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Offbeat Places to Visit in Kashmir, India

Robert Frost, in his narrative poem ‘The Road Not Taken’, mentions that when he is faced with a choice between two roads, he elects to travel the one that appears to be less worn, and that made all the difference. Isn’t that what offbeat or unexplored travel is all about? But nowadays the words ‘offbeat’ and ‘unexplored’ are used very cursorily. I’ve seen places like Gulmarg, Sonmarg, and Pahalgam being included in the list of offbeat places to visit in Kashmir, India. These places are visited by lakhs of tourists every year since decades! So, when we got a chance to do a true ‘Offbeat Kashmir’ tour, we decided that we will make a genuine list of ‘Unexplored places in Kashmir’.

Wular lake with reflections of snow capped Himalayas on the lake, Offbeat Places to visit in Kashmir
There are many unexplored gems in Kashmir. Read this article to know more

This list of offbeat places to visit in Kashmir is based on data like less tourist footfall, little/no information on the internet, and relative lack of chitter-chatter on social media. Although some names might be a bit familiar, you are going to come across names of places that you may have never heard of. We were able to visit some extremely unheard-of nook and corners of Kashmir, thanks to Cliffhangers India. Some of these places do not even have resorts or hotels, but only homestays or JKTDC accommodations. However, these destinations will surely offer you the much sought-after desolation (read peace) and will keep you away from the tourist radar. So here we go with the list of most unexplored places to visit in Kashmir. Scroll till the end to find an ideal ‘Offbeat Kashmir itinerary’.

 

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Offbeat Places to Visit in Kashmir

1. Daksum

Located in the Kokernag district, about 100 kilometres away from Srinagar, Daksum is a hardly inhabited, virginal spot surrounded by Pir Panjal Mountain ranges. This offbeat place to visit in Kashmir is situated in Brengi or Bringhi River valley and houses a wide grassy meadow (part of which was covered in snow when we visited in March), several nomadic shepherd cottages, and an ever-green coniferous forest. The Indian hill trout fishes spawn and thrive in the fresh and cold-water streams of Bringhi River.

Offbeat Places to Visit in Kashmir | Unexplored Places in Kashmir
Grassy Meadows in Daksum - Offbeat Kashmir

Daksum lies on the trekking route towards Kishtwar and is often used as a base by trekkers who wish to cross the Sinthan Pass (Sinthan Top) at 3750 metres. The road to Sinthan Pass was closed due to heavy snow at the top when we visited, and hence we weren’t able to drive to the pass and enjoy panoramic view of the valley. However, we enjoyed our short time in Daksum village by playing in snow, making snowman, and sipping hot Kashmiri Kahwa sitting on the banks of the gurgling Bringhi River.

Offbeat Places to Visit in Kashmir | Unexplored Places in Kashmir
Parts of meadow blanketed with snow in Daksum - Offbeat Kashmir

We also happened to visit the Rajparian Wildlife Sanctuary known for inhabiting the Van-Gujjars and Bakerwals - amongst the oldest tribes residing in Kashmir, who are sheepherders. This sanctuary houses a quarantine facility for imported Australian Merino sheep that were brought to J&K to improve the fineness of wool production in Kashmir. We were lucky to spot a flock of these sheep pasturing the natural resources - grassy meadows of the sanctuary.

Offbeat Places to Visit in Kashmir | Unexplored Places in Kashmir
Australian Merino Sheep at Rajparian Sanctuary in Daksum - Offbeat Kashmir

Apart from a few homestays, the only tourist accommodation facility in Daksum is the government-run JKTDC tourist bungalow; however, we opted to stay in JK tourism cottages in Kokernag (about 15 kilometres away from Daksum). We also heard that during summer, tourists pitch their camps on the banks of the Bringhi River and enjoy a day of trout-fishing, angling, and sleeping under the blanket of stars. While staying in Daksum, you can revel in the warm hospitality of local Gujjars and be a part of their cultural traditions.

Offbeat Places to Visit in Kashmir | Unexplored Places in Kashmir
Bringhi River flowing through the Daksum Valley - Offbeat Kashmir

Daksum is certainly amongst the most beautiful unexplored places in Kashmir and should be a part of offbeat Kashmir itinerary for the ones who seek peace and quiet in the company of nature.


2. Kokernag

Kokernag is a famous tourist spot, but still is amongst the lesser known, unexplored places to visit in Kashmir. Located about 80 kilometres away from Srinagar, Kokernag falls on the way to Daksum. The place houses the Kokernag spring, the Kokernag botanical garden, and one the largest trout fish farms in Asia. We stayed at the J&K tourism run accommodation right inside the Kokernag botanical garden.

Offbeat Places to Visit in Kashmir | Unexplored Places in Kashmir
J&K Tourism run cottages in Kokernag Botanical Garden - Offbeat Kashmir

Early in the morning, when we decided to stroll the Kokernag botanical garden, we were greeted by some rare species of birds. With not a soul around, and only the sound of the gushing waters of Kokernag spring that’s known to possess medicinal properties, we meandered through the garden developed around the springs, crossing the many beautiful wooden bridges built on the water. The botanical garden is bigger than what we had thought and showcases a diverse collection of trees and flowering plants. The colours spread by majestic Chinar trees must be a sight to behold in the autumn season! And the sweet fragrance of pine filled the air as we collected a few pinecones that fell beneath the huge conifers.

Offbeat Places to Visit in Kashmir | Unexplored Places in Kashmir
Majestic Chinar Trees in Kokernag Botanical Garden - Offbeat Kashmir

From the botanical garden, the Kokernag spring water rushes down to the trout fish breeding farm, which is located adjacent the garden. The cold weather of Kashmir and the fresh and freezing spring water provides perfect temperature for the trouts to breed. At the breeding farm, one can partake in fishing trouts from the stream channelized in different raceways and then buy the caught trouts.

Offbeat Places to Visit in Kashmir | Unexplored Places in Kashmir
Kokernag Spring flowing through the Kokernag Botanical Garden - Offbeat Kashmir

The lack of crowd in Kokernag was a blessing as we could sit around in the lawns and soak in the warm sunlight without any disturbance. The J&K tourism have done a commendable job creating and maintaining a garden that rivals the beauty of even the Kashmiri Mughal gardens. Do not miss out on including this intrepid jewel if Kashmir in your offbeat Kashmir itinerary. Also remember, the best way to explore Kokernag is by staying at the JK Tourism cottages and visiting the gardens early in the morning or late in the evening, when the local crowds and the day visitors have left.



3. Verinag

Verinag is located around 85 kilometres away from Srinagar and about 20 kilometres away from Kokernag. We drove to Verinag after visiting Kokernag and were thrilled to see the Pir Panjal range up-close from a few viewpoints (Lisser viewpoint and Titanic viewpoint) on the way. Verinag is the place from where a spring originates, which is believed to be the major source of the Jhelum River. After meandering through a major part of Kashmir including Wular Lake, the Jhelum River meets Pakistan to join the Chenab River. An octagonal base is built at the spring, surrounding which is a Mughal Garden constructed by Emperor Jehangir.

Offbeat Places to Visit in Kashmir | Unexplored Places in Kashmir
Verinag Spring - Major Source of River Jhelum - Offbeat Kashmir

From the entrance of the Mughal Garden, the walkway took us to the octagonal pool. Verinag spring water is clear as crystal is deep turquoise blue green in colour. The octagonal pool can be approached through a 24-arch colonnade. The water comes from the spring deep below the pool, which then flows to the small channel from the axial reservoir towards the Mughal Garden.

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Octagonal pool at Verinag Spring - Offbeat Kashmir

The Mughal Garden surrounding the Verinag spring is clean and well-maintained. It has lots of trees, especially huge Chinar trees and we can’t stop wondering how beautiful this place might be in autumn, covered under multi-coloured hues! While the Verinag spring reservoir was constructed by Emperor Jehangir, the garden is believed to be laid out by his son, Shah Jahan. Both the spring as well as the garden are recognised by the Archaeological Survey of India as monuments of national importance.

Offbeat Places to Visit in Kashmir | Unexplored Places in Kashmir
Verinag Spring Water channelized through the Mughal Garden at Verinag - Offbeat Kashmir

We found our way to the top of the 24-arch colonnade surrounding the octagonal pond and the view from there was a sight to behold. The Mughal Garden at Verinag is equal to (if not better than) the other gardens in Kashmir. Verinag is truly an underrated place, and it receives a minimal tourist footfall, which makes it one of the best unexplored places to visit in Kashmir.

Offbeat Places to Visit in Kashmir | Unexplored Places in Kashmir
Turquoise colored water in the octagonal pool at Verinag - Offbeat Kashmir

4. Yusmarg or Yousmarg

The word Yusmarg is an amalgamation of two words: Yus or Yous (referring to Yisu meaning Jesus) and Marg (meaning meadow) - thus literally translating to ‘Meadow of Jesus’ in local Kashmiri language. Its legend is that Jesus passed through this valley (and even stayed here) and hence the name. A slightly different version says Yus refers for Yusuf / Yousuf. True or not, Yusmarg valley is so beautiful that it definitely must have been laid out by God! Yusmarg is located only 50 kilometres away from Srinagar, making it an offbeat, yet easy-to-reach destination in Kashmir.

Offbeat Places to Visit in Kashmir | Unexplored Places in Kashmir
Yusmarg Valley covered with patches of snow - Offbeat Kashmir

Yusmarg valley lies at the end of the road from Charar-e-Sharif, the holy shrine of Shiekh-ul-Alam, the famous Sufi-poet, spiritual guide, and an Islamic preacher. Shiekh-ul-Alam spread his teachings mostly through poems, the most popular one being “Ann poshi teli yeli wan poshe” which translates to “Food will thrive only till the woods survive.” He is also credited with translating Quran into Kashmiri language. Even before reaching the Charar-e-Sharif dargah, we were able to spot in afar from the road. With intricate wooden carvings and massive chandeliers, the shrine is as magnificent from inside as it is from the outside.

Offbeat Places to Visit in Kashmir | Unexplored Places in Kashmir
Charar-e-Sharif Dargah lies on the way from Srinagar to Yusmarg - Offbeat Kashmir

There are picturesque trekking trails in any direction you choose to walk from the parking lot in Yusmarg Valley. Several pony riders surrounded us to take us to the trail of our choice (there were 17 trails listed on a sign board). Since we have a ‘no-animal riding’ policy, we decided to hike to one of the easier trails instead of taking a pony ride. The vast, open valley was blanketed in a white sheet of snow. Due to shortage of time, we only had a few options out of the 17 trails listed. We chose to trek to Doodhganga River, which is an easy walk of about 1.5 kilometres.

Offbeat Places to Visit in Kashmir | Unexplored Places in Kashmir
As we trekked higher on the hills in Yusmarg Valley, we found more and more snow - Offbeat Kashmir

While walking towards the river, we met a guide who convinced us that instead of Doodhganga River we should hike to Burgah Valley. And we are glad that we changed routes because Burgah valley is dream-like! As we started our descent to the promised valley, the thickness of snow sheet kept increasing and we were soon walking in ankle-deep snow. We passed a few nomadic Gujjar huts, which were abandoned due to heavy snow, and soon entered a pine forest.

Offbeat Places to Visit in Kashmir | Unexplored Places in Kashmir
And that's Yusmarg Valley blanketed under thick snow, as seen from the top - Offbeat Kashmir

We now reached a higher ground, which again opened to a huge valley - the Burgah Valley. Burgah valley is raw and pristine, seldom visited by any tourist, making it one of the best unexplored places in Kashmir. We were awed by the dome-shaped structure resembling an ice stupa right in the middle of the valley. Surrounded by pine forests and snow-covered mountains, we clicked photographs, had a fun-filled snowball fight, and returned to the parking lot. Wish we had more time to hike the other trails - bookmarking Doodhganga trail and Nilnag trail for the next time.

Offbeat Places to Visit in Kashmir | Unexplored Places in Kashmir
We found an ice stupa in Burgah Valley - an hour's trek from the Yusmarg Valley - Offbeat Kashmir

Apart from the tourism board-run JKTDC Resort, there are very few accommodation options in Yusmarg. However, we opted to stay in Tribe Homestay in Nilnag village, about 5 kilometres away from Yusmarg Valley. It was a truly unique accommodation with rooms and common areas designed in tribal-hut style. The highlight of the stay was a wooden attic that offered outstanding views of the Pir-Panjal Mountain ranges, especially in the evening when the peak shines golden. The next morning, the homestay’s host took us on a short hike to the adjacent hill and then down to the river.

Offbeat Places to Visit in Kashmir | Unexplored Places in Kashmir
Pir Panjal Mountain range glowing in golden colour during sunset, as seen from our accommodation near Yusmarg Valley - Offbeat Kashmir

5. Doodhpathri

Doodhpathri is another stunning valley located almost 45 kilometres away from Srinagar. We had read and heard from locals that it’s amongst the most beautiful unexplored place in Kashmir and should be a part of offbeat Kashmir itinerary. However, when we visited Doodhpathri in March, the valley had received fresh snowfall, and hence the place was full of tourists who had come from Srinagar for a day trip. We stayed at the JKTDC Resort at Doodhpathri, which is the only option here apart from one another recently built hotel. So, when the day-trip travellers left late in the afternoon and before the nest set of tourists arrived from Srinagar in the morning, we literally had the entire place to ourselves.

Offbeat Places to Visit in Kashmir | Unexplored Places in Kashmir
The Igloo Cottage at JKTDC Resort in Doodhpathri - Offbeat Kashmir

Doodhpathri, translating to ‘Valley of Milk,’ is named so as two rivers pierce through the valley - Shaliganga and Sukhnag, and the fast-flowing water of both these rivers give a milky appearance when it strikes against the rocks. About 4 kilometres from the car parking, the road snakes down the hill to the bowl-shaped valley. This distance can be walked, or one can take a pony ride. Since we had booked our stay at JKTDC resort, we were allowed to drive our car down till the last point, that saved us a lot of time and a long walk.

Offbeat Places to Visit in Kashmir | Unexplored Places in Kashmir
Shaliganga River ferociously flowing through the snow-covered valley in Doodhpathri - Offbeat Kashmir

Even in mid-March, Doodhpathri valley was covered under an immense amount of snow. Snow activities like skiing, sledding, and ATV rides were being offered at the touristy points. After crossing the wobbly wooden bridge over the Shaliganga River, we tried to move away from the tourists and hiked a steep hill towards the Dikshal trail. The trail gradually ascended and we walked some more into the towering pine and deodar trees to reach a large snow-covered meadow, where we laid our picnic mat and built a snowman. Such excited were we, we spent close to 3 hours there, running up and down the slopes and playing with snow to our heart’s content.

Offbeat Places to Visit in Kashmir | Unexplored Places in Kashmir
Pine forests in Doodhpathri Valley - Offbeat Kashmir

Several hiking trails emerge from Doodhpathri valley. You can either rent and ride a pony or trek on foot to wherever you choose to. Back at JKTDC Resort, we stayed in an igloo cottage in the middle of the snow. In the night, the snow shone bright like flickering stars under the moonlight, and it was magical. Offbeat or not, Doodhpathri definitely doesn’t receive as many tourists as Gulmarg and Sonmarg do, and its beauty is comparable to both these places if not more!

Offbeat Places to Visit in Kashmir | Unexplored Places in Kashmir
Pony riders riding towards the Doodhpathri Valley through a narrow lane surrounded by thick snow - Offbeat Kashmir

6. Bangus Valley

Bangus Valley is another offbeat place in Kashmir, which is hidden in the northern region of Kupwara district of J&K. Located about 100 kilometres away from Srinagar, Bangus Valley lies very close to India’s most disputed border. There are 3 ways to reach Bangus Valley - from Mawer (Reshwari), Rajwar, or Chowkibal. Most tourists drop the idea of visiting Bangus Valley because of the rough terrain and poor road conditions.

Offbeat Places to Visit in Kashmir | Unexplored Places in Kashmir
Mawer River flowing through Bangus Valley - Offbeat Kashmir

We took the Mawer/Reshwari route, which passed through a forest range. From Reshwari, the approach road to Bangus Valley is still under development. A government-run JKTDC tourist rest house is located in Reshwari, where we opted to stay. The accommodation is right on the banks of Mawer River and is surrounded by unlimited natural beauty and sound of the flowing river. We had pre-hired a guide to explore the valley but were disappointed to learn that the approach road to Bangus, which is anyway not in a good condition, is covered under thick layer of snow, and hence is non-driveable!

Offbeat Places to Visit in Kashmir | Unexplored Places in Kashmir
Nature walk surrounded by hills, pine forests, and snow - near Bangus Valley - Offbeat Kashmir

Our guide, however, took us on a nature walk in snow. We crossed the Kashtwar Nallah steel bridge, located only 7 kilometres from the Line of Control, and further to forested pine- and deodar-covered hills. We used a wobbly wooden bridge over the Mawer River, where small streams enhanced the valley’s charm. Later, we spent a lovely evening on the banks of the river close to the tourist rest house, enjoying its fluidity and vitality.


7. Lolab Valley

Located in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district, Lolab Valley is by and large an unexplored place in Kashmir. Almost 120 kilometres from Srinagar, Lolab Valley is well connected to the state’s capital city. Locally known as ‘Wadi-e-Lolab,’ the valley is a treat of nature with thick, verdant forests and sprawling pastures. Immediately after check-in to our hotel in the Lalpora area, we met our guide and headed-out for sightseeing. We first drove to the Forest Adventure Park in Diver Village. This park is recently built; however, some parts are still under construction. Surrounding the park is a dense deodar forest. We walked through the forest’s periphery and reached Kairwan Lake. Though the water was a bit smelly and brown in colour, it mirrored the reflection of nearby mountains quite well.

Offbeat Places to Visit in Kashmir | Unexplored Places in Kashmir
A wobbly metal walkway outstrected to the centre of Dorusa Dam in Lolab Valley - Offbeat Kashmir

From the park, we drove ahead to Dorusa Dam, located in the middle of pine and deodar forest. The place did not seem like a tourist place. The view was just okay. We slowly walked over on the outstretched metal walkway on the dam to get to the centre. The view from there was just okay. We wouldn’t recommend tourists with children to get to the centre. In the interest of time, we decided to drive to our next destination - Chandigam, another town in Lolab Valley. A JKTDC Guest House is located in Chandigam, which is also a good place to stay. In Chandigam, we stopped by a beautiful lake to click pictures, and again got in the car to get to Kalaroos Valley.

Offbeat Places to Visit in Kashmir | Unexplored Places in Kashmir
A still lake in Chandigam village perfectly reflecting the surrounding mountains, Lolab Valley - Offbeat Kashmir

Kalaroos gets its name from Qile Roos, which means the ‘Fort of Russia’. Kalaroos caves, located up on the hill in Kalaroos, are considered to be secret tunnels, which lead to Russia. Our guide knew the terrain well, and we soon started a 30-minute hike to reach Satbaran Rock - the Seven Doors! We recommend wearing a good pair of hiking shoes. The Satbaran Rock is a huge monolithic rock with seven sculpted chiselled niches. The rock is half-buried and has several fables wrapped around it. It’s believed that idols of Indian Gods and Goddesses once adorned each niche. The view of Lolab Valley, in its full expanse, from the Satbaran Rock is breath-taking.

Offbeat Places to Visit in Kashmir | Unexplored Places in Kashmir
Satbaran Rock, a huge monolithic rock with seven sculpted chiselled niches located on a hill in Lolab Valley - Offbeat Kashmir

Kalaroos caves are a 20-minute further climb from the Satbaran Rock. The caves were dark and narrow. We went into one of them, which further opened into a big cavern. The path seemed endless, but we didn’t risk going beyond a point as the caves were infested with bats (also, we didn’t want to reach Russia!). Kalaroos caves are rich in several minerals, especially copper. With the sun setting, the walls of the caves shone in golden colour. We climbed up to an opening in the cave to watch the sunset. Exhausted and thirsty, we filled up our water bottles from the fresh streams flowing down the hill and took some rest. Our journey back to the car was uneventful. All in all, Lolab Valley excelled in its beauty, and we surely would like to return some day for a longer stay.

Offbeat Places to Visit in Kashmir | Unexplored Places in Kashmir
Kalaroos caves - route to Russia - located on a hill in Lolab Valley - Offbeat Kashmir

8. Athwatoo

Out of all the less explored places that we visited in our Offbeat Kashmir tour, Athwatoo was the most offbeat. Though not very far from Srinagar (only about 70 kilometres away), Athwatoo felt like an out-of-the-world place. The place is in the north-eastern side of Bandipora district. The term Athwatoo loosely translates to ‘confluence of eight roads.’ From Bandipora town, the road to Athwatoo is quite narrow, bumpy, and curvy. We took a wrong turn and lost our way from Bandipora town, had to make a complete U-turn, and return to the town to find the right path. We suggest not relying much on Google Maps and asking your way around to the locals who are always helpful.

Offbeat Places to Visit in Kashmir | Unexplored Places in Kashmir
Madhumati stream flowing through the Athwatoo Village in the backdrop - Offbeat Kashmir

We don’t know why Athwatoo isn’t on the tourist map. The place lies amongst the mountains, besides a fast-flowing river stream named Madhumati, and surrounded by thick forests. Madhumati stream originates from the high-altitude Harmukh mountain. With not a soul around and no noise pollution, all we could hear was the flowing stream water. We were the only travellers in Athwatoo. Even the locals looked bewildered on our arrival. The tourism board has recently constructed a beautiful property - the Athwatoo Resort, on the banks of the Madhumati stream, but we stayed at an even unbelievably stunning and unique accommodation. Ours was a one-bedroom tree house built on a walnut tree. The balcony of our room faced the rushing stream! Till date, this is the most unique accommodation we have stayed at.

Offbeat Places to Visit in Kashmir | Unexplored Places in Kashmir
Our tree-top accommodation located on the banks of Madhumati stream in Athwatoo - Offbeat Kashmir

Our room on the treetop is made of premium wood and is warm and cosy. We were told that in summers, the tree is fully laden with walnuts and one can pluck fresh walnuts right from the room’s balcony. The tree house is surrounded by a large veranda with lots of hang-out spaces and viewpoints adorned with Kashmiri carpets, floor mattresses, and comfortable cushions. We spent some quality time at these little hang-out spots, dipping our feet in the cold water. The property is well-looked after. There’s even a fish breeding centre on the premises, which is full of trout fishes, hence giving ample opportunities for fishing and angling. We were offered fruits and biscuits with Kashmiri Kahwa on arrival and the caretakers cooked delicious meals. We slept to the sound of flowing river. We are sure that, on clear days, one could even spot the Milky Way clearly.

Offbeat Places to Visit in Kashmir | Unexplored Places in Kashmir
Scenic viewpoints in Athwatoo - Offbeat Kashmir

There is no mobile network, internet, or wi-fi in Athwatoo, which gives a chance to connect with the locals and the loved ones. This place is ideal for people who love solitude, who want to meditate, or who is just seeking some peace of mind. From the treehouse, we had opportunities to go trekking to the upper forest area, however, we were so content with the place, we never felt a need to venture out. Athwatoo village has an abundance of pastures for shepherds. A folklore says that, after fleeing Egypt, Prophet Moses spent time in Athwatoo village. Our guide took us to the place where he dwelled. Though not very well maintained, this place is now covered with colourful flags and has lots of monkeys. It is often visited by Jews who happen to visit Kashmir.

Offbeat Places to Visit in Kashmir | Unexplored Places in Kashmir
The dwelling point of Prophet Moses in Athwatoo covered with colourful flags - Offbeat Kashmir

Note - If you are fascinated by the stories of Jesus and Moses visiting Kashmir and living in India, there is much more. There is even a place called Rozabal shrine in Srinagar which many believe is the actual tomb of Jesus Christ! Interesting? This is not just some story that some locals believe in. It is well documented by various historians and scholars across various faiths. You can read more about these stories in many books that could be bought on Amazon.



9. Naranag

Naranag is only about 50 kilometres away from Srinagar but is a by-and-by different world altogether. Located in the Gandarbal district, Naranag is a small yet beautiful village, which acts as a base camp for several treks in Kashmir. The famed ‘Kashmir Great Lakes’ trek starts in Sonmarg and ends in Naranag. Other trails that start here are the Naranag-Dumail-Marchoi trek and Naranag-Gangabal Lake trek. But apart from trekkers, Naranag is seldom explored by tourists travelling to Kashmir.

Offbeat Places to Visit in Kashmir | Unexplored Places in Kashmir
Naranag - where the multi-day Kashmir Great Lakes Trek ends - Offbeat Kashmir

The Wangat River flows through Naranag and is adorned with a big glacier on one of its banks. Naranag is also a pilgrimage centre with a cluster of ruined Hindu temples divided in two groups - the Western Group and the Eastern Group. Due to years of neglect, the ruins are in a sad state of affairs. In the Western group, the main temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The roof of this temple is long gone and is covered by a layer of tin sheets. This temple is surrounded by several smaller ones. In the Eastern group, the largest temple is dedicated to Lord Bhuteswara (again Lord Shiva) and it houses a big Shiva Lingam. Further ahead is a large basin, where a spring flows.

Offbeat Places to Visit in Kashmir | Unexplored Places in Kashmir
Group of Hindu temples in Naranag - Offbeat Kashmir

Crossing the Naranag temple complex, we walked on the Marchoi trail running along the Wangat River, that lead us to the glacier. We found several abandoned Gujjar houses and towering pine and walnut trees on our way. We went to the riverbank to see the glacier up close. A waterfall from the top pierced through the glacier before joining the river. It was quite a sight.

Offbeat Places to Visit in Kashmir | Unexplored Places in Kashmir
A huge glacier along the Marchhoi trail in Naranag - Offbeat Kashmir

The highlight of our visit to Naranag was our stay with a local family. There are no hotels or restaurants in the village. Guest house or homestay is the way to go. We stayed in a simple house with the family of our guide. Our hosts were warm and friendly and treated us with utmost affection. They served delicious home-cooked meals and we all sat together to eat around a heated Bukhari (fire chamber) to stay warm. We had a heart-to-heart conversation about Islam, Kashmiri way of living, and how media is responsible to have stained Kashmir’s image as an unsafe destination.

Offbeat Places to Visit in Kashmir | Unexplored Places in Kashmir
We stayed at a local family-run homestay in Naranag - Offbeat Kashmir

10. Other offbeat places to visit in Kashmir

Here are few other offbeat places in Kashmir you could plan on visiting. Some of these places can be covered along with already listed places above while some may require you to head out specifically to visit this place.


a. Dachigam National Park (20 kilometres from Srinagar)

This national park was formed after relocating ‘10 villages’, and hence the name. It is a protected reserve, which can be easily covered as a day trip from Srinagar. Dachigam National park is known for the endangered Kashmiri stag - the only species of red deer to be found in India. Other animals and birds that you may spot includes bear, leopard, flycatcher, wild goat, golden oriole, falcon, griffon vulture, golden eagle, paradise flycatcher, monal, Eurasian eagle owls and more.

Offbeat Places to Visit in Kashmir | Unexplored Places in Kashmir
Rare birds spotted in Dachigam National Park - Offbeat Kashmir

b. Saffron fields of Lethpora & Pampore (15-25 kilometres from Srinagar)

Lethpora and Pampore villages in Kashmir are renowned for their saffron cultivation, and visiting during October - November is a treat for the senses. One can marvel at the picturesque landscapes adorned with vibrant saffron blossoms in full bloom, painting the fields in hues of purple and gold. Immerse yourself in the aromatic ambiance and witness the meticulous process of saffron cultivation. From the delicate handpicking of precious saffron threads to the sun-drying techniques, you'll gain insight into the rich traditions behind this prized spice. A visit to these saffron fields offers a truly unique and sensory experience, combining natural beauty with cultural heritage.

Offbeat Places to Visit in Kashmir | Unexplored Places in Kashmir
Purple coloured saffron flowers adorning the fields in Lethpora and Pampore villages - Offbeat Kashmir

c. Martand Sun Temple in Anantnag district (70 kilometres from Srinagar)

This temple is not visited as much as it should be. Martand Sun temple is a grand temple, which is now in ruins, but after visiting it, you can imagine how grand it must have been during its peak days. You can club visiting Martand Sun Temple along Saffron fields of Pampore and Lethiport and Achabal Garden, as they are located in the same direction on the way to Kokernag and Daksum.


d. Achabal Garden in Anantnag district (70 kilometres from Srinagar)

This was the first Mughal Garden we visited in Kashmir, and we simply loved the beauty of Achabal Garden’s. This garden was commissioned by Nur Jahan, the wife of Emperor Jahangir, during the Mughal era in the 17th century. It was designed as a pleasure garden and served as a retreat for the royal family. The garden showcases the distinctive features of Mughal architecture and landscaping, with terraces, water channels, fountains, and vibrant flower beds. Its historical significance and regal charm make it a must-visit destination for those seeking a glimpse into Kashmir's rich cultural heritage. Pro Tip: Visit Achabal Garden in autumn for a colourful exploration.

Offbeat Places to Visit in Kashmir | Unexplored Places in Kashmir
Achabal Garden - one of the best Mughal Gardens in Kashmir - Offbeat Kashmir

e. Manasbal Lake (~30 kilometres from Srinagar)

Having derived its name from Mansarovar lake, Manasbal Lake is known for its tranquil surroundings, pristine waters, and scenic beauty. One of the deepest fresh water lake in India, Manasbal lake is often referred to as the "supreme gem of all Kashmir lakes" due to number of aquatic birds that flock here and lotus blossoms seen in July - August. Visitors can enjoy boating, birdwatching, and exploring the scenic walking trails that surround the lake. A mughal garden called Jarokha bagh was buillt by empress Nur Jahan further adds to the captivating charm of the lake.

Offbeat Places to Visit in Kashmir | Unexplored Places in Kashmir
Trees around Manasbal Lake blossoming with flowers at the start of spring season in Kashmir - Offbeat Kashmir

f. Wular Lake (50 kilometres from Srinagar)

This lake might not be as unexplored as the other places that are mentioned in this article, but it is definitely less visited and should be explored. Wular Lake is actually the largest freshwater lake in India. It spans an area of approximately 189 square kilometers and is located in the Bandipora district of Jammu and Kashmir. The lake is surrounded by picturesque mountains and is known for its rich biodiversity, serving as an important habitat for numerous bird species and aquatic life. Wular Lake offers a serene retreat for nature enthusiasts and bird watchers alike. The lake is best viewed from the Wular Vintage Park and the Durkei Lut viewpoint.

Offbeat Places to Visit in Kashmir | Unexplored Places in Kashmir
Wular Lake as viewed from the Wular Vintage Park - Offbeat Kashmir

g. Gurez Valley (130 kilometres from Srinagar)

Road to Gurez Valley (that includes crossing Razdan Pass at 3560 metres) closes for about 6 months due to heavy snowfall, hence the valley can only be visited during summer and autumn months i.e., April-September/October. Do not miss out on viewing the pyramid shaped Habba Khatoon peak that turns golden in colour at the time of sunset. Travellers generally enjoy camping and trekking in Gurez Valley.

Offbeat Places to Visit in Kashmir | Unexplored Places in Kashmir
The blossoming Gurez Valley - Offbeat Kashmir

h. Aru Valley (105 kilometres from Srinagar)

Nestled amidst the majestic Himalayas, Aru Valley in Kashmir is a serene haven for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers. With its picturesque landscapes, snow-capped mountains, and gushing rivers, the valley offers a perfect escape especially between May to September when meadows are green. Visitors can embark on lovely treks to explore the surrounding glaciers and alpine lakes, or opt for leisurely walks through pine forests and alongside meandering streams.


Cliffhangers India - Our Travel Partner

Exploring offbeat Kashmir isn’t an easy feat. Venturing alone may prove difficult/dangerous for several reasons. Since the above-mentioned places aren’t a part of general tourists’ itinerary, not many local drivers of Srinagar are aware of the routes or are trained in driving in the back-breaking terrains. Booking accommodations is complex and reaching out to the guides or stay hosts’ is even more difficult. Some places are restricted and may require a permit to visit. Due to these reasons, you may want to hire a travel agent. And hands down, there’s no better travel agent for exploring offbeat Kashmir than Cliffhangers India.

Offbeat Places to Visit in Kashmir | Unexplored Places in Kashmir
Kashmir - Truly a Jannat (Heaven)

Cliffhangers India is a decade-old travel agency registered with J&K Tourist Department. They specialise in separating a traveller from a tourist, with a keen eye for unexplored locations and deeper travel experiences. The owners, Adil and Arif, are avid travellers and trekkers themselves, which means they are clearly in the profession for the journey, and not just the destination. They curated and customised our entire itinerary as per our requirements and booked all our accommodations, some of which were pretty unique. They are local Kashmiris and hence have plenty reliable contacts who know the region in and out.

Offbeat Places to Visit in Kashmir | Unexplored Places in Kashmir
Snow capped mountains in Kashmir

Cliffhangers India also hired local guides for us in some of the offbeat places in Kashmir, who took us around their villages/valleys and offered us an immersive travel experience. They stayed in touch with us each day of the tour and ensured that we just sit back, relax, and enjoy the trip. Cliffhangers India offers tailor-made itineraries to meet individual agendas and budgets and provide the best Kashmir tour packages - whether its adventure sports, trekking across mountain ranges, camping under the night sky, or luxurious tours. You can book your tour with Cliffhangers India through their official website.


Offbeat Kashmir itinerary

Our 10-day offbeat Kashmir itinerary was curated by Cliffhangers India and it we think it is an ideal itinerary for anyone seeking to visit the unexplored places in Kashmir.


Day 1 - Land in Srinagar, check-in to a houseboat, enjoy a Shikara ride

Day 2 - Srinagar to Kokernag. Visit Achabal garden on the way. Explore Kokernag

Day 3 - Kokernag to Daksum and explore Daksum. Daksum to Verinag to Srinagar

Day 4 - Srinagar to Yusmarg and explore Yusmarg. Visit Charar-e-Sharif Masjid on the way

Day 5 - Yusmarg to Doodhpathri and explore Doodhpathri

Day 6 - Doodhpathri to Bangus and explore Bangus valley

Day 7 - Bangus valley to Lolab and explore Lolab valley

Day 8 - Lolab valley to Athwatoo and explore Athwatoo. Visit Wular Lake on the way

Day 9 - Athwatoo to Naranag and explore Naranag

Day 10 - Naranag to Srinagar and fly back


If you have more days, you could add few places that we mentioned earlier such as Gurez valley or include a night stay around Wular lake. You could also plan to spend couple of nights in places like Doodhpathri or Yusmarg rather than one allowing you to have a little more relaxed trip. In case you are strapped for time, you could consider bucketing above listed places across different trips. For example Achabal - Kokernag - Verinag - Daksum could be 2-3 days trip, Yusmarg - Doodhpathri could be combined into one trip of 3-5 days, Bangus - Lolab could be combined into another trip, Athwatoo can be covered with Gurez valley in a separate trip. Based on how much time you have, you can use above information to curate your own itinerary.

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The real beauty of Kashmir lies in these above-mentioned quaint little spots that have still managed to stay hidden from the travellers who frequent the union territory. We have unlocked these places with a hope that you, as a reader and a traveller, will treat these destinations with respect, shower them with the care they deserve, and keep them clean. All these places can be reached in a few hours’ time from Srinagar. Of all these unexplored places to visit in Kashmir, which ones will you put in your travel bucket list? Let us know in the comments section below.

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