Mughal emperor Jahangir is known to have referred to Kashmir as ‘heaven on earth’ and he was absolutely correct. Anyone who visits this beautiful state will not dispute this fact because they will be stunned speechless by the ethereal beauty here. Soaring mountain ranges, crisp cool weather, lakes and snow and so much more to see here and do that you will wonder why you didn’t come here before.
Kashmir tourism has seen its ups and downs over the decades and now it’s back in full force. Tourists are returning to the Valley with hope in their eyes so they too may experience a slice of heaven on earth. Jammu and Kashmir tourism begins in Srinagar and moves to Gulmarg, Sonmarg and Pahalgam along with Leh and Ladakh. Tourists can be found traipsing through the gorgeous Mughal Gardens in the evenings, while the Dal Lake is dotted with elegant shikharas cutting through the glass-like surface of the water as they transport visitors to another realm altogether.
The state of Jammu and Kashmir is located in the northernmost part of the Indian subcontinent and has borders with Himachal Pradesh and Punjab. Jammu and Kashmir actually has three regions – Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. While Srinagar is considered the summer capital, Jammu is the winter capital of the state. There are several valleys in this state, such as Kashmir Valley, Tawi Valley, Chenab Valley, Poonch Valley, Sind Valley and Lidder Valley.
The climate of Jammu and Kashmir is one of its biggest draws, especially for Kashmir tourism. During summers, Jammu can be very hot, with temperatures going up to 40 degrees with erratic but heavy rainfall during the monsoons and winters are mostly cool. The Kashmir region has the best climate which is influenced by the Himalayas and the many water bodies. In fact, Kashmir has four distinct seasons – spring, summer, autumn and winter and each has its own attractions. The Ladakh region is said to be the coldest with severe winters when temperatures might go as low as -40 degrees.
All three regions of Kashmir are unique when it comes to culture, music, food and even language. One of the positive factors for J&K tourism is that the people of Kashmir are kind and friendly and are very hospitable. People in Kashmir speak Kashmiri but the dialect differs greatly. You will typically find Kashmiris wearing the pheran, the long and loose gown like tunic which helps protect them from the cold.
One of the best parts of Kashmir tourism is being able to indulge in their delicious Wazwan cuisine. Wazwan is reserved for special occasions and is heavily meat based. Rich curries and kababs form a large part of Wazwan and everyone enjoys their meals wholeheartedly. Everything about the Kashmiris seems a tad removed from normal life as one is used to it. Despite harsh conditions, they go about their work with a smile on their face and will welcome you into their homes with open arms.
There are several Kashmir tourist places that you must simply not miss when you are on your Jammu Kashmir tour. The summer capital of Srinagar is gorgeous in summer and spring with flowers blooming in the Mughal Gardens. Shikhara rides on the Dal Lake, surrounded by all that natural beauty, will leave you speechless with joy. Other iconic places to visit here include the Hazratbal shrine whose backdrop of the soaring mountains will leave you in awe of nature’s beauty. The Shankaracharya Temple here is supposed to be the oldest shrine in Kashmir valley.
Kashmir tourism would be incomplete without a visit to the snow-covered slopes of Gulmarg. This is indeed one of the most popular Kashmir tourist places and a visit here means that you can enjoy skiing, snowboarding or sledging. If none of that appeals to you, even a quiet ride in the world-famous Gondola cable car is a thrilling adventure.
Another must-visit Kashmir tourist place would be Pahalgam. This is an ideal location for trekking, hiking and it offers some magnificent views of the Lidder Valley. In fact, the Lidder river is great for picnicking. Pahalgam itself is a fantastic spot for those who love golfing, horse riding, trekking and other adventure activities.
J&K Tourism should include a visit to Sonmarg, a gorgeous hill station not too far from Srinagar. Tourists flock to Sonmarg for its views of snow-capped mountains in the distance. For those looking for serene and natural beauty, Sonmarg is also a base camp for the holy Amarnath Yatra which takes place during July and August every year. The famed Nilagrad, the confluence of mountain rivers and the Krishnasar Lake ensure that Sonmarg is definitely included in the Jammu and Kashmir tourism list.
The Vaishno Devi shrine near Katra town is a huge draw for pilgrims. The holy cave of Vaishno Devi is not just a temple but a site of spiritual cleansing. While not exactly a part of Jammu and Kashmir tourism, Vaishno Devi receives more than 4.5 million pilgrims every year. The town of Katra is a base camp for those headed to the holy shrine on pilgrimage.
Other places that you must include in your trip to Kashmir are Nubra Valley which is 150 km north of Leh. Leh is known its scenic awe-inspiring sights and monasteries and Zanskar for its adventure sports. Sanasar is often referred to as mini Gulmarg.
Kashmir’s many beautiful sights will leave your heart aching for more. The friendly smiles on the faces of the people will fill you with joy and the experience of visiting this paradise on earth will change you forever.
SOTC has several Kashmir tour packages and offers which will make it easy for you to decide where to go and what to do. Do check the website for more details before you plan your trip to Kashmir.