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Exploring Srinagar

A Solo Journey

By Neha VihaanPublished about a month ago 3 min read
As the famed Farsi couplet by Amir Khusro goes, "Agar firdaus bar roo-e zameen ast, hameen ast-o hameen ast-o hameen ast." It translates to, "If there is a paradise on earth, it is this, it is this, it is this." This quote perfectly encapsulates the splendor of Kashmir, a place whose beauty cannot be compared by the whole world

In May 2024, I embarked on a solo trip to Srinagar, the heart of the Kashmir Valley. Nestled along the banks of the Jhelum River, between the Hari Parbat and Shankaracharya hills, Srinagar is a city renowned for its natural beauty, gardens, waterfronts, and houseboats.

I had chosen to visit in September, a time when the weather was pleasant and the city was draped in its full glory.

On my first day in Srinagar, I decided to explore the iconic Dal Lake. After checking into a hotel near the lake, I began my day at 12:30 PM. The scene that greeted me was nothing short of spectacular. On one side, countless "Shikaras" were anchored, their brightly colored canopies reflecting on the tranquil water. On the other side, an array of houseboats floated serenely. The Shikara, a traditional Gondola-type rowing boat, is not only a cultural symbol of Kashmir but also an essential part of its daily life. These beautifully decorated boats gliding on the lake is a sight to behold, offering a glimpse into the surreal beauty of this region.

As I boarded a Shikara from Ghat No. 14, driven by brother Javed, the floating post office came into view. Unique and captivating, it is the only one of its kind in the world. The moment the Shikara set off, I felt an inexplicable sense of tranquility and excitement. This experience, unlike any other I had had in my years of travel, was truly different and enchanting. The best time for a Shikara ride, as advised by locals, is in the evening when the setting sun paints the sky in hues of orange and pink, creating a breathtaking view.

During the ride, we passed by the famous floating market. Vendors in Shikaras sold everything from traditional Kashmiri handicrafts to snacks like hot Kahwa, a local drink made with cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, green tea, saffron, almonds, and honey. Sipping on Kahwa while drifting on Dal Lake was an experience that epitomized the essence of Kashmir. The beauty of Kashmir cannot be compared by the whole world, and moments like these made it clear why this region is often referred to as paradise on earth.

As the Shikara glided past houseboats, I decided to visit one randomly. Each houseboat, a marvel of craftsmanship, offers a unique glimpse into Kashmiri culture. The interiors, adorned with intricate wood carvings and traditional furnishings, exuded warmth and hospitality. It's said that there are around 1200 to 1400 houseboats on Dal Lake, each offering a unique experience. Staying in one is a must for anyone visiting Srinagar.

In the afternoon, after a delightful Shikara ride, I headed to the JKTDC restaurant near Zero Bridge. The restaurant, designed like a houseboat, served traditional Kashmiri Wazwan, an elaborate feast. The dishes, including Mutton Rista, Gushtaba, and Waze Haakh, were a culinary delight. Each bite was a testament to the rich flavors and intricate cooking techniques of Kashmiri cuisine.

Post lunch, I visited the Nishat Garden, built by Asaf Khan in 1634 AD. The garden, with its twelve terraces, offered breathtaking views of the Dal Lake and the Zabarwan mountains. The symmetrical layout, lined with fountains and Chinar trees, was mesmerizing. The garden's history is as intriguing as its beauty. It is said that Shah Jahan, impressed by its beauty, wished to own it and stopped its water supply when Asaf Khan refused. However, the water supply was later restored from the Shalimar Garden, a testament to the ingenuity and loyalty of Asaf Khan's servants.

Standing at the topmost terrace of Nishat Garden, I took in the panoramic view of Dal Lake and the surrounding mountains. The aerial view from here was nothing short of magical. As the sun set, casting a golden glow over the lake, I felt a deep sense of contentment. This solo trip to Srinagar, with its serene Shikara rides, delightful cuisine, and mesmerizing gardens, had truly been an unforgettable journey into the heart of paradise. Kashmir is not just a place but an emotion, and its beauty cannot be compared by the whole world.

budget travelsolo travelfemale travelasia

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    NVWritten by Neha Vihaan

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