Kashmir is India’s stairway to paradise. Any seasonS here tell a different story, but my favourite season and the most magical time to visit Kashmir is the Autumn season, which sets in from mid-September to mid-November. Autumn is Kashmir’s golden season — everything turns golden and all imaginable hues of yellow, gold and orange. Misty mornings, pleasant nights, red-carpeted gardens and rustle of fallen leaves turn Kashmir into an enchanting place.
A beautiful autumn morning view from Mughal Gardens | Photo Credit: Beighsiddique
Kashmir tends to face disturbance due to violence and infiltration at the border. But having been there last year, I can say that there are still a lot of beautiful areas that are safe.
View from my flight approaching Srinagar | Photo Credit: Amrita Ghosh
The ‘House Boat’ experience
Dal Lake is Srinagar’s soul. The most attractive activity to do here is to stay here for a few nights in a houseboat on Dal Lake. Houseboats are large boats where many Kashmir people live. It is their way of life and is an excellent alternative for hotels. You will find houseboats intricate with detailed woodwork. Imagine waking up to a steaming hot cup of tea overlooking the lake and watching ‘Shikaras’ floating around the lake selling anything from flowers to local jewellery. There are lots of houseboat options depending on your budget. One of my favourites is the Butt’s Clermont Houseboats.
A Typical sitting room inside a Houseboat detailed with wood work | Photo Credit: Amrita Ghosh
My room for my stay in Srinagar inside the houseboat | Photo Credit: Amrita Ghosh
Floating market and Shikara ride on Dal Lake
Another fascinating attraction in Kashmir is the small wooden-carved boats called ‘Shikara’. You can find plenty of them on Dal or Nigeen Lake. Usually colourful and decorated, a typical boat ride will take you on a journey across the lake, through the many houseboat shops situated on the lake and the shores. During the trip, other Shikaras will usually flock around your boat to sell local things like local costume jewellery, stones, flowers, kesar (saffron), etc. Wake up early to get the most out of the floating market experience as you watch the busy seller preparing their vegetables. In the evening, you can watch the sunset across the lake — one of the unique ways to watch a sunset in India.
Fresh flowers being sold on a Shikara with a backdrop of innumerable houseboats| Photo Credit: Beighsiddique
Morning vegetable floating market | Photo Credit: Photo Credit: Beighsiddique
A stunning view of Dal Lake during sunset | Photo Credit: Amrita Ghosh
Enjoy a walk in the Mughal Gardens
During Autumn, all the Chinar trees will shed their golden leaves. You can find a lot of them in Mughal Gardens, a group of Persian-style gardens built by the Mughals. Shalimar Bagh is the largest of all the gardens. The entire garden is in hues of yellow and orange, making it a lovely spot to spend your morning reading a book or taking a walk amidst the rustle of the fallen leaves. What a fantastic way to enjoy the natural beauty of Autumn! If you want to be more active, you can get into a cricket game at Nishat Garden.
Kids enjoying a game of cricket in Nishat Bagh | Photo Credit: Saqib Majeed
Fallen chinar leaves | Photo Credit: nasheman
Red carpeted roads | Photo Credit: Beighsiddique
Lovely flowers in Mughal Gardens | Photo Credit: Amrita Ghosh
Hike, trek or drive to Sankaracharya Temple
Want to catch an aerial glimpse of Srinagar, Dal Lake or the surrounding? Shankaracharya Temple is one of the highest and most serene places in Srinagar. It has stood at 1100 ft. on top of a hill since 200 BC and is secluded from any hustle & bustle. This is a must-visit place for any adventurous travellers who love to hike or trek. Alternatively, you can reach there by car too!
Magical view of Dal Lake and around from a view point enroute Shankaracharya Temple | Photo Credit: Amrita Ghosh
Shopping for Kashmiri Handicrafts
Kashmiri handicrafts such as Kashmiri embroidered fabric, Pashmina, home decor, silk carpets and furniture are famous across the world for its detailed, time-consuming and intricate artwork. While you can get these items outside Kashmir, they usually are sold at such high prices. That’s why it is almost a crime not to buy loads of Kashmiri handicrafts when you are there! They are perfect as souvenirs. One of the places with the best bargain is the Government Arts Emporium.
Intricate handicrafts on sale | Photo Credit: purehands_handicrafts
Samovars and teapots at Chai Jai (A Place for Tea), Srinagar | Photo Credit: Pamposh
Exquisite handwoven silk carpets | Photo Credit: purehands_handicrafts
Precious stones on sale | Photo Credit: Amrita Ghosh
‘Wazwan’ and ‘Kahwa’
Local cuisines always define the essence of any places. Similarly, Kashmir has a very distinct place in the culinary world. ‘Wazwan’, a Kashmir’s pride, is a multi-course meal prepared from chicken or lamb. The preparation of Wazwan is considered an art and is an identity of Kashmiri culture. Everyone has to try at least once indulging in some delicious Wazwan for dinner or lunch. Waking up to a steaming cup of fragrant Kashmiri green tea called ‘Kahwa’ — a splendid mix of saffron, cinnamon & cardamon pods — is a lovely way to start your misty autumn morning in Kashmir.
Kahwa – Kashmiri tea | Photo Credit: Pamposh
Wazwan from a local roadside stall | Photo Credit: Amrita Ghosh
Houseboats, Shikaras, roads carpeted with fiery chinar leaves, misty mornings, Pashmina, Kahwa and Wazwan – I think these are enough reasons to get lured to Kashmir. Time to plan for your next trip to Kashmir!