Offbeat Kashmir itinerary is suitable for all kinds of travelers especially those looking for some quiet moments spent in the lap of nature. Travelers with restricted mobility might find this itinerary unsuitable as most places do not have wheelchair access. However, this is perfect if all you wish is to be amidst forests, mountains, and flowers. Take a few books, your favourite music and you will have a wonderful time. Do not expect luxury on this experience as some of the destinations are still remote or underdeveloped. However, you will easily be able to find a comfortable, clean environment and warm, welcoming hospitality. Please note that these are only offbeat Kashmir itinerary ideas to lesser-known destinations and you can mix and match them according to the duration of your trip.
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Offbeat Kashmir destinations visited during this trip and their distance from Srinagar
- Pampore (only 18 minutes drive from Awantipore – famous for willow cricket bats and 45 minutes from Srinagar via NH1 and NH44). Pampore is most beautiful during autumn when its saffron fields are in full bloom. Read about Pampore saffron field visit here.
- Kokernag – It is a beautiful spot and has one of the loveliest terraced Mughal gardens in Kashmir. It is around 2 hours drive from Srinagar via the NH244 and the Srinagar – Kanyakumari Highway.
- Daksum – This tranquil spot lies further ahead of Kokernag. It is at the foot of the eternally snowy Sinthan Pass and is around a 3-4 hours drive from Srinagar via the NH244 and the Srinagar – Kanyakumari Highway.
- Other notable options in south Kashmir are Verinag and Achabal. Verinag is famous for its magnificent Mughal gardens and is only a 3 -4 hours drive from Srinagar via NH44 and NH444. Achabal is accessible from Srinagar via the NH244 (2.5 hours), NH444 (3.5 hours), and the Srinagar – Kanyakumari Highway (1.5 hours). Achabal also has a lovely Mughal garden and beautiful surrounding areas. The stunning Aharbal waterfalls make great day trips from Achabal. It is also possible to visit the Martand Sun Temple from Achabal.
An offbeat Kashmir itinerary idea
This itinerary covers some of the loveliest spots in south Kashmir. If you are entering Kashmir by road from Jammu, then you may skip Srinagar and go straight to Anantnag after crossing the Jawahar Tunnel.
- Day 1 – Srinagar – Achabal/Jammu – Achabal – Visit the beautifully laid out Mughal garden in Achabal. Sleep overnight at Achabal. JKTDC Achabal Resort offers comfortable rooms and bungalows. You make a reservation online.
- Day 2 – Achabal – Make a day trip to Chattabal, a lovely open valley ringed by snowy peaks. It is a perfect spot for a picnic. It is best to hire a 4WD for a return trip to Chattabal as the road is quite bumpy. NOTE – It is possible to stay at Chattabal. JKTDC has a small resort of two huts with two rooms each. The caretaker cooks the meals, so make pre-arrangements before visiting. Mobile: 09906577055; Tariff: ₹500
- Day 3 – Achabal – Aharbal Waterfalls – Make a day trip to Aharbal Waterfalls from Achabal. Apart from spending some time in peace and enjoying the scenic beauty around, one can fish, go horse riding, or trekking in Aharbal. Sleep overnight at Achabal.
- Day 4 – Daksum – After breakfast, move towards Kokernag which is around 24 minutes away by car. Stop at the lovely Mughal Garden, have a local trout lunch, and drive through the gorgeous countryside towards Daksum. It lies at the base of Sinthan Pass and has a small JKTDC bungalow. The caretaker who lives in the village also doubles up as the cook, so call ahead for him to buy the provisions. The drive from Kokernag to Daksum is absolutely gorgeous. Daksum is a nature lover’s paradise and there are some beautiful hikes and walks in the surrounding areas. JKTDC Tourist Bungalow (Mobile: 09469515050, 09596369601; Tariff: ₹1,000). Sleep overnight at Daksum.
- Day 6 – Day trip to Sinthan Pass – This is a 12,450-ft-high pass that connects the Kashmir Valley with the Kishtwar region. The 32 km drive to the pass, on the relatively new NH1B, is smooth and utterly beautiful. The road goes along the Brengi River through pine forest with snow getting closer all the time. Sinthan Top has snow from November till early July. It is gradually emerging on the tourist map. Sinthan Pass is open for traffic from April till the snow begins to fall in November/ December. A taxi from Daksum to Sinthan Top costs around ₹1,000 for a return trip. Shared taxis run from Vailoo (10 km below Daksum) to Kishtwar (83 km from Sinthan) and take about 4-5 hours for the journey. If you are interested in trekking, about 10 km from Daksum on the way to Sinthan, a 3-km-long trail goes off the road along the Brengi stream to the Girsar Spring, whose waters also feed the Brengi. The beginning of the trail is signposted. Aarshan is a tempting meadow right on the roadside, 21 km from Daksum towards Sinthan as you go above pine country, after which only grass and the white-barked bhojpatra trees give you company. (Information credit – Outlook India). Sleep overnight at Daksum.
- Day 7 – Return to Srinagar via Kokernag and Anantnag which is approximately 100 kilometers away and takes around 2.5 hours. Alternatively, you can drive on towards Pahalgam (74 kilometers and the driving time is around 2.5 hours via NH501 and NH244).
Overnight Stay Points on this offbeat Kashmir itinerary
- Srinagar (optional)
- Kokernag (optional)
Add-ons to this offbeat Kashmir itinerary
- Verinag, known for its incredibly beautiful Mughal garden.
- In Achabal, apart from enjoying the scenic beauty around, one can enjoy fishing and trekking to Kungawatan or Kausar Nag. Horse riding and skiing activities are possible during winter.
Offbeat Kashmir itinerary idea for the north
Gurez in north Kashmir is a veritable Shangri-La. Tumbling waterfalls gushing with crystal clear water, sloping meadows of emerald grass, and rocky crags. Snow-covered summits ring around this valley and hand tended vegetable gardens and agricultural patches are fringed by multicoloured wildflowers. Toy-like wooden houses dot the valley and rustic wooden bridges arch over the fast-flowing river. Gurez is one of the loveliest and least accessible places in Kashmir. Set in Bandipora district in north Kashmir, Gurez is accessible only 6 months a year. The rest of the year, this idyllic valley is closed off due to heavy snowfall.
- Permits – All tourists require a permit to visit Gurez. Though there have been talks to do away with this permit, it has not been confirmed. A permit for Gurez Valley is not required until Dawar. To go ahead until Chakwali, you need to obtain a permit from the J&K police station in Dawar. The police station is towards the end of the town. Here you will have to submit photocopies of your Aadhar Cards after which, someone will hand-write your permit on a piece of paper. Foreigners need to get their permit to visit Gurez from the District Commissioner’s office in either Srinagar or Bandipora. Without a permit, you will be turned back from the first check post itself and will not be allowed to enter Gurez. Once you get the permit, there are two ways of visiting Gurez.
- You can either fly by helicopter from Srinagar or drive by car/motorbike via the Razdan Pass. The route from Srinagar to Gurez is Srinagar – Sumbal – Brar – Bandipore – Razdan Pass – Kazalwan – Wampore – Dawar. This entire 140 kilometers drive takes around 7-8 hours and the roads get pretty bad after Razdan Pass.
- Gurez being very close to the LOC, tourism facilities are limited and there are just a handful of accommodation options. Kaka Palace Guest House in Dawar is the most popular one and the owner of this hotel is Younis Khan. He is reachable at 9419600027, 9469389643, 7006238430, or 01957255232.
- Gurez valley is divided into two Tehsils or districts: Dawar and Tilel / Tulel. Until Barnoi, it is Dawar district after which until Chakwali, all areas fall under Tilel district. The last check post is at Chakwali where the road also ends. At this point, if you look ahead, the Pakistan-occupied mountains of Gurez will be right in front of you.
- Read this post for a detailed travel guide to Gurez. Here is another interesting travel post on Gurez.
Follow the rest of the Kashmir series
- 21 PHOTOS THAT MAY TEMPT YOU TO VISIT KASHMIR
- DAKSUM, THE HIDDEN JEWEL OF KASHMIR
- WET APPLE FLOWERS AND KOKERNAG SPRING
- YOUSMARG: THE MEADOWS ON WHICH JESUS WALKED
- A SAFFRON AUTUMN IN PAMPORE
- MY MEMORIES OF WINTER IN KASHMIR
- GUIDE TO A WHITE GULMARG WINTER WEEKEND
- BEAUTY OF GUREZ IN AUTUMN
- SRINAGAR TULIP FESTIVAL
- LIFE ON SRINAGAR LAKES INSTAGRAMMED
- BLOOMING ALMOND TREES AT BADAMWARI
- WALIMA, A KASHMIRI WAZWAN WEDDING FEAST
- THE MOUTH WATERING KASHMIRI CUISINE
- KASHMIR ITINERARY FOR 7 DAYS
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