Valleys and Mountains and Hills... Oh My!

While planning a much-awaited family vacation, Netxcell CEO Debasis Chatterji and his family were looking for family fun, scenic landscapes and a dash of adventure. They got just what they bargained for when they settled on picturesque Kashmir.

We had been planning a family vacation for just the four of us – my son Himaan, daughter Koel, wife Charulata and me. Since we hadn’t done such a thing in a long time, we were really looking forward to it.


 
Our original summer holiday was to be Ladakh, but when one of our family friends recommended Kashmir, we quickly shifted course. As she had been to both places, she knew which would be more appealing to us. She described Kashmir perfectly, “There is no place that can compare to the beauty it possesses,” and that it was “out of this world”.
 
We began with an early flight to Jammu with a short stopover in New Delhi. As we were travelling all day, it was difficult for us to reach Pahalgam (our first stop) that same night. Instead, we decided to head to Patnitop to spend the night and re-energise ourselves. We started our journey to Pahalgam early next morning, and en route we crossed the famous
2.5-kilometreJawahar Tunnel that divides Jammu and the Kashmir valley. We stayed at Pahalgam for two nights and did some sightseeing; we were lucky enough to experience snowfall at Chandanwadi, the gateway to Amaranth and not far from Pahalgam.

The most special moment of our trip was our arrival at Pahalgam. The view from our room took my breath away. We were surrounded by ice-capped mountains on all sides, with a beautiful river flowing right in front of our window. I felt that I would be more than content to stay there for the rest of my life.


 
After two wonderful nights in Pahalgam, it was time for us to head to our next stop, Gulmarg. The city is known for its gondolas, though they’re not like those in Venice. Gulmargi gondolas are among the highest-altitude cable cars in the world – at about 14,000 feet. We had a night and two days there; on the first, we went sightseeing in and around the town, while the second was spent on the gondolas. It was an exhilarating, unforgettable experience for all of us. The view from the top was a marvellous treat for the eyes.
 
At this point, we were four nights into our trip with five to go. We decided to spend the rest of our time in Srinagar, the capital. The first couple of days were spent in a tremendous house boat, an extremely pleasant place that looked like any hotel room on land. Every now and then, we felt waves underfoot as the wooden boat floated across the water.

Our last three days were spent in a hotel very close to the scenic and popular Dal Lake. During our stay, we managed to see all the tourist-friendly places in and around Srinagar – Sankaracharya Temple, Shalimar Garden, Tulip Garden and Nishat Gardens. As luck would have it, Tulip Garden wasn’t in full bloom, yet it looked magnificent. It’s a famous filming spot where many iconic Hindi movies like Silsila had been shot. We also visited Manasbal Lake, Kheer Bhavani Temple and Yousmarg.
One of the moments I derived great pleasure from was watching my children enjoy Kashmir’s local delicacies – rista and goshtaba. These special meatball preparations are made on a stone bucket, using a wooden hammer to mince the meat. The dishes were packed with local flavour and simply delightful for the children.


 
I strongly recommend that everybody try to visit Kashmir, an absolutely breathtaking and enchanting land. No other place can compare. I would love to keep visiting every chance I get; there is so much there that I’m sure I will never get tired of exploring it. What struck me most was the pure beauty of nature in its unadulterated form. While travelling through the mountains, you come across elegant rivers flowing by the roadside. A constant companion, they join you as you enter a valley with not a single mountain in sight. It is a magical experience!

The local culture of Kashmir is a treat to outsiders, be it their colourful clothing or their homely hospitality. The locals are soft-spoken and extremely friendly, welcoming visitors warmly. They wear long overcoats called phiran and drink a delicious medicinal tea called kahwa, infused with local spices.
 
This journey was one of the best things we ever experienced as a family. What they say about Kashmir is so very true; it is indeed heaven on earth.                                                  – Debasis Chatterji