Sharif / Chrar-e-Sharief
Situated on the road to Yusmarg, this is the site of the shrine or Ziarat of Sheik Noor-ud-Din, the patron saint of Kashmir. The valley also has the Ziarats of a number of his followers.
Standing in the Pir Panjal hills, out beyond the airport, at an altitude of 2,700 metres, the meadow of Yusmarg is reputed to have the best spring flowers in Kashmir. The beautiful valley is at the foot of the Sangisafaid valley on the northern slopes of the Pir Panjal range. Near to Yusmarg is the picturesque Nila Nag Lake where there is a forest rest house. Yusmarg has tourist huts and is a good base for treks into the surrounding hills. To reach the Nila Nag one can walk 19-km from Magam, across roads on the way to Gulmarg. The path then follows down from Nila Nag to Yusmarg and from there the road runs to Yus, where a track leads off towards Sangam and Sunset Peak, up the valley of the Khanchi Kol. Sunset peak is the highest mountain in the Pir Panjal range at 4,746 metres. Other popular treks over here include those to Sangisafaid and Dodha Patri.
Lying in the crook of a bend of the Pir Panjal range, at the foot of several passes which lead out on to the plains, this fairly large town is an important centre of trade, the centre of the wool industry of the valley, and is famous for its apples. It lies on the Rembiara River and has several rest houses and a couple of guesthouses. It is also the base for treks to Konsarnag, to Yusmarg and to the Aharbal falls. The first stage on the trek to Konasarnag is the drive to Kongwatan.
This was another popular resting place for the Mughal emperors when they made the long trip north from Delhi to Kashmir. It's in an area famed for its apples and also has an interesting waterfall. It's also the start of the popular trek to the Konsarnag Lake.
The falls are about 13-km from Shupian, from where there is a motorable road and a trekker's route leading through dense pine forest. The falls are said to be the best in Kashmir. The road leads over a high bridge at Kongwatan from where a magnificent view of the awesome gorge created by the Vishav River can be seen less than 2-km further on are the foot of the falls, where the river drops more than 15 metres over a distance of 3-km. The road continues on here a further 3-km to the top of the falls where from a rock outcrop one can look down around 60 metres to the river rushing below.
The road continues a further 6-km to the village of Sedau, where the trek to Konsarnag begins. The first stage is a climb of about four hours to Kongwatan, an upland meadow. From here it is a further 10 to 15 hours walking to Konsarnag.
This is a charming meadow just a short distance from the river. Among the pines near the river bank there is a small sulphur spring and also a forest rest hut. The lace is inhabited by nomadic Gujar shepherds, said to be descendants of the biblical Abraham and Isaac, or Gujar Rajputs, who come each summer from the plains with their flocks of cattle and buffalo to spend July and August in the high meadows. They wear black clothes adorned only with a small cap, embroidered and set with 'Kari' shells. The caps of the women project over the neck to protect from sunburn. The women are very agile and seem to do all the work as well as taking care of the children.
North of Srinagar the Sindh valley is an area of mountains, lakes, rivers and glaciers. The Sindh River flows down from the Amarnath and Haramukh glaciers into the Anchar Lake. The Leh road from Srinagar follows this river to beyond Sonamarg. The Zoji La pass marks the boundary from the Sindh valley into Ladakh.
Dachigam National Park
This wildlife reserve was, at one time, the royal game reserve but animals within its boundaries are now completely protected. There are said to be Panther, Bear and Deer, besides other smaller animals, in the reserve. There is a good chance of seeing the endangered Hangul, Langur Monkeys and perhaps other species. It's very quiet and uncrowded.
Although this large lake is no great distance from Srinagar and easily reached by bus, it is rarely visited. A daily bus leaves Srinagar for the lake early in the morning and returns late in the afternoon. In winter it is home for a wide variety of water birds including Mallard, Pochard, Gadwall Snipe and Teal.
Just beyond the Wular and Manasbal lakes turn off from the Leh road, this pleasant little town marks the point where the icy Sindh River leaves the mountains and enters the plains. Gandarbal is the official headquarters of the Sindh valley and was originally called "Doderhom". It has a bazaar, a post office and two hospitals.
About 5-km from Gandarbal, in the village of Tullamulla, is the shrine of Khirbhawani, the Goddess Ragni, the Hindu guardian Goddess of Kashmir. The marble temple, built by Maharaja Pratap Singh, stands in a small spring. It is an irregular, seven sided structure and is said to be surrounded by 360 springs, most of which have run dry or been silted up.
The village is a floating garden surrounded by swamps. Its many islands are covered with willows, poplars and wildflowers, while the island on which the spring stands is covered with Chinar, Mulberry and Elm trees. The nearby village named after Khirbhawani has almond groves where the best quality almonds in Kashmir are said to grow. Gandarbal can be reached from Srinagar by road or one can go there by boat along the Mar Canal, or take a six hour round trip via the Jhelum River and Anchar Lake. There are many excellent camping places along these routes.
Wullar Lake (also spelt as Wular) is the largest fresh-water lake in India is 60-km from Srinagar. Spreading over a 125-km area, the lake, by drawing off excess water from the Jhelum, acts as a natural flood reservoir. Interesting ruins in the centre of the lake are the remains of an island created by King Zain-ul-Abidin. With its turbulent waters perpetually wind ruffled, its exciting variety of avian life and the sheer beauty of its setting, Wullar represents nature at her most untamed.