Jammu & Kashmir Tour Packages
A trip to Srinagar wouldn’t be complete without taking a few side trips out into the glorious Kashmiri countryside (after all, Kashmir isn’t called the “Switzerland of India” for nothing!). It’s filled with flowers in spring and snow in winter. Pretty Kashmiri villages with traditional wooden houses and colorful rooftops can be seen along the way. These popular tourist places in Kashmir are good starting points. The easiest way of getting there is to hire a car and driver. Your hotel or houseboat owner will be able to readily arrange tours. Otherwise, if you’re on a budget, the state bus company runs day trips. Tickets can be booked from the Tourist Reception Center in Srinagar.
Located on the Srinagar-Ladakh Highway, around two and a half hours drive northeast of Srinagar, scenic Sonamarg (“Meadow of Gold”) is famous for its Thajiwas Glacier. What’s remarkable about this glacier is how accessible it is. From the highway, you can hike up to the glacier and back in around five hours. If you don’t have so much time to spare, it’s possible to ride a pony instead, or take a taxi part of the way there and walk. It is costly though. Pony owners will charge at least 600 rupees per person for a return trip. Do bargain hard. Scenes of many Bollywood movies have been filmed in the area, and you won’t have to try very hard to feel like you’re in one!
Gulmarg (“Meadow of Flowers”), India’s version of a ski resort, is situated less than two hours drive east of Srinagar. The season runs from mid December to mid March. If you’re not into skiing, you may still want to let the gondola whisk you more than 13,000 feet up Mount Apharwat for outstanding views. Apparently, it’s the world’s highest cable car. And, it’s very popular, so you should buy your tickets online to avoid a long queues. Unfortunately, you’ll still have to wait to board it though. Ubiquitous pony rides are also available in Gulmarg, and their owners are particularly aggressive in pestering tourists for business.
Pahalgam, the “Valley of Shepherds”, is around three hours drive from Srinagar and is near the departure point for pilgrims going on the Amarnath Yatra (avoid visiting during July as it will be very busy then). Visitors commonly head to Pahalgam’s Betaab Valley (the Bollywood movie “Betaab” was shot there), with its fresh flowing Lidder River and surrounding snow-capped hills.
4. Charar-i-Sharief and Yousmarg
Yousmarg, a sprawling meadow around two hours drive southwest of Srinagar, is refreshingly underdeveloped (only a couple of restaurants are there). The highlight is the Doodh Ganga river, which is reached by a picturesque 30 minute walk along a forested trail down a hill. Alternatively, it’s possible to take a pony. The pony owners will insist you do so and they are quite annoying (don’t give into them though if you do want to walk). On the way to Yousmarg you’ll pass numerous apple trees (if you spot anyone selling apples on the roadside, get some as they’re delicious!) as well the town of Charar-i-Sharief.
5. Sinthan Top
Sinthan Top is becoming a sought after alternative to the other, often crowded, tourist places in Kashmir. Interest in it has grown since construction of the Kokernag-Sinthan Top-Kishtwar Road, connecting Kashmir with Jammu, began. It’s yet to be developed though, so there’s an absence of facilities for tourists. Hence, it’s a good idea to stop in Daksum on the way. The drive from Srinagar to Sinthan Top takes around two and a half hours