We checked out from our hotel after breakfast. Shabir, our chauffeur had already arrived. I had booked the hired car through a travel operator before reaching Srinagar. From the time we were picked up from the airport and till now, the ride has been nice and smooth. Shabir a middle aged man had been driving for many years and knew Kashmir in and out. He turned out to be a great guide too and a wonderful person to talk to. Our journey became all the more interesting with him highlighting all important locations and stopping at the right places. We were on our way to Pahalgam.
As we moved out of Srinagar city area, we soon reached this location with a small market. Shabir suggested we buy our dry fruits and saffron from one of the renowned shops there if we had plans. As we got down from the car, there right in front of us was Mohammed Ayub with his Kehwa stand.
Kehwa is a traditional green tea preparation made by boiling green tea leaves with saffron strands, cinnamon, cardamom pods and occasionally Kashmiri roses to add a great aroma. Generally, it is served with sugar or honey and crushed nuts usually almonds and walnuts.
Traditionally, kehwa is prepared in a copper kettle known as a samovar. A samovar consists of a fire-container running as a central cavity, in which live coals are placed keeping the tea perpetually hot. Around the fire-container there is a space for water to boil and the tea leaves and other ingredients are mixed with the water. We did have kehwa in Srinagar the other day but this one from Ayub was truly awesome forcing us to have a second round after our shopping spree. Felt so happy seeing so much of dry fruits in front of us. Felt like buying the whole shop. Managed to buy a little. The little gastronomical pleasures of life bringing a smile.
A drive for half an hour more and we were at Awantipora and at the historical site of Avantiswami Temple. There were two temples, one each for Shiva and Vishnu. The temples were built by king Avantivarman in 9th century A.D. on the banks of river Jhelum. The temples were destroyed by earthquakes and the site is now maintained by Archeological Survey of India.
The sculptural wealth of this temple is very commendable. The Vishnu temple has a central sanctum tower with preceding mandapas, inside a rectangular prakara with 69 cells dedicated to various deities . There are four additional small temples around the main sanctum tower. A sculpture on the northern side is identified with Avantivarman himself. One of the best sculptures of Vishnu was found within the compound during excavation which is a four face Vishnu known as Vaikunta and is considered as one of the finest of Kashmiri images.
We were back in our car and moving closer to our pad for the next three days. Stopped at an apple orchard on the way to get a feel. It was summer and the fruits were just taking shape. We then moved on.
I had spent some time planning this trip. We wished to completely relax, stay away from the crowded locations, be amidst nature and was hoping that my search revealed a nice place to match. And then I came across this out of the ordinary small hotel in the most awesome location. Close to Aru valley.
We had reached “Riverfront Guest House” and Javed, the manager was there to welcome us in typical Kashmiri style followed by his teammates. Each seemed eager to pick up our luggage. Had spoken to Javed couple of times before to ensure that we had the best river view room on the first floor. The room was small with just about enough space to move around but cute and the view made us feel contented and happy with life. But this place is not for those looking for star comforts. It’s for nature lovers.
It was approaching evening as we came down and sat in the lawns enjoying the cold breeze, the hot cup of coffee and the narrow streams coming down and getting lost in the fast flowing and roaring water of River Lidder. It was paradise. The paradise, Pahalgam, Kashmir.
Food here is homely and the variety available quite decent. All meals including breakfast is served in a small restaurant with a great view. You can speak to the cook here and get the dishes made with your inputs on spices. We had our dinner of Mughlai specialities and then retired for the night. The sound of the river was so pleasing as we prepared for the exciting day ahead.
It was a lazy relaxed morning with umpteen rounds of coffee and then a little late breakfast. Our plan was to visit the centre of town . There are many hotels, restaurants, shopping arcades and more. But our visit was more focused on the beautiful surroundings. The lovely park. Let’s go in .
Pahalgam is a hill town in Anantnag district of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. It’s located 45 kilometers from Anantnag and 89 kilometers from Srinagar on the banks of Lidder River at an altitude of 7,200 feet (2,200 m). The origin of Pahalgam is obscure. Mughal rulers ruled this region in the medieval period. It was later a part of the Kingdom of Kashmir, which was ruled by local Hindu rulers. This princely state remained independent even during the British period and later on merged into independent India.
The lush green meadows and pristine waters makes it an ideal attraction for tourists from all over the world. The area holds a rich cover of vegetation, the dominant forest consisting of conifers which account for over 90%. Pahalgam is associated with the annual Amarnath Yatra to the holy cave shrine of Amarnath which is said to be the abode of Lord Shiva. Chandanwari which we crossed on our way from Srinagar and located 16 kilometres from Pahalgam is the starting point of the yatra that takes place every year in the months of July–August.
There are many species of rare, endangered and protected species found around Pahalgam. The main species are hangul, musk deer, serow, brown bear, leopard, rhesus macaque, grey langur, Himalayan mouse etc. Wild bears still roam much of the remote areas and local villagers are on constant vigil for their presence.
While in Pahalgam you must visit the Zoological gardens which is a nice green area again. Not many species of animals were there though when we visited.
The morning was awesome followed by some delicious vegetarian lunch at Sagar Ratna restaurant. We also got some snacks packed from Nathu Rasoi, another well known snacks joint, for the evening to have along with our tea and coffee. Then we were back at our resort to laze around the afternoon at the riverfront.
The evening had some surprise as we noticed the preparations that the hotel staff had started for us, the three families who were there. A bonfire with music and fun.
As it got dark, we were all there and had some good time getting to know each other and all three families from different age groups. One family was a young couple Jay, a merchant navy man, his newly wed wife and his bother Raj. We became good friends and decided to keep in touch. The bonfire, lovely cold breeze, the roaring river and then the thundering clouds was a rare combination and made our evening over a few drinks so very special.
The next morning was a lazy morning for us again. With relaxation and more relaxation. It had rained cats and dogs in the night but the morning was beautiful. Lovely fresh sunshine and the green lawns with the beauty of mountains, the river, birds, butterflies and the sheer pleasure of being in a place like this soaking in the atmosphere.
The afternoon was for Aru valley. One of the most beautiful locations in Pahalgam, you can spend hours together marvelling at the beauty of this village and nature. And that is exactly what we did. Spent a few hours there.
All good things in life come to an end and so it was time to move on. In search of a new destination. As we were leaving the next morning, we could not stop ourselves from stopping our car. To be amongst them for sometime.
Pahalgam. Once a humble shepherd’s village with breathtaking views. Now known as the “Valley of Shepherds”.
Visit Kashmir. Come to Pahalgam. Get a taste of bliss. Experience India Beautiful 🇮🇳