For tourists and travelers visiting India, there are beautiful sights spread across the length and breadth of the country. All of India’s states possess riches of various different kinds. Each state has its own USPs. In this blog post, we set out to give you all that you need to know about India’s Valley Paradise State – Jammu & Kashmir.
Perched on the northernmost tip of India, Jammu and Kashmir is India’s one of the most mountainous and scenic locations. The state is the sixth-largest state of India and shares borders with China, Tibet and Pakistan. As a result, one of the most inherent features of Jammu and Kashmir is the manner in which it exhibits the cultural diversity of the country so distinctively. The southwestern expanse of the thick bracket-shaped region, which is close to the winter capital Jammu, is richly dominated by Hindus. Towards the north, pointing across the Himalayas, that part of the state is inhabited by Kashmiri Muslims. Although the situation here is politically volatile, the natural beauty existing across this part of state remains to be a strong tourism-trigger. Finally, towards the Northeast of the state, the region infamously hugs its conflicted borders with both Pakistan and China, lays the remote and rugged landscape of Ladakh. The population of people living in this part is followers of Tibetan Buddhism.
Agreeably, Jammu and Kashmir is in the news for its political struggles, but that hasn’t overthrown its appeal and importance as a tourist destination. The state of Jammu and Kashmir is essentially a Valley State. The state is home to several valleys which headline its natural exquisiteness. The names of the valleys are Kashmir Valley, Tawi Valley, Chenab Valley, Poonch Valley, Sind Valley and Lidder Valley.
As Jammu and Kashmir boasts of a rugged typography, the climatic conditions vary significantly. The climate in the south of Jammu is very monsoonal in the months from January through March. During summertime, Jammu experiences extreme hot weather, temperatures can soar up to 40°C (104°F). Rainfall in July and August is quite erratic and eventually declines by the time September comes through. By October, the temperatures hit a high again and the region becomes very dry, with minimal rainfall.
The city of Srinagar, thanks to its proximity to the Arabian Sea, receives maximum rainfall, and the months March to May are its wettest. The climate of Ladakh and Zanskar is extremely dry and cold. As these are mountain-dominated terrains, winters are extremely cold and chilly. Temperatures dip as low as -20 °C in January; the extreme temperature-drop could be approximately −40 °C. This causes rivers and other water bodies to freeze over, and the locals make them become river-crossings during that period of time. During summertime in Ladakh and Zanskar the daytime temperature could notch up to 20 °C but owing to the low humidity and thin air, nighttime climate can be very cold.
As mentioned earlier, the state of Jammu and Kashmir is largely diverse. Its areas are home for a good number of ethnic groups. The prominent ethnic groups residing in Jammu and Kashmir are Kashmiris, Gujjars/Bakarwals, Paharis, Dogras and Ladakhis.
In Jammu, the population mainly consists of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs. As far as the Kashmir province is concerned, it used to be the home-turf for a Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs and a few Christian, Jain, and Zoroastrian communities once upon a time. However, after the region became a subject of conflict, the communities’ numbers have changed significantly.
The main languages spoken in Jammu and Kashmir are Kashmiri, Urdu, Dogri, Punjabi, Pahari, Balti, Ladakhi, Gojri, Shina and Pashto. Urdu written in the Persian script, however, is the official language of the state. Hindi, which is the national language of India, is also widely spoken and understood by the locals. English and Urdu are popular second languages.
Key Sites to Visit
Now comes the best part! As a tourist, one obviously looks forward to being enchanted and amazed by the plethora of sightseeing wonders of Jammu and Kashmir. Let’s give you a lowdown of the best tourists’ must-visit locations in Jammu and Kashmir.
Dal Lake: Not just the State but Dal Lake is one of India’s most renowned and most-visited locales by tourists. Dal Lake is the second-largest lake in Kashmir. Dal Lake is best-experienced by hiring and sitting in one of the many well-decorated houseboats. The tall mountains and lush greenery will take your breath away!
Nagin Lake: This Lake sits at the foot of Zabarwan Mountain. Although the Lake is a part-and-parcel of the Dal Lake, it is much smaller in comparison too. Plus, it’s quieter and serene.
Manasbal Lake: If you’re a bird-watcher, don’t miss out on an opportunity to catch the sights and sounds of the aquatic birds and much more of this Lake which is located just 30kms from Srinagar.
Gangbal Lake: Touted as the original source of Ganga, this lake is situated at the foothills of Haramukh Mountain in Ganderbal district of Kashmir valley.
Mughal Gardens: If you want to see and experience the grandeur of the Mughal era in Kashmir, go to the Mughal Gardens. Famous for its magnificent display of the Mughal architecture, the Mughal Gardens are actually made with three gardens combined together as one. The three gardens are Nishat Bagh, Chashma Shahi and Shalimar Gardens.
Indira Gandhi Tulip Garden: Whether or not you’re a tulip-lover, do not give up any opportunity to visit the Indira Gandhi Tulip Garden. Opened to public in 2006, this garden is believed to be Asia’s biggest tulip garden, boasting over 70 different varieties of tulips in the 30-acre garden.
Pari Mahal: If you think Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan was the only in his family to have a penchant for building great architecture, think again! Pay a visit to Pari Mahal. This magnificent place was put together by Shah Jahan’s son Dara Shikoh in the year 1650. The six-terraced garden in its premises gives you the best overlooking view of Srinagar.
Dachigam National Park: Spread over 141 sqkms, the Dachigam National Park is an adventurer’s delight. The park has varying altitudes ranging from 5500 ft to 14000 ft. The park location is situated 22kms away from Srinagar.
Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Botanical Gardens: Covering 80 acres of land, the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Botanical Gardens are divided into four sections: sporting garden, botanical garden, and research section garden and plant introduction center.
Sonamarg: If you love to see the sights of hide-and-seek between sun, cloud and mountains, travel to Sonamarg. Nicknamed as the ‘Meadow of Gold’, Sonamarg is on Srinagar-Ladakh Highway and it is 80 kms away from Srinagar.
Baisaran: Most people reckon Baisaran is Switzerland’s twin in settled in Kashmir.
Yousmarg: If you love scenery where dense pine trees, grassy pastures with golden colored flowers and snow-clad mountains are the heroes, make sure you go to Yousmarg, which is about 47kms away from Srinagar.
Udhampur: If you’d like to get a glimpse of Jammu and Kashmir’s history, go to Udhampur. This is the second-largest-city in Jammu region. The city possesses many vintage memoirs from the time of the Mahabharat epic. While in the city, must-see locations are: Ramnagar fort, Moungri Cave shrine, Pingla Mata and Sudh Mahadev temple.
For tourists who love the thrill of mountain-climbing and mountain-trekking, Jammu and Kashmir has mountains in abundance.
Apharwat Peak sits prettily at an altitude of 13500 feet; it is 13kms away from Gulmarg. Hire a Gandola (cable car) and let the breathtaking sights of the Himalayas bowl you over!
Next, Sinthan Top is one of the must-visit at-the-top- locations in Kashmir. At 12000 feet above sea level, the 360-degree view of the snow-clad landscape is a sight not-to-miss!
- Carrying passport at all times is a good idea and encouraged for tourists.
- Tourists must be mindful of their belongings at all times.
- It is advisable that tourists prepare and carry a waterproof laminated card specifying important details – name, address, blood group or any medical information.
- Carrying too much cash should be avoided as much as possible.
- Keep a location map of the locales you plan to visit.
- Enlist the services of licensed guides for sightseeing.
- Taking off shoes is compulsory when visiting or entering a holy place.
- Don’t entrust your cash and belongings to strangers.
- Steer clear of paying beggars on roads and streets.
- When paying any hotel bill, make sure to cross-check before making payment.
- Don’t drive on the roads and terrains around Jammu and Kashmir if you’re not trained for Indian roads.
- Avoid pre-booking houseboats.
- Don’t fall prey to verbatim when placing orders or booking services, request for invoices post-payment.
- Drink-and-drive is strictly prohibited.
Don’t be surprised if you discover that your prepaid mobile phone reception is nada in Jammu and Kashmir. As the region of Jammu and Kashmir is surrounded by valleys and mountains, tourists may find it difficult to get optimum mobile-reception at all times. Therefore, it is advised that you have the right connection for your phone, preferably a BSNL postpaid connection, that can give you ultimate connectivity even in mountain ranges.
With so much of scenic beauty and other admirable experiences on offer, to say that visiting Jammu and Kashmir is an once-in-a-lifetime experience seems very apt. Of course, aside from nature’s limitless bounties, Jammu and Kashmir has a strong fabric of culture and history surrounding it, which interestingly, can only be experienced when one goes around the popular nooks and corners of the state. There are so many riches here which can be consumed using the five senses. So much to see, people to listen to, food to smell and eat, and most importantly, nature to touch!