When I declared to my friends that I was heading to Kashmir for a vacation, everyone pretty much had the same question: “is it safe?”
Unfortunately, many people still view the Kashmir region as being perilous for one reason or another. Though safety may have once been a concern for visitors, today, the region has shed its insurgent past and is blossoming in many ways.
Having heard a lot about the abounding beauty of Kashmir, I was on my way to discover it myself. My itinerary encompassed Srinagar, Pahalgam and Gulmarg as I was told that these are the safest places to visit in Kashmir, and also spellbindingly beautiful.
The extra security outside the Srinagar airport was prominent, but not daunting. The drive to my hotel, which was in the heart of Srinagar took me through congested parts of the city, where life was business as usual as it would be in any other city with everyone jostling for the right of way!
The Mughal Gardens—namely Chashme Shahi, Shalimar Bagh and Nishat Bagh—was the first stop on my list. With their signature canals, delicate fountains and blooming flower beds, the gardens are resplendent and have rightfully earned accolades as being a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Leaving Srinagar without visiting the pulse of the city, the Dal Lake is like going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower! I hopped in to a shikara and got a grand tour of a portion of the 18 square-kilometre waterbody. Gliding through a maze of lotus flowers, my boatman took me to the island of Char Chinar, named after the four chinar trees that stand tall at the four corners of the island.
I also took a stroll on Boulevard Road that seemingly winds around the Dal Lake. The main road in the city, this is where you can find hotels, restaurants, shops and all things commercial. Again, extra security is visible but nothing that seems out of the ordinary for a tourist destination.