The crowded Mughal gardens of Srinagar – Chashmeshahi, Shalimar and Nishat, left us wanting for more. We decided to explore the lesser known parts of Kashmir. We headed south and started our exploration with Kokernag.
We recommend this Kashmir travel itinerary based on our travels in Kashmir. It’s offbeat and away from the maddening tourist crowd, yet it’s suitable for all kinds of travellers.
Offbeat Kashmir travel itinerary 1: Lesser known Mughal gardens of Kashmir
Achabal, Kokernag and Verinag.
Kokernag is the biggest botanical garden in Kashmir.
Tip: For its central location and proximity to Anantnag, we chose to stay in Achabal.
Offbeat Kashmir travel itinerary 2: Experience a “real” city in Kashmir
Think of a big city near where you live. Now think of a smaller city close to it, almost like a suburb. Now think of peak hours, traffic and people leaving for work.
We usually associate Kashmir only with a beautiful holiday. Almost forgetting that the people of Kashmir lead normal lives in Kashmir, just like we do back home. They all head to central Srinagar (big city) for work in the morning. Head back to their homes (in smaller cities like Anantnag) in the evening. This makes the road connecting Srinagar to Anantnag susceptible to “peak traffic hours”.
People are busy discussing copper prices to decide which boiler to invest in for this winter.
Offbeat Kashmir travel itinerary 3: Aharbal waterfalls
The Aharbal waterfalls are a day trip from Achabal.
Our visit to the Aharbal waterfalls gave us a first-hand experience of the fickle weather of the Himalayan mountains. It had been dark and gloomy when we reached the meadows around the Aharbal waterfalls. By the time we were on the walkway to the waterfalls, it had become bright and sunny!
By then, we had spent a few days in the tourist bungalow at Achabal. The caretaker and the staff treated us like their personal guests. Our sudden decision to not turn up for the night would have got them worried sick. We decided to be good responsible guests and “reach home on time”. We walked up to the Sangam point, said our goodbyes to the nomads and headed back.
Offbeat Kashmir travel itinerary 4: Sulphur springs at Kolam Chinar
On our way to the Mughal garden of Verinag, we saw a board saying these were medicinal sulphur springs. We decided to give these a look. We got off the Tata Sumo taxi at this board and went looking for these springs. Without realising it, we had walked past the sulphur springs. Clearly, they were nothing great to look at.
They let us leave only after assurances that we would return to stay with them for longer.
Offbeat Kashmir travel itinerary 5: Temples and ruins
Another route from Achabal goes to the Mattan Temple and the sun temple ruins at Martand. The temple at Mattan has formidable security all around it.
Offbeat Kashmir travel itinerary 6: Forest walking at Daksum
Ahead of Kokernag, at the base of the Sinthan Pass is the village of Daksum. Just before the village is the Rajpari Wildlife Sanctuary. It is surrounded by a dense coniferous forest. The melting glacial waters flow as a stream through it.
Offbeat Kashmir travel itinerary 7: Sinthan top for snow
Sinthan Top is the one place in Kashmir that has snow all year round. Even when the meadows of Gulmarg turn green, Sinthan Top is still covered in snow.
Offbeat Kashmir travel itinerary 8: If you want to go really offbeat in Kashmir then head to Chatpal
Chatpal, for us, tops the list of offbeat places in Kashmir.
We began our stay in South Kashmir with Kokernag. We made Achabal our “headquarters” and traveled to all the places we have mentioned above by local, shared Tata Sumo taxis. For most places, we would first go to Anantnag. The different taxi stands in Anantnag have regular connections to all other places.
This part of Kashmir was a perfect way for us to explore the real beauty of Kashmir, together with the local people of Kashmir. Offbeat enough to stay away from the crowds, this part of Kashmir helped us ease into our travels. We felt more confident while exploring the remote valleys in Northern Kashmir or venturing out for the Amaranth yatra.
Top tips for this offbeat Kashmir travel itinerary
- People in the smaller villages of Kashmir are not used to seeing many tourists. They are as curious about you as you are about them. Do not consider the questions offensive. Be friendly with the locals.
- Resorts and ponies will not be found in these parts of Kashmir. This is the real Kashmir, not the “showcase for tourists” Kashmir!
- The front seat of the Tata Sumo taxis, next to the driver was our favourite seat. It doesn’t get cramped if the driver takes in more passengers and is perfect for “photography on-the-go”!
- We traveled everywhere by a shared Tata Sumo taxi. The routes below will help you plan an itinerary. Italics indicate no changeover.
- Route 1: Achabal-Anantnag-Kokernag-Vailoo. Change over into the Tata Sumos that go to Kishtwar. Vailoo-Daksum-Sinthan Top.
- Route 2: Achabal-Anantnag-Kolam Chinar-Verinag. There is also a direct road connecting Achabal and Verinag. Regular shared taxi service, however, might not be available on this direct route.
- Route 3: Achabal-Anantnag-Kulgam-Aharbal.
- Achabal-Ranipora-Martand-Mattan. OR Achabal-Anantnag-Mattan-Martand.
55 thoughts on “Kashmir travel itinerary: offbeat and for all”
Thank you for sharing this amazing blog. It is easy to learn and understand. It’s a truly useful blog.
Wow! wonderful blog. I don,t know how I missed it. I am planing to be in south Kashmir in Sept last week, will it be too cold?
Wow man these pictures are stunning, i mean you have in true sense explored the soul of Kashmir, i have seen many blogs on Kashmir but this one is just amazing. Where is the 10 stars rating for this blog. Bookmarked!
Absolutely stunning pictures and information. Thank you. But you have put me to worry as we have already planned a trip with Thomas cook. Thank God, that we have taken a personalised tour so that we can change our itinerary a bit. We have a stay at srinagar in houseboat and a resort and a day stay in gulmarg and 2 days in pahalgam. Out itinerary is as follows. 2nd May 2019 to 8th May 2019
Day 1 srinagar houseboat stay
Day 2 n 3 pahalgam
Day 4 in gulmarg
Day 5 n 6 in srinagar
We have chosen the “non listed” hotels at least to be away from the “typical touristy crowd”. Please guide us as to how do we manage now to see at least a few of these places mentioned on your blog?
Please reply as soon as possible
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Can i cover Achabal,kokernag,daksum,verinag,aharbal falls in 1day trip??
3 days will be appropriate. Keep at least 2 days.
Hey Guys, great stuff. Loved the images and the exploratory spirit.
Need help on following:
Where to stay if I need to visit Chatpal and Sinthan Top.
Can two day trips from Pahalgam do it for us?
How to book the forest house/guest house at Aharbal?
Hello thepoetwithin, would recommend staying at Achabal and doing day trips from there to Aharbal, Sithan Top and Chatpal. You can get in touch with the tourism officers at the Jammu and Kashmir tourism website regarding booking.
hey guys great post.
just wanted to point out the heading of chatpal. its written chaptal 🙂
Thank you for pointing it out, Gunjan. Have corrected it now. also, thanks for reading the travel post in detail 🙂 Much appreciated! Happy travels!
Wow absolutely mesmerizing clicks… Great Post…
Thank you, Neha!
Amazing pictures Sandeepa Chethan. Awesome post.
Thank you, Seema!
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Such a lovely post, thanks for sharing….
Glad you liked the Kashmir post, Santosh!
What a great pics guys!!! all pictures of yours leaves me gasping for breath seriously.
Thank you so much for your appreciation!
nice range 🙂
Thank you 🙂
That moment when you realize editing your itinerary due to lack of time could be so painful!
I had to drop Kokernag plans during my trip to Kashmir and your pics and this article made me regret that decision.
Lovely pics! And people do need to know Kashmir beyond Srinagar, Sonmarg and Gulmarg.
Hello Vishvarsha, our favourite term when it comes to such a situation is “next time” 🙂 And you are absolutely correct about Kashmir being more than Srinagar, Gulmarg and Sonmarg!
Beautiful place and pictures. Thanks for sharing this part of Kashmir.
Glad you like these pictures from South Kashmir. It is a lovely region of Kashmir!
Man you guys have popped opened my eyes… never even thought such beautiful places could be within our reach….
Indeed Prasadji! This region of Kashmir is relatively easy to explore, with some good stay options everywhere. And so much quieter and less crowded than the touristy side of Kashmir. Warmer people too 🙂
Wow. Had never heard of those places and the MTDC bungalow near Aharbal sounds very promising.
Did you mean to say JKTDC? By the way, do bear in mind that JKTDC and the JK tourism Board are two different entities. JK Tourism Board offers these accommodations and their prices are a lot more affordable than JKTDC, since they work on a no-profit-no-loss model.
Around here we also saw some dilapidated houses of the Kashmir Pandits, who lived here many years back. Some houses still had the names of the families intact. Everything else, however, was in a state of decay. Very beautiful images with information !!
Thank you, Yogi Saraswat. The houses were tough to look at.
Just Stunning !!! Wonderful trip and narration.. someday I will go too… Thanks for sharing !
Thank you! Hope you do visit this beautiful part of Kashmir!
Gorgeous pictures and what a stunning place!
Thank you, Archana! The region is a beautiful part of Kashmir!
‘Slightly’ offbeat? This is a storehouse of information with stunning photos. Would make anyone want to pack their bags right away!
So when is the next trip to Kashmir, Priyanka? 🙂 Happy travels!
Lovely place. shots are fantastic, came to know about a new place.
Thank you, Jyotirmoy!
Stunning captures. I am in love with the place.
South Kashmir was our introduction to Kashmir away from the tourists 🙂 Loved all of it!
Beautiful Photographs.. Well presented!
Magnificent Pictures. 🙂 Just loved them. Can you share which camera are you using to take these pics?
Hello Pamela, all the details of the cameras are on our Travel Gear page.
Amazing photos. Beautiful post.
Thank you, Rupam!
You just took me on a wonderful trip through Kashmir, thank you so much for great images and great text.
Glad you liked it, Cornelia!