#KashmirDiaries: Pahalgam – Of fairy tale gardens and the majestic Lidder

Kashmir is reputed to be heart-stoppingly beautiful.
It’s called India’s Switzerland.
Ghalib famously said if there’s Paradise on earth, it’s Kashmir.

Honestly, after seeing Sringar, I was rather cross with all these descriptions.

Sure the Dal Lake is beautiful and the Mughal gardens are a piece of living history, but it’s a busy, bustling city like any other. Comparing this to Paradise, really?!
{Yes, I realize I equated the city of Srinagar with the whole state of Kashmir, but bear with me. I am only human, after all! I also blame some of the husband’s grumpiness rubbing off on me. Moving on!}

Then we went to Pahalgam. And what can I say? If there is Paradise on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here.

Kashmir Diaries Pahalgam fairy tale city

Isn’t that a picture postcard view?

We stayed at a cute little cottage at the bank of the Lidder River. Soon after checking in, I dragged the husband to the river bank, and we sat there enjoying the sound of the water rushing past, taking in the greenery around us, and just soaking all of that beauty in. And since all we had there was one measly night {huge mistake, HUGE}, we decided to go visit Aru and Beetab valley. And it was so damn disappointing!

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Sharing the space with some ponies, by the Lidder river, Pahalgam

Aru Valley: A beautiful though over-hyped view

The drive to Aru was beautiful – but the driver didn’t stop anywhere even though we asked him to.

Aru is a beautiful meadow, but it’s over commercialized. So when you reach, you’re besieged by pony guys, shawl sellers and ladies roaming around with rabbits, handing them over to you to hold and take pictures for a fees. As you make your way along the pony shit lined path and battle through the mob, you reach the end of the path – and it’s cordoned off. So basically, either you take the pony or that’s all that you can really see. We were out of there in five minutes!

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The idyllic Aru Valley, Pahalgam

Beetab Valley: Or how to cash in on India’s obsession with Bollywood

Beetab valley was another rip off. For the princely sum of Rs 100 each you can enter the valley, which is hyped because it was the location for an old Hindi movie called Betaab. There are guides outside who offer to show you where the house and stables (picturized in the movie) are – but you don’t need a guide because, obviously, none of the set remains. So unless you want to pay someone Rs 200/- or more to vaguely point you in the direction of the “ranch”, don’t waste your money. Don’t get me wrong – the valley is quite large and it is really pretty, but it’s not worth the hype that surrounds it. You’ll find many such beautiful valleys all around Kashmir.

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Fast flows the river, Lidder River, Pahalgam

After the disappointment of these two spots, and because it was already evening and raining on and off, we didn’t bother going to the third – Chandanwadi, which I later found out was just as well as it was over-hyped too {at least in summer}.

The real charm of Pahalgam: Its fairy tale gardens

Instead, we returned back to our cottage and walked down to Lavender Park, a short distance from our hotel. The walking path is lined with Lavender plants and dotted with some beautiful, whimsical trees with winding branches. You have the Lidder River flowing on one side, a vast expanse of green lawns, framed by dense green hills at one end, the town at the other, and majestic snow-capped mountains in the distance. We had the garden all to ourselves that evening, and we spent a couple of hours there, breathing in that clean, pure oxygenated air and filling our hearts with the sound of the river gushing by.

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Meander through the beautiful Lavender Park, Pahalgam

The next morning we walked down to the Lidder Park, which is about half a kilometer away from Lavender Park. The walkways here are right along the river bank, and the sound of the river fills your soul.  I was enchanted by the gushing, playful water, both delighted at its joyful vibrancy and in awe of its potential fury.

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Gently flows the river, a catchment on the Lidder, Lidder Park, Pahalgam

A meander through the park, a final hour at the river bank, and it was time to head back to Srinagar. One night was certainly not enough for Pahalgam. Whenever we visit next, I will earmark at least three nights for this beautiful little town.


More in this series: The journey begins | Romancing the Dal  | Srinagar in a day | Pahalgam: Of fairy tale gardens and the majestic Lidder | Nara Nag: Where nature and history meet | Doodhpathri: Where the river turns into milk | Sonamarg: Heartbreak and healing


 

Posted in Kashmir, Travel and tagged , , .

29 Comments

  1. Lovely post..I personally think that Pahalgam is definitely better place than Srinagar. The beauty of Pahalgam is mesmerizing. I spent 4 days here..doing nothing..enjoying the views, strolling in the parks and meadows. The only thing I didn’t like here and elsewhere in Kashmir was the tourist lobby like taxi unions and pony operators!

  2. I agree on the part of over commercialized but also will like to say that if these places would have been in Europe then it would have been a tourist hit. Loved the post. Will post on Betab Valley and Table top as well as Chandanwari

    • You may be right Anindya. What really irritated me was how dirty it all was. And the pestering and haranguing. That wouldn’t have happened in an European city. Just the lack of that would have probably made the entire experience different.

    • There’s no doubt that the scenery is beautiful, but you do get to see a lot of similar scenic beauty as you drive around Kashmir.

  3. The place looks gorgeous through your pictures and I can understand how touristy things have become. Personally, taking a walk and looking around like you did is the best experience:)

    • Yes, we walked around all of the places, and that was really beautiful! The air was fresh and pure, and we could stop and admire the scenery for as long as we wanted to!

  4. Travelling in India is fraught with beggars, haggling, vendors and lobbies n unions in most places.
    Linking spots with bollywood movie shooting is an easy sell and done to death in India everywhere .
    But then that’s part and parcel of travelling here. I don’t think comparisons with Europe is fair as their infrastructure is far more developed, huge ticket prices, cab fares and strict laws against littering and damage. Ppl stand in line for cabs in Europe.
    India has much warmth in its ppl n places which I personally haven’t found in any other part of the world . 😊
    And yes, Kashmir is one of my fav places to travel anyday…

    • Just because there are beggars, haggling and tourist lobbies everywhere, you don’t have to like it. Within Kashmir itself there are places where this menace is much less, which is why I found Aru and Beetab over commercialized.

      As for linking with Bollywood movies, I don’t think it’s done everywhere, and not in the manner it was here.

      As for Europe, don’t you think there are things that we can learn from them? Just one simple one would make a lot of difference – do not litter. And that would make a lot of the experiences a lot better, not to mention the good it would do for the environment and nature.

      Each city of the world is different. I’ve found lovely people in my travels around the world and within India – Kashmir was no exception.

      Despite my bad experiences at Aru and Betaab, I did love Pahalgam, and I would love to visit Kashmir again. On that point we agree.

  5. The entire Kashmir valley is beautiful, only if there wasnt the commercialization aspect of it.In fact that’s the state of every tourist place.

    • Yes, that’s very true Shilpa. Kashmir is beautiful, and we were lucky to visit some off-beat places that were not over commercialized. That was heavenly!

    • It is a lovely place….the river is gorgeous, I could have spent the entire day camped out there! Hope you get to visit soon!

    • It is, no? I would love to go back and spend a few days at Pahalgam, and see some of the other places that we missed during this visit. Missed out on the trout, but I’ll keep it in mind for next time. 😉

  6. Pahalgam looks so beautiful! and those hills look dreamy! I loved the honesty in your post. True, a lot of places are over hyped … I felt the same when I first visited Ooty.

    • It is a beautiful place! And the views are absolutely fantastic. And I agree with you on Ooty – that’s another over hyped place!

    • Thank you – coming from you, it’s a high compliment!!

      And yes, Kashmir is a must visit destination, and for good reason! 🙂

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