India’s northernmost state is also one of its most beautiful! Surrounded by the Himalayas, Jammu and Kashmir is home to some of the most breathtaking sights in the world. Though Jammu and Kashmir has been a traditional favorite among middle-class Indian tourists — Jammu for its Vaishno Devi Temple and Kashmir… well… for being Kashmir — there are yet several places that are relatively unexplored. From tall snow-capped mountain ranges to serene lakes, Jammu and Kashmir is home to varied landscapes that will make you fall in love with the state instantly. While there are the famous destinations like Srinagar and Gulmarg that have been visited by millions of people over the years, there are places like Ladakh and the Zanskar valley that have gained popularity only in the recent years. Moreover, some of Bollywood’s most iconic movies have been shot in Jammu Kashmir: from Silsila and Satte pe Satta to Highway, these movies definitely make you wish you were indeed in Jammu and Kashmir. So if you’re already in love with this mind-blowing destination, then here’s how you can plan your next trip to Jammu and Kashmir. This is what you can do in Jammu and Kashmir over seven nights and eight days. Do keep in mind that the place that offers the best range for accommodation in Srinagar. You can either go on day excursions to destinations like Sonmarg, Gulmarg, and Pahalgam and end your day back at Srinagar. Or you can opt to stay at these destinations to add more to your journey. The expenditure either way will be approximately the same.

DAY 1

srinagar dal lake

The best and most time-efficient way to arrive at Srinagar is by air. However, if you’re on a budget, you can take the train to Jammu Tawai, Katra or Udhampur which are anywhere between five to seven hours from Srinagar. From the station, the most comfortable way to reach Srinagar is by renting a car. After a long journey, utilise the day to relax. Opt for a shikara ride over the Dal Lake and enjoy the sunset.

BEST PLACES TO STAY IN SRINAGAR

Budget Hotels: Lonely Guest House, Hotel Holy Night, Hotel Luxury Inn, Hotel New Prince Inn

Mid Range Hotels: Hotel Akbar, Hotel JH Bazaz, Blooming Dale Hotel Cottages

Luxury Hotels: Hotel Dar-Es-Salam, Hotel mirage, Hotel RK Sarovar Portico, Vivanta Dal View Srinigar by Taj, The Lalit Grand Palace Srinagar

Houseboats: If you have enough money to spend on the houseboat experience, we suggest you do. Staying at a houseboat on the Dal Lake in Srinagar for one night is something altogether different.

BEST PLACES TO EAT IN SRINAGAR: Shamiana, Mughal Darbar, Ahdoos, Stream

DAY 2

sonamarg 1

Start your day with breakfast followed by a drive to Sonamarg. The journey from Srinagar to Sonamarg will take approximately two hours and 30 minutes. The best way to reach Sonamarg is by car.

The best time of the year to visit Sonamarg is from May to October. Sonamarg translates to ‘meadow of gold’. The River Sindh flows through Sonamarg and offers several breathtaking views. You can visit the Thajiwas Glacier where you can also try horse and pony riding. Post that you can visit the Vishansar Lake and Kishansar Lake. The best thing to do in Sonamarg is to try the Gaganbal trek which can be started from either of the lakes. You have two options: either drive back to Srinagar and stay at the same hotel for another night or stay at Sonamarg. However, there aren’t enough budget accommodation options in Sonamarg.

BEST PLACES TO STAY IN SONAMARG: Mountain Greens Camping, Hotel Rah Vilas, Farah’s Homestay, JKTDC Sonmarg

BEST PLACES TO EAT IN SONAMARG: There are quite a few cafes and roadside stalls in Sonamarg for a decent meal. Most hotels have attached restaurants which will be your safest bet for a good meal.

DAY 3

gulmarg 1

Whether you stayed at Srinagar or Sonmarg, your next stop will be Gulmarg. The travel distance and time from both destinations to Gulmarg is approximately the same. Renting a car for an entire day at Gulmarg is one of the options.

The best time of the year to visit Gulmarg is from November to February. This is when thousands of people visit Gulmarg for skiing. However, it’s a beautiful destination all year round and is definitely worth visiting. Gulmarg is known as the meadow of flowers.

Stroll around the town and relax today. If you visit Gulmarg during the winter, enroll yourself for skiing lessons.

BEST PLACES TO STAY IN GULMARG: There aren’t any budget accommodation options in Gulmarg.

Mid-range Hotels: Welcome Hotel Gulmarg, Royal Park Hotel, Hotel pine Spring, Hotel Sun and Snow

Luxury Hotels: The Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa, The Vintage Gulmarg, Heevan Retreat Gulmarg, Hotel highlands park

BEST PLACES TO EAT IN GULMARG: Bakshi Restaurant, Nedous Dining Room, Alpine Lounge, big Bite Fast Food

DAY 4

gulmarg 2

Spend the whole day in Gulmarg. Apart from skiing, you can trek to the Apharwat peak, take the Gulmarg Gondola to get a bird’s eye view of the hill station. If you’re looking for another place to visit around Gulmarg, your best option is Yusmarg. You can try your hand at horse riding and freshwater fishing here. If you’re not tired from the previous day’s trek, there’s a 10 km trek that will lead you to Sand-e-Safed Valley which is home to a frozen lake. Heading back to Gulmarg will be your best option, and you can rent a car to and from Yusmarg.

DAY 5

shutterstock_189341714 pahalgam

Head to Pahalgam first thing in the morning from Gulmarg. The drive from Gulmarg to Pahalgam will take four to five hours. Once you reach Pahalgam, spend your day relaxing to be fresh for the following morning.

BEST PLACES TO STAY IN PAHALGAM: There aren’t any budget accommodation options in Gulmarg.

Mid-range Hotels: Hotel Palestine, Hotel Himalaya House, Hotel Himalaya Discover Resort, Hotel Pahalgam, Hotel Woodstock

Luxury Hotels: Hotel Senator Pine-n-Peak Pahalgam, Kolahoi Green Resorts Pahalgam, Hotel Heevan Pahalgam

BEST PLACES TO EAT IN PAHALGAM: Dana Pani, Troutbeat, Cafe Log Inn, Natus Rasoi are some of the well-known places to eat in Pahalgam

DAY 6

pahalgam lidder

Start your day with a visit to the Betaab Valley, Chandanwadi, the starting point of the Amarnath Yatra and the Aru Valley which are all exceptionally beautiful. Stroll around, click photos and enjoy a picnic while surrounded by greenery here. The best time to visit Pahalgam is from May to October. You can also visit the Lidder River in the Lidder valley if time permits. Go on nature trails and enjoy the scenic beautify of Pahalgam.

Spend the night at Pahalgam so that you’ll be prepared for your trip to Srinagar from Pahalgam.

DAY 7

Photograph courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Photograph courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

If you’ve fallen in love with Pahalgam, you can spend some more time in Pahalgam till lunch and then head to Srinagar. On your way to Srinagar, there will be two possible pit stops. First, you can halt by the Cricket Bat Manufacturing Factory — the region is known for its Kashmir Willow bats — and then you can stop by Awantipura. Here you can visit the ruins of the 9th century Awantiswami Temple dedicated to Shiva and Vishnu. On your way from Pahalgam you will see several apple orchards. Reach Srinagar by the end of the day and enjoy some local Kashmiri delicacies.

DAY 8

pari mahal srinagar

If you have an early morning flight or have to head towards the station in the morning, we suggest you finish touring Srinagar the previous day itself. However, if you have enough time to spend in the city, here’s what you can do.

First, visit the Mughal gardens in Srinagar. These gardens were built by Shah Jahan. The Nishat Gardens, Shalimar Gardens, Chashme Shahi Gardens, Pari Mahal Gardens, Nehru Gardens and the Indira Gandhi Tulip Garden is also worth a visit.  These gardens are located on the banks of Dal lake. Visit the local markets and buy some Kashmiri pashmina, saffron and woollen outfits if you like anything specific.