“Kashmir has always been more than a mere place. It has the quality of an experience, or a state of mind, or perhaps an ideal.” – Jan Morris, world renowned travel writer
These carefully chosen words perhaps best reflect the unbesmirched beauty of the Kashmir Valley. Occupying the northernmost region of India, Kashmir’s position as the crown is a remarkable parallel with its princely splendour of snow, slopes and shikaras. Yet much is left to be explored for the regular traveller beyond the usual sights in the Kashmir Valley.
Everyone loves Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Dal Lake, and Ladakh. These are truly the best places to visit in Kashmir if you have never been there before. Or you can take the offbeat track and become a wanderer in the only paradise on Earth. It is the latter that we will talk about today, so dive straight in! Here are four lesser known wonders of Kashmir:
Almost a two-day drive from Srinagar, around 40 km from Ladakh, lies the hidden gem named Hemis. And its beauty is comparable to that of Ladakh, heightened even more with the presence of majestic beasts such as the rare snow leopard, red fox and Tibetan wolf. You can be privy to such fauna at the Hemis National Park, one of the highest protected areas in the country and the largest national park in India. Its location north of the Himalayas adds further intrigue. Moreover, the national park at Hemis also houses a 400-year old monastery which is an important place of pilgrimage for Buddhists. In June, the Hemis Tsechu Festival attracts many to its doors.
- Warwan Valley
Located in the Kishtwar District at a height of 2133 m, the Warwan Valley is an escape to tranquillity in the region of Kashmir. It has everything for a traveller who relishes the wonders of nature – snow-clad mountains, lush meadows, panoramic views of the valley, and the cool, refreshing water of the Warwan river.
Who wouldn’t want to visit a place many legends claim to be associated with the mythical visit of Jesus Christ to the Kashmir Valley? Literally translating to ‘meadow of Jesus’, the picturesque hill station might have been a favourite resting place of Jesus Christ during his travels almost 2000 years ago. Cinematic fir and pine trees atop rolling meadows against the backdrop of snow-laden Himalayas provide a charming, almost magical feel to Yusmarg. It is only 47 km from Srinagar, and is a hotspot for adventure tourism today!
Last, but not the least, is the fabled village of Gurez which lies on the ancient Silk Route. Located approximately a day’s drive from Srinagar towards the north, Gurez is a stunning valley decorated by the pristine waters of the Kishanganga river. Although it is in extremely close proximity to Pakistan, the village is safe to travel to. Moreover, Gurez is an important archaeological site where Kashmiri, Brahmi and other carvings have been discovered – thus helping trace the history of the region and the ancient Kashmiri culture!
When on a trip to Kashmir, it is always a good idea to find accommodation at one place and then explore the state from there on. Naturally, we would recommend you to set up base at Srinagar since you will get easy transportation to offbeat places from there, along with stunning hotels in Srinagar near Dal Lake with tariff such as the historic The LaLiT Grand Palace Srinagar. Once the residence of the royals, the abovementioned palatial hotel is perfect for a luxurious stay in Kashmir. Moreover, it is close to the airport.
You know where your next summer vacation will be, now: in the mesmerising arms of Kashmir still left untouched and unexplored.