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     It's a Kashmir convenient for the honey-mooners, challenging for the adventurers raring to go, heavenly for the pilgrims impatiently waiting to unload the sins of a life-time and it is for nature-lovers a paradise of bewitching beauty at bountiful heights.

     It beckons you to a four-fold bonanza: Srinagar with its well-known lakes, Gulmarg known for its finest skiing resort, Pahalgam where the mysterious streams meander through and Sonamarg providing a glimpse of the glacier.

SRINAGAR

     The Capital of Jammu & Kashmir, it is situated at an altitude of 1730 metres above sea level. Dal, Nagin and Anchar are some of the well-known lakes here. River Jhelum also runs through Srinagar. Dal is a very large lake requiring `shikara' ride to reach houseboats. a couple may like a houseboat in the interior of the lake, needing half-an-hour shikara ride, to reach far enough from glare.

Rafting: A recent
sport in Kashmir

     A houseboat has two to four bedrooms, attached bathroom and common sitting/dining room. Nishat, Cheshmashahi, Shalimar Gardens and Hazratbal are accessible directly by shikara. Mughal Gardens, with stepped terraces, were built by Mughal emperors who liked Kashmir. Hazratbal is said to have preserved the hair of Prophet Mohammed. It was damaged about 10 years ago in violence involving militants. Perching at the top in srinagar is the Shankaracharya temple, a Lord Shiva temple rebuilt about a 1000 years ago by the patriarch of all godmen, Adi Shankara. The site itself dates back to 2500 BC. It is said the philosopher visited Kashmir as part of his pursuit of propagating Sanatan Dharma.

The Sankaracharya temple on hill-top in Srinagar
     Earlier the temple was known as Gopadri in the 8th century as it was rebuilt then by King Gopaditya. Kheer Bhavani is a beautiful temple-spring complex 25 km away. Devotees offer milk and gheer at this Durga mata temple, to the sacred spring that is said to change colour, if black, a premonition of bad things to come.

How to reach: There are direct flights to Srinagar from Delhi via Jammu. Road links Srinagar with Jammu. The nearest railhead for Srinagar is also Jammu. For Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Sonamarg you have to travel from Srinagar by road only. You have to return to Srinagar from one resort to go to other. That is, there are no interconnecting routes for the three resorts. Gulmarg is 87 km from Srinagar, Pahalgam is 96 km and Sonamarg 87 km.

Climate: The temperature in June-August summer is 25 deg to 35 deg C. It plummets to 7 deg C in spring ( March-May) and autumn (Oct - Nov). In winter (Dec-Feb) temperature drops to minus 10 deg C. Heavy woollens are required in winter and light ones at other times, though one can move without woollens in summer in Srinagar. Winter is peak season only for Gulmarg. In all the four resorts there is snowfall in winter and rainfall in spring.

Shopping: Pure woollen shawls are a good buy. A pure Pashmina shawl costs thousands of rupees.

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