The beautiful Lidder River

Pahalgam: Kashmir’s Picture-Perfect Paradise Town

Growing up in India, Pahalgam represented all that was charming about Kashmir – a Paradise where many a Bollywood movie was filmed in the 1970s.

The closest we got to this town was on our TV screens, when Amitabh Bachan romanced  Rekha, in the song ‘Dekha Ek Khwab’ from the movie Silsila (1981), which was partly shot along the rivers and valleys of Pahalgam.

Amitabh Bachan romances Rekha on the banks of the Lidder river in Pahalgam
Amitabh Bachan romances Rekha on the banks of the Lidder river in Pahalgam

Filmmaker Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s thriller Khamosh (1985) starring Shabana Azmi, was also set mostly in Pahalgam.

This picturesque town set amidst pine forests on the banks of the Lidder river is the kind of movie locale that rivals Switzerland in Bollywood’s playbook.

When we took our trip to Kashmir in October 2011, it was definitely on our itinerary. On our 10-day trip, Pahalgam was one of the places where we spent 2 nights, and even that, I felt, was too short.

Entering Pahalgam town
Entering Pahalgam town

Not only was the town as picture-perfect and charming as it looked in the movies, but the kids had a lot of fun there.

Bridge over the Lidder river
Bridge over the Lidder river

The main street in the town is a road where you’ll find the few shops and a small cafe.

Main street in Pahalgam town
Main street in Pahalgam town

The coffee shop had, among other historical images and paraphernalia, this lovely ode to Pahalgam, written by a bard called Shail Gulhati, that describes the town perfectly.

Ode to Pahalgam
Ode to Pahalgam

My fondest memories of Pahalgam are that of our excursion along the banks of the picturesque Lidder river that originates from the Kolhoi Glacier and joins the Jehlum River at Mirgund Khanabal.

The beautiful Lidder River
The beautiful Lidder River

The kids had so much fun exploring the banks, we could have stayed all day.

Exploring the banks of the Lidder river
Exploring the banks of the Lidder river

Our driver and guide, Parvaiz bhai – whose daughter, Maleha had joined us for the trip – found us a cosy cottage to sleep for two nights.

Our cosy cottage in Pahalgam
Our cosy cottage in Pahalgam

We spent the cold evenings huddled up under the covers, kept warm and toasty by the thermal blanket I had bought in Srinagar, watching television shows like Kaun Banega Crorepati, India’s version of Who Will Become a Millionaire.

The kids went for a pony ride in the morning (I have bad knees and don’t like riding animals), while Parvaiz bhai and I chatted about life and other things over a steaming cup of Kashmiri kahwah.

The view from our cottage in the morning
The view from our cottage in the morning

I was touched when the kids brought back a bunch of pretty wildflowers and pine cones for me.

The wildflowers and pine cones the kids collected
The wildflowers and pine cones the kids collected

Another excursion we enjoyed was a visit to the Lidder View amusement park.

Lidder View Amusement Park - peddle what?
Lidder View Amusement Park – peddle what?

The park was closed, but Parvaiz bhai persuaded the man at the gate to let us in. Even though it was shut down, the kids enjoyed a game of pretend on the rides.

Playing pretend on the shut-down park rides
Playing pretend on the shut-down park rides
Just for fun on the carousel
Just for fun on the carousel

As far as travel destinations go, I found Pahalgam a sleepy, lovely and quiet place for a vacation. There were no crowds when we went, just locals going about their business.

Mountains in the backdrop
Mountains in the backdrop

Depending on the time of year you go to Pahalgam, there are many more activities that you can opt for, such as golf, fishing (permits required), pony rides, trekking, camping and skiing.

As I’ve been told, the situation in Kashmir is slowly returning back to normal. If that continues, who knows, I might just be able to visit Pahalgam once again.

Watch my video of Pahalgam, Kashmir, starring my own Kashmir ki kalis.

Also read:

Pahalgam - Kashmir’s Picture-Perfect Paradise TownPahalgam - Kashmir’s Picture-Perfect Paradise Town

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Priya Florence Shah

Priya Florence Shah is an author, blogger and travel writer. She loves vacations that involve peace and quiet but loves nature, wildlife, art, history and culture too. You can connect with her @PriyaFlorence

18 thoughts to “Pahalgam: Kashmir’s Picture-Perfect Paradise Town”

  1. This looks like a lovely place to visit in India! I have never been, so it didn’t strike me as typical of what you normally see in India…just goes to show that India is a diverse place, and that I have a lot to learn! The river is so scenic and gorgeous! And what sweet kids you have to bring you flowers…a lovely experience all around. 🙂

  2. This looks like a fantastic place to visit. I hadn’t heard of Kashmir before reading this post and didn’t realize how popular is was in Bollywood movies. The scenery looks very lovely and I’m glad you got to visit this after all. Maybe next time you will have a longer visit!

  3. What a really interesting area! I know nothing of India, and have seen 2 seconds of a bollywood film, so it’s cool to know about the connection there! The family clearly had a good time too!

  4. Priya, such a nice blog post! I have been dreaming of going to Kashmir for a while but obviously I don’t have all the references you do (btw, thanks for Chopra’s thriller Khamosh (1985) citation, will make sure to watch some day).
    Is it safe today? What you think?

    1. Patricia, I was told by Divya Thani, the editor of Conde Nast Traveller, who just visited Kashmir, that it’s quite safe to visit. I’m inclined to believe that also because there have been no recent reports of violence or terror in the area.

  5. Kashmir is gorgeous. Lidder River is such a green glacial river and I remember when we visited, its exactly what my parents were telling me – that so many movies have been shot here. We also visited this valley called Betaab Valley which was named so because of the movie ‘Betaab’ being shot here! I am not surprised, it’s so gorgeous, so romantic and magical!

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