Kashmir is renowned for its magical beauty, and it inspires travelers in myriad ways. With its varied seasons, Kashmir has a spectacular charm that can be relished in any season. Luckily, the loveliness here can be enjoyed with family or alone.
Planning a trip to Kashmir, especially solo, involves extensive research to ensure that one soaks up all the charm the land has to offer.
Although the thought of traveling alone terrifies a lot of people, primarily due to concerns around safety, expense, and loneliness, solo travel can be empowering.
It presents the perfect opportunity to step outside one’s comfort zone and meet new people, engage in interesting conversations, and become more receptive to new experiences.
Offbeat Tracks proposes a fresh take on experiencing the allure of Kashmir on a solo trip.
- By train – The nearest railway station is Jammu Tawi. Taxis and buses ply at regular intervals from the station to Srinagar.
- By air – There are direct flights on several domestic airlines from Delhi, Mumbai, and a few other cities.
- By road – You can take a bus from major cities to Srinagar. It is particularly well-connected with cities like Delhi and Chandigarh.
Although there may be several permutations and combinations to plan the solo trip, it’s perhaps best to keep the tour for the capital city of Srinagar, last.
This is simply because one would be coming back to the bustling city, to catch the connection home anyway.
Places of Interest for Solo Travel
Although Kashmir is brimming with exquisiteness, a few cities dominate the solo traveller’s map.
After reaching Srinagar, the most natural step ahead would be to hire a private car/taxi and then proceed to glorious Gulmarg.
1. Gulmarg – Meadow of Flowers
The 2-hour scenic drive from Srinagar to Gulmarg changes slowly from urban Kashmir to a nature-soaked hill station. Contrary to popular belief that it is only a must-visit destination for winter and skiing, Gulmarg is a year-round holidayer’s paradise. It is perfect for a solo vacationer to enjoy nature, quiet time, and picturesque trails. One can even experience snowfall during the summer.
Things to do:
Skiing: December to March is quite naturally recommended for visits for activities such as skiing and snowboarding, on the Apharwat Peak. Ski equipment can be hired from the government’s ski rental shops and local instructors are easily available too.
Gondola Ride: The summer months from April to September are ideal to see flowers in full bloom and lush coniferous foliage on the mountains. An unmissable experience is the Kongdori Gulmarg gondola, the world’s 2nd highest cable car line. It is divided into 3 phases with views of the LOC, Nanda Devi, and Pir Panjal Ranges. One can also easily walk from the gondola to the gorgeous valley of Khilanmarg to witness a beautiful floral landscape.
Golf Course: Gulmarg is home to the world’s second-highest golf course, making it a near-perfect spot for a solo holidaymaker, to enjoy a game of golf. Built within a meadow in 1890, it has been re-designed a few times. The course is open for the game in the summer and becomes a center for skiing and snowboarding in the winter.
Religious Institutions: After an exhilarating game of golf, one can wander further to places of religious interest, which are only a short walk from the golf course. The Maharani Temple, one of the most revered temples in town, dedicated to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, was built by Mohini Bai Sisodhia, the wife of Maharaja Hari Singh, in 1915.
Shiva devotees throng the temple, and it can be seen from all corners of the town. St. Mary’s Church beckons next. Constructed in beautiful Victorian architectural style, the 100-plus-years heritage chapel lends an air of tranquility with splendid views.
Trekking: A solo favorite of nature enthusiasts in Gulmarg, it can be done in any season and there are several day-long trails to explore from the Apharwat Peak to the Alpather Lake and the Gulmarg Biosphere Reserve.
2. Sonamarg – Meadow of Gold
Sonamarg, with its enchanting mountains in Kashmir, is yet another gem for a lone sightseer where one can witness some of the most breathtaking sights.
Most people agree that natural trails are the best way to explore Sonamarg. It is also one of the bases for starting the Amarnath Yatra.
Things to do:
Hiking and trekking: These 2 prime activities here have eager tourists greeted by lush green meadows and soaring snow-clad mountains.
The Thajiwas Glacier, a key highlight of this hill station, is well-known for its adventure activities and magnificent views. For a solo voyager, especially, it’s the perfect space for spiritual inspiration.
The idyllic 3 km long Baltal Valley, open from April to September, provides a flawless setting for sightseeing, photography, and camping.
In the summer, one can also drive down to Zojila Pass, which is the gateway to Ladakh. It is picturesque and dominating in equal parts.
Snow gleams under the summer sun, and the road from Sonamarg to Zojila is a serpentine curve with hairpin bends, circuiting around soaring mountains.
Tourists and locals alike can stroll around the scenic lakes of Sonamarg. Gangabal, Gadsar, and Vishansar lakes are ideal for picnicking.
River rafting is also very popular in Sonamarg, and both experienced and novice rafters can navigate through the rapids.
3. Doodhpathri Valley of Milk
A relatively recent addition to the Kashmir tourist map, Doodhpathri’s prime attraction is its meadow with emerald-colored grass.
For a solo explorer, the valley lends a calming ambience with green pastures and the river Shaliganga, which flows in the middle of the meadow.
Things to do:
Pony Ride: Quite simply, the best thing to do here is to appreciate the tranquil surroundings. One can take a horse ride, and enjoy the meadows, and go to the riverbed.
Venturing slightly further, Tangnar, a serene site with small valleys, makes an appearance. Characterized by pine and deodar trees, it is a photographer’s dream.
Suitable camera equipment can also help capture photographs of the beautifully star-adorned night sky.
4. Pahalgam- Valley of Shepherds
Captivating Pahalgam is perhaps one of the most glittering jewels in Kashmir. The hill station’s astounding beauty doesn’t require any company to appreciate it. The small town can be easily savored when traveling solo.
Places to see:
Saffron Fields: Overlooking the brilliant saffron fields of Pampore would be almost criminal. The fields are in full bloom in October, and their fragrance wafts through the national highway even before reaching there!
Seeing the violet fields is truly a remarkable sight.
Awantipura ruins: Driving further, the ruins of two 9th-century temples built by King Awantiwareman, founder of the Utpala dynasty, await.
Both temples are built in rectangular paved courtyards that were destroyed in the Middle Ages. Today, only the remnants of a once-grand temple complex remain.
The temple walls are decorated with intricate carvings and structures.
Apple Valley: Located on the road to Pahalgam, this is a valley of apple farms. It is one of the best places to eat fresh apples and can also be accessed in the winter.
Red Kashmir apples hanging on snow-covered trees make it a photographer’s delight. Hiking is the best way to explore the apple orchards.
Valleys and Fishing: Dedicate day 5 to the marvellous Kashmir valleys. The Betaab Valley, with its colorful floral landscape and pine forests, is a stunning sight to walk through.
The glacial Lidder River with its crystal-clear water is home to several varieties of fish, especially trout, and trout angling is a popular activity here.
The evening can be reserved for the majestic Baisaran Valley, or mini-Switzerland. Dotted with fir trees and snow-covered peaks, it lends an unmistakable likeness to the Swiss valley.
5. Srinagar- Heaven on Earth
The summer capital of Kashmir is known for stationary houseboats, shikaras, lakes, and gardens. It’s no wonder then that it’s possibly best explored solo to avoid all distractions!
Places to visit:
Mughal Gardens: Getting an early start to the day by visiting the sprawling gardens is a great way to pump fresh air into the lungs. One can start by seeing Nishat Bagh, with its impeccable floral rows, and then proceed to Shalimar Bagh, famous for its fountains.
The month of April is the best time to view the splendor of colorful tulips. Chashm-e-Shahi Garden and Pari Mahal, a beautiful fortress, come next.
Shankaracharya Temple: A hallmark of Srinagar, and considered to be the oldest temple in Kashmir, it is located on a hill. Built by King Mihirakula, the last Alchon Hun king, the temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is used for regular worship, even today.
Pilgrims throng the temple during the Amarnath yatra, and it is lit up beautifully on Maha Shivratri.
The drive to this heritage temple is scenic, and once atop the hill, one is greeted with a magnificent view of Dal Lake.
Dal Lake and Houseboat: An evening shikara ride on the lake, especially in summer, is a not-to-be-missed experience.
Check into a houseboat for the night and admire the unique floating post office moored in the water.
Safety Tips for Solo Travellers
A solo trip to Kashmir throws up an important question: is it safe to travel to Kashmir alone? The answer, quite simply, is yes; it’s as safe as any other place in the country.
- Carry documentation: Original government-approved identity cards should be in one’s possession at all times, as there can be random security checks in Srinagar and en route to nearby towns.
- Bring sufficient cash: Apart from ATMs and credit cards, it is important to carry cash as there are several places where ATMs are not readily accessible and digital payments are not accepted.
- Dress appropriately: It is recommended to dress according to the local culture. Kashmir can be conservative, and it is not advisable for women to wear shorts.
- Pack according to the weather: Thorough research of different seasons, especially winter, is essential, and special attention should be paid to shoes that are required for walking.
- Phone connectivity: Only post-paid mobile networks are permissible in Kashmir. It is also preferable to keep your phone fully charged in emergencies due to inclement weather delays.
- Have a local contact: It would be prudent to get the number of a local person through one’s network of friends and family who have visited Kashmir previously.
- Travel during peak hours: This is crucial for security reasons. One should avoid secluded roads and spots.
- Necessary medicines: Especially carry anti-nausea pills, as the winding terrain can make one sick.
- Bring essentials: moisturizers and lip balms, sunglasses, hats, etc. should be carried as the weather can be dry.
- Keep family in the loop: Text your daily itinerary to your family and friends, preferably with the number of the taxi driver and accommodation.
- Check reviews of lodging: It is imperative to research and check all reviews of accommodation, especially homestays.
- Stay alert about knockoffs: Although it may be tempting to buy cheap souvenirs, stay alert about buying unauthentic saffron and pashmina shawls. It may be difficult to tell the difference if you are a tourist, and for this purpose, only government-run and funded shops should be sought to purchase reliable keepsakes.
Budgeting solo travel in Kashmir
Kashmir can be an expensive tourist destination. However, a trip to this paradise can be economical with careful planning.
- Check into hostels or homestays: Luxury hotels can be avoided. Zostel is a safe and popular hostel choice amongst young travelers, as is Blooming Dale Hotel, in Srinagar, with the owner staying up late to make sure you’re back safe.
- Share taxis from the airport: Private cabs are expensive in Srinagar, and one can easily share a taxi with fellow passengers, to the center of town.
- Do booking: Whether it’s for lodging or cars for inter-city travel, booking before one’s arrival is suggested.
- Fix prices before commencing an activity: Shikara rides, local guides, pony rides, or even renting ski equipment, fixing rates before you start, is crucial. Bargaining is essential, and often the first-quoted price can be scaled down considerably.
Food on the Go for the Solo Traveller
Apart from the elaborate Kashmiri wazwan, the valley boasts of delicious street food.
Nader Monje, or deep-fried lotus stem fritters, are an absolute favorite. These fried delights are typically eaten with walnut chutney.
Seekh Tujj, or minced mutton or beef, is also a crowd favorite. Marinated with spices, and cooked on skewers, it’s best enjoyed in the winter.
Masala Tchot, which is uncharacteristically non-greasy, is a stuffed wrap with cooked peas, and spicy chutney. It usually appeals to the diet-conscious young crowd, and stalls selling these flatbreads are normally seen outside colleges.
Khand-e- Gazir is a colorful, chewy, sweet stick made from flour, sugar, ghee, and cardamom powder. Dipped in sugar syrup, it is the perfect snack to appease sugar cravings.
Kashmir has an excellent culinary tradition of pairing tea with freshly baked bread. Every area has its own Kandur, or baker. Some of the mouth-watering breads to try are:
- Bakarkhani– One of the most famous breads in Kashmir, it is soft and flaky, and goes well with tea and even entrée dishes like Rogan Josh.
- Telvur– A soft, Kashmiri bagel with sesame seeds, usually slathered with dollops of butter.
- Sheermal– Prepared with refined flour, it’s slightly sweet with a hint of cardamom. It can be paired with tea or kebabs.
4. Kashmiri Biscuits– Most bakeries have stacks of these baked biscuits in different flavor.
5. Lavasa– This thin bread is readily available in street side shops and is usually served with ‘halwa.”
Touring solo in Kashmir can be an exhilarating experience, as the locals are friendly and exude warm hospitality. At Offbeat Tracks, we are always looking for ways to give back to the local community while ensuring that our travellers have the best experiences.
When you’re traveling with us, there are multiple choices to discover and cherish. The majestic sights of the land captivate one’s imagination and offer a visual treat in every season of the calendar year. If you’re planning a trip to Kashmir, write to us, and we’ll create an itinerary that nurtures the traveller in you!
Naiyya Singh has been an avid traveller for as long as she can remember. Her hunger for travel started young. Her father being in the armed forces had postings in several stations across the country. She followed her appetite for exploring new cultures and cuisines, when she joined Air India as cabin crew, for 11 years. Post her stint in the airline, she worked at The Print, a digital news organisation, and handled marketing and events. Her love for discovering new lands remains intact.