Kashmir is a dream destination for many, from the millennials to the non-digital age folks. The pristine Dal Lake, the colorful floating markets, the beautiful faces, the welcoming smiles, the crisp sun, the peaceful sunsets, the dreamy meadows, the mountain breeze, the aromatic food – the list is endless!
It was an impromptu idea to visit Kashmir, Gurez Valley to be precise, with no set dates in mind. I did my bare minimum research (there isn’t much about Gurez on the internet anyway), and knew it in my mind that this is where I shall head to soon. I then reached out to a well-known photographer from Kashmir just to clarity if my plan is feasible enough or not. It was a blind attempt since I wasn’t very hopeful of a reply but well, guess what, I got one! He advised me on the itinerary and how to go about visiting Gurez as a solo traveler.
Two days later, I get another message from him, this time telling me that he is planning to organize a trip to Gurez and if I would like to join. I didn’t really have a second thought before saying yes, and the next thing I know my tickets to Srinagar were booked.
It was a long flight from Bangalore. Unlike other times, I wasn’t really feeling the thrill of travelling. It was 4 months since I headed off to the mountains and I was supposed to be elated. Not quite though. But 30 mins into my flight from Chandigarh to Srinagar and the pilot was on the speaker saying we are ready to land.
Looked out the window and my heart skipped a beat. See for yourself!
My first evening (or night) in Srinagar was just about a scenic drive about the town. Next morning was what I was eagerly looking forward to as we would be leaving for Gurez Valley. A 6-hour drive from Srinagar crossing some scenic roads, valleys, meadows and the Razdan pass, with the Krishnaganga river flowing beside, we reach Gurez.
A quick check-in and off we were to explore parts of the valley completely untouched by the urban civilization. 3 days of pure exploration, pure fun, pure air and purer hearts. Here’s a photo journey through Gurez Valley, Kashmir.
Quick tips if you are planning to visit Gurez:
- Carry proper documentation and IDs.
- Do not venture out in the dark, infact even after sunset.
- Respect the locals, their culture and their lifestyle.
- Call an agency to confirm about the roads to Gurez being operational.
- Have 1-2 days extra in your itinerary for any last minute change of plans.
- Refrain from being too loud and showy. You are amongst the simplest of folks.
- You are visiting the most sensitive border area. There will be many checkpoints. Be cooperative with the army.
- Try and head back to your hotel/homestay/resort by nightfall.
- Carry warm clothes even during summers. The evenings get pretty chilly.
- Do not photograph military bases. Unlike in other military bases, strict action could be taken against you here.
- Mingle with the locals. You will get to learn a lot about the real history.
Kashmir is undeniably beautiful but I would not use the same word for Gurez. Gurez Valley is an experience, a brush of life lived in the coldest regions by the warmest of hearts. The days I spent there still makes my heart warm, and I believe everyone should feel this feeling atleast once in their lifetime, preferably amongst people who are not their own.