Kashmir- Paradise regained : Day 5 & 6

19-May-2012 DAY 5

I got up late had a leisurely breakfast. Just wanted to laze around and do nothing. That was just a wish. We had to pack our stuff and push our luggage to the tour manager. We were going to Pahalgam. But wait, we had not done our Shikara ride yet? That was the plan for the first half of the day. We had a fantastic morning in store for us. We assembled at a small pier. At Rs. 300 per head many of us had a go at water surfing.

We have to stand atop a small plank which is tied to a pair of ropes. This will be pulled by a motor boat taking us for a spin around the lake. With no safety gear it was a risk… but that’s the fun part. This was followed by a 2 hour absolutely relaxing ride on a Shikara – a small covered row boat with wide tastefully decorated seats. We will be going around the Nagin Lake free of any disturbance for the next two hours … so I thought… I have heard of going to market… but never heard or seen market coming to us. This is exactly what happened. Just as my lids were drooping somebody nudged me and wanted to peddle some stuff.

I literally fell off the boat. Another Shikara had noiselessly glided next to us and my wife was busy negotiating! I felt as cheated as a Kingfisher who thought it had caught a fish but had weed in its mouth! For the next two hours we were accosted by wares as varied as wooden handicrafts, Paper mache, Jewelries, Cloth, Flowers, seeds…you name it. Instead of fighting them, I did the next best thing…I joined the shopping frenzy. I was to later rue this decision. I bargained a “Walnut wood” handicraft and later found in Pahalgam market that the same stuff was available for 1/5th of the cost! I should have done one of two things …either not buy at the floating market or more importantly not enquired the price in Pahalgam market! …a case of curiosity killed the cat?


View from Shikara

After lunch, we started for Pahalgam approximately 96 KMS from Srinagar. Our buses were parked outside the city as buses are not allowed within the city limits during daytime. Local vans were arranged to transport us to our buses. All of us were much more relaxed after the Shikara outing. Enroute to Pahalgam we passed Saffron plantations at Pampore. Saffron farms are unique to Kashmir valley and does not grow anywhere else. (Saffron was selling at Rs. 200 per gram).On the way, we stopped at the cricket bat factory. This place is famous for Kashmir Willows. These bats are used till the Ranji level in India. We passed the ruins of Avantipura temple built by Raja Awantivarman. We stopped at the Sun temple (not the ruins) before proceeding to Pahalgam.

Bat Factory

Pahalgam is one of the tehsils of the Anantnag district. We reached our resort late in the evening. We were warned of unpredictable weather in Pahalgam. Our resort was nestled amongst the hills and was decently maintained. In winter, Pahalgam gets inundated with snow. The snow has retreated to the greater heights during our visit. The melting snow contributes to the Lidder River which flows around Pahalgam. One can discern the purity of the water as it descends majestically from the heights.

Pahalgam Resort

The night suddenly turned cold. We turned in early to shake away our exhaustion.

20-May-2012 DAY 6

The morning was chill but pleasant. After breakfast, we hired local jeeps to reach Chandanwari and Aru Valley. Each is at a distance of 12-16 KMS from Pahalgam. The road to Chandanwari is rough and is not well developed. But the local boys knew how to maneuver and do maximum speed in the narrow roads. On the way passed Betab valley which was stupendous. Many popular Bollywood movies have been shot here.

Behind our resort

Betab Valley

It is worth noting that Pahalgam is dotted with meadows and Pastures with tall pine trees which make it very picturesque. We reached Chandanwari, which is also the base station for the Amarnath Ji yatra. Amarnath is around 32 KMS from here. The snow still had not melted and offered a good background for photography.


From here we headed to Aru valley. The road here is much better. Along the road one comes across well-kept meadows and identified areas for day picnics. We did not spot brown bears but it is a local inhabitant in the pine and cedar forests of the region. The Lidder river kept us company all along the route. Its rushing waters winding through the Pine trees, amongst the backdrop of the Pir Panjal range and bright blue sky gives you a feeling of absolute serenity. This is a place where the journey is equally beautiful as the destination! Aru valley is a cul-de-sac. The road ends here and the green meadow takes over rising and falling gently like a wave in an ocean. The meadow smoothly transitions into the mountains over the horizon.

Aru Valley

Lidder River

Unpredictable Weather at Pahalgam

In the afternoon, we had two options – either take ponies and visit “mini Switzerland” and other local spots or take a walk to the local market for some shopping. I chose the latter. Is there a better way to cherish memories? The local tehsil has developed huge parks on either side of the road and they are very well kept. The market is itself a long stretch of road with shops on either side. Though the structures could be better maintained, given the natural settings everything looks beautiful. I found Pahalgam to be more affordable compared to other areas we visited. I was fascinated by “Feren” or the local outfit worn by males to keep the cold at bay. I was voted out from buying – both by friends and family alike. The long walk back to the hotel with roasted sweet corn laced with lime and masala is still fresh in the memory!

Pahalgam Market

Our next stop is Katra – rendezvous with Ma Vaishnodevi. We have to push our packed bags outside our door by 10.30 PM and get up by 4 AM. Not much sleep tonight….


  • Nandan Jha says:

    Have not inquired the prices at Pahalgam, is my lame suggestion. After all, the high of having an expensive hand-picked souvenir is priceless, why lose it. lol.

    I would have opted for market-walk as well, more so when I am in such bliss then why look for another smaller one. The series has come out well and the pictures are well, out of the world through your lens. Thank you Sundar.

    • Sundar Shastry says:

      Dear Nandan,

      Thanks for your comments. You are so right … I guess I wanted to revalidate my own negotiation skills at the “floating market”… imagine my plight on finding the prices incredibly low at Pahalgam !!… my ego got completely deflated … LOL… but does it really? … my way of consoling myself …. the Walnut wood I purchased should be definitely of superior quality!!! … LOL

  • Dear Sundar,

    Once again very beautiful Pictures specially of Pahalgam and Chandanwari. We are going next month for Amarnath.This post will definitely help. And precise description makes this post wonderful.
    Can you tell me where is Aru valley fro pahalgam and how to go ?

    Keep Travelling and Keep posting.

    • Sundar Shastry says:

      Dear Vishal,

      Thanks for your kind feedback. Please do visit Aru valley … It is around 16 KMs from the town and should be less than an hour’s drive … You should easily get the “Tata Sumos” from the market… Please take motion sickness tables … the sumo drivers really drive fast on the winding road .. you will encounter lot of jerks and bumps …and definitely avoid sitting on the back of the Sumo!

      My best wishes for your trip, have a wonderful time.

  • Mahesh Semwal says:

    pictures are awesome , especially Chandanwari , Aru valley.

  • D.L.Narayan says:

    You continue to delight us , Sundar, both with your camera and with your pen.

    Sometimes, it is more important to know what NOT to do than what to do. Thanks to your curiosity, I have learnt that I should not buy anything from floating markets.

    I am curious, too. Why have you not posted any pictures of mosques and temples? Earlier, it was the Hazratbal and now it is the Avantipura and the Sun temples. Is photography banned at these sites?

    • Sundar Shastry says:

      Dear Narayan,

      Thanks for your kind feedback.

      At all these places photography is allowed, but only from outside. At Hazratbal the place is undergoing a facelift and its beauty was marred with the bamboo scaffolds. We passed the ruins late in the evening and the tour manager did not stop the bus despite our repeated plea. He continued to convince us that it is only ruins!! (I believe this is a fallout of going through a tour program.) Based on my past experience at Sankracharaya temple, I did not carry my camera to the Sun temple but there was no restriction!

  • Hi Sundar,

    Really good pictures and nice description.

    Thanks and regards,

  • Pratik Iyer says:

    Awsome pics mama….nice work…..

  • Pratik Iyer says:

    ohh and btw pahalgam just looks like nainital…

  • venkatt says:

    Sundar, nice snaps of Pahalgam and Chandanwari…The bat factory photo was a rare one to savour…Once again nice detailed post…

  • ashok sharma says:

    great pics.good post.

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