inner courtyard based on the traditional char bagh plan with a water feature at the centre. The mosque is roughly square in shape with 378 wooden columns which support the roof. It can accommodate over 30,000 people. The mosque is an adaptation of the Persian mosque form evident from the façade, windows and arches, into the traditional mosque form (ziyarat) which draws inspiration from Buddhist, Hindu and indigenous wooden architecture. Over the years the mosque has been ravaged by fires and restoration work has been carried out, most notable being Maharaja Pratap Singh who encouraged and financed the reconstruction of Jamia Masjid several times. The mosque is also known as Buta Masjid (Buddhist Mosque) as the site is said to have housed a Buddhist monastery by the name of Tsifsung Tsublak Kanj.


Jamia Masjid has been a platform for people to debate and discuss the politics of the Kashmir conflict much earlier before the conflict erupted in Kashmir valley. It has remained closed periodically or for prolonged durations during the recent years. This historical building offers stillness and calm from the hustle and activities of the town surrounding it.



The almost garden of Badam Vaer


Badam Vaer


We headed to Badam Vaer or Badamwari Gardens, badam meaning almonds. Situated on foothills of Koh-e-Maran or Hari parbat fort these gardens bustling with almond trees, spread over 300 kanals of land (one kanal is roughly 506 square metres). It is thought that the garden existed before the 14th century but was used by nomads before being revived by the Jammu & Kashmir Bank in 2008 and officially opened to the public. The almond trees blossom in the spring creating a vivid hue and fragrance for the people to enjoy. It has a peaceful vibe with lesser people than the other gardens and parks. As we were there in August, the sun was relentless and after strolling for a bit and examining raw almonds we decided to head for lunch.


Famous Tibetan restaurant and a bowl of thukpa


Lunch at Most Famous Tibetan Restaurant in Srinagar - Chopstick


After strolling through the almond gardens of Badam Vaer we decided to head for lunch. During 1959-1960, following the Tibeten uprising, when thousands of Tibetans migrated to India from Tibet, a large group of settled down in Kashmir. These Tibetans brought their culture and their food to Kashmir. Today in Srinagar there are Tibetan settlements in the area of Badamwari, Makhdoom Sahib and Eidgah and keep their cuisine alive and share it with others through their restaurants. One gem of a restaurant is ‘Chopsticks’ in the heart of Tibetan settlement in Badamwari. This restaurant serves momos, thukpa, shapale and other cuisines that are still close to their roots and not surprisingly quite popular among the locals. The interiors are simple and non-fussy and packed on a weekday afternoon! We ordered a few plates of momos and shapale along big bowls of thukpa which we polished off in no time.


The view of Dal Lake from Pari Mahal


Pari Mahal


Just a few minutes away from Cheshma Shahi Gardens, Pari Mahal (palace of fairies) is situated at the top of Zabarwan Mountains and has seven terraced gardens and overlooks the south-west part of Dal and the city.

Pari Mahal was built over the remains of a Buddhist monastery by Dara Shikoh, the eldest son of the Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan in the 17th century, as a retreat for Sufi teachers. It was also used as a library, and seventh or the top terrace was used as an observatory for teaching astronomy and astrology. Unlike other Mughal gardens, this one has no waterfalls to feed the terraces, which are instead supplied with water tanks with underground pipelines. Pari Mahal is well maintained with an array of beautiful trees and panoramic views.

Apparently Pari Mahal is where Prince Dara Shikoh was killed by his younger brother, Prince Aurangazeb to win Mughal reign.


The garden and lawn of Chashma Shahi


Chashma Shahi


Chashma Shahi translates to Royal Spring and is named after a spring that rises from a hill into which the garden is built. It situated just north of Pari Mahal, and on the southeast side of Bod Dal. It was commissioned by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the 17th century as a summer retreat. The garden is divided into three terraces of varying heights -the lowest point serves as the main entrance while its highest point of elevation houses the source of the garden's water, which flows down the length of the garden through an axial water channel, from the spring to a five-fountain-pool on the lowest terrace.

The third terrace houses a magnificent pavilion supported by two wooden columns. The spring water that emerges here is believed to have therapeutic properties hence only used for royalty. On a hot summer day, the ice-cold water is indeed refreshing, and one can imagine why it was considered so precious.


Imran Cafeteria and its mouthwatering Tuj


Dinner at Imran Cafeteria in Khayam Chowk - Sampling Best Tuj in Srinagar


Khayam Chowk, named after the famous movie theatre Khayam Cinema Hall which once used to be the source of entertainment for the people of Kashmir, is now a famous food street for the food lovers. A visit to Srinagar is incomplete without experiencing the food and the ambience in the evening. The street is no doubt one of the best places to eat Tuj, a simple yet flavourful grilled meat or chicken, fish on metal skewer over red hot charcoal. Kashmiris love the food here and street is quite busy with hungry foodies! Among all, the most famous restaurant for Tuj is Imran Cafeteria, which serves freshly grilled lamb and chicken tuj with an assortment of dips and unlimited supply of thin bread called lavasa. The popularity of the restaurant is evident from the fact that almost everyone needs to queue up and wait! Luckily we didn’t have to wait too long before devouring the amazing bites! More on our food journey in Kashmir here!


Lal Chowk at night illuminated in Indian tricolour


Lal Chowk


Lal chowk translates to ‘red square’. Legend has it that a group of communist enthusiasts in Srinagar named it Lal Chowk (Moscow Red Square) after Lenin seized power in Moscow in 1917. Lal Chowk has always been a business hub in Kashmir and a good place if you want to shop and eat. The iconic Ghanta Ghar (Clock Tower) was built in 1980 by Bajaj Electricals in the middle of the Chowk to serve as an advertisement. However, over the years, it stopped functioning as a ‘clock’ and served more as a political statement thus attracting heavy security and military presence.


Day 3 - Drung and Gulmarg


Ferozpur river alongside Drung waterfall


Drung Waterfall


The Drung Waterfall is approximately 50 km away from Srinagar, in the Tangmarg tehsil of Gulmarg, Baramulla. The water comes from the glaciers and cascades down the majestic mountains. It freezes completely during winter, and in summer the water is still extremely cold.


The walking trail around Drung Waterfall


There are lots of hiking trails, however due to irresponsible behaviour that has led to many cases of drowning, large sections have been cordoned off and lots of signage for danger are on display now. There is also a hydroelectric power plant here, The area is popular with locals and tourists and locals are usually brave enough to take a dip in the ice-cold water. The terrain calls for adventure and the views are magnificent, however like other places in Kashmir, even the mountains haven’t escaped the littering and plastic pollution from the visitors!


Picturesque Gulmarg


Gulmarg


Gulmarg translates to ‘path of flowers’ and is a small village in the Pir Panjal peaks at the extreme western edge of one of the six mountain ranges that form the Himalayas. Gulmarg was originally a summer retreat for the Mughal kings like Jehangir, and later for the British elite during their Indian occupancy in the 19th century, when they used it as a resort and indulged in hunting and golf, the golf course here also boasts of being at the highest altitude. It was later established as a ski resort in 1927 by two British Army officers. In 1948, a ski school was set up by Indian Army which later transformed into High Altitude Warfare School.


Today it hosts a lot of ski events. With an altitude of 4390 m, the Apharwat Peak in Gulmarg is the longest ski slope in Asia. The Gulmarg Gondola is the highest ski lift in the world, ascending to an elevation of 3,980 meters. In the summer months though, the place is flooded with tourists and though the views are exceptional, you need to go farther away from the crowds to escape the stench of the equine droppings! The place is also very popular with locals who come with picnics to enjoy the cool breeze and views.


The golf course and the club house in Gulmarg where we ate our lunch


We dined at a local canteen with interiors almost reminiscent of the British era, and then headed to Ziyrarat Baba Pyam-u-din Reshi. However, it was so full of people and cars that we decided to call it a day and head back home


Day 4 - Apple Orchard and Local Sight Seeing of Pattan


Exploring apple orchards and sampling fresh gift of nature


After a relaxing breakfast we started the day by exploring the apple orchards at our friend’s place before heading to visit some ancient monuments in Pattan. At the rear of the house where we stayed, our friend has three apple orchards each of which holds around thousand apple trees from sixteen different varieties. All morning we strolled through the orchards sampling fresh delicious apples. To know more on our experience at apple orchards please read our blog here.


The temple ruin of Sankaragaurisvara and Sugandesha


Sankaragaurisvara Temple and Sugandesha Temple, Pattan


Ending the rule of the karkotas, Kashmir was ruled by the Utpala dynasty founded by Avantivarman between the 9th and the 10th century. The capital city of the Utpala dynasty under Avantivarman was Avantipur. His son Sankaravarman created a new capital city Shankarapattana, which is the present-day Pattan. It is believed that Shankaravarman plundered the nearby Buddhist site of Parihaspora to build his new city.

Shankaravarman then commissioned the construction of a temple dedicated to lord Shiva in his newly found capital city. He also built a smaller Shiva temple called Sugandhesha next to it, in honour of his wife Sugandha.

Both temples are in ruins now but offer a glimpse into the architectural style and refined carvings of the time.


Ruins of Parihaspora


Parihaspora Ancient Stupa and Monastery, Pattan

Parihaspur translates to city of joy and was capital of King Lalitaditya Muktapida (724-760 CE) of the Karkota dynasty. During his rule Buddhism spread to Kashmir. Lalitaditya built the monastery here along with other buildings, most of which were destroyed and plundered by Shankaravarman of Utpala dynasty.



View of Manasbal lake at sunset


Manasbal Lake, Ganderbal

Located around 30 km outside the city of Srinagar in the district of Ganderbal, Manasbal lake is the deepest freshwater lake of India with a maximum depth of 43 feet. Located at an elevation of 5194 feet above sea level it is believed that the name Mansabal is derived from Mansarovar lake, the famous lake of Tibet. During July and August there is an abundance of lotus flowers at the periphery of the lake. The lake is fed by precipitation and rainwater. The outflow of the lake is controlled artificially that goes to Jhelum river. The clarity of the water is such that the bottom of the lake can be at the shallow ends. Surrounded by mountains to the east and elevated plateau to the north which is also known as ‘Karewa’ the lake is popular among locals for boating during the late afternoon and especially during sunset. Nur Jahan, the wife of Mughal emperor Jahangir build a Mughal garden called Jaroka Bagh by the lake and is well maintained in the present days. We enjoyed an hour long shikara ride in the lake in the late evening. The cool breeze and tranquillity of the place and the sound of the oars is really mesmerizing. Due to lesser footfall from tourists, it is less crowded and almost pristine.


Day 5 - Trip to Gurez


On day 5 we decided to head to Gurez. On the way after crossing the town of Sopore, there are a few ‘stop and take in’ kind of places.


Hilltop view of Sopore from Dangarpora


View of Sopore from Dangarpora, Baramulla

After crossing the town of Sopore, and on the way uphill near Dangarpora, we took a detour in a narrow winding road for couple of kilometres. This led us to a viewpoint of of Baramulla and the valley. The view of lush green paddy fields till the horizon along with scattered villages in between is truly stunning and breath-taking. We parked our car by a quite road and took a few pictures of the valley and enjoyed these panoramic surroundings before heading towards the viewpoint of Wular lake


Panoramic view of Wular lake


View of Wular Lake from Dangarpora, Baramulla

Nestled between the town of Sopore to the south and Bandipora to the North, Wular lake is one of the largest freshwater lakes in Asia. Around 16 kilometres in length and 10 kilometres in width, the area of Wular lake varies widely from roughly 30 square kilometres to 200 square kilometres depending upon the season and amount of water its holds. Believed to be created by the movement of tectonic plates, the main water source of Wular lake is Jhelum River which passes through it. Wular lake is the source of livelihood for hundreds of fishermen from surrounding areas. We enjoyed the view of the lake from a higher round which gave us a good perspective of its enormity. Being such an important lake, the tourism around the lake is somewhat underdeveloped or almost non-existent as we did not see any tourists coming to the lake to enjoy its view.


Sprawling rice fields of Bandipora


Bandipora Step Rice Fields

Though rice is the staple food of Kashmir, it is hard to imagine a landscape of sprawling rice fields in the valley of Kashmir, let alone step rice fields in the mountains with pine trees in the background. Step rice fields are a common sight in the foothills of Himalayas in the Uttarakhand region and in Northeastern states of India. However, it’s rare to find information and pictures of step rice fields of Kashmir on the web. Tourism in Kashmir also does not highlight the picturesque and Instagram worthy step rice fields that lies in the northern region. There are no particular spots to enjoy these views, as the rice fields stretch along the sides of the roads for up to few kilometres after the town of Bandipora towards Gurez. We stopped at few places by the side of the road when we got fascinated by the views, so it is very subjective and spontaneous.


The picturesque and scenic drive to Gurez Valley


Scenic drive through winding mountain roads to Gurez Valley

Few Kilometres after leaving the town of Bandipora, the road starts to climb steeply. The winding roads lead to a rapid change in scenery from the lush green rice fields of the valley down below to the Himalayan pine forests. The road all the way to Gurez is picturesque enough to stop every five minutes to enjoy the beauty and click away! However it is important to consider safety before stopping and finding a spot which is not close to a blind turn or too narrow. We stopped quite a few times to enjoy the surroundings, the view, the quietness of the hills and the fresh air. We also saw some huts of nomadic Gujjar-Bakarwal community by the slope of the mountains. They use these huts as a shelter for themselves and their livestock mostly goats and sheeps. The closer we inched towards Gurez, the closer we came to the Pakistan controlled part of Kashmir, so much so that the car radio started picking up Pakistani radio channels. Few kilometres ahead of Gurez we had to stop at an Indian army check post where our details were taken, and identification checked before we were allowed to go ahead. A couple of kilometres from the check post we stopped at the only roadside restaurant in the area. They serve bread with omelette, the God of instant noodles in India called ‘Maggi’ and tea. We ate a quick lunch before heading towards Peer Baba Shine.


Durgah of Peer Baba


Peer Baba Shrine, Gurez

Located at around 10,800 feet above sea level the shrine or 'durgah' is of Pir Budhan Ali Shah, also called as ‘Pir Baba’. It lies about 8 kilometres towards the aerodrome at Satwari. Some believe that Pir Budhan Ali Shah belonged to a family of chieftains but left everything to become a Sufi, spent almost all his time in prayers and lived to be 500 years old!

Another interesting anecdote is that had a lion to guard his goats and lived his entire life on milk alone. He used to only accept a pinch of sugar from his devotes, earning him the name of Meetha (sweet) Baba. It is also believed that he was who was a friend of Guru Gobind Singh (the 10th guru of the Sikhs). The atmosphere at the shrine and the surrounding areas is truly tranquil. You can hear the winds, and the ringing of the bells in the shrine creating a beautiful spiritual vibe. It is definitely one of those places where you want to stay for a bit longer. We went inside the dargah, which is visited by people of all faiths.


Day 6 - On The Way To Uri


The fresh produce from the kitchen garden


On our last day, we spent the morning relaxing in the kitchen garden and picking up fruits and nuts to enjoy with the banter and cups of hot tea. It is really a blessing to have a slice of paradise at your doorstep, a landscape sprinkled with waterfalls, tiny streams, imposing trees loaded with fruits and nuts. Walking along felt like exploring a woodland, looking for the perfect pears, splashing the ice-cold water from the streams, and just enjoying nature’s bounty as well as the thoughtfully planted vegetable garden. The slopy terrain made for an even interesting walk and our son enjoyed running with the other kids and picking up fresh produce to take back to the kitchen to be cooked and relished. After all its not everyday that you can go for a ‘walk’ at your back garden and come with a bag full of fresh fruits and vegetables and munching on nuts that you picked on your way back!


Raw and fresh walnut from the tree and a walk in the private patch of forest


After this magical morning we left for Baramulla town, where we enjoyed sumptuous authentic Kashmiri cuisine such as Gushtaba, Rogan Josh and few more before heading towards Uri. To know more about our food journey please read our blog on Kashmir food here.

At Uri our main purpose was not to visit the town of Uri, but to follow the Jhelum River till Uri Hydroelectric Project and stop at a few viewpoints on the way.


View of Jhelum river at Ljhp bridge


View of Jhelum River From Ljhp Bridge Gantamulla

About 12 kilometres from the town of Baramulla, we left the highway and crossed the Ljhp bridge and stopped by the Jhelum river to enjoy the view and take a few snaps of the river and the mountains in the backdrop. The purpose of the bridge is to control the flow of the Jhelum river and divert a big portion of the water towards Uri hydroelectric power plant through the canals. The bridge opens its gates to release the water downstream and when it’s complete, a loud siren echoes in the valley to warn people of the sudden change in the flow of water. When we at the bridge, we got to hear the siren which in all honesty was quite intimidating. This is not a typical tourist spot, but as we were hosted by locals, we had the opportunity is see this and other such sights which are miles away from the usual tourist tracks.


The reservoir of Gantamulla


Hydroelectric Power Project Reservoir Gantamulla

We continued to follow the canal on a narrow road after we left the Ljhp bridge. This road was in use by the main traffic going towards Uri. It was almost deserted road with hardly any other vehicles. The canal with its mighty force of water ran parallel to the road, sometimes underground and then opened into a huge reservoir, a few kilometres ahead of the hydroelectric power plant. The reservoir was quite big, almost like a lake, with mountains in the backdrop. The reservoir has been source of fish for locals and also a nice stop for bird watchers. It is popular among locals and during our visit we found few locals who had parked their cars by the road and sat on the benches located by the bank of the reservoir to enjoy the view. Our friend told us that it was a very popular picnic spot during the summer weekends. We stopped by the reservoirs to enjoy the view, took a few pictures and drove towards the hydroelectric project viewpoint.


At the end point of our trip towards Uri


Uri Hydroelectric Power Project Viewpoint

The spot from where the hydroelectric project can be seen is located next to the road that goes towards the last village of the Indian administered Kashmir. There was not much to be seen from except couple of enormous metal pipes running down the valley carrying millions of gallons of water to the power plant. We stood at the stop for few minutes before turning our car back the way we came from.


The panoramic view of rice fields at Bimyar near Uri


View of Step Rice Fields at Bimyar, Gantamulla

This was a spot that we noticed while going towards the hydroelectric power plant. From our car we spotted a huge valley of rice fields with mountains in the background, so we wanted to stop on our return. Once we parked, we walked for couple of hundred meters towards the edge of the slope above the valley of the rice fields. A panoramic view of lush green rice fields with tall mountains in the backdrop, something to appreciate and absorb. And while we stood there looking into the vastness, we were approached by a local inviting us to his home for a cup of tea. However as we were running late we thanked him for his kindness and went back towards our car to wrap up our last day in the valley of Kashmir.


The days we spent in Kashmir will stay with us for a long time. We experienced so much warmth and hospitality, we had the privilege of sharing meals with our friends and their families, in their homes and being at the receiving end of their generosity with their time, forever driving us around and looking after us! We experienced the real vibe of day-to-day life, intertwined with heavy military presence, we experienced pristine and unspoilt beauty of nature, and also reckless and mindless spoiling of nature and architecture in some parts. What we couldn’t cover in our limited time was to dive deeper into the arts and handicrafts of Kashmir and getting a glimpse of the artisans and their way of life. Well, there is always next time, and next time we hope there is return of peace, prosperity and opportunities for the people of the land and they keep the paradise looking and feeling like a paradise with their art, food and above all love.

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Updated: Nov 27, 2022



Kashmir has been a land of beauty, food, culture and craftsmanship since ages and therefore it is not surprising that it has always been a tourist hotspot. However, the real urge to visit Kashmir was to reconnect with friends from over two decades. In those two decades we had made significant journeys in our lives. So, it was really fascinating to see each other’s new worlds full of stories, a little army of munchkins and lots of greys and wrinkles! On top of meeting your friends and getting to Kashmir, you have to have your stars aligned if the home for your stay in nestled in woods and apple orchards!


Our Kashmir connection - A long standing friendship that goes beyond few decades


It's a bliss - Playing outside in the lap of nature instead of playing inside a virtual world


As we reached we were greeted warmly and before we knew our little one had joined forces with the others and had ran off to explore the garden – well garden is an understatement, it is a few acres of nature and its gifts, trees with bountiful hazel nuts, almonds, walnuts and pears and a commendable variety of vegetables and greens!


The kitchen garden supplies fresh organic vegetables through out the summer months


After the initial phase of meetings and greetings we settled down for some nun cha (Kashmiri salty tea) and czochworu. Day to day life is quite routed in traditions and nature in Kashmir.


Living spaces in most Kashmiri homes - Simple yet cozy and comfy


Homes have large living spaces with the entire floor covered in rugs and cushions against the wall. This is good way to socialize and also helps when the weather outside is cold and not much work is possible. There is a hamam to heat water and heat up the house. Roofs are slanted to ensure snow slides off.


It was our privilege to be able to share the meals with our friends and their family

Eating is mostly done in the kitchen and there is usually a raised floor to segregate the cooking and dining area. The dining area is set up the same way, rugs and cushions and a big piece of cloth called ‘dastarkhan’ is placed over which dinner ware and food pots are placed. Someone would come around with a traditional pot with water for you to wash your hands after you have settled down comfortably to eat.

Bedrooms are non-fussy too, large rugs covering the entire floor area, and mattresses that can be rolled off and set aside. These days people have beds and sofas, but the traditional way still remains most popular. People usually start their day with nun cha and Kashmiri bread called Girda or Tchot, with optional ‘Lipton’ tea (regular tea with milk and sugar). Girda is usually bought fresh in the morning from the local bread maker.


Gift of nature - sampling delicious Kashmiri apples directly from the trees in orchard


With nature at the doorstep, we went exploring the area, which had also encountered a leopard visit recently! We wandered through the apple orchards, tasting over 15 varieties of apples from over 3000 trees. This was our first ‘apple tasting’ tour, and needless to say you can’t really eat the full apple if you intend to taste the full offering on the menu! A couple of bit before you toss it onto the ground! Did took a lot of convincing from our friends for us to agree to throw it and not carry a kilo of half eaten fruits back! Also had taste of some varieties of pears and nuts on our way back.


Delicious and flavourful Kashmiri cuisine


Meals at home are absolutely delicious! Kashmiris eat rice as their main source of carbs. The first serving is usually of greens or ‘haak’ as they are called locally. Red kidney beans or rajma daal is also another comfort food, meat and chicken is also widely consumed. Who hasn’t had some version of ‘Rogan Josh’ at a restaurant. Sitting down to eat with the full family was a beautiful experience, the hosts will usually do their best to ensure you are stuffed and bulging at the seams! To get a deeper dive on Kashmiri food head to our blog here.


We were humbled and privileged by the hospitality we received throughout our stay


We were humbled by the hospitality we received, no one will let you leave without a cup of tea, a bowl of nuts and fruits, and plates loaded with butter biscuits. The elderlies are very particular that guests are well looked after and even better fed! They will sit and hand things to you so you eat and eat well. You can actually feel the warmth and genuine hospitality and the simplicity with which they open their hearts and homes to welcome you!


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Kashmir is called the paradise on earth! So what do you eat in paradise? The answer is a feast or what locals call a ‘wazwan’! A feast fit for the immortals and to take your taste buds on a journey to remember! A lot of meat, a lot of rice and fluffy bread and greens! Kashmiris start their day with nun-cha (salty tea) with bread and rice, meat and greens for lunch and dinner. During our weeklong stay in Kashmir, we sampled a number of authentic and traditional Kashmiri cuisines packed with flavour, aroma and taste. A lot of these form part of the wazwaan, which is cooked under the watchful eye of the waza (head chef) and served during weddings or other functions. These are our pick of 15 foods and drinks that we would recommend if you are visiting Kashmir.


Lamb and Fish Tujj over blazing charcoal


Lamb Tujj with Lavasa bread and assortment of dips


1. Tujj

Tujj is one of the most popular Kashmiri street food. Tujj in Kashmiri means ‘stick’ and therefore comes from the use of metal skewers or sticks loaded with marinated pieces of lamb, chicken or fish, which are then barbecued rapidly over blazing charcoal. This gives the meat that unmissable smoky flavour! The tujj is then served with thin Kashmiri bread called lavasa and a few types of dips (chutney) made from yogurt, mint, coriander, green chillies, onion, radish, carrot and cucumber. Best place to eat tujj in Srinagar is at Khayam chok area and in tujj slots on the boulevard of Dal lake.


The spicy curry and the dense yet soft meatball of Rista

2. Rista

A traditional Kashmiri meat dish which is an essential part of Wazwaan. Rista is a spicy meatball curry traditionally made from lean mutton or lamb meat. Preparing the meatballs for rista is a painstaking and labourious process where small pieces of lean meat are pounded for long time to turn it into smooth paste by breaking down the meat fibre. The fat of the meat also gets added into the meat during the process of pounding and enhances the softness. The meat paste is then turned into small balls and added into the boiling spicy curry which is made with friend onion paste, Kashmiri chilly powder, saffron and meat stock. Once boiled sufficiently the meat balls turn light, fluffy and bouncy and a texture that melts in your mouth. Though rista is served mainly with rice, it pairs well with tava rotias well.


Gustava - Meatballs dipped in rich creamy and tangy gravy


3. Gushtaba

Gushtaba is a Kashmiri meat dish where the meatballs are cooked in creamy and tangy yoghurt gravy. An integral part of Kashmiri wazwaan, gushbata is served as the finishing dish in wazwaan by the waza. Also known as the dish of Kings in Kashmir, this dish is said to have influences from Persia and central Asia, especially the gravy which is made from cardamom, clove, onions, yogurt and lamb stock and has a light soupy consistency. Similar to rista, the meatballs for gushtaba are prepared from ponding the lean meat with fat and spices (fennel and cumin) into a smooth paste and turned into balls which are then boiled in the gravy. Gustaba is traditionally served with both rice and tava roti in wazwaan.


Rogan Josh - The most popular and well known Kashmiri dish

4. Rogan Josh

This signature Kashmiri mutton dish originates from Persia and was introduced by the Mughals in India. This dish established its place in every Kashmiri kitchen and became an integral part of wazwan. Translating from the Persian word Rogan which means ‘oil’ and Josh which means ‘hit’, Rogan Josh is a slow cooked, flavourful, and slightly sweet mutton curry. The flavour of the curry comes from the use of a number of spices such as black and green cardamoms, cloves, cumin, Kashmiri chilly powder, fennel etc. Traditionally there are two versions of this dish based on the ingredients used – one comes from Kashmiri Muslims and the other from Kashmiri Pandits. In the Muslim version of the rogan josh, onion and garlic are used and dried cockscomb flower (mawal) is used for colouring, whereas in the Pandit version, asafoetida replaces the use of onion and garlic and the rich colour comes from the use of a dried herb called ratan jot.


Yakhli - An integral part of Kashmiri kitchen

5. Yakhni

Believed to have originated from the Persian meat stew called Yahni, this comforting and tangy yogurt based mutton curry is an integral part of the Kashmiri kitchen. The flavour in this dish comes from the use of whole spices such as cloves, cardamoms, black peppercorns, fennel seeds etc. The whole spices and mutton on bone are simmered in a mixture of yogurt and water till the creamy consistence of the curry is achieved. It is served with rice and is perfect if you want a non-tomato based curry.


One of teh Starting dish of Wazwan - Tabak Maaz

6. Tabak Maaz (Fried Lamb Ribs)

One of the components of wazwan, tabak maaz is mainly served as a starting dish of the wazwan. This traditional Kashmiri dish is prepared from mutton ribs. The ribs are first cooked in a broth of salt, turmeric and whole spices such as black and green cardamom, clove, fennel, bay leaf, cumin seeds and few others. The ribs are then fried in ghee (clarified butter) until crispyoutside and has a gorgeous golden hue.


Part of Wazwan or even served as starter in Kashmiri cuisine - Seekh Kebab

7. Seekh Kebab

This mouth-watering, juicy and soft grilled skewered minced meat is mainly served as the starter in Kashmiri cuisine and as part of Wazwan. In Kashmiri wazwan the seekh kebabs are made from small pieces of boneless mutton along with some fat where the meat is finely minced with spices such as Kashmiri chilli, cumin and cinnamon powder and crushed dried mint. The meat is then slowly cooked over charcoal in skewers until golden brown. This method of cooking allows the meat to hold the moisture and keeps it juicy. Apart from waswan these delicately flavoured seekh kebabs are also served as starters paired with lavasa bread and accompanied by various chutney dips.


Haak - a simple and staple food in every Kashmiri kitchen


8. Haak

Haak which simply means greens in Kashmiri is often called as poor man’s food because of the use of leaves of vegetables which are otherwise discarded. It is a staple food in every Kashmiri kitchen. A variety of green leaves are used to prepare haak like collard green, radish green, turnip green, kale and few others. The most commonly used leaf is collard greens which is grown in almost the entire region of Kashmir. Based on the type of the leaf used, haak can be referred to as:

  • Haak: Collard green

  • Monji Haak: Kohlrabi or cabbage turnip green

  • Mujj Haak: Radish turnip green

Haak is a simple dish which is prepared by cooking the leaves in mustard oil along with dried red chillies and asafoetida. In every Kashmiri home, at the start of a meal haak is served with rice.


The influence of Tibetan cuisine in modern day Kashmir - Shapale

9. Shapale or Sha Phaley

Shapale of Sha Phaley is a Tibetan dish that came to Kashmir with the Tibetan migrants. It’s a popular dish now and is mainly served for dinner or lunch. Shapale is made with minced meat stuffed in flour dough and deep fried till golden brown. Traditionally the meat used in shapale is from yak, however now a days in restaurants shapale stuffing can be made with beef, lamb or vegetables. Shapale is often served with a bowl of warm vegetable or meatbroth.


Everyday snack for any Kashmiri with a cup of tea - Bakarkhani

10. Bakarkhani

Bakarkhani is a sweet, layered flatbread which is mainly eaten as snacks with tea. The top and bottom layer of bakarkhani tends to be crispy and the inner layers are soft and fluffy. Whole wheat flour and plain flour are combined to prepare this flatbread and then kneaded with ghee (clarified butter), sugar and yogurt. The dough is then rolled and shallow fried in ghee creating a wonderful golden layered flatbread.


In a Kashmiri house no breakfast is complete without a piece of this - Girda

11. Girda and Nun Cha (Salty Tea)

Called by various names as Girda or Tchot or Czot or Roti is the Kashmiri breakfast flatbread. A typical Kashmiri breakfast is incomplete without a bite of freshly made girda sourced from the local kandur (bread baker). Made in underground clay oven from fermented dough, the bread maker leaves the impression of his fingertips on girda. This fluffy and soft bread has crusty brown top and white bottom which is served with butter and nun cha (salty tea) for breakfast. This is slightly pink in colour and as the name suggests salt is added instead of sugar. It takes some time to get used to, but savouriness goes really well with the warm soft bread!


Czochworu - Kashmiri donut

12. Czochworu or Chochwor

Also known as Kashmiri donut, Czochworu or Chochwor is a soft and dense round shaped bread which is mainly eaten with tea or nun chai (salt tea) in the late afternoon or evening. Though we found this bread more similar to bagel than donut in texture and appearance. The bread gets a generous sprinkling of sesame seeds on top and poppy seeds on the bottom while baking which enhances its flavour and is best eaten fresh and warm.


The integral part of Kashmiri culture - Khawa

13. Kashmiri Traditional Tea Khawa

No visit to Kashmir valley is complete without sipping a cup of Khawa. This Kashmiri tea is a fragrant mild tea which is flavoured and infused with saffron and whole spices such as cardamom, cloves and cinnamon and served with a garnish of chopped dry fruits such as almond or cashew nuts and sprinkled with dried rose petals. Traditionally khawa is prepared in a brass kettle called samovar. The name of this rejuvenating and refreshing tea is derived from the Arabic word ‘gahwah’ meaning aromatic beverage. Every cup of khawa is an amazing combination of taste and aroma which one can smell, sip and bite at the same time.


Halwa puri - a common evening snack in many Kashmiri household

14. Halwa Puri

This is a popular street food which can be found outside almost all dargahs (Shrine) in Kashmir. We tried this a couple of times during our stay in Kashmir and on both occasions from a shop outside a dargah. Undoubtedly the puri (fried flatbread) in this dish is the biggest puri we have seen. It is made from flour dough and deep fried in oil or ghee. The halwa is sweet and made from oats, milk, ghee, nuts and raisins and is orange in colour due to the use of saffron and or food colour. When used saffron gives a nice aroma to this dish. The sweet halwa is served together with the savoury puri and its best eaten hot – a small piece of puri with a bit of the sweet halwah.


Fruit shake with softy - Thick, sweet and a flavourful dessert

15. Fruit Shake with Softy

This is not just another fruit shake, it is a thick shake made from different fruits like mangoes, strawberries, bananas etc blended with ice-cream and topped with another generous dollop of vanilla ice cream. You can find these at Ice-cream parlours around Lal Chowk area - we loved the mango fruit shake!

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