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Jammu and Kashmir is a Union Territory of India where Kashmir is rightly called as “Paradise on Earth”. Kashmir is known for its beautiful grassy mountains with extremely flourishing views, glittering lakes, saffron fields, and crystal blue rivers from icy mountains. Kashmir is a natural beauty and is a perfect holiday destination to plan a family tour once in a lifetime. The best time to visit Kashmir is from March to June in summer season and October to February in winter season. You can also enjoy charming lake rides, Gondola rides and witness snowfall in the winter season and enjoy Skiing. In this article we are going to enlist the top 10 places to visit in Kashmir.
Amarnath Cave is considered to be one of the holiest shrines of Hinduism dedicated to Lord Shiva. The cave is covered with snow most of the year and is accessible only for a short period of time during the Shravan months of July-August. Every year thousands of devotees from all over the world come for a challenging mountainous trek called ‘Amarnath Yatra‘ to seek the blessings of Lord Shiva. The main attraction of Amarnath Cave is a stalagmite Shivaling formed naturally with ice that resembles Lord Shiva. The ice formed Shivling in this cave is the symbol of people’s trust and faith. According to Hindu Mythology, it is believed that Lord Shiva had told the secret of immortality to Goddess Parvati in this cave.
There are two ways to reach Amarnath Cave, one is through Baltal and the other one is through Pahalgam. The Pahalgam route is difficult and it takes days to reach the cave whereas the Baltal route is short. The Pahalgam route is generally preferred by most of the devotees. Some non-government organizations have also set up to provide free food supplies and resting tents called ‘Pandals’ for pilgrims. You can also choose to travel by Helicopter, Pony, and Palki. The Yatra is officially organized by the government in collaboration with Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB).
Shankaracharya Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is one of the oldest shrines in Kashmir. It is situated on top of the Shankaracharya Hills on the Zabarwan range in Srinagar. Shankaracharya Temple is also known as ‘Jyesteshtwara Temple’. It is believed according to Hindu Mythology that the temple is visited by a great philosopher Adi Shankara and ever since the temple got the name Shankaracharya. Shankaracharya Temple is constructed at a height of 1,000 feet above sea level and the trek to the hill involves walking up around 250 steps. You can also reach the top by car or any vehicle.
The Shankaracharya Temple is mostly visited by pilgrims and tourists on their way to Amarnath Cave. Best time to visit is in the morning by 9 am. No cameras or mobile phones are allowed inside the temple to capture the views.
Gulmarg is famously known as ‘Meadow of Flowers’ situated in the Pir Panjal Range in the western Himalayas of Jammu and Kashmir. Gulmarg receives a huge number of tourists every year for its famous skiing destination surrounded by the snow-covered Himalayas, a large variety of flowers, green forested valleys with extraordinary beauty. Best time to visit Gulmarg is between mid-November to February where one can witness snowfall and enjoy Gondola rides (cable rides). Gulmarg also has the world’s second-highest Gondola ride known as ‘KONGDORI GONDOLA’. Alpather Lake, Ningle Nallah, Nanga Parbat, etc are some of the famous tourist attractions of Gulmarg.
You can also visit some of the religious sites in Gulmarg like Baba Rezi Shrine, St. Mary’s Church & Maharani Temple. Gulmarg has also been a popular destination for shooting various Bollywood films like Jab Tak Hai Jaan, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, Haider, etc.
Sonamarg is a hill station in Ganderbal district, situated at an altitude of 2740m above sea level. Sonamarg is famously known as ‘Meadow of Gold’ and attracts large numbers of tourists every year to enhance its beauty. Snow peaked mountains with the river flowing along, the crystal clear water, valleys of flowers and lakes, etc make Sonmarg an ideal destination to visit. The major tourist attraction of Sonamarg is Thajiwas Glacier which lies at a distance of 3 km away from Sonamarg covered in snow all through the year. To experience the beauty of the Thajiwas glacier, one can trek all the way there from Sonamarg and do camping activities. Krishnasar Lake, Vishansar Lake, Nilagrad, and the Baltal Valley are some of the other tourist attractions of Sonamarg.
Best time to visit Sonamarg is from May To September and November To February. Nature lovers mostly visit Sonmarg in the search of tranquil peace and enchanting natural beauty.
Hari Parbat Fort
Hari Parbat Fort is also known as ‘Koh-e-Maran‘ situated on the hills of the Hari Parbat. It is a popular tourist attraction for its historical and religious significance. The first fortifications of the site were constructed by the Mughal emperor, Akbar, in 1590 who built the outer wall for the fort. Later, the fort was completed by Afghan governor Atta Mohammad Khan in the eighteenth century. This fort is maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and is surrounded by commendable structures from all religions.
The visiting time of this fort is between 9 am to 5:30 pm except for Sunday. Hari Parbat Fort provides a top view of Makhdoom Sahib Shrine. The shrine is named after the Sufi saint Sheikh Hamza Makhdoom, who was known by different names like Makhdoom Sahib, Hazrat Sultan, Sultan-ul-Arifeen, and Mehboob-ul-Alam.
Dal Lake is the most popular tourist attraction of Kashmir surrounded by Mughal Gardens. It is the second largest lake of Jammu and Kashmir and also known as the ‘Jewel of Kashmir’ or ‘An icon of Kashmir Tourism’. The houseboats and shikaras are the main attractions on Dal Lake. The shikara is a type of wooden boat found on Dal Lake and other water bodies of Srinagar and are used for multiple purposes, including transportation. A shikara ride in the Dal lake has become a must-do activity for tourists. The Dal Lake of Srinagar is also popular for the floating market where shopkeepers have their own Shikaras to sell you their products as you go for a Shikara ride.
Best time to visit Dal Lake is between May to November. The beauty of dal lake is beyond words and the shikara ride is like a pie on the cake. You can also enjoy the blooming lotus, frozen dal lake, Char Chinar depending on the month you travel.
Shalimar Bagh is a Mughal Garden built by Mughal Emperor Jahangir, for his beloved wife Nur Jahan in 1619. It is situated on the bank of Dal lake and has the main water channel called Shah Nahar. Shalimar Bagh is also known as Shalimar Gardens, Farah Baksh, and Faiz Baksh. Shalimar Bagh is surrounded by Zabarwan Range and has beautiful Chinar trees which enhance its beauty.
Shalimar Bagh has 3 terraces, each serving a different purpose. The first terrace is a public garden named as Diwan-i-Aam. The second terrace is named as Diwan-i-Khas that was built exclusively for the emperor and his special guests. The third terrace is known as Zenana Garden that was designed especially for women belonging to the royal family. There is also a Black Pavilion in the zenana garden erected by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan which has an inscription written by Amir Khusrau – ‘If there is paradise on earth, it is here, it is here and it is here’.
Indira Gandhi Memorial Tulip Garden is the largest tulip garden in Asia situated in the foothills of the Zabarwan mountain range in Srinagar with an overview of Dal Lake. It was inaugurated in 2008 by Former Chief Minister Gulam Nabi Azad. It was built mainly for Floriculture and is formally known as Model Floriculture Center. The Indira Gandhi Memorial Tulip Garden has seven terraces built in a sloping ground fashion. This tulip garden has 48 varieties of Tulip flowers and is home to flowers like roses, daffodils, hyacinths, and iris.
The famous tulip festival is the main attraction here which is celebrated every year and attracts tourists from all over the country. The best time to visit the tulip garden is during the onset of the spring season (between March and May).
Nishat Bagh is the largest Mughal garden in Kashmir popularly known as “Garden of Bliss”. It is situated on the bank of Dal Lake and was built in 1633 by Asif Khan, who was the brother-in-law of Mughal Emperor Jahangir. Like all other Mughal Gardens, the design of the Nishant Bagh is largely influenced by Persian architecture. The garden with a beautiful water channel flowing through the middle surrounded by tall Chinar trees adds charm to its beauty.
The visiting time of this Bagh is between 9:00 am to 7:00 pm. Nishat Bagh is famous for its 12 terraces decorated with beautiful flowers with each terrace representing zodiac signs.
Pari Mahal is also known as The Palace of Fairies located at the top of the Zabarwan mountain range, overlooking the city of Srinagar. Pari Mahal is a 7 terraced garden with numerous colourful flowers and is one of the most attractive places in Srinagar. It has attracted a huge number of tourists over the years for its mysterious ambience. It is an example of Islamic architecture and patronage of art during the reign of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. Pari Mahal was built by Dara Shikoh, the eldest son of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in the mid 17th century.
The Best time to visit Pari Mahal is between April to October as during this time the weather is pleasant for sightseeing. Pari Mahal is lightened during the night and the magnificent view of the building can be viewed from most of the places in Srinagar.