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Valley tour in a 4X4

Debabrata Sarkar | Updated on May 15, 2014 Published on May 15, 2014



Kashmir and its valleys and meadows make it a perfect summer time escape

Early summer is possibly the best time to visit Kashmir. The gently sloped valleys are bursting with fresh shades of green with a generous sprinkling of tiny yellow mustard flowers in the fields while the mountains remain under a thick blanket of snow. It doesn’t get too hot even during the day and the nights always have a pleasantly chilled breeze floating around. While there are a handful of valleys to visit around Srinagar, there’s one that you absolutely must not miss – Pahalgam.

However, it isn’t all easy going, driving around Kashmir and that makes it essential to have a solid car to ferry you around and a bit of ground clearance never hurt anybody. We decided to do this properly and landed a Skoda Yeti 4x4 for the drive. There is little arguing with the way Skoda’s are built and if you’ve ever taken a look inside one of them you would surely know how spacious and practical a Yeti is, especially for a family outing in the mountains.

Getting out of Srinagar is more chaotic than we had imagined with an incredible amount of road works and diversions along the way. Fortunately, the Yeti is compact enough to make it through the chaos without too much of bother. You do need to watch for the flared wheel arches, but you get used to them pretty quick. The clutch, however, takes a bit more of getting used to. Absolute precision is required while releasing it to allow the car to roll away and not come to an embarrassing halt in the middle of the road. Thankfully, the road opens up, although only marginally as you hit NH 1A, and head towards Anantnag. It isn’t in the best shape yet (work is underway here too) but the Skoda’s suspension takes it in its stride and smothers bumps as you make your way through. Yes, the Yeti is sprung a bit firm, but that doesn’t make a difference till you hit the bigger potholes. Here, in short spurts you can also work the 140 horses from the 2-litre diesel to make some quick progress and get past traffic along the busy highway.

At a small town called Bijbehara, we turn off the main highway and head towards Pahalgam. The drive almost instantly turns spectacular as you pass through narrow village roads, pass through bright yellow mustard fields and pass a few corners along the way. Even the houses look lovely with their wooden construction and distinct style. The Yeti settles down into a comfortable pace with the touchscreen entertainment system booming some relaxing tunes. It also shows off its excellent handling as we wind our way around small slopes, at times alongside the river, which make the drive even more engaging. Of course, having snow-capped mountains in the backdrop adds a bit more drama to the stunning landscape. And if you pack wisely, the spacious boot of the Yeti also makes for a great impromptu road side café in the valley.

Drive Report

From/ To: Srinagar to Pahalgam

No. of days: Overnight trip

Distance travelled: 95 km

Stopovers: There aren’t many places to stop along the way. The roadside dhabas are dusty thanks to all the road widening work.

Trip Highlight: Drive around Pahalgam to Aru valley or go white water rafting in Lidder river. There are plenty of hikes that you can opt for too.

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Published on May 15, 2014
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