A Guide To Visiting Kashmir in Winter

Cradling in the snow
Walking in the forests
Sitting by the rivers and lakes
A perfect blend of the nature
At one place
Kashmir!

Kashmir is a state located at the top of North India. It is usually in the headlines not because of the spectacular beauty but because of the frequent conflicts happening in the state.

As expressed earlier that we, despite of the skeptical nature of our near and dear ones, went to explore Kashmir. Indeed, it was the best thing we did to begin the year 2018 –in Shubharam (happy beginning). Amidst the blooming fragrances and white snow, Kashmir and its valleys are so beautiful. We couldn’t take off our eyes, couldn’t stop smiling looking at the serene destinations in Kashmir. We were internally happy because there was so much love and warmth there. Undoubtedly, the Kashmir tourist places have been hidden behind the projected turmoil.

Gulmarg beauty- Kashmir tourist places

Kashmir during winters – HEAVENLY

Is it Safe to Travel to Kashmir? Read what we Think!

Exploring Kashmir

Kashmir sightseeing is not a usual affair! It is exploring the gifts of nature wrapped at different places in different ways, especially in winters… the time when kangris comes out and power cuts become common. Yes, winters here are quite challenging for the locals

It was a pleasure for us to sample a whole wide range of experiences in kashmir as we were there for over a week, which we believe is ideal time to explore Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Srinagar.

It would be best to stay in Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir, for 2-3 days after spending your time in Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Sonmarg. Believe me, nothing in the whole wide world looks prettier than Kashmir, all cast in the snow. Alternatively, you can stay in Srinagar first and then go for day trips to Gulmarg and Pahlagam. Depends on where you wish to base yourself.

Nonetheless, experience striking escapades looming grandly with gorgeous snow-clad mountain peaks forming the backdrop. The best part, there aren’t too many people around.

Here are two possible itineraries for spending 7-8 days in Kashmir in winters:

Our Itinerary

Day 1 – Fly into Srinagar – Pick up a car from the airport – Drive to Gulmarg

Day 2 – Explore Gulmarg

Day 3 – Gondola Ride to Phase – 1 and Phase – 2 (Snow activities)

Day 4 – Drive down to Pahalgam (Explore Awantipora and Apple Valley)

Day 5 – Visit Aru Valley, Betaab Valley and Chandanwari / Horse Ride to Baisaran

Day 6 – Leave for Srinagar (Stay in a houseboat – only if you can bear harsh cold weather)

Day 7 – Explore Srinagar and its many attractions

(You can do a full-day trip to Sonmarg from Srinagar though the chances of roads being open during winters are bleak)

Highlights from our Road Trip in Kashmir

Here’s a list of some of the things from our trip that definitely left a lasting impression on our minds. So we highly suggest you shouldn’t miss doing these during your trip to Kashmir in winter.

  • Our stay at Gulmarg – we could admire the silent beauty of Gulmarg right through the window of our hotel room.
  • Drives and hikes around Aru Valley and Chandanwaari
  • Unforgettable smiles of cute Kashmiri kids and warm Kashmiri locals
  • Kahwa (or Qehwa)! Yum Yum! The flavorsome Kashmiri chai is a soul-warming drink. Just perfect for those cold winter days!
  • Being treated to eye popping stunning vistas as the snow and the mist veiled and unveiled in front of us during the gondola ride.
  • Hiking down the Gulmarg Phase 1 on ski bikes when it was still snowing.

Our Week Long Sojourn in the Land of Ethereal Beauty

Gulmarg

We unwrapped the first gift of nature of Kashmir and it was Gulmarg. Yes, we drove to Gulmarg the very first day and were utterly amazed too see the snow-covered beauty! It is a no brainer to have Gulmarg on your Kashmir itinerary as it is the prime hill station to visit during winters.

The Gulmarg biosphere reserves, highest peaks, gondola ride are worth the mention. Sit by the window side and while sipping on steaming hot Kahwah just look at the beauty unfolding at every hour of the day. There were a lot of opportunities for skiing and areas for indulging in snow-adventure sports but we chose to do it all at Gulmarg Phase 1 (only accessible via Gondola ride –  takes tourists to the height of 8530 ft to Kongdori Station).

Much to our dismay, Phase 2 (Gondola goes up to the height of 12293 ft to Aphrawat) wasn’t accessible due to heavy snowfall.

Driving time from Srinagar: 2 hours (55kms)

Stay at Kolahoi Greens

Detailed Gulmarg Experience & Attractions

Kolahoi Greens Gulmarg - Kashmir tourist places

With such gorgeous views at exhibit you don’t need to step out of your hotel

Kashmir tourist places - Gulmarg Phase 1

At Gulmarg Phase-1

Kashmir tourist places

That’s the view from our room’s window

Pahalgam

Next, we went to Pahalgam – the Bollywood destination. Pahalgam indeed has a next level charm. It took us about 3 hours to reach Pahalgam from Gulmarg. That too because we took a halt at Avantipora to see the ruined temple and then even the Apple Valley.

Pahalgam is primarily renowned for its alpine treks, nature walks, and lush green grasslands. But during winters, it’s just not the same. With the Liddar river flowing in the middle of the valley (partly frozen actually) and huts on the adjacent side of the roads covered with snow – the landscape can leave anyone wonderstruck.

We went to Aru Valley, did sledging, climbed the mountains covered with white blanket and also saw some famous shooting spots as well. Your visit to Pahalgam is incomplete if you don’t go to Betaab valley! This picturesque spot with snow clad scenic views  was indeed very captivating! All we did here was absorb the prettiness.

Driving time from Gulmarg: 3 hours (95kms)

Stay at Heevans Pahalgam

Detailed Pahalgam Experience & Attractions

Kashmir tourist places

Dargah in Awantipora

Kashmir tourist places

Golf Course in Pahalgam – With absolutely nobody around

Kashmir tourist places

Heevan’s Retreat in Pahalgam

Srinagar

Known for the oh-so famous Dal lake, this place gave us romantic chills in the winter breeze. This city was mesmerisingly beautiful with an old-world charm and a tincture of historic symbols adorned all over!
Srinagar was engulfed in the local culture, warmth of the natives and sumptuous Kashmiri cuisines. We loved strolling through this city, shopping for crafts like silk and shawls! (yes, I bought a gorgeous pink phiran) The shikara rides, spectacular sunsets  at the boulevard and the colourful aura are the unique selling points of this city.

Driving time from Pahalgam: 3 hours (90kms)

Stay at Clarks Srinagar / Sarovar Portico / Houseboat

Kashmir tourist places

Gorgeous Nishant Garden in Srinagar

Kashmir tourist attractions

Char Chinar in Kashmir

Pari Mahal Srinagar

At the beautiful Pari Mahal in Srinagar

Sonmarg

I think for every place in Kashmir there is some magic that leaves you spell bounded. It is upsetting that the communal tensions of this state do not let glory take the upper hand yet whoever visits this place cannot stop appreciating it. Just like Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Srinagar, Sonmarg is a quiet place with breathtaking views. But we it was inaccessible due to heavy snowfall.

There maybe over one lakh words in the dictionary but all of them fall short in front of the splendidness of the Kashmir.

There are certain things that one can consider before going to Kashmir-

Best Time to Visit Kashmir

We went to Kashmir during the peak winter season when you could see snow-clad mountains, indulge in adventure sports and feel chilly winds coupled with warmth and hospitality of Kashmiris. I have always said there is no best time – the best time is NOW!
Same way you can explore Kashmir tourist places at any time of the year and can see different colours of the state. If you wish to see blossoming gardens, feel the fresh air then March to October are the perfect months for you but if want to play in the snow, go skiing then the peak winter months (November-February) are perfect.

Kashmir tourist places - Gulmarg

Best time to visit Kashmir for snowfall – Definitely January

How to Reach Srinagar?

Srinagar is well connected to all the cities of India through rail, road and air! However, people in North India can prefer going via road by taking a bus or a car because of comparatively shorter distance else it is feasible to reach there by train or plane also.

We took a flight from Delhi to Srinagar which took 1 hour exactly and then opted for car rental to drive in and around Kashmir at ease. Be informed – there’s no chance to get a self-drive car in Srinagar. You’ll have to get a car rented with a driver at tow.

Security check at the airport

Unlike other airports checks, regulations at the Srinagar airport are stricter and pretty cumbersome! To ensure hassle-free boarding one has to be prepared for multiple security checks so it’s better to reach well in time. Then there will be baggage screening, document checks at more than 4-5 points.

Tea time

For all the tea lovers, there is the traditional Kashmiri Chai – Kahwa! Its aroma is so enticing, taste so delicious and health benefits ‘n’ in number. While Kashmir sightseeing, you can get to taste Kahwah endless times! You can never say no to it!

Shopping

All the shopaholics and people fond of antique pieces, there are umpteen opportunities for you to add exquisite pieces to your collection when you are in Kashmir.

Tipping

You may/may not tip the locals but out of respect for their compassionate and affectionate attitude you won’t mind spending a few extra bucks to express gratitude to them.

Hope you found this itinerary helpful. Well if you are planning to visit some offbeat destinations then you might want to read our Bhutan itinerary!

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19 Comments

  • Reply noel February 17, 2018 at 5:54 pm

    Wow this is definitely unusual to think about this cold destination for India, but it looks spectacular and definitely worth the effort for a completely different experience. Love all the scenery and details to your tour.

  • Reply Danik February 17, 2018 at 6:07 pm

    I would love to visit Kashmir for the mountain scenery, it has some of the prettist I have seen on photos and want to see it for real. If I go, i would give some of these places a visit as well and hopefully check in with the locals and get a feel for the lifestyle there also. Great post.

    • Reply Prerna Harsh March 5, 2018 at 11:53 am

      You are going to have the time of your life in Kashmir. Chatting with local Kashmiris gives a lot of insight on how they live and what kind of difficulties they face. It’s an absolutely mindbogglingly experience, I must say.

  • Reply Nancy February 18, 2018 at 3:29 am

    Kashmir looks gorgeous in the winter season! Thank you for the recommendation to stay in the capital city after travelling to Gulmarg, Pahalgam, and Sonmarg. I appreciate all of the travel tips – it’s super helpful to hear about the extra checks at the airport. And the Kashmiri Chai Kahwa – yes, please!

    • Reply Prerna Harsh March 5, 2018 at 11:54 am

      Well you can do an alternate itinerary as well – base yourself at Srinagar and do one-day road trips to Pahalgam, Gulmarg and Sonmarg. But it’s definitely better to stay in Gulmarg during winters.

  • Reply Linda February 18, 2018 at 4:12 pm

    We are always looking for different places to try in the winter and we had never thought of India. Our only experiences in India were in the very hot season. Kashmir in the winter looks like a winter wonderland. It must have been disappointing to miss some spots because they were closed for the weather. But that is one of the downsides of winter travel. This blog post is a good guide for anyone wanting to visit this region and especially if they plan the trip in the winter.

    • Reply Prerna Harsh March 5, 2018 at 11:59 am

      I can only imagine how terrible it must have been to explore India during harsh summers. That’s just one season we both absolutely loathe! Hope you are able to explore Kashmir in winters. 🙂

  • Reply Kavita Favelle February 19, 2018 at 6:48 am

    I have never read about winter tourism in Kashmir, so this is fascinating and wow, the landscape really transforms with the snow! I thought it would be dark and wet a lot but looks like you had some great sunny spells to make the best of the beautiful sights and landscapes!

    • Reply Prerna Harsh March 5, 2018 at 11:58 am

      It does! You must experience it for yourself, Kavita. I am sure you’ll love it 😉

  • Reply Medha Verma February 19, 2018 at 8:17 am

    We followed the exact same itinerary when we visited Kashmir except that we did it in summer, not in winter. Kashmir, however, is gorgeous and no matter which season you visit in, you will fall in love with it. The landscapes are gorgeous and when I was in Gulmarg, I literally felt like I was in Switzerland. Such a jewel that place is!

    • Reply Prerna Harsh March 5, 2018 at 11:50 am

      Hey Medha, exactly! It’s hard to ignore the fact that the gondola ride is pretty similar to that of Switzerland. In fact the landscapes are pretty similar.

  • Reply Rosemary February 20, 2018 at 4:26 am

    The Kashmiri Chai – Kahwa sounds perfect for the cold. Your pictures of Kashmir are stunning. I’m quite impressed at the amount of snow received. Love your point about the best time to visit …NOW! Great tips and recommendations, especially on how to get there.

  • Reply Bella WW February 20, 2018 at 2:18 pm

    That’s what I call a Winter Wonderland! Those eye-popping stunning vistas are definitely worth all the time and effort. I would love to visit these places

    • Reply Prerna Harsh March 5, 2018 at 11:49 am

      Well it’s about time you take the trip 😉

  • Reply Suruchi February 20, 2018 at 4:15 pm

    Kashmir is really a heaven on earth. We crossed Srinagar and Sonamarg during our Leh Ladakh road trip. And we opted to stay in Sonamarg instead of Srinagar because of the unpleasant disturbances. Sonamarg was awesome in summers and we are sure it will be amazing in winters too. The tea Kahwa is our favorite too. Hopefully will explore Kashmir soon in winters.

    • Reply Prerna Harsh March 5, 2018 at 11:56 am

      Hope that happens soon for you. Kashmir in winter is magical. 🙂

  • Reply Andra February 20, 2018 at 7:21 pm

    After having visited Ladakh twice, now I really want to explore more of Kashmir. And I have so many Indian friends that have repeatedly told me that both Gulmarg and Sonmarg are great places. They kept on describing them as India’s Switzerland. I did a trek in Zanskar and I am pretty sure that the entire state of Kashmir and Jammu is more beautiful than Switzerland 🙂 Be proud of your amazing country!

    • Reply Prerna Harsh March 5, 2018 at 11:55 am

      Definitely proud citizens. You’d love GULMARG! 🙂

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