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Sunday, March 8, 2015

Five Reasons You Should Go To Kashmir With This Guy's On His Own Trip

Kashmir is the fourth group tour I am doing in 2015, and it comes quickly on the heels of an Agra-Rajasthan trip I am doing for a group of Europeans in the first week of April.

By the time we leave on April 11 for Srinagar, I'd have already taken 125 people on 10 trips across Bhutan, Ladakh, Sikkim, Meghalaya, Bali, Vietnam and Cambodia.

What haven't we done in the last ten months! In Bali, we climbed an active volcano. In Vietnam, one of the days we stayed on a luxury cruise in Halong Bay. In Sikkim, we sat in front of India's second highest lake, the Tibet border just a stone throw away. In Ladakh, we played and pelted each other with snow. And in Rajasthan, we saw culture and a thousand colours - in houses, in clothes and in food.

I guess what will still remain most strongly imprinted in my mind are the people who came along, their laughter and chatter, the conversations around the bonfires, the sitting together in one room every night, everyone running and huddling when a picture was being taken, everyone going silent when they were overwhelmed by nature. The hills, the mountains and the rivers have so many stories of our trips. 

After all, this is not a regular travel agency organized trip. 

And now, we are going to Kashmir, which along with the Andamans is my favourite place in India. But how does one even start describing Kashmir! It is but one of those few, rare places that can inspire a poet as much an adventurer,

But still, let me try give you five reasons why you should come on this sojourn with This Guy's On His Own Trip.


1) We are going to ride the world's highest cable car




Gulmarg, literally meaning 'the meadow of flowers', is spectacularly scenic. But that is not enough. We are going to take the world's highest gondola all the way up Apharwat Peak. The 4000 metre high mountain is very close to the India Pakistan Line of Control. At the top, the snow is fresh, soft and spotlessly white and lets see who makes the best snowman, eh!

More than 700 out of 925 reviews on Tripadvisor rate this as "excellent" or "very good". Read about it here.



2) The scenery enroute to the various towns will make your heart sing


But you will want to always have the window seat. And as our mini bus moves along merrily from Srinagar to Sonamarg to Pahalgam to Gulmarg, every day we shall pass by green meadows and tall mountains, lazy horses grazing in the pastures, apple orchards, Chinar trees with massive trunks, flowers growing wildly, and icy streams. Often we shall stop, wherever we feel like, to run to the streams, to stop by a dhaba and have hot chai and pakoras, to steal a few apples. But what is a man who never knew how to love nature.



3) We are going to the stunningly pretty Betaab Valley





Named such after some scenes from the movie 'Betaab' were shot there, this valley (about 15 kms from Pahalgam) is gorgeous with its manicured lawns, a crystal clear stream and the towering mountains in the background. It is easy to mistake this place for a Swiss alpine village. Besides Betaab Valley, during our time at Pahalgam, we shall also be visiting Chandanwadi - a beautiful mountain which has come into prominence for being the last motorable point for trekkers going to Amarnath,



4) Living in a Houseboat on the Dal Lake

One night in Srinagar, we will stay in a pretty houseboat on the famous Dal Lake. We shall also ride a shikara around this huge lake and do feel free to do a Shammi Kapoor if you spot your Kashmir Ki Kali. If that reference is too ancient for you, go ahead and be an Anushka Sharma of the Dal. I for one shall not complain.



Just don't fall into the water. 



5) The USP of the trip lies in the way we go about it and the people that come for it

A number of people who haven't been on one of these trips before feel that maybe group trips aren't their cup of tea. That they aren't sure about what kind of people come for the trips. And that is where communication plays such an important role. Earlier I used to think I was extremely lucky that I was always getting people who were enthusiastic, who were non fussy, who were not looking to just do point to point sightseeing, but were looking for a lot more and who could hold their own end in a conversation. Most of them aren't hardcore adventurers but people who are ready to be enchanted by nature, by new cultures and by the thought of chasing butterflies.

But over time I realized that it is not just luck, I think it is the kind of communication about the trip event on Facebook and the blog that attracts people with a certain bent of mind. And I am glad to have that set travelling with me. 

What we don't know is that people often find it easier to open up with strangers than with close ones back home. A number of people who came as strangers to each other end up becoming good friends and it makes me grin to see them planning their own trips together.



Unlike other travel agencies, these trips don't have people from a lot of different age groups. Though there is no fixed rule, almost eighty to ninety percent of the people coming have been between 26-35.

I am a solo traveller myself, so rigid plans and itineraries don't do much for me. We stop where we want, we spend more time in the places that we like, and the idea is to absorb moments in these places instead of trying to cover every single point.

Heh, ten trips, 125 people later, I am yet to meet someone who did not feel sad the day they were leaving back. 

Want to Join Us?

Trip details link: Here

Trip Dates: April 11-17
Fly in and out of: Srinagar
Trip cost: Rs 23,000 for 7 nights per person (not counting flight tickets)
Group Size: 10-14 people
Seats booked already: 6

If you want to join us or receive the trip itinerary, please contact me: narayanan,neeraj@gmail.com


Now Read:

1) Nero's 2014 group trip to Bali
2) Nero goes to Spain
3) Nero Backpacks through South East Asia