Back to Listing

Kashmir - Paradise on Earth: An Insider’s Guide

Kashmir - Paradise on Earth: An Insider’s Guide

By Cosmo Brockway

We are currently enjoying national treasure Joanna Lumley’s television journey through India on ITV. Lumley’s love for the subcontinent stems largely from the fact that she was born in the northern state of Kashmir. She calls her birthplace ‘Paradise on Earth’, and we wholeheartedly agree. Kashmir is the ideal off-the-beaten-track destination with dramatic scenery; meadows carpeted in wild lavender nestled amongst jagged peaks, hospitable locals and a rich craft culture. The best time to come is May to September, with the purple crocus fields in bloom at the end of the season.

The main city Srinagar boasts more than a million, largely Muslim, residents. It has an old-fashioned charm; gaily-painted houseboats line the tranquil Dal and Nageen Lakes and wandering through the souks, or markets, is to step back to a slower age. The shimmering waters are surrounded by green mountains and experiencing a sunset here lingers long in the memory, with the call to prayer rising like incense from wooden mosques and the flutter of nesting birds. Sample the local delicacy, a feast worthy of royalty, called ‘wazwan’, traditionally comprising of 36 mouth-watering courses. Kashmiris are renowned for the art of entertaining. From the very first welcome with ‘kahwa’, a traditional almond-laced tea, guests are treated with great honour.

Further up the Vale of Kashmir, 56km from Srinagar, lies the scenic town of Gulmarg. Reminiscent of an alpine resort, the spot has a romantic history. Originally named Gaurimarg ‘the fair one’ by wandering shepherds for Hindu goddess Parvati, Gulmarg was given its present name meaning ‘meadow of flowers’ by a 16th-century Sultan. The Mughal Emperor Jahangir wrote of collecting 21 varieties of wild flora here for his pleasure gardens. In the 19th century, this area was frequented as a summer retreat by the British Raj. The colonials adored the vaguely Scottish scenery and fresh air, hunting and playing golf. They left behind the highest green course in the world at an altitude of 2,650 metres (8,690 ft). Gulmarg is popular with honeymooning Indians and ski lovers. The arrival of the sumptuous Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa in recent years has upped the luxury quotient. Gulmarg offers a retreat with a uniquely Indo-European flavour.

SRINAGAR 

Kashmir Blog 4
EAT

The Chinar at The Lalit Grand Palace
Named after the resident Chinar trees, this outdoor restaurant at the elegant Lalit Grand Palace, just outside town, has long been a social fixture. Sit in the lush rose gardens of the former Maharaja’s palace overlooking the serene lake and order a well-mixed G&T or Nimbu Pani - a refreshing concoction of lime and soda. We love the subtly-spiced Himalayan Trout and ‘Haq Saag’ or Kashmiri spinach. Weddings and events are aplenty in this sylvan setting so the people watching here is a splendid bonus. 
www.thelalit.com | Tel: 0194 250 1001

Daawat at The Welcome Hotel
A cosily-decorated dining room overlooking the pool of this pleasant hotel on the shores of Dal Lake. Try the fluffy local bread with wild honey and fruit-infused pulao. Service is very friendly with a typical Kashmiri smile greeting you at the door. 
Boulevard Road, Opposite Ghat No. 7, Srinagar 190001 | Tel: 072984 37186

Delhi de Rasoi
Strung along the lakefront are several ‘dhabas’ or traditional open air eateries. The food in most of them is generally good, if fiery. Delhi de Rasoi serves up authentic earthy vegetarian fare. There is a convivial atmosphere in the evenings as tourists from all over India descend on the lakefront to wander along in the cool dusk with children and ice-creams. 
Residency Road, Srinagar, 190001

Mughal Darbar
A hit amongst visiting and resident foodies - this traditional restaurant is THE place to come, besides a local home, to sample a regal Wazwan experience. Let the waiters flamboyantly unveil dish after dish of carnivorous wonder and step back to the days of the sultans with each melting mouthful. Leave lots of room for dining here - Kashmiris do not do light eating! 
Residency Road, Srinagar, 190001 Tel: 0194-2476998 

SHOP

Kashmir Blog 1
Shaw Brothers
A gentle drive along Dal Lake, Shaw Brothers is a true Aladdin’s cave of rugs, jewels and textiles (check out the embroidered cushions with leaf motifs). Known as the ‘Harrods of Srinagar’, Shaw Brothers is a wonderful place to indulge in the finest gossamer-thin pashminas. Don’t be afraid to haggle even here - it is woven into the local culture and the gentle tussle is greeted with relish. 
Mughal Garden Road, Srinagar 19001 | www.shawbrothersonline.com

Spice markets
Wander down the markets off Boulevard Road to find stalls heaped with colourful spices. Pick up the famed Kashmiri red chillies. Kashmir is also one of the few places in the world that grows saffron. Enjoy the memorable experience of visiting a saffron farm at Pampore Fields, a few miles out of town. Buy the precious spice from third-generation roadside shop Noor Mohammed Bhatt (Tel: 0193 3246529)

Amin-Bil-Khalik
The locals of Srinagar adore dried fruit and this family-owned store is the place to go. Stock up on Kashmiri green tea leaves, morel mushrooms from the nearby valley, smoked almonds, walnuts and dried cranberries. Enjoy a visit with gentle proprietor Noor-ul-Amin who takes delight in showing off his fascinating wares. 
ABK House, 1/A Polo View, Srinagar 19000 | www.abk.co.in

Suffering Moses 
The owner of this memorably named store, Mohammad Sadiq Wani, is descended from Persian artists who arrived in Kashmir with Sufi mystic Shāh-e-Hamadān. Find an array of exquisite papier-mâché products alongside needlepoint rugs and cushions. Ask to see Wani’s other gallery which houses some vintage treasures. If you are very lucky, the charismatic Wani may invite you home to view his antique collection and cherry orchard.
The Bund Road, Munshi Bagh, Srinagar,190001

Kashmir Government Arts Emporium
A well-curated chain of emporiums that empower artisans by ensuring they receive a fair share of profits. Come here for textiles, embroidered shawls in a rainbow of colours, handmade silk rugs and walnut carved furniture. There are a number of branches, including Residency Road, housed in a century-old half-timbered colonial building. Purchases can be shipped all over the world. 
www.jktourism.org

Tailor Tom
This tailor in the old town, a favourite of the city’s cognoscenti, is run by the three sons of founder Noor Mohammed. Originally patronised by British visitors for its well-cut polo breeches and tailcoats, toddle to Tailor Tom for Indian cotton shirts in jaunty colours and bespoke suits in Kashmiri wool. Allow 24 hours for a shirt and four days for a suit fit for the smartest event.
Residency Road, Srinagar, 19001 | Tel: 0194 247 5835

Kashmir Loom
The collaboration of Jenny Housego, a textile historian from the Victoria & Albert Museum and local residents Hamid, Zahid and Asaf Ali, Kashmir Loom is dedicated to the art of the Kashmir shawl. We covet the collections in soft cashmere, silk and cotton. Visit by appointment.
www.kashmirloom.com

VISIT
 
Kashmir Blog 2
Dal & Nageen lakes
Twin oasis’s of peace, Nageen being the quieter of the two - the lakes are populated by houseboats, water taxis or ‘shikaras’ and floating lotus plants. Interestingly both the lakes are largely owned by private families, the waters divided into plots. A sunset shikara ride is a highlight here – don’t be inveigled into buying from the many peddlers who will approach you. Instead, plump for the emporiums in town for genuine products and fair prices. There is also a chance to fish with locals which is great fun.

The Old City
See the intriguing old city in the care of a knowledgeable specialist with Srinagar Walks (Tel: 08803425501). The guide, Gulzar Hussain, a chatty ethnographer and writer is passionate about the local craftspeople. Soak up the atmosphere of artisans working in their own homes and take almond tea with the families whilst being tempted by the creations. Make sure to visit the imposing Hazratbal Mosque on the lakeshore which claims to house a lock of Prophet Mohammad’s hair. The surrounding street stalls produce a delicious delicacy called ‘Halwa Paratha’, a crisp flatbread wrapped around melting, golden halwa infused with cardamom.


GULMARG 

Gulmarg Collage
EAT 

Nedou’s Dining room 
Discover a fascinating family history over a whisky peg at the renowned Nedou’s hotel. Founded by a Croatian patriarch in 1888, the Nedou family converted to Islam and intermarried with leading local families. Sit in the animal trophy adorned dining room with a view of the snowy peaks and enjoy delicious home-made fare served by old school retainers. Regarded with great affection amongst generations of Indian visitors, Nedou’s is a slice of Kashmir’s heritage to treasure.
www.nedoushotelgulmarg.com | Tel: 0194 247 3301

Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa
You will remember your first taste of the superb cuisine at this sophisticated resort hotel. The food here is as good as anything found in St. Moritz or Aspen. The chefs are amongst the best in India and conjure up delicious European as well as Indian dishes. Choose from three options, we love the buffet lunch at Cloves or sit under the covered deck at Nouf breathing in the pine-scented air. The spa by L’Occitane is also excellent with a cathedral-like glass-panelled indoor swimming pool.
www.khyberhotels.com | Tel: 099066 03272

VISIT

St. Mary’s Church
The diminutive Anglo-Catholic St. Mary’s church, a very Victorian delight, is visible from most parts of Gulmarg. Nestled in the central golf course, St. Mary’s is utterly picturesque with its grey stone walls and green tiled roof. Walk across the rolling surroundings and knock on the door of the benevolent (Muslim) guardian who will unlock this secret place for visitors. The church celebrates Christmas with a romantic mass every year.

For more information or to start planning your tailor-made holiday to India please contact us:

info@ampersandtravel.com // +44 (0) 207 819 9770



Client Testimonials

Without question, you put together the best trip I have ever taken. We were shown around like visiting dignitaries, the hotels were fantastic and the itinerary was just right. Everybody I know will hear about how amazing Ampersand is!
- Leslie Siben, India
We had a wonderful holiday - everything was perfect. Thank you for helping us to make a thoughtful plan to enjoy and make most out of our trip. The places we visited, the guides, the transportation and driver, the hotels selected... Everything was great!
- Jaime Benitez, South India
I had a very lovely time and was looked after splendidly. My first visit to India could not have been better, save for being longer! But I shall return at some point and I shall look to you to make the arrangements.
- Matthew Nicklin, North India
Everything you did for us whilst we were away was hugely appreciated, and Ampersand has been exemplary in every way. I'll always recommend you!
- Mr Richard Stoughton, Sri Lanka
Ampersand’s preparation, attention to detail and interaction before and during our trip show exactly why good travel agents have a role in today’s internet booking age. They were a delight to deal with!
- Mr David Wallace, North India
So many highlights to choose from! The hotels were amazing but Maya Villa was a highlight… I loved just hanging out in the hammock reading my book and watching the peacocks chase the cows!
- Krista Weir, Sri Lanka
I thought the Ampersand team was outstanding. We couldn’t have hoped for anything more.
- Mr Geoffrey Johnson, India
Difficult to articulate just how good the service from you and your team really was. We know you will continue to do well and hope we have the chance to seek your assistance again before long.
- Mr & Mrs Manson, North India

From our Instagram

✨Beautiful Udaipur✨
.
A pleasure palace built in the 1700s, the location for Octopussy and many a love story, @tajlakepalace is so magical, you can’t quite believe your eyes
.
📸 @the_adventuresofus during their whirlwind tour of India 🧡🇮🇳
. 
#AmpersandTravel
#LuxuryIsInTheExperience
A team of Ampersander's have officially landed in #Rajasthan. First stop, the Capital - #Jaipur 💗
.

Also known as the Pink City because of its trademark colour throughout, its hard to miss a picture perfect moment in front of one of Jaipur's landmark doorways.
.

For more inspiration and to follow the teams journey through the Golden Triangle, keep an eye over on our Instagram stories and get in touch if you want to begin your trip!
. 📸 @chrsschlkx
.

#AmpersandTravel #LuxuryIsInTheExperience
Glide down #ThePerfumeRiver to experience #Hue’s scenery, passing mausoleums as you go 🍃🌿
.
📸 Beautifully captured by @soaipham
.
#Vietnam #AmpersandTravel #LuxuryIsInTheExperience
A luxury holiday to #Goa feeds the soul and the senses 🇮🇳🌅
.
Discover a kaleidoscope of baroque architecture, whitewashed churches, crumbling forts, tropical beaches, intoxicating spices and the warmth of #SouthIndia ⛪️☀️🌶
.
#AmpersandTravel 
#LuxuryIsInTheExperience
One of our #Cambodia specialists, Simon, has just returned from the wonderful #ShintaManiWild & couldn’t recommend it more! 🇰🇭
.
Overlooking a crashing waterfall & immersed in rugged jungle, this luxury camp genuinely lives up to its name 🍃
.
Swipe to peek inside the tents, designed by one of our favourite designers #BillBensley & get a striking bird’s eye view of the camp...
.
#AmpersandTravel #LuxuryIsInTheExperience
'Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever' 🙏
.
Today, 2nd October 2019, marks 150 years of celebrating Mahatma Gandhi's birthday. The celebration of Gandhi Jayanti is observed in India as a national holiday, where ceremonies and tributes are conducted across the nation.
.
If you would like to celebrate this special time of year in India, do get in touch and let us help you plan a trip for 2020. 🇮🇳
.
📸 @whatbaublenext_sam
.
#AmpersandTravel #LuxuryIsInTheExperience
As you travel through #Cambodia’s countryside you’re bound to come across some friendly faces like these! 🧡
.
If you’d like to go off the beaten track in this wonderful country and meet some lovely locals along the way, then please get in touch!
.
📸 @alesmartan
.
#AmpersandTravel #LuxuryIsInTheExperience
As the Rugby World Cup kicks off in #Tokyo this weekend,  and #Japan will soon begin to bloom into its world renowned Autumn season, we want to be there more than ever! 🇯🇵🍂
.
Attracting three million tourists every year, the #tokyotower has quickly become Tokyo's international symbol since its opening in 1958. 🗼
. 
If you'd like to see this Eiffel Tower-inspired structure for yourself, speak to one of our specialists today!
.
📸@jungraphy_
. 
#AmpersandTravel #LuxuryIsInTheExperience
🇮🇳Reminiscent of a French village, with its bright Mediterranean architecture and flower-laden balconies, it’s no surprise that #Pondicherry (or #Pondi) is nicknamed the ‘Indian Côte d’Azur’ 🇫🇷
.
#AmpersandTravel #LuxuryIsInTheExperience 
#SouthIndia

Let us keep you up to date

Sign up to our newsletter and never miss out on unmissable exclusive luxury experiences

Condé Nast Top Travel Specialist Award 2019
Condé Nast Readers Choice Award 2019