The first thing that comes to the mind of a traveler all set for his holidays in the divine state of hills – Kashmir? Ladakh? Manali-leh road trip? Holy shrines and Temples? Well an explorer always hankers for an unsaid need of some ultimate exclusive wordless experiences to store in his heart and this state definitely assures beyond the cliché beauty of the Kashmir hills and Ladakh’s thrill.
Being eyed by the mountains yon that horizon that you find yourself gazing at, every solitary evening, the city gives you frequent surprising jackpots of scenery. The art-lovers can absolutely spend their day musing the abundant beauty here; painters can color their canvas splendidly without stepping too far, there is enough to see just beside that window to your left; poets can sing rhythmic songs of serenity and peace all day long, the photographs can spend a day out and let the world wonder in gasp with the ultimate picturesqueness of the place. The giant slender hills , Much of a sparkling clear sky full of pearly white clouds and those rare birds you see one day and the next day they are replaced with the ones more rare, those chilled foggy mornings and the lovely rains, all in all there is a versatile abundance of delight for your soul and mind, anytime, anywhere.
Basohli and Bani
A town less talked of, a rich culture, pleasant climate and people warm enough to melt your heart right away can serve as the first pleasing halt for your trip to J&K. Primarily known for its remarkable painting art ‘Basohli paintings‘ ,which portraying the Hindu mythological literature, primitively was the first ‘Pahari School of Paintings‘ which further unfolded effectively into much more like Kangra School of Paintings. This small town-Basohli is located in the uneven humble foothills and has much to offer for a day’s visit. Bani is a small glaciated valley with boundless beauty of waterfalls, lush forests, pretty little towns and forts. These tiny packages of natural beauty are enough to pull that disappointment-streak on your face for not visiting these places before.
Pretty little mountains, a lake of about a mile’s length and half-a-mile width, vibrant flora and rarity of fauna, yes that is what this beautiful lake encompassing history and myths along with its immense beauty, promises. Just a stroll around the lake would give you a good sight-seeing for an hour or two or you can simply admire the lake sitting at a corner capturing the alluring nature in your portraits or read a book. The lake has its mythical roots back to the time of Mahabharata. Definitely a beauty less explored!
A hill station located in the district Udhampur, is an absolute thirst quenching destination for the ones seeking an escape from the daily chaos. The time can be spent hiking around to nearby places like Shiv- Gharh for about 11 kms or just relaxing under a pleasant sky, surrounded by mountains all around you forgetting the whole world in that calm seclusion. In the night it’s cold enough to wrap yourself in a cozy quilt holding a cup of ‘kahwa’ inside a warm tree cottage. For the ones who are still lurking for thrill at this midnight hour, just step out of your cottage and you can see the stars so near you can almost touch them. Well the explorers can wake up to a fine shiny day and head towards the nearby towns like Kudh for more peace and beauty.
A night in Patnitop and you can go to one of the remotest areas, Sanasar, a lush green grassland welcoming you with arms wide open. You can chose to trek through Madhatop, another hill station pleasing enough to impress you with its beauty or you can just simply enjoy a good drive on the zig-zag roads, with an altitude high enough to kick your adrenaline rush even more. It’s a good spot for adventure lovers as well, as the day can be spent amidst the clouds paragliding or hot-air ballooning and the starry night in camps surrounded with tall trees. A nearby mountain range called ‘Shanta ridge’ is just a few hours ahead.
Ancient Mughal Road
Now this one being my personal favorite, is a road between Bafliaz to Shopian district in Kashmir Valley. This 84km long road passes over the Pir Panjal range. Plan for a long drive through this picturesque stretch and feel the royal Mughal air around you the whole way through. Relish the unique and diverse attractions on your way admiring the Mughal-era monuments, untouched forests, rolling meadows, springs, lakes, waterfalls and shrines.
You probably don’t need to go to Kashmir every time hunting for a good share of natural beauty. Nature has laid enough baits to stun you in the nearby areas as well. Pahalgam is one such remarkable assurance of enchantment. Lakes with so much essence of freshness, Valleys to let you wander in wonder and rivers for a good walk. Get around and explore, have a taste of the rich cuisine, Sleep away your lazy hours all in peace and spend a good week there with not even an ounce of boredom spoiling your trip.
This flourishing hub for adventure tourism is a valley of meadows in Doda district. Chinta valley with numerous scenic spots, Seoj meadow plentiful beauty with a bonus of a beautiful river, Padri ,the highest point on the Bhadarwah-Chamba road, sun kissed Srtingal with a lovely breeze for a beautiful day, Jai valley to spend thrilling nights in camps, Hanhga, Noorie, Devchater and Kellar for trekkers and explorers. Is it still not enough for a fine feast for your eyes?
Holding its threads of religion, this place is a jewel in the map of J&K. Mount Kailash, a peak on Gangdise Mountains harboring the inexpressible beauty of Lake Mansarovara, Gauri Kund, Rakshas Tal, snow-capped mountains and much more will let you feel the sacredness of this place at every mile adding an absolute charm to your visit.
And people still just talk about Kashmir’s Gulmarg and the incredible Ladakh at the mention of Jammu and Kashmir? This land of warriors holds as much compassion, warmth, culture as well as it displays its inevitable account of nature. So explore the land less traveled and fall in love a thousand times more with the city.