“Gar firdaus bar ru e zamin ast, hami asto hami asto hami ast ”
More than 400 years and Kashmir can’t be well described than Jehangir’s own words – If heaven exists on earth, it’s here, it’s here, it’s here!
Kashmir has always caught the fancy of travelers across the world. Undoubtedly distinct from all the other hill stations in India primarily being discovered by the Mughals and not by British (as a hill station, Kashmir itself has a history of being the homeland of Rishi Kashyap dating 5000 years ago) and due to special status, no entry of real estate sharks has preserved the original beauty of this surreal valley.
Sri Nagar, Pahalgam, Gulmarg and Sonmarg are known as good as the four metro cities in India and can be described as the commercial circuit of Kashmir.
On the backdrop of the huge inflow of tourists in recent years and subsequent commercialization of these places, these spots are yet relatively untouched and retain the authenticity of Kashmir’s beauty and hospitality.
Situated in the North Eastern region of Kashmir and about 140 odd kilometers from Sri Nagar, Gurez is considered to be one of the most picturesque valleys of Kashmir. Gateway of the ancient ‘Silk Route’, Gurez also incorporates the famous pyramid shaped ‘Habba Khatoon’ peak named after the Kashmiri poetess. Although the tourist related infrastructure is yet to be developed in this area, the accommodation facility is available in the main town of Dawar and the nearby villages.
The beautiful Kishen Ganga river flows through Gurez valley with its clear blue waters and rafting can be done here. However, except for the residents of Bandipore district, travellers need to take a special permission from the Director – Tourism Enforcement, Kashmir which includes verification from local police station. It is advisable to apply a month prior to your scheduled journey to Gurez.
The efforts to reach this heavenly valley are worth it as you have to cross the tricky Margan Top (from where the famous Nun Kun peak can be seen on a clear day). Another gem in the unexplored Kashmir, Warwan valley in Kishtwar district situated at an altitude of approx 7000 feet from sea level offers breathtaking vistas of greenery, waterfalls and clear skies.
A popular destination with foreign nationals in the 80’s, the Warwan valley is sandwiched between Kashmir and Ladakh.
Lack of electricity in this valley takes your soul closer to nature. On a moonlit night, one is enthralled by the sheer beauty of the snow peaks of Zanskar range and the shimmering Dariya-E-Chinab flowing through the valley with distant echoes of shepherds getting their ships back home.
It has couple of accommodation facilities – a dak bunglow under construction and a Forest Rest House. As with Gurez, you have to communicate your plan to the DFO, Marwah, a month in advance. Uncertainties prevail as FRH being the only accommodation for all VIPs visiting Warwan.
Here, the Kashmiri hospitality comes to act and any of the locals will accommodate you. The recently opened Vailoo-Inshan Road makes life easy as you can drive a vehicle (4X4 preferred) in the Warwan valley. Generally cut from the rest of the world for 7 months, best time to visit Warwan Valley is between May and October
Located in the sensitive Kupwara district, Bangus (or Bungus) valley can humble the best of the European meadows. There are two elliptical bowl shaped valleys with name of Bodh Bungus (Big Bungus) and Lakut Bangus (Small Bungus).
Generally tourists are allowed access to Big Bungus only. Situated inside a dense forest of the marvelous pines, the Bungus meadows are probably the most beautiful in Kashmir and an ideal place for camping (though it is not allowed and one is requested to be back to Reshwari before evening).
The green carpet becomes a captivating array of beautiful colours in Summer (especially in May) which is the recommended time to visit. The Bangus valley certainly epitomizes Kashmir’s heavenly beauty in the original way.
The only accommodation near Bangus Valley is the beautiful guest house situated on the banks of Mawar river in the Reshwari Village falling in the Handwara sub-division.
As they say, “Good things never come easy” If you happen to visit Bangus, you will not stop thanking your stars. Being a disturbed territory, you need to acquire a primary permission from the SP of Kishtwar to go to Bangus but the 17th Infantry Brigade reserves the right to allow the entry to Bangus. Once allowed, you won’t feel like coming back.
Probably the simplest to approach out of all the destinations described, Doodpathari (or Dodhpathir in local dialect) is situated at a distance of 40 odd kilometers from Sri Nagar. The name is derived from the abundance of milk in this area due to lush green meadows for the cattle. The shephards from the nearby villages get their cattle to graze here so that good quality milk can be procured.
Doodhpathri is a bowl shaped green valley with Shali Ganga river flowing through the meadows and makes a beautiful day trip destination from Sri Nagar. The JKTDC has also built a wonderful resort here. If not staying on a house boat at Dal Lake or Nagin Lake in Sri Nagar, it is advisable to stay at Doodhpathari tourist guest houses.
Witten By: Amit Hiremath
Published By: alternative.in