The WelcomHotel Pine-n-Peak is perched high in the mountains of Pahalgam and offers the break you need to get away from the city. By Radhika Sikaria
I arrived in Pahalgam looking for a respite from the heat and rigour of city life. Snuggled in the low-seating area of my room, I looked out of the window, sipping a flavourful cup of Kashmiri kahwa. My thoughts agreed with the view, and for once, left me alone. The view of the shimmering Lidder River and sun-kissed pine trees was constant company in every corner of WelcomHotel Pine- n-Peak. The only sounds in the air were the din of the gushing river, the occasional chatter of monkeys, and the chirps of birds. This was just the antidote I was looking for.
Two hours away from the Srinagar Airport, Pahalgam—known as the ‘valley of shepherds’—is a small resort town that basks in its resplendence and quietude. Determined to get the top view, I hired a pony and made way to Baisaran. (I must say that those with a back problem are better off not riding the pony as the mountain is too steep and there is no set track; the horsemen know the jungle on the back of their hands.) At an altitude of 2,438 metres above sea level, Baisaran with its shades of green contrasted by perennial snow-capped peaks made for a breathtaking sight. I chose to rest on the throne of meadows and watch tourists roll inside a giant plastic ball.
Zorbing never made sense to me. But treks sure do. With the help of the concierge, I set out on a guided trek in the alpine region behind the hotel. The locals know some of the best spots up in the mountains where no one except the gypsies live. Here I was, in the middle of nowhere, in the company of grazing sheep and cows. As the sun slipped away, making way for the moon and lighting the sky in different shades of red, I had my postcard-perfect Kashmir moment.
RESET YOUR BATTERIES
Trekking in the mountains, horse-riding, and river- rafting—all in a day’s time— calls for a relaxing massage. The hotel’s in-house spa therapists loosened all the knots in my aching body with a 90-minute, deep-tissue massage using a rose-aroma essential oil, which was followed by a refreshing sauna.
The next day, I chose to tee off at the Pahalgam Golf Course, adjacent to the hotel. The 18-hole golf course is perched on a plateau that rises near the confluence of waterbodies, Sheshnag and Aru. Surrounded by tall pines and towering mountains, it redefines luxury golfing. You can hire clubs at `100 per hour from the office. There’s also a recreational area in the hotel if you wish to indulge in a game of pool, carrom, or chess.
As the mercury dipped below 10 degrees Celsius, scrumptious plates of Kashmiri wazwan at the all-day dining outlet, WelcomCafe Lolaab, kept me warm. Locally fished trout fried in lemon butter sauce, kanti (a local delicacy of chicken or mutton prepared in tandoor and then fried with spices and vegetables), biryani dum gosht (mild and sweet preparation of rice with chunks of mutton), and nadru yakhni (lotus stems cooked with mild aromatic spices and yoghurt) are must-try dishes here. But my absolute favourite in the Valley was the divine walnut pie.
On my second night, the hotel lit up a bonfire and barbecue at their garden area, Gulistaan. Here, the gucchi (morel mushroom) with its spongy, honeycomb texture and meat- like flavour was undoubtedly the star of the night.
Srinagar is well-connected with Jammu, Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chandigarh, and Amritsar by air. WelcomHotel Pine- n-Peak is 90 kilometres from the Srinagar International Airport. The hotel can arrange a pick-up.
The Khwabgah Suite 2 (Rs 34,000) is ideal for couples. For bigger families, three- and four- bedroom cottages (Rs 65,000 and Rs 80,000 respectively) are perfect. Those with a penchant for opulence, can book the two-bedroom Presidential Duplex Shabistan Suite (Rs 90,000).
As the sun goes down, treat yourself to a piping hot cup of kahwa and snacks at Hotel Heevan’s restaurant. It is located across a bridge from the WelcomHotel Pine-n-Peak.
Aru Valley, Baisaran Valley, Betaab Valley, and Chandanwadi.
Trekking, trout fishing, river rafting, horse riding, golfing, and zorbing.