Quality independent tour to Kashmir with private houseboat and guide

Kashmir, in the Foothills of the Himalayas

The Vale of Kashmir lies high in India's northwest and is one of India's most important rice producing regions. Visitors enjoy Kashmir because of its slow pace and endless scenic beauty. There is no shortage of water here. The main attractions are Srinagar and Lake Dal and and its small tributaries. Palatial house boats have been around for the last century and are still a wonderful and relaxing place to spend a few days. In the sixties, Beetle George Harrison spent weeks aboard one of these boats learning to play the sitar from Ravi Shankar. Some of Kashmir's handicrafts, particular embroidery, carpets, pashmina textiles and delicately painted papier mache are truly exquisite. Over the last thousand years the valley has been important to Buddhists, Hindus, and later Moslems. There are occasional clashes between the Moslem minority and local authorities. These are well away from tourist areas. We think Kashmir is as safe as a trip to Chicago. Weather here is cool most of the year and is cold in winter, so pack accordingly.

Day One: A Houseboat and a Labyrinth of Waterways

Meeting and assistance on arrival and transfer by Jeep to Lake Dal, where a small boat will take you to your deluxe house boat. Later in the evening, a boat ride on the lake to see the your first Kashmiri sunset. The lake is actually two e placid expanses of water, Lokutdal and Boddal, which are separated by man-made strips of land inhabited by colonies of farmers. Thus, the lake is not a flat, unbroken mass of water, but a labyrinth of waterways, awash with a lifestyle not encountered elsewhere in the world. Lake Dal is Srinagar's major life-support system with its wide variety of marine life: fish, lotus roots, plants and floating gardens. The hospitable boat people of Kashmir trace their origins from Noah. Entire families live on boats, clinging stubbornly to their traditional culture and accepting a way of life that was bequeathed to them by their ancestors. Dinner is served on your Houseboat.

Day Two: Excursion to Gulmarg

After breakfast you take a full day excursion to nearby Gulmarg, which is legendary as one of the most beautiful hill resort towns in India.   Originally called ‘Gaurimarg' by shepherds, its present name was given in the 16th century by Sultan Yusuf Shah, who was inspired by the sight of its grassy slopes emblazoned with wild flowers. Gulmarg was a favorite haunt of Emperor Jehangir who once collected 21 different varieties of flowers here. Today, Gulmarg is not merely a mountain resort of exceptional beauty,  it also has the highest green golf course in the world, at an altitude of 2,650 m, and is the country's premier ski resort in the winter.

The journey to Gulmarg is half the enchantment of reaching there. Roads are bordered by miles of  poplar trees give over to flat expanses of rice fields interspersed with picturesque villages. Depending on the season, nature's colors could be the translucent green of spring, summer's rich emerald, or autumn's golden hues, when scarlet chilies festoon windows of village homes. After Tangmarg, the climb to Gulmarg begins through fir-covered hillsides. At one point, known simply as View Point, travelers generally stop their vehicles for a few minutes and look out a spectacle of snow-covered mountains, almost within touching distance. Lunch at Gulmarg and dinner at the houseboat are included.

Day Three: Moghul Gardens

After breakfast, a morning tour of Moghul Gardens and Pari Mahal with their terraced lawns, cascading fountains, paint-box bright flower beds with the panorama of thelake in front of them. The three Moghul Gardens of Cheshmashahi, Nishat and Shalimar are the Moghul emperors' concept of paradise and are today very popular places for picnics. Pari Mahal, once the royal observatory, also has a charmingly laid out garden and is a five-minute drive from Cheshmashahi. In the afternoon, proceed to see the ruins dating back to the Mahbharata period at Avantipore.

Day Four: A Boat Ride and a Flight

Morning free to enjoy the place or take another boat ride on the lake. Later, transfer to the airport for your onward flight to Delhi.

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