Actor Ankur Nayyar's favourite destination is Paradise on Earth, Kashmir. He has visited the valley twice and yet hasn't had enough of its gurgling snow-fed streams and flower and fruit-laden gardens.
The affair, says Ankur, dates back to 1991 when he visited Kashmir with his family. They camped at a hotel, with beautiful wooden architecture, on the banks of the Dal Lake. The window of the room Ankur was in opened onto the serene waters. Ankur still remembers how one had to cross a small bridge over a river to reach the hotel. Its name, he doesn't remember, though. "It started with the letter 'H'. Must be 'heaven' I guess," he smiles.
The lake, the actor elaborates, almost sustains a village, with locals setting up even telephone booths in some of the houseboats.
Around 53 kilometres from Srinagar is Gulmarg, which boasts of the world's highest golf course. "We took a cable car ride at the height of over 2,231 meters. It was scary but an experience of a lifetime," Ankur recalls, adding that the snow-capped slopes were just perfect for putting on skiing boots and having some fun.
The next stop was Pahelgoan, a mystical place with gardens all around. "Last but not the least, Chandan Valley and Rohtang Pass are must-see hot spots," the actor says.
Though eating options are aplenty, Ankur found the ambience in restaurant Oberoi's pretty good. Shopping stops include handicraft stores, where the family indulged in picking up gifts and items of home décor. "My mom loves shopping and I remember we had bought a lot of handicrafts like carpets and wall hangings from there."
There's one incident which Ankur remembers vividly. "One day, my cousin and I went and sat on the rocky bank of a river near our hotel, eating mangoes and chatting our hearts out. We hardly knew when hours flew by. As we had not intimated anybody else about our outing, our family members were worried and were searching for us in every possible place. When my mamaji finally caught hold of us he was simply furious. Truly speaking, it was not our fault. The place was so serene and blessed that we lost count of time."
Ankur hopes the Indian government would do more to draw tourists to the valley. On his part, the actor recommends Kashmir to everyone who yearns for a peaceful vacation.
"Tell me any minute and I will pack my bags for Kashmir," grins Ankur.
Gulmarg: Around 53 kilometres from Srinagar.
Has the highest golf course in the world; cable car ride at the height of over 2,213 metres. In winter, the green slopes are covered with spotless snow, ideal for skiing.
Pahelgaon: Anantipur, the mythical empire, exists in ruins on the way to Pahelgaon, 96 kilometres from Srinagar. Set at 7,100 feet above sea level, scenic beauty of a river winding through a tapestry of natural mosaic. A good place for a night halt for Amarnath pilgrims.