Kashmir Should Be On Your Travel List. Discover The Beauty Beyond The Headlines

Kashmir

A warm cup of Kahwa with some Kashmiri bread in a local home, sitting on the rocks next to the blue Lidder river as the mist gently caresses your face, enjoying a peaceful Shikara ride in the famous Dal and Nigeen Lake with a mountain view–these are some of the moments you get to experience when you visit Kashmir.

Given  that the region is a place of political turmoil and unrest, the fear and skepticism of visiting Kashmir is understandable. However, after going there myself, I can vouch for the fact that you’re truly missing out on a slice of heaven. Kashmir has so much more to offer–scenic landscapes, rich art and crafts, and warm and welcoming people.

Amidst all the news of political unrest, the beauty of Kashmir is getting subdued. Allow me to remind you what this region is known for.

Kashmir Is Called ‘Paradise On Earth’

What they say is true–Kashmir looks different in all its four seasons, making it worthy of a visit every now and then. Bright tulip fields in April, Chinar trees turning yellow and red in autumn, snow-clad peaks all year round, green valleys with coniferous trees in the summer months, and crystal blue rivers flowing down mountains–these are some of the beautiful sceneries you get to witness in Kashmir. Whether it’s the drive to Aru Valley in Pahalgam or the scenic route to Thajiwas Glacier in Sonmarg or even the Gondola ride in Gulmarg in the snowy winter, you feel like you’re in a completely different world. No wonder it is also referred to as ‘Paradise on Earth.’

Beyond Kesar & Kahwa

Yes, the saffron-infused Kahwa is famous in Kashmir. But it is the Noon Chai that the locals enjoy more here. In Kashmir, noon refers to salt and this traditional tea, which takes more than an hour to make, is made with salt and turns pink in colour after boiling. I learned this from our driver, who was kind enough to invite us into his home and share a piece of their lifestyle and culture with us.

 

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Other than the tea here, the Kashmiri Wazwaan is the star attraction in Kashmiri cuisine. Hardcore non-vegetarians will love this feast that includes 36 dishes that are mostly mutton and chicken preparations with limited vegetarian options. Popular Kashmiri dishes such as Rista curry, Gushtaba, Yakhni, Rogan Josh, Waza Palak, among others are a part of the Trammi. Locals enjoy this feast during festive occasions, especially weddings. And if you ever plan to try one, don’t bother using a fork and spoon. Enjoy it like the locals do and eat it with your bare hands! But, I say this from personal experience, if you’re not used to eating a heavy non-vegetarian meal–go for this meal on an empty stomach and pop in a Vizylac post indulgence. The more than a 100-year-old restaurant, Ahdoos, and Mughal Darbaar are good places to go and taste authentic Kashmiri cuisine.

Know More About The Local Handicrafts

While everyone is well aware of Pashmina shawls from Kashmir, how many actually know about the traditional crewel work there? It’s a type of hand embroidery that uses a hook (“aari”) and mostly woollen yarns in single or multicolour shades. From curtain fabrics and bedsheets to bags and clothes, you’ll find crewel work products in every shop in Kashmir. Another famous embroidery is the intricate sozni work, which you’ll find on kurtas and shawls.

Kashmir
Crewel Work Curtains | Image via The Shanti Home

Hand-knotted carpets are another huge business here. Carpets from 200 knots to 900 knots/sq. inch both in wool and silk yarn in super fine designs can take about 6 months to make by the Kashmiri karigars.

 

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Kashmir is one of the few places in the world where walnut is still available, which makes carved walnut woodwork a huge craft in the region. We got to witness the beauty of these intricate wood carvings, all done by hand when we stayed on a houseboat (WelcomHeritage Gurkha Houseboats). One boat takes about four and a half to five years to build!

If you love collecting souvenirs, don’t leave Kashmir without getting at least one papier mache product. From lamps to trinket boxes, there’s no dearth of these colourful and intricately-designed papier mache products in local markets.

 

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From breathtaking landscapes, beautiful weather, and delicious food to fine craftsmanship, you can’t take away what Kashmir is known for. You need to see it to believe it. So my advice is to go there and pay a visit yourself.

If you’re planning a vacation and need recommendations on where to stay, check out this list of boutique hotels and villas to bookmark.

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