Despite being in international news for all the wrong reasons, the disputed region of Kashmir India boasts some fascinating cultural heritage and spectacular seasonal landscapes. The region is also renowned for its textiles and crafts. Kashmir tourism ebbs and flows in relation to the political climate in the area, but there is no escaping the fact that the Kashmir Valley has much to offer adventurous tourists.
The most significant factor for Kashmir tourism is the exceptional beauty of the Himalayas, and Kashmir is home to three majestic Himalayan ranges: the Karakoram, Zanskar, and Pir Panjal. The snow-capped mountains are home to great rivers that flow through the Kashmir Valley, and the dramatic changing of seasons helps create stunning scenery. Winter brings blankets of snow, while spring and summer reveal the rivers, fertile rice fields, blooming flowers, and shimmering lakes. In the autumn, the vibrant colors remind visitors of a New England fall. Kashmir India is beautiful all year, but if you’re trying to decide when to go, March through October is typically the best time to visit, as winter weather can make the region difficult to access.
Vibrant and diverse cultures can be found throughout the Kashmir Valley, and despite the political turmoil, the region displays a common celebration of all religions. Kashmir is certainly a spiritual place, and many travelers come on pilgrimages to climb the mountain passes and pay homage to the gods at one of the many shrines and monasteries in the region. A holy temple for Hindus, Vaishno Devi Mandir is located in the Jammu and Kashmir valley, around an altitude of 5,200 feet. Many also visit the Amarnath caves, one of the most famous shrines in Hinduism. The region also holds the holy Muslim site of Charar-e-Sharief, a fourteenth-century shrine of the Sufi saint of Kashmir. The town was razed in 1995 during a military encounter but has since been rebuilt.
With such stunning scenery, it’s no wonder that outdoor activities are popular among visitors to Jammu and Kashmir. All-inclusive guided treks are an excellent way to explore the stunning Himalayas in India. For instance, a two- or three-night trip following the Mughal tradition comes complete with camp cots, tables, chairs, and willing porters. The verdant Kashmir Valley and its roaring river systems make for terrific white-water rafting on the Indus and Zanskar rivers. A Kashmir tour that incorporates rafting trips offers trips that range from half a day to six days, in which daily rafting and camping at night gives travelers a closer look at the picturesque Zanskar valley.
Its network of fresh mountain rivers and streams makes Kashmir an angler’s dream, and fishing—particularly trout fishing—is excellent here. A combination of hiking and fishing create a Kashmir tour for the more adventurous travelers, and the trip includes high-altitude lakes up to 14,000 feet above sea level, which are home to an abundance of brown and rainbow trout. For those interested in spending plenty of time on the water, accommodations are available in many of the deluxe houseboats found here.
Due to the prominence of the Himalayan ranges in this state, Kashmir India attracts ardent mountaineers from around the world. The Kolahoi peak, known as the Matterhorn of India, reaches a height of nearly 18,000 feet, and the Pir Panjal range boasts two more tall peaks that are well worth exploring in the Tattakuti and the Sunset. For more experienced climbers, expeditions to the Zanskar range offer multiple peaks that are above 21,000 feet, including the pair of Nun, at 23,409 feet, and Kun, at 23, 218 feet. Weeklong expeditions into this part of the state can be arranged through both local and international Kashmir tour operators.
If ascending a peak that high sounds like too much, you can consider staying at Gulmarg, one of India’s premier ski resorts. All the necessary equipment is available to rent, and the Indian Institute of Skiing and Mountaineering offers ten-day and 21-day courses that range from beginner to advanced. Gulmarg has both downhill and cross-country ski slopes, so travelers interested in skiing should have no trouble finding a trail that suits them.
Colorful, rich, and spiritual, and with the soaring Himalayas located on its doorstep, Kashmir tourism has much to offer. For many travelers to India, it is an unforgettable destination just waiting to be discovered.