By: Munaza Kazmi
Kashmir, one of the attractive tourist destinations of Pakistan. Picturesque and enchanting, Kashmir is cradled high in the lofty green Himalayas and hailed all over the world for its incredible natural beauty. Surrounded by greenish snow caped peeks, lush green valleys, glistering lakes, temples and spectacular Mughal-era gardens, it has inspired poets through centurie, as Amir Khusro said,
Agar Firdaus bar roo-e zameen ast,
Hameen ast-ohammen ast-o hameen ast.
If there is a paradise on earth,
It is this, it is this, it is this.
The valley is crisscrossed by chinar tree-lined roads and quaint wooden bridges; and home to the bustling bazaars, sufi shrines and forts. Add to this, the charms of flavorful Kashmiri cuisine, the sweet-smelling Kashmiri Chayee, mere thought of which brings the tourist in the sweetest of dreams. The fruit laden trees of apples and walnuts from the lush orchards, the flowery gardens of every kind with colorful birds coloring the sky, the gorgeousness of scene is beyond words.
In winter, Kashmir takes on a sparkly white glow, covered in soft snow, that glitters with a slightest touch of the sun. However, in summer, as the snow melts, and the flowers in the meadows bloom, it resembles an artist canvas.
Meanwhile, Kashmir lies on the banks of the convergence of river Jhelum and Neelam or Kishanganga, having area of approximately 650 square miles, local language is Kashmiri that was derived from Dardic, however later mixed with the elements of Sanskrit, Punjabi and Persian, although Urdu is the official language.
Kashmir is said to as “heaven on earth”, you have Mughal emperor Jahangir to thank for this observation. Tourists come to Kashmir valley, so they too can witness the charms of this heaven.
However, best time to visit Kashmir is during the months of March to August. During this period two seasons are covered in Kashmir. Spring from March to May and Summer that is from early May to late August. The blossoms of spring and the cool weather of summer creates the perfect of time. Moreover, during this period the beauty is enough to transport you to another realm. Add to this, winter of Kashmir offers other perks, snow laden trees, chilled weather, mountains covering in the whitish blanket and the rare show of wild life. The magic of valley is indeed quite bewitching, and you will want to start making plans for the next trip right away.
However, my visit happens to be in the winters, November of this year. The chilly weather and curved roads with sharped end, a mere sight of them can give you goosebumps. I travelled from Islamabad to Kashmir via Murree, although the roads are in good condition and with perfect scenery but still I felt them a little much busy, because people sometimes forget to observe the traffic rules, here I request the government to re-operate the Airport, hence it would help in enhancing further opportunities of tourism.
At last my ride of the roller coaster ride completed at Muzaffarabad Pearl Continental, a really spacious, nice and comfortable hotel that offers quite delicious food, the epic sight of dancing peacocks, the fruits and colorful flower laden gardens here and there, the view of distant snowy Himalaya, and the rushing of river Neelam and Jhelum.
After taking some rest and having tasty food from Marco Polo, I went to see the famous Pir Chinasi, resting place of a holy Saint, Pir Sayed Hussain, that is 30 km east to Muzaffarabad, on the hill top. Where one can enjoy a panoramic view of the city.
On return my eyes catches glimpse of 17th Century Red Fort, located on picturesque bank of River Neelam, though the fort is destructed from ignorance but thankfully now some restorations work is in progress. To say, as much as I seen of Kashmir I couldn’t find much of the heritage, and the once traditional homes, perhaps because of the destruction of 2005 earthquake, however still I discovered the ignorance among the authorities, since the valley is on the earthquake fault line, and concreate construction has been done again, without keeping the regard of cultural and heritage aspect, which includes the wood construction in order to minimize the disaster.
Morning came with the glittery sun shining in the clear blue sky, that presented me with the opportunity to dine in the lawn for breakfast. An experience of Mughal garden, lofty green trees, scented flowers, clear water fountain, peacocks dancing with a table filled of bounties of my Lord.
Dhani waterfall, 30-minutes’ drive from the hotel, an utterly beautiful, majestic work of nature, with the elevation of 3583 ft. It’s just by the road, and you can easily locate it while driving. The water of this masterpiece is clean and crystal clear, a divine place to sit and ponder over nature.
Later I found a couple of stunning and equally adventurous looking bally bridges along the road, the lofty green woods on the hills surrounded by. However, there is a need to put complete focus on the cleanliness and depollution, otherwise we would lose the charms of this heaven, authorities are requested to educate the tourist and locals in this regard and if required fine should laid in practice.
In the end, from the roadside motel, sharing Kashmiri Chayee with the smiling locals