This article appeared in an NRI-focussed magazine – NRI Achievers.
A determined-looking, dashing Sunny Deol is riding a galloping steed. In a distant lush green meadow, you spot an idyllic log hut (well, log hut here is a euphemism for a sprawling wooden mansion). The large wooden fence around it is both, rustic and low enough for a horse to jump over. Amrita Singh is anxiously waiting for him on the cobblestoned driveway while Shammi Kapoor steps out of the mansion with a loaded double barrel. And the audience is on the edge of the seat!
The scene is from an iconic romantic Bollywood movie ‘Betaab’ – a thrill-a-minute blockbuster of its times. In its honour, the shooting locale has been christened Betaab Valley, the most popular picnic spot of Pahalgam. River Lidder flows through this scenic valley. And tourists and locals alike flock here in hordes.
The river makes Pahalgam not just a hill station, but also a hub of many exciting activities. Gushing Lidder River offers a gentle rafting experience for the visitors. On its banks, you may also spot a few anglers armed with fishing permits acquired from the authorities, patiently waiting with their fishing rods to bait trout. The meadows around are geared for tourists hankering for a pony ride. For women and children, many enterprising locals offer traditional Kashmiri attire on rent for a memorable photo opportunity.
Pahalgam is a tehsil of Anantnag district. Normally, travellers would arrive here for an overnight stay from Srinagar covering a 90km scenic route meandering through the saffron belt, small towns that manufacture willow cricket bats and numerous apple orchards.
The city centre is a congested road that is lined with tourist lodges, inns and budget hotels. Barring one or two luxury hotels, the available accommodation here is modest. State tourism department has a resort in a picturesque setting that could do with some maintenance.
Pahalgam also acts as the feeder town for pilgrims who undertake Amarnath yatra, since the starting point of pilgrims’ trek, Chandanbari, is just 15 kilometers away. Another obsessed set that visits Pahalgam are the golfers as the golf course here is breathtakingly spectacular.
This small town also offers some charming treks that furnish panoramic views of nature’s bounty in Kashmir. Those averse to strenuous physical activity may take a drive on some of the scenic roads leading to other small towns. It is likely that they will come across stunning surprises like petite waterfalls or some exotic wildlife that abounds the jungles around Pahalgam.
For those who love their vacation to be packed with action, a short overnight trip to Pahalgam is recommended. But if you seek a peaceful sojourn with nature and a tranquil slow-paced holiday, you should plan a longer stay here. The place is just right for that.