Jammu and Kashmir constitutes the northern most state of India. The state, especially Kashmir province has long been a dream destination for the tourists. The natural beauty of Kashmir is undescribable – it is a valley full of joy and happiness with tenderly mountains rising far to protect the lands, meadows with the fragrance and the gentle sun, the drooping snow and the chilly winters, apple orchards and the beautiful lakes; it’s cozy, it’s warm and always smiling. Mesmerized by her beauty, many poets have termed Kashmir as a jannat or paradise on earth.
Kashmir is a major tourist destination and people come for more than one reason. This heaven of poets brought on to the earth consists of lush green valleys, snow-capped mountains, vivacious rivers, clear blue water lakes, beautiful waterfalls and alpine meadows. Also dotting the picturesque landscape are famous temples like Vaishnoo Devi and Amarnath, attractive mosques and monasteries. Kashmir is also credited for her rich composite culture. The Kashmir valley has largely Muslim population, Hindus are spread in the plains of Jammu while Leh and Ladakh are primarily Buddhist destinations. Kashmir has also emerged as an extremely popular destination for adventure sports.
Kashmir was a princely state in the pre-independence period. After India’s independence, the Maharaja of Kashmir signed a treaty of accession making Kashmir an integral part of India.
Jammu & Kashmir – Tourist Destinations
Srinagar : The capital of the state is its most famous tourist destination. Srinagar is an ancient city that stores a myriad of attractions for tourists. It is said that Srinagar has the capacity to pull the most unwilling of tourists. Most of the attractions are pure delights of nature like lakes and gardens. The attractions include the Dal Lake, Nishat Bagh, Shalimar Bagh and Chashme Shahi. The exotic boat houses on the lakes of Srinagar also attract tourists in large numbers.
Jammu : Jammu is the winter capital of the state and comes after Kashmir in the list of tourist attractions. Most tourists to Jammu come to pay obeisance at the famous Mata Vaishno Devi shrine which is located on a hill. Other places of religious importance are the shrine of Peer Budhan Ali Shah and Raghunath Temple. The Raghunath temple dedicated to Lord Ram is the largest temple in North India. The Sheesh Mahal of Jammu is regarded the most stunning site of the place. Once the residence of Dogra kings, the Mahal also houses a museum. From the place, a commanding view is available of river Tawi on one side and the city on the other.
Akhnoor : Located 32 kms southwest of Jammu, Akhnoor is a beautiful little town standing on the banks of the mighty Chenab river. Along the banks of the river, the majestic ruins of the Indus Valley Civilization could also be seen. The place is regarded as a paradise for photographers and painters.
Leh – Ladakh : Leh is known as one of the popular Buddhist destinations in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Beautiful Leh is lapped in the snow-covered fringes of the Himalayas. The place has been a centre of Tibeto-Buddhist culture since ages. Located at altitudes over 3,505 metres above sea level, the prime attractions in Leh are Leh Palace, Namgyal Tsemo Gompa, Sankar Gompa, Shanti Stupa and Soma Gompa.
Gulmarg : Gulmarg, located at a distance of 56 kms from Srinagar is one of the most frequented hill resorts in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Gulmarg is a popular destination for skiing and heliskiing. Many competitions are also held in Gulmarg in winters. Other attractions of the place are green golf courses, biosphere reserves and the Alpather Lake. The place receives good snowfall in winters.
Pahalgam : Thousands of devotees from all over India and abroad visit Pahalgam during the annual Amarnath yatra. Picturesque Pahalgam is situated at the confluence of Seshnag Lake and Lidder river. Apart from religious celebrations, the region is also very popular among tourists for outdoor activities like fishing, horse riding, golf and trekking. activities.
Kargil : Kargil may have come into prominence after the famous Kargil war, but the mountainous region has always been a favourite of trekkers and mountaineers. A place that experiences extreme cold during winters, Kargil is also famous as a destination for challenging car rallies.Tourists who come to the place should not miss the opportunity to pay tribute at the newly constructed Kargil war memorial.
Zanskar : The Zanskar region of the state is held in high reverence by Buddhists. There are nine monasteries in Zanskar whose architecture is very impressive. The largest of the monasteries is called Karsha. The people of Zanskar are also very religious and known for their hospitality. It is said that Zanskar is one place of the state that gives a glimpse of its rich cultural heritage.
Kashmir – Gardens
Nature seems to be more than generous to Kahmir. The state is bestowed with numerous meadows and several well maintained gardens. The gardens built by the Mughal kings are simply superb. Dotted with Chinar trees (maple trees), flower beds and fountains they look beautiful. The very face of these gardens change with seasons – it is lush green in the springs, golden red in the fall and black and white in the winters. The famous three – Nishat, Shalimar and Harwan are located on the banks of the picturesque Dal Lake. There are meadows, and much beautiful, on the hill tops.
Kashmir is further beautified with natural lakes that lay spread across the cities. The Dal Lake in the capital city Srinagar is a great leisure spot. Stay at thsi fresh water lake is a wonderful experience. Within this lake are floating houses called House Boats. Exquiste wood works and equipped with the luxuries of a five star hotel, the house boats boast of an incredible accommodation in the city. Wular lake, one more, and the largest in the sub continent is popular excursion place. There are more including the Hokarsar Lake and Manasbal Lake.
Kashmir – Adventure
The terrains and slopes of Kashmir are popular sites for adventure sports. Various such sites have won international accreditations. It is a key destination for Winter Sports. Skiing, Ice Hockey, white water rafting are some exciting events that happen in the vacations calender of Kashmir. Gulmarg, basically a hill station, features some of the best slopes for skiing. Foreign tourists could be seen flocking with their bag packs in winters here. Pahalgam, some 90 kms from Srinagar is a great challenge to rafters. The state also has some wonderful trails that makes trekking a splendid exercise.
Kashmir – Handicrafts
Handicrafts industry is one flourishing enterprise, other than tourism, in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Carpets, Shawls, Paper Machie works and wood works are irresistable. Every year thousands of tourists take more than just souvenirs from Kashmir. Some of these articles are very expensive and almost symbolic of great wealth and luxury. You get a lot to pick for decorating your home.
Though there are variations in the climate of Kashmir valley and plains of Jammu, the state of Kashmir is basically a cold place. In the Kashmir valley, summers are mild with temperatures in the range of 10-25 degrees. However, winters in the valley are very cold with temperatures routinely dropping below 0 degrees. Heavy snowfall may also occur during the latter part of winter. The plains of Jammu are relatively hot and temperatures may rise to a high of 35 degrees in summer. The winter temperature hovers around 5-10 degrees mark.
Best Time to Visit
How To Reach
By Air : There are three domestic airports in the state-Kashmir, Jammu and Leh. Flights are available to the places from most major destinations of India.
By Rail : The total number of railway stations in the state are seven. 72 kms of track length have been laid in the state. Express train services operate between many destinations of India and Jammu-the main station of the state.
By Road : A good road network connects the state of Kashmir with the rest of India. Bus services are available from national capital Delhi and many destinations of north India. However, as the terrain of the Kashmir valley is hilly and there are problems of frequent landslide and snowfall, there may be a few problems with road transportation.
Places Where You Can Stay
Accommodation facilities are not uniform in the whole of Kashmir. In the main tourist places like Jammu, Kashmir, Gulmarg and Pahalgam, good accommodation facilities are available in all categories. The best and the most leisurely ones are provided by the house boats in the Dal Lake.
Shopping in Kashmir
Kashmiri handicrafts have gained popularity all over for their exquisite craftsmanship. The carpets of Kashmir, made both in wool and silk with Persian designs are among the best buys of the state. The pure woolen products of Kashmir, mainly the Kashmiri shawl would also be a good investment. Then, there are items like jewellery boxes, mirror frames, a range of intricately carved walnut wood furniture and accessories and stone jewellery boxes that also figure prominently in the list of best buys. Kashmir also has a thriving industry of agro products.