Travellers’ heaven in turmoil: Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir
Srinagar is the capital city of the heavenly and picturesque Himalayan state of Jammu and Kashmir in India. Srinagar is located 900 km north of New Delhi the capital of India and via Pathankot and Jammu. Srinagar lies on the River Jhelum and is the getaway for many adventurous hiking and trekking trails to the neighboring regions.
Srinagar can be easily accessed by air from New Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata. Most travellers prefer taking the train to Jammu which is the nearest railhead, followed by a bus or taxi ride to Srinagar. From Jammu to Srinagar is about 290 km and a journey by bus takes 15 hours and is 10 hours by taxi.
The buses to Srinagar leave from Jammu bus station only in the mornings. So a taxi ride is a preferred option for many travellers who do not want to spend a night in Jammu. Private and share a cab can be both easily hired from the Jammu taxi union centre which is located near the Jammu Tawi railway station. Always remember that buses are a safer option as compared to taxis while travelling from Jammu to Srinagar.
The city of Srinagar has become a lot safer to travel to since the mid 2000’s. However the streets are still patrolled by soldiers. Any building of value will also have a sandbag bunker and razor wire for protection. All residential areas have at least two soldiers guarding the area at all times.
The excessive amount of protection in Srinagar is because this city is very volatile to violence. Anything and everything can spur up a riot in Srinagar. Demonstrations and rallies can rapidly turn violent, and in times like these travellers are generally potential soft targets.
Barring all the army petrol and the constant cloud of riot breaking out on the streets, the city of Srinagar has plenty to offer for those who brave the odds and decide the visit this beautiful yet very vulnerable Himalayan city.
The Mughal gardens and Dal Lake are arguably the most famous attractions in Srinagar. Both of them have their own charm and are simply breath-taking. The three Mughal Gardens of Chesmashahi, Nishat and Shalimar were built by the Mughal emperors with the idea of recreating paradise on Earth and they surely have succeeded in doing so.
The terraced lawns, cascading fountains, bright flowerbeds and the never ending view of the Dal Lake and the Himalayan mountains makes the Mughal gardens a gem unlike any other in India.
Besides these gardens there is the Shankaracharya Mandir which is worth a visit. The mandir is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and the temple is located on a hill top and can be easily approached by taxi. Cameras and cell phones are not allowed inside the temple.
The old city of Srinagar is a very beautiful place and has a lot of historical importance, but it is also the most volatile of all and hence it is advisable to check with the locals on the situation in the old city before venturing.
Accommodation in Srinagar is of all kinds from luxurious house boats that are not free floating in the Dal Lake but are anchored offshore to budget backpacker accommodation that can be found in the lanes near the main bazaar road. Bargaining is a skill that will come very handy while negotiating for a room in Srinagar.
The food available in Srinagar will fascinate the non-vegetarians more than the vegetarians. This fact can be been just by strolling around the bazaar area with every second shop in the bazaar being a mutton shop. So while in Srinagr trying out some of the mutton dishes is a must.
A few of the famous ones are Rogan-gosh, Gushtaba and Rishta. There are plenty of street vendors around the bazaar road selling fried chicken and momos. The bakeries here make really tasty rotis. Those are a must have for one and all.
Srinagar is world famous for the shawls, carpet and rugs that are mostly hand-made in this part of the world. There are plenty of shops selling the same. The dry fruits and saffron that is available in the shops in Srinagar is A+ quality and very reasonable as opposed to buying the same thing anywhere across the country.
Since the state of Jammu and Kashmir is a high security zone in India, only post-paid cell phone customers will have coverage. Pre-paid users will not have any coverage in the entire state due to security reasons.
The best time to visit Srinagar is during the summer months from mid-April to end of July, since the weather is pleasant and good for travel. Srinagar during summers is also one of the gateways to Kagril, Zanskar valley and Ladakh.
Srinagar really does hold claim to the fact that it surely is a paradise on earth, even though the place is very violate its natural beauty and amazing cuisine attracts travellers from all over the world year after year. Before travelling to Shrinagar it is advisable to check the current situation on the place and if the situation is not very good it is better to cancel or postpone the trip.