If you are looking for a destination where you can sit back and soak yourself in the pristine surroundings and savour exotic food then Srinagar is the right place for you.
I had heard of Kashmiri hospitality from my friends and Shafiul Alam Ishaque, the GM of RK Sarovar Portico where I decided to stay in Srinagar, sealed that impression for all times to come. Popularly called as Shafi, he is friendly, knowledgeable and always willing to do anything to make your stay comfortable and memorable. We hit it off instantly, and he organised my wonderful itinerary to explore Srinagar.
Here are my ‘Top picks To Do’ In The Stunning Valley:
One of the best walks of my life, the Dal Lake Boulevard is a great place for an easy stroll along the lake edge. As you walk past the huge Chinar trees, you see the lake enveloped by mountain range clad in snow on the other side. Colourful shikaras all around, I even spotted a floating Post Office which is actually functional.
The walking path is clean as it is devoid of any eatery stalls, except for a couple of vendors selling muri chana mixture and bhuttas. Don’t miss the sunset at the lake, you will witness such lovely hues in the sky, truly a magical sight to capture in your cameras.
The fishing on the lake is also a great pass time. You can spot a few loners enjoying their ‘ME time’. And believe me, that’s enough temptation to lay your hands on the fishing net.
Though a cliché exercise, yet it has its own charm. So I suggest do not miss a Shikara ride in the Dal lake. Ask the Shikara rider to take you towards the fountain which has amazing view of the hills. Also he should take you to the ‘village’ and ‘floating markets’ in the lake. Once you are there, see the bustling life of the locals.
Most of them sell various things in the floating shops they have set up in the lake. Chat with them, take pictures and bargain well if you must shop.
If you are honeymooning in the valley, then WelcomHeritage Gurkha Houseboats at the Nagin Lake is the best option for a romantic stay. Here you are in a world of your own, there are only the sounds of the whispering wind or the lapping water waves.
The night sky is a beautiful canvas with million stars embossed on it. There is a personal butler who will make sure you have a memorable stay with all the frills to get pampered.
I strongly recommend a visit to Shankracharya Temple. A beautiful winding road leads up to the top of the hill from where you need to climb up some 150 odd steps to reach the temple. The view from the top is spectacular and well worth the effort.
The most popular shrine of the valley is not to be missed. Located on the western shore of the Dal Lake opposite Nishat Bagh, the view of the lake and the hills beyond is out of the world. Do spend sometime in the complex and absorb the vibes of peace and serenity which the beautiful alabaster-white mosque radiates.
A long winding road uphill leads to Pari Mahal, popularly referred to as ‘the fairies’ abode. This idyllic destination offers one of the most iconic 360 degrees view of the valley. For photography, there couldn’t be a better location.
Srinagar is a good place for shopping. Browse for carpets, pashmina shawls, antique jewellery, handicrafts which are worth taking as souvenirs. I recommend a visit to Khazir Sons for good quality kilims, Oriental carpets, antique jamawars and precious jewellery.
You can even visit their factory and see an extensive range, difficult to find anywhere else. Go to Lal Chowk for dry fruits and antique copper ware like ‘samovars from which they serve tea.’
Do not miss the grand finale of your visit – a traditional 36 course Wazwan dinner. Chef Abbas Bhat of RK Sarovar Portico, well-known in the city for his culinary skills, prepared an elaborate Wazwan meal for me.
His signature items ‘Gogji Nadir’ – a combination of lotus stem and turnips; ‘Chokh Vangun’ – Kashmiri Khatte Baingan; ‘Monj Haak’ – Kashmiri saag and ‘Dum Aloo’ were to die for.
Wind up your meal with the famous, the best digestive Kashmiri chai i.e. ‘Kahva’ – a delicate hot drink of green tea with cardamom, saffron, cinnamon, and almonds made in a special pretty looking utensil called ‘samovar’.
The combination of green tea and saffron has properties that aid in weight loss if had regularly.
As I watch the sun go down, casting mysterious shadows across the pretty lake, it’s a surreal perfect photo finish to my valley experience.