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Posted on 09/21/2023

Experiencing Pahalgam – An Unconventional Guide

Experiencing Pahalgam – An Unconventional Guide

Pahalgam was probably the only place we were sceptical about on our Kashmir trip. Last minute AirBnb cancellation, incessant rains and hearing a lot that it is touristy and crowded – Pahalgam did not exactly feel like the ideal place to visit. But as if it was meant to happen, we finally ended up there and experienced it in the most eccentric way. Random conversations, scenic saunters, relishing street food and a peek into the local way of life were chosen over mini Switzerland and other tempting places. In the end, we fell in love with the forest, the wild flowers, the birds and the gushing river and Pahalgam got etched in our hearts forever. 

So, this blog will not be about the conventional topics of what to see in Pahalgam or things to do on a short visit, but more like a memoir of the things we did or experienced. And also about how sometimes letting go of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and slowing down could help create memories of a lifetime. If that is how you look at things, then this blog is for you.

Experiences we will never forget

The Drive from Srinagar to Pahalgam

I feel the best part of visiting Pahalgam is the drive itself. It was indeed the most picturesque road trip we took from Srinagar. As we started moving farther from the town, lush paddy fields complemented by tall mountains started accompanying us at both sides. We passed many interesting towns on the way,  each having their own speciality – Pampore for Saffron, Sangam for cricket bat making and Apple Valley for its numerous apple orchards. Gradually, row of Poplar trees started giving way to Walnut laden trees and Lidder river flowing fiercely became a constant company. It was difficult not to drift into a reverie every now and then. The journey had given us a fair idea of what to expect from our destination.

Pahalgam Market – Delectable street food and intriguing conversations

All the saunter in the rain had left us tired and hungry. So we decided to head to the market and find something to eat.  But what first caught our attention was its picturesque locale. Rimmed by snow clad peaks,   shops both small and big lined both sides of the road and retro-style lamps adorned the footpath, exuding old world charm. Apart from the scenic beauty, the market is also a perfect place for some shopping and street food. We bought some Shawls for family and treated ourselves to some scrummy street food. Whether the pakoda at the pure veg restaurant or roadside Maggi, the moreish ripe mango chat or the freshly made Chicken kababs by street vendors – everything tasted so satisfying.

A peaceful evening at the riverside park

This is one gem of a place that we found while strolling around the market area. It is called Island park and is maintained by the Department of Floriculture. You may think what is so special about a park. But this park located in the river island and encircled by mountains is a lovely place to spend the evening. There are benches set thoughtfully along the riverside under the canopy of trees. Roses and many other flowers adorn the area and a cutesy bridge set over the river offers perfect views of the town and surroundings.  How I wished to sit on one those benches with a book in hand and listen to the music of the gushing river all day!

Ganeshbal Village and it’s traditional bakery

Next morning, before leaving, we decided to take a walk in the direction from where we had come to Pahalgam. I was hung up on the view of the river we had seen on the way. So taking out the umbrellas, we set out for Ganeshbal. The sky was still grey with drizzles continuing through the morning, and that made the walk  through the misty Pine forest even more enchanting. After about 10-15 mins, we reached the village. Apart from the views, the 1st thing I noticed was the locals gathered near a small shop and buying breads. It was a small traditional local bakery where they rolled the bread with hand and baked it in an earthen tandoor.

Apple laden trees and Fresh Juices at Apple Valley

While driving back to Srinagar, we decided to make a stop at Apple Valley. The whole stretch has number of apple gardens by the road side. Since it was July, the apples were still raw and green. But if you go during September-October time, you will see the red juicy apples dangling from the trees. Since it will be the harvesting season,   you can even buy farm fresh apples at a very reasonable price. Not only apples, the orchard owners also sell Apple jams, Apple pickles and other fruit products in their shops. Do buy their products as directly buying from them helps boost the local economy. What I loved the most was the freshly squeezed apple juice that was truly the best I had till date.

Cricket Bat Making Factories at Sangam

On the way to Pahalgam, comes a village named Sangam that is very hard to miss. As we approached the village, grids of wood stacked along the roadside and on top of the buildings came into view. There were also rows of cricket bat selling shops at both sides of the road. When I was wondering what this place could be, our driver Bilal Bhai told us how this region of Kashmir had rose to fame for cricket bat making. The bats are made from the wood of Kashmiri Willow tree that used to grow abundantly in this region. But with increasing number of bat making factories over the years, and not much done in terms of planting new trees, the Willow trees are gradually diminishing. Read More…..

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