Traveller and trekker Amit Tyagi writes about the hidden gems of Kashmir. You won't regret including them in your next itinerary.
Talk about Kashmir and the places that come to mind are Srinagar, Sonmarg, Gulmarg and Pahalgam. They remain the most frequented and popular tourist destinations.
There's much more to discover in this lovely state.
Presenting the lesser-known beautiful places of Kashmir that you must visit once in your lifetime:
The Kishanganga river flows through this picturesque valley, located in northern Kashmir.
For a view of its river flowing in front and the pyramid-shaped peak of Habba Khatoon -- named after the famous Kashmiri poet -- in the backdrop, Gurez valley mustn't be missed.
Gurez valley was once part of the ancient Silk Route. The inhabitants here are ethnic Dards/Shins.
How to get there: From Srinagar, head to Bandipore, from where a 40-km ascent will take you to the Razdan pass at 3,300 metres.
A 42-km downhill journey from the pass will bring you to the capital of Gurez valley, Dawar.
Gurez is disconnected from the rest of Kashmir valley for more than seven months in a year, from mid-October to mid-March, on account of the closure of the Razdan pass due to heavy snow.
Recently, the Department of Tourism, Jammu and Kashmir, started a 20 minute helicopter service to Gurez valley. The tickets can be booked from the Srinagar Tourism Reception Centre, Rajbagh.
Formed by the Lahwal river, this beauteous vale is situated in the north-western corner of Kashmir.
Lolab valley is one of the biggest valleys in the state and is blanketed with dense forests of pine and fir.
Aptly called the Fruit Bowl of Jammu and Kashmir, the sight of apple, cherry, peach, apricot or walnut trees, laden with fruit in season, is common in this valley.
It also has several natural landmarks including Zed-Gali (lookout point Z-Gali), Potnai valley, Magmarg, Brunai, springs, forests, pastures, shrines, holy places and tourist spots like the ancient caves of Kalaroos.
How to get there: Kupwara is around 90 km from Srinagar. Travel for around 10 to 12 km from there to reach Lolab valley. One can reach Kupwara by bus or take a cab.
One can opt for public transport from Kupwara to reach Lolab valley too.
It is a small hill station in the southern part of the Kashmir valley.
Aharbal lies in the Kulgam district of Jammu and Kashmir and is located on the Veshaw river, a tributary of the Jhelum river.
The Aharbal falls are known as the Niagara falls of Kashmir. A base for adventure tourism, it is from here that one can trek to the high-altitude Konsernag lake.
How to get there: Around 50 km from Srinagar, towards the south, lies the town of Shopian. A further 14 km away from Shopian is the village of Aharbal.
It is a quiet and beautiful spot situated at the banks of Doodganga river.
Yusmarg means the Meadow of Jesus in the local language.
In addition to viewing its vast beautiful meadows and small lake, Yousmarg is a good starting point for treks to Neelang, Doodhganga, Fresnag, Haijan, Burgah, Sung Safed, Lidder Mad etc.
How to get there: Yousmarg is situated in Budgam district, 47 km south of Srinagar.
It is a small, beautiful village 14 km upstream from Pahalgam.
Known for its meadows, rivulets, mountains, greenery and hospitality, in the earlier days, several foreigners came here to trek.
Aru is also the beginning point for treks to a few of the most beautiful lakes, glacier, meadows and camping sites like Lidderwat, Arampathri, Tarsar Marsar lakes, Kolahoi glacier etc.
How to get there: Pahalgam is around 90 km from Srinagar.
One can reach Pahalgam by bus or taxi. From Pahalgam, private as well as share cabs run to Aru.
Doodhpathri or Valley of Milk, is a huge bowl-shaped meadow. Tourism developed here only a few years ago.
Situated in Budgam district, around 40 km from Srinagar, this is an especially tranquil location.
The place is frequented by local shepherds, who come here to graze their herds.
The Doodhpathri Development Authority has built igloos as stay options here.
Little ahead of the meadows, lies the gushing stream of Shaliganga and a hamlet called Mujpathri.
How to get there: Doodhpathri can be reached by road from Srinagar, which is around 42 km away.
Daksum is a postcard perfect village, which lies in the middle of the Bhringi river valley.
Surrounded by thick forest cover, it is a trekker's paradise.
You can do a half-day excursion of the snow-laden Sinthan pass, which remains snow bound for most of the year.
The meadows in the jungles of Daksum are famous for their sheep and cattle breeding, while the Bhringi river is good for fishing.
How to get there: Around 100 km from Srinagar, one passes through the Mughal Gardens of Achabal and Kokernag, to reach Daksum.
April to September is the best time to visit this picturesque hamlet.