“If there is a paradise on earth, it is this, it is this, it is this”. Persian poet Jami
Kashmir has been romanticised by everyone from the 16th-century Mogul emperor Jahangir (who, when asked on his deathbed if he wanted anything, whispered “Kashmir, only Kashmir”) to Salman Rushdie (who spoke of “the lush valleys, the lakes, the streams, the saffron meadows – the intense physical beauty and culture of enormous harmony”) and Led Zepellin (“Ooh my baby, let me take you there”). Most Kashmiris live an agrarian and simple life. Srinagar with its semblance of mod cons is hardly the norm. Overall the people are extremely gracious, generous, unfailingly hospitable and sweet. The last decades of strife have brought much grief, pain and suffering, yet they embrace visitors as friends and begin to dream of a new golden era, independence and sovereign control over their own resources.
Kashmir has a rich spiritual heritage of all faiths and has been a land of sanskrit scholars, seers, saints, savants and sages. It also enjoys high levels of artistic practice in the hand made production of carpets, shawls, wood and metal craft.
Srinagar stands as testament to much of its former glory with water the abiding feature: the water of its lakes, the springs of its Mughal gardens, the rush of its mountain streams and the lushness of its rice terraces and valleys. In spring there are lavish displays of blossom and vast carpets of tulips.
• Sufi shrines, Mosques, Mughal gardens, emerald valleys
• Art of pashmina + carpets – See the many skills that go towards creating these icons of luxury
• Early morning floating markets
• Dal Lake with its wondrous light, ringed with snow-clad mountains
• Gentle treks to holy sites and in glorious countryside.
AT A GLANCE
LENGTH: 5 | 7 Days
ACTIVITY LEVEL: Moderate
TYPE: Small Groups | Individuals | Bespoke | Tour Extension | AoL escorted
STYLE: arts | culture | spirituality | adventure
START/FINISH: Delhi | Delhi
All meals, guides, activities, domestic flights
5* Houseboat and Deluxe Hotel
Luxury A/C SUV/Minivan
April to October are ideal times to travel in Kashmir
from USD 3000 per person based on twin/double share
- DAY 1
This morning fly into the ‘Vale of Kashmir’ necklaced by snow capped peaks and settle into your hotel overlooking Dal Lake and the distant alluring mountains. Meet your local guide Muzaffar, who after years leading international tours has ‘come home’ to his beloved birthplace about which he feels passionately. With his younger twin brothers he also manages an elite company producing by hand, highly crafted pashminas of singular design.
You will be rowed in your private shikara across the lake before dinner in a local restaurant.
This morning is a fascinating walk through the by-lanes of the old city observing the markets, heritage buildings and day to day life, as well as gleaning an understanding of Sufism. The amble begins at Badamvari (Almond Garden), awash in blossom and includes stops at a significant Sufi shrine, a famous Mughal Garden, the beautiful Jamia mosque built in 1400 AD and the wooden architecture of grand homes built by wealthy merchants. After lunch, visit a special village where you have entrée to the homes of master weavers to see at first hand the production and skills involved in producing famous pashmina shawls, from the spinning and dyeing, to setting up of the loom and elaborate almost lost weaving techniques such as ‘kani’.
Pre dawn take colourful painted shikaraa to be amongst the colourful tranquil floating fruit and vegetable markets where local merchants ply their fresh produce, saffron and flowers.
This afternoon go out to the stunning surrounding countryside, a rich tapestry of agricultural land growing pulses, vegetables and flowering orchards with snow capped peaks in the distance. The destination for lunch is Manasbal Lake – abundant with lotus, rich in bird life and on its periphery an ancient Hindu temple.
Today take up residence in an eco luxurious houseboat on Dal Lake before visiting a number of specialist artisans: boat builders with the skills to carve exquisite walnut panels, carpet makers who create paintings in silk, and papier-mâché artists who produce small decorative objects and grand vases and furniture.
This morning, travel in shikaras to the backwaters of the lake where people farm on manmade (hydronic) islands cultivating flowers and vegetables, school children are ferried by boat, and communities believed to derive from Noah’s time live in Gandolas. A picnic lunch will be enjoyed at Yusmarg (the meadow of Jesus), where it is believed Jesus once came and stayed. A beautiful meadow surrounded by snow-capped mountains and deep green pine forests affords a leisurely walk to Nilnag lake and a visit with the Gujjar community who are cattle herders. A special Kashmir farewell dinner this evening is in the elegant home of our guide whose family are custodians of exceptional family recipes. The meal will be traditionally served by the women of the household seated on the floor.
This morning, garden lovers have the opportunity of an early start to visit some of the famed Mughal gardens including Pali Mahal and Shalimar and time permitting the modern tulip garden in full bloom if it is spring. Or climb to the top of the famous Shaiva shrine, Shankaracharya Temple.
This afternoon fly to Delhi.
SUGGESTED TOUR EXTENSIONS
- Kashmir Trek
- Amritsar – Golden Temple
WARNING: From time to time there have been episodes of political unrest in this glorious part of the world, and can flare up at any time without warning. Though usually never aimed at tourists, travellers are advised to check with their government advisories before embarking on any journey to this region and to ensure that their insurance policies will cover any such contingency.
Marieke Brugman has travelled to Kashmir six times since 2012, sometimes escorting small groups on a cultural program in conjunction with the Kingdom of Bhutan, and sometimes accompanying a trekking group. AoL has also arranged trekking holidays for families. On all these journeys, we were completely safe.
Kashmir is mysterious, gorgeous and intriguing with its tribes, its unique architecture, its lost-in-time markets, its astonishing Venetian-like waterways and spectacular landscapes framed by the Himalayas. Every traveller should experience this profound kingdom at least once in a lifetime.
Your Tour Guide Muzaffar Andrabi is a proud native of Srinagar, a veritable history book and extremely knowledgeable about past cultures and historical events that have defined this region. His enthusiasm is contagious. Charming, sophisticated, thoughtful, and efficient, he is a world traveller who has led remote expeditions as far afield as the Silk route, overland journeys from Lhasa to Kathmandu, the Mongolian Gobi and old cities on Trans-Siberian trails. He has returned home to unveil all of Kashmir’s secrets, providing guests with a highly personalised service. He is extremely well connected to the highest authorities in Srinagar.
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