Some places are traveled, some are explored, and some are lived. But Kashmir must be felt. It’s beauty and allure will be etched in your memory for a long time. To see the best of this heaven on earth, however, you must not just visit and stay. You must do things – all of the most amazing things to do in Kashmir – you must try them. That is the only way to see what these amazing valleys have tucked in their basket of goodness.
The piece lists 18 must-have experiences in Kashmir in 3 sub-sections – top things to do in Kashmir, top adventure activities to do in Kashmir, and spiritual activities to do in Jammu and Kashmir. The list offers complete information about these activities, and also gives you enough fodder to plan your holiday in Kashmir.
Top Things To Do In Kashmir
Mostly located in the Himalayan ranges, Kashmir offers a plethora of experiences that one must take by indulging in the below listed exciting things to do. The location and the terrain make some of the things are exclusive to this destination, so go ahead and enjoy all of these:
1. Shikara Ride
Lay back and admire the beauty of the distant mountains as your boatman takes you through a ride across the lake. Away from the hustle bustle of the polluted city life, a shikara ride ranks on the top of the list of the best things to do in Kashmir. No smoke or sound of the vehicles, no high-pitched angry crowd, nothing. Just the soft sound of the boatman’s oar breaking the surface of the water and the touch of the cold water as you trail your hand on the surface of the lake.
Where to try: Dal Lake in Srinagar and Manasbal Lake near Sonamarg
Timings: 6:00 am – 5:00 pm; all days of the week
Cost per person: INR 150 – INR 250
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2. Houseboat Stay
And it is not just the shikara rides in Dal Lake, this is one of the best offbeat things to do in Srinagar. Spending a night at the houseboat docked at the Dal Lake jetty is also among the top things to do in Kashmir. Be it honeymooners, families, or solo travelers; a night stay at one of the houseboats in Srinagar is something that you simply can not miss. The houseboats have Wifi and airport transfer facilities available. You can also avail the meals facilities provided by them. Houseboat stay facility in Jammu and Kashmir is best experiences if you are here with your family, a group of friends or with your partner.
3. ‘Gondola’ Cable Car Ride
Riding the Gondola cable car is one of the exciting and fun things to do in Kashmir for people of all ages. Tourists prefer to travel via cable car to enjoy the best views of the snowcapped mountains. Taking a Gondola ride is one of the best things to do in Kashmir in May because during this month, the summers are coming to an end and the view is really great.
The ride takes place in three phases.
- Phase 1: Gulmarg to Kongdoori
- Phase 2: Kongdoori to Apharwat Peak
- Phase 3: Kongdoori to Mary Shoulder [Chair Lift]
Timings: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm (Ride) | 9:00 am – 3:00 pm (Ticket sale); all days of the week
Cost per person: INR 600 (Phase I) | INR 800 (Phase II) | INR 300 (Chair Lift)
4. Gulmarg Golf Club
This is one of the offbeat things to do in Jammu and Kashmir. The Gulmarg Golf Club is coveted as one of the largest and highest 18-hole golf courses in the world. Playing golf in this ‘Meadow of Flowers’ is, indeed, one of the most fun-filled activities to do in Jammu and Kashmir. This destination has a natural golf course so enjoy this game in the lap of nature.
Timings: 08:30 am – 10:00 pm
Entry Fee: INR 800 for Indians | INR 1200 for Foreigners
5. Kashmiri Cuisine
Like in any other destination across the world, trying the local cuisine is one of the most important things to do in Kashmir. We all have heard about the Kashmiri Kahwa (tea) and Lamb Mutton Rogan Josh. But the cuisine has many more sumptuous dishes. These include Nadroo Yakhni (yogurt based Kashmiri curry with lotus stems), Paneer Chaman (fried paneer simmered in tomato sauce and flavored with spices and fennel seeds powder), Dum Aloo, Matschgand (minced meatballs cooked in spicy red gravy), and Gushtaba (minced mutton cooked in flavorful yogurt gravy and spices).
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6. Tourist Attractions
Be it a family tour, honeymoon, or an outing with friends, no one would want to miss the beautiful attractions of Kashmir. Of the various places to visit in Kashmir, Srinagar, Pahalgam, Gulmarg, and Sonamarg are the most popular ones. Heading to explore these cities is one of the most popular things to do in Kashmir.
Places to visit in Srinagar: Dal Lake, Nehru Park, Floating Post Office, Shankaracharya Hill Temple, Jama Masjid, Tomb of Zain-ul-Abidin’s mother, Shalimar Bagh, Nishat Bagh, Chashme Shahi, Pari Mahal, Hari Parbat Fort are the key attractions of Srinagar.
Places to visit in Gulmarg: Maharani Temple, Ziarat of Baba Reshi, Khilanmarg, Apharwat peak, and Strawberry Valley are some of the places to visit in Gulmarg.
Places to visit in Sonamarg: Thajiwas Glacier, Manasbal Lake, Ganderbal, Khir-Bhawani temple, and Narang temple are the major tourist attractions of Sonamarg.
Places to visit in Pahalgam: Lidder River & Amusement Park, Deer Park & Zoo, Mamleshwar Temple, Betaab Valley, Sheshnag Lake, Aru Village, Matrand Sun Temple, Saffron fields, and Anantnag Sulpher Springs are some of the attractions of Pahalgam.
Shopping is one of the most common things to do in Kashmir. And no, I do not mean just antiques and other souvenirs. Tourists here can shop for exquisite Kashmiri handlooms and Pashmina shawls, antique copperware like samovars, Namda hand-woven carpets, local garments called Ferins, and expensive Doda Sapphire. And then there are flowers, fruits, and vegetables sold on the shikaras in Dal Lake. More than what you buy, how you buy will be the reason for your excitement here.
8. Pony Ride Excursions
Pony is a common mode of transport in the valleys of Kashmir. Taking a short pony ride in the beautiful valleys is another interesting thing to do in Kashmir. Pony rides in Pahalgam, Sonamarg, Yusmarg, and Gulmarg are very popular. Pony rides are more common in places where transport cannot be motorized. Taking a pony ride is a great way to enjoy the real lifestyle of Jammu and Kashmir.
9. Old Srinagar Heritage Walk
They say, walk more to know more. And the same is true with Srinagar. With some structures over 4 centuries old and gardens that are no less than a paradise, the city has an architecture that is influenced by 3 different styles and 3 different religions. Walking through the old town is one of the peaceful things to do in Kashmir. Visit the marvelous structures including Jamia Masjid featuring 370 pillars made of the Maple tree. Take a walk through the lanes of the old Srinagar that has old markets of spices, dry fruits and threads.
10. Wildlife Tour
The snow-capped mountains and dense forests of Jammu and Kashmir treasures some of the most wonderful and rarest species of flora and fauna. Best protected within the boundaries of over 7 wildlife sanctuaries and national parks in Jammu and Kashmir, you can explore these wildlife species by visiting any of these places including Hemis National Park, Kishtwar National Park, Dachigam National Park, Kazinag National Park, and Salim Ali National Park.
Snow leopard, musk deer, brown bear, Marmot, red fox, Himalayan black bear, golden eagles, Monal pheasants, and griffon vultures are some of the rare species that are found in this region. You can also go bird watching at one of the 24 wetlands in Jammu and Kashmir where over 500 different species of bird find a home. Gharana and Surinsar regions in Ladakh are ideal places to spot migratory birds. You would get to see Black-necked crane, European blue whistling thrush vulture, falcon and bar-headed geese.
Suggested Read: 8 Experiences That Make Ladakh In May A Heartwarming Trip
Top Adventure Activities To Do In Kashmir
Kashmir is full of experiences and there is so much to do and see. And if you want to do something that is different from the regular tourist tours, here are some offbeat things to do and activities that you can do in this heaven on Earth:
11. River Rafting
White river rafting is one of the most adrenaline rush giving adventurous things to do in Kashmir. The rapids here are easy or moderate, which implies that rafting in Kashmir is not very difficult. You can go rafting near Sonamarg as well. However, the white water rafting in the Lidder river in Pahalgam is more famous. Teamwork coordination is an important feature in river rafting and you must also follow the safety instructions given by the instructors
- Short Lidder River Rafting: 3 km (Pahalgam) | Yarganpal to Yaneed Bridge | Grades II & III
- Medium Sindh River Rafting: 8 km (Sonamarg) | Mamar to Satrun Margund | Grades II, III, & IV
- Long Sindh River Rafting: 28 km (Sonamarg) | Mamar to Wayul Bridge | Grades II, III, & IV
Suggested Read: Snowboarding And Skiing In India: Top 12 Destinations
For all those adrenaline junkies, there is also an option to go for paragliding. The majestic beautiful valley beneath is a sight to behold. The unique view of the green valleys makes paragliding one of the most thrilling things to do in Kashmir. Paragliding options are available in Sonamarg, Gulmarg, Bhaderwah, Sanasar, and Harwan (Srinagar). Of these, paragliding in Harwan is most easily accessible as it lies on the route of the tour of the Grand Mughal Gardens.
Note: Refer to the Website for details about paragliding at Harwan.
Tip: Also try paragliding and hot air ballooning at Sanasar.
Suggested Read: 12 Places To Visit In Leh Ladakh For A Spell Binding Effect
With mountains generously covering the landscape of Jammu and Kashmir, trekking has become one of the best things to do here. Though in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, trekking in Ladakh is more famous. There are short treks and hikes that tourists can take in the valleys of Kashmir. There are many high altitude alpine lakes in Kashmir, such as Vishansar Lake, Tarsar Lake, Gadsar Lake, Alpather Lake, and Satsar Lake.
Since these beautiful lakes can only be accessed after scaling the hills, trekking has become one of the best things to do in Kashmir for the nature lovers and adventure seekers. No matter how long the trek is, the final view from the top is definitely going to be breathtaking. Make sure you wear a comfortable and grippy pair of footwear to the trek. Carry enough water to drink, and wear you sunscreens too.
14. Skiing And Snowboarding
Kashmir is a cold region, with snow-capped mountains and freezing – cold river streams, and to experience it at its best, you must visit Kashmir in the winter season. This is one of the best things to do in Kashmir in Winter. With the onset of winters, Pahalgam, Sonamarg, and Gulmarg are entirely covered in snow. And this open ups an opportunity for the winter sports. Snowboarding and skiing are the best things to do in Kashmir during winters, especially if you have an adrenaline rush to satiate.
Skiing Organizers: Powerhounds (Gulmarg) | Jawahar Institute of Mountaineering and Winter Sports (Pahalgam)
Adventure seekers can also take a beginner level ski course at Pahalgam:
Cost per person: INR 5,600 onwards*
Dates: 30th January to 2nd February and 5th February to 8th February
Contact Number: +91-99069678430
*Package inclusive of instructor, skiing dress, equipment, food, and stay
Suggested Read: 8 Tourist Circuits To Cover The Best Of Ladakh
15. Mountain Biking
Ever thought of exploring the green valleys, snow-capped mountains, gushing rivers and still-clear lakes on a bike? If this has been your idea of fun then there is no better place than Jammu and Kashmir. The location, the scenery, and the terrain make this destination ideal to enjoy mountain biking activity. If you like smoother rides then Kashmir Valleys are apt but if like an off-roading experience then Ladakh’s rugged terrain is the best.
The challenging treks during your cycling journey would raise the bar of thrill too. The popular cycling routes include Srinagar to Sonamarg, Sonamarg to Manasbal lake, Srinagar to Gulmarg, Gulmarg to Pahalgam and Pahalgam to Srinagar. And if you want to meet the mighty Himalayas, take the Srinagar – Leh highway route that goes through ten mountain passes.
16. Hot Air Ballooning
Jammu and Kashmir have countless options when it comes to adventure activities and they are not just limited to land and water. The vastness of the landforms here and the beauty of the scenic views make it a perfect destination for Aero sports too. Just like paragliding, hot air ballooning is also gaining popularity demand.
The mesmerizing sight of the lush-green and floral hills, deep valleys, snow-covered mountain ranges, milky – white streams and those signature-style slope-roofed houses, from the top will really want you to extend your stay in this heaven on Earth. Valleys of Suru and Zanskar are the popular spots in Jammu for enjoying hot air balloon rides. The ride takes to a height of around 3,000 feet and lasts for about 2 hours. Winter months are the best time to experience this activity.
Spiritual Things To Do In Jammu And Kashmir
If you thought Jammu and Kashmir is only about the breathtaking scenic beauty, here’s a surprise for you. If this is the heaven on Earth, there has to almighty’s abode too. Here some of the popular temples, shrines, and monasteries in Jammu and Kashmir that you must not miss on your visit:
17. Amarnath Cave And Vaishnodevi Temple
Taking a pilgrimage to Amarnath Cave & Vaishno Devi Cave Temple is among the most religious things to do in Jammu and Kashmir. The Amarnath Yatra is done to worship the ice stalagmite Shivalinga. It is said that Lord Shiva explained the secret of life and eternity to Goddess Parvati. The pilgrimage takes place during July – August. This 45-days Shravan Mela is dedicated to Shri Amarnath Ji.
The Vaishno Devi Yatra is a pilgrimage to Mata Vaishno Devi. The Trikuta mountain, where the shrine is located, has one base but three different peaks. A similar structure is seen inside the cave. The three heads are said to be of Mata Kali, Mata Laxmi, and Mata Saraswati – Hindu goddesses. This yatra, too, takes place in the months of July and August.
Suggested Read: Visit These 10 Monasteries In Ladakh For A Purifying Experience
18. Ladakh Buddhist Monasteries
Of the numerous places to visit in Leh Ladakh, the Buddhist monasteries are the rarest gems of Jammu Kashmir tourism. An exploration of these Gompas is one of the most religious things to do in Jammu and Kashmir. Some of the most popular monasteries (gompas) of Ladakh are:
- Hemis Monastery: Constructed by Stagchen Raschegn during the 17th century, the monastery is most popular for its masked dance during the Hemis festival.
- Thiksey Monastery: Home to over 500 monks, the monastery houses many items of Buddhist art like wall paintings, statues, thangkas and swords.
- Likir Monastery: Believed to be the first monastery to be erected by Tibetan monks, it was founded by Lama Dhwang during the 14th century. The monastery houses many Tibetan artifacts.
Further Read: A Prison You Would Happily Escape Into: Trip To Kashmir
This place is indeed a heaven on the Earth, isn’t it? So how can you afford to miss out Jammu and Kashmir from your places-to-visit bucket list? Plan a trip to Kashmir and head out to meet nature face-to-face. Also make sure that you experience all the above-given things to do so that when you return home, you take a piece of Kashmir along with you. “Nair khaudaayas havaal!” (‘Have a good journey’ in Kashmiri.)
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