Snow cycling in paradise

Shagun Gandhi relives her recent Kashmir experience

The joy of travelling isn’t in seeing more places – the true joy lies in intimately experiencing a place. A place that throws at you breathtakingly beautiful views of the Himalayan mountains and more, at every turn—that was Kashmir for me. I literally fell in love with every place that we visited.

We started the journey by arriving straight at Srinagar via Delhi. Flying over the snow-clad mountains made for one of the most scenic and captivating views ever. Since we had just one day in Srinagar, we thought of directly reaching the Dal Lake for the famous shikara ride.  It was the most relaxing and soothing ride. The water of the lake is crystal clear and it was fun to disembark for a little noodle and kahva break.

We checked into our hotel, the Taj Srinagar by noon. Set above the Dal, the view from this property was impeccable. Keeping up with the akhrot work of Kashmir, Vivanta displays a very traditional look. The hospitality was definitely praiseworthy with their on-point service and providing us room upgrade. The cherry on the top would most definitely be the king-size breakfast that we had overlooking the Dal.

Next morning was a long road journey to Pahalgam. The journey from Srinagar to Pahalgam will take you across the vast landscapes of saffron and mustard farms that are indeed a sight to behold. En route, we stopped to enjoy freshly made apple juice. It was so fresh that we had to have another round! Reaching Pahalgam, we checked-in at Hotel Heevan situated on the very scenic banks of the Lidder river. We devoured some local Kashmiri food as soon as we arrived. The best part about every place we visited was  the people—so warm and respectful. The vast expanse of meadow surrounded by pine trees overlooking the snow-capped peaks was truly breathtaking. We headed out of our hotel in the evening when the temperature dropped to -3 to have some fun in the snow. The cherry on top was the snowfall that lasted overnight.

Hotel Heevan Pahalgam located near Lidder River

The next day we left for Gulmarg, the most awaited destination of the trip. It was the perfect day in the snow and we witnessed why Gulmarg is considered synonymous with beauty. The surrounding environs were so stunning that we wondered if any place could be this beautiful. We also took a halt before reaching our hotel for some warm jackets and boots.

Located in the languid meadows, the Khyber Himalayan Resort and Spa offers a perfect combination of old world charm and modernity. This resort overlooks the snow-clad slopes of Mount Affarwat with pine and fir trees. Frankly, the resort’s stunning location in Gulmarg makes it a destination in itself. It also offers mouth-watering cuisines, which are all freshly made. After a hectic journey, we decided to relax in the hotel and explore the luxurious property. Next morning we were all set to take the gondola ride to level one for some exciting snow activities. Covered in five layers of clothing, we were super excited to experience the best adventure.

Over-looking the gorgeous Dal Lake

There were many activities on level one, from skiing and sledging to snow cycling and one could even take the gondola ride back. I must admit that I’ve had the best Maggie and pakodas up there. We decided to opt for snow cycling, for around 7 km. It was one hell of an adventure for us. After falling down several times, I somehow managed to balance myself on the cycle on my way down. Cycling downhill through the snow-covered trees was easily the best experience ever! We reached the hotel and dived into the heated pool of the Khyber. I could loll there all day, just relaxing with a good book.

At the end of our fabulous trip to Kashmir, the word ‘Jannat’–paradise pops into my head; a word that is rightly synonymous with Kashmir.