Opening up like a bowl of wonder, the beautiful valley of Kashmir has rightly earned the epithet of "Paradise on Earth," for it has everything to fall in love with. With tin-roofed villages set against poplars and apple orchards that line the azure sky, Kashmir's valleys allow you to escape the humdrum of city life and seek a relaxing getaway. Replete with stunning freshwater streams, magnificent lakes, deep forests, lush meadow and walking paths, there is much that beckons a discerning traveller to dive deep into the union territory's many natural charms. Flanked by mountains, there is no time like now to take the valley trail and explore the pristine beauty of Kashmir.
Doodhpathri, also known as the Valley of Milk, is a lush bowl-shaped valley in the foothills of the Pir Panjal peaks that has the river Shaliganga running through it. The Ashtaar glacier is the birthplace of two rivers&mdashShaliganga and Doodhganga. Inaccessible during winters, this valley abounds in wildflowers such as daisies, forget-me-nots and buttercups during spring and summer. Legend has it that the when Kashmiri saint Sheikh ul Aalam Sheikh Noor din Noorani struck the ground in the valley in search of water, milk gushed out and that is how it got its name.
Lolab Valley, located in the northern region of Kupwara, is awash with dense pine forests and babbling brooks. Known as the "Land of Love and Beauty," Lolab is popular with locals and visitors for its camping opportunities. Situated adjacent to the Lahwal River, the Lolab Valley is home to several ancient springs. It also has an abundance of fruit trees like apple, cherry, peach, apricot, and walnut no wonder it is called "Jammu and Kashmir's fruit bowl." Visit the Kalaroos caves, which, according to local legend, go all the way to Russia.
Carved out of the Gurez Tehsil, Tulail, or "the little Ladakh," lets you immerse yourself in the Dardic culture practised by Dards, an ethnic tribe that stays in this region. Traditional log houses with tin roofs dot the beautiful valley, which abounds in lush grasslands, romantic vistas, and towering mountains. Situated on the icy-blue Kishanganga River's banks, the valley offers peace and solitude unlike anywhere else despite its proximity to the Line of Control between India and Pakistan. Dip your feet in the cold water of the streams as you go trout fishing.
Bungus, a lush green meadow, is located on the other side of the Lolab valley. Bungus has the best grass for cattle grazing and is said to have been discovered by a nomad while grazing his cattle in the dense pine forests. Spot antelopes, brown bears, musk deer, and, if you're lucky, the snow leopards that call it home. Many tiny streams also run through the valley, including the Roshan Kul, Tillwan Kul, and Douda Kul, which eventually combine to form the headwaters of the Kamil River, which meets the Lolab stream to produce the Pohru River.
The crisp fragrance of deodars marks your arrival into the stunning Nagin valley, also called Bota Pathri Valley, after its namesake meadow amid thick forests. At a distance of 10kms from Gulmarg, Bota Pathri is popular among tourists for its natural environs and an emerald-hued Alpather lake surrounded by wildflowers. Horse riding, a popular tourist activity in Bota Pathri, doubles up as a source of income for the locals. You can spot a few Gujjar dhokas (mud huts) and a shrine nestled in the heart of Bota Pathri and snack at nearby tea and Maggi shops. Make a beeline to see the snow-covered hills from Alpather Peak, or if you're an outdoorsy person, a trek to the lake is an incredible getaway.
Drung is a tiny settlement on the route to Gulmarg, about 3.5 kilometres from Tangmarg. The slight zig-zag macadamized road provides a lovely view of Ferozpora Nalla and the neighbouring villages. Despite its narrow approach, the route to Drung is stunningly lovely, winding through a dense pine forest and ancient mud shacks. The vista and ambience created by the flowing stream and cascading waterfalls are breathtaking. Summer and winter are equally good times to come because the area is open all year and looks beautiful regardless of the weather.