Jammu and Kashmir [dead link] (Urdu: جموں و کشمیر) is a union territory in northern India. It is a mountainous region of great beauty and diversity offering much in the way of outdoor activities and sights for the tourist.
- Jammu Division — known for its temples, shrines, palaces and forts
- Kashmir Valley — some say it is Heaven on Earth, friendly people, beautiful gardens, vast lakes and pristine streams and stunning landscapes
Here are nine of the most notable cities.
- 1 Jammu — the union territory's winter capital
- 2 Srinagar — the union territory's summer capital, set around famous Dal Lake, with its floating houseboats
- 3 Gulmarg — decent skiing and the world's highest gondola
- 4 Katra — located in the foothills of the Trikuta Mountains and home of the holy Mata Vaishno Devi shrine
- 5 Pahalgam — a calm and serene place offering multiple trekking routes; starting point of Amarnath Yatra
- 6 Patnitop — a small hill station in Jammu
- 7 Sonamarg (Sonmarg) — trekking, fishing and mountain sports
- 1 Dachigam National Park — home to the critically endangered Kashmir stag (hangul). Grasslands, alpine meadows, waterfalls and craggy cliffs provide home for various species of mammals such as the Himalayan black and brown bears, jackal and leopard and birds such as the woodpecker, pygmy owl and cinnamon sparrow.
- 2 Kishtwar National Park — located in the Kishtwar district, this park has rugged and steep terrain, with narrow valleys leading to glaciers. This park provides habitat for the Himalayan Snowcock and the brown bear.
- 3 Salim Ali National Park (City Forest National Park) — located in Srinagar, this former park was converted into a golf course and once featured animals such as leopard, hangul and musk deer; in addition to a large variety of birds
Ramadan is the 9th and holiest month in the Islamic calendar and lasts 29–30 days. Muslims fast every day for its duration and most restaurants will be closed until the fast breaks at dusk. Nothing (including water and cigarettes) is supposed to pass through the lips from dawn to sunset. Non-Muslims are exempt from this, but should still refrain from eating or drinking in public as this is considered very impolite. Working hours are decreased as well in the corporate world. Exact dates of Ramadan depend on local astronomical observations and may vary somewhat from country to country. Ramadan concludes with the festival of Eid al-Fitr, which may last several days, usually three in most countries.
If you're planning to travel to Jammu and Kashmir during Ramadan, consider reading Travelling during Ramadan.
Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) has a very rich and vibrant history, and is a melting pot of different cultures and religions. The territory has served as a major centre for Buddhism and Hinduism, and it has been a part of numerous empires such as the Sikh Empire, the Mughal Empire, the Durrani Empire, and more recently, the British Empire.
During the 14th century, the spread of Islam rapidly intensified under the Shamiri Dynasty, and as a result, the region has the distinction of being one of the few areas in India with a Muslim-majority population, along with Lakshadweep.
As with all of the princely states that formed India during the partition of India in the late-1940s, Kashmir was given one of three choices - Join India, Join Pakistan, or become independent. This presented a major political issue in Kashmir at the time, and there was no clear consensus on what was the correct choice.
Shortly thereafter, the city of Poonch faced an uprising sponsored by Pakistan, which eventually resulted in Kashmir losing control of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. Given the deteriorating situation, the ruler of Kashmir, Maharaja Hari Singh, requested India for assistance. India agreed to provide military aid under the condition that Kashmir joins India. The Maharaja then signed an agreement that made Kashmir a part of India, whereupon Indian troops entered the region and summarily defeated the Pakistani forces. To this date, a large portion of Kashmir is now administered by India, the rest being administered by Pakistan and China.
Since the 1980s, insurgent violence has ravaged the region, and the unrest has adversely affected what was one a thriving tourist industry. Perhaps one of the darkest periods of Kashmiri history was when one of the minority groups, the Kashmiri Pandits, were forcefully expelled from Kashmir. To this day, some 300,000 to 600,000 Kashmiri Pandits remain displaced, internally and externally.
Both India and Pakistan have been accused of committing grave human-rights violations in Kashmir, with scholars repeatedly condemning India for refusing to prosecute perpetrators of abuses in the region and Pakistan for sheltering and aiding terror groups which operate in the region.
In August 2019, the Indian government revoked the state's autonomy. While some claim that the move is geared towards integrating the territory into the rest of India, some feel that the Indian government is doing something incredibly risky. The move evoked a strong response from many political parties in the region, and it even prompted Pakistan to downgrade relations and suspend bilateral trade with India.
The irony, however, is that since November 2020, Pakistan has been making moves towards converting Gilgit-Baltistan into a full-fledged province, a move which political experts believe will lead to further tensions and chaos. Some believe the move comes from Pakistan wanting to hit back at India over India revoking Kashmir's autonomy.
While some Kashmiris hope for an independent and unified Kashmir, the majority seem to simply want peace.
The region has an area of 101,473km² (39,179 sq mi).
The official languages of the union territory are Dogri, English, Kashmiri, Hindi and Urdu. However, the main languages spoken are Kashmiri in the Kashmir Valley and Dogri in Jammu. Most people speak at least a little Hindi and you may even hear Punjabi.
As elsewhere in India, English is fairly widely spoken among the educated classes and those involved in the tourist industry.
Jammu and Kashmir have 2 civil airports. The Jammu Airport in Jammu and The Shiekh-ul-Alam International Airport in Srinagar. They receive direct flights from Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. Try Air India.
The last stop on the railway line north is Udhampur, where you can catch onward buses and hire SUVs/MUVs (Tata Sumo / Toyota Innova/ Mahindra Scorpio). However it is better to get down in Jammu and catch a taxi from there as these are more readily available.
The Kashmir Railway is a railway line being built in India to connect the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir with the rest of the country. The projrct called, USBRL (Udhampur Srinagar Baramulla Railway Link), starts from the city of Udhampur, 55 km (34 mi) north of Jammu, and travels for 290 km (180 mi) to the city of Baramulla on the northwestern edge of the Kashmir Valley. The route crosses major earthquake zones, and is subjected to extreme temperatures of cold and heat, as well as inhospitable terrain, making it an extremely challenging engineering project.
Buses are operated by J&K SRTC to most points around the union territory. They offer package tours to Gulmarg, Sonmarg, Yusmarg, Wular Lake, Iity tour, etc. There is tourist information center, offering tickets and information.
4WD jeeps are quicker, a little more expensive and reach more locations. Private hire jeeps are also available.
- Amarnath. One of the holy trinity, Shiva is a living god. Legend has it that Shiva recounted to Parvati the secret of creation in a cave in Amarnath. Unknown to them, a pair of doves eavesdropped on this conversation and having learnt the secret, are reborn again and again, and have made the cave their eternal abode. Yajur veda refers lord Shiva as an ascetic warrior Whose robe is of Deer Skin and carries Damru and Trishul. As referred by the verse "Satyam - Shivam - Sundaram, one life must have three facets Satyam - Truth, Shivam - Good and Sundram - Beautiful.
- Bahu Fort. Bahu fort was modified and improved by Dogra Rulers of Jammu but first built it was built by the Raja Bahulochan. This fort is located at a distance of around 5km from the main city and perhaps is the oldest edifice in the Jammu. This fort is facing the Tawi River. There is a temple of the goddess Kali in the fort.
- Dal Lake. Located in the heart of Srinagar, this beautiful lake is fed by natural springs.
- Gulmarg (the meadow of flowers). Gulmarg is a small hill station at a distance of 52 km from Srinagar. While trekking, horse riding and picnics can be fun in summer, in winter it has some of the best powder snow and slopes for skiers. Besides all this, the world's highest cable car is also in Gulmarg.
- Mata Vaishno Devi. A pilgrimage to the Holy Shrine of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Ji is considered to be one of the holiest pilgrimages of our times. Popular the world over as Moonh Maangi Muradein Poori Karne Wali Mata, which means, the Mother who fulfills whatever Her children wish for, Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Ji resides in a Holy Cave located in the folds of the three peaked mountain named Trikuta (pronounced as Trikoot). The Holy Cave attracts millions of devotees every year. In fact, the number of Yatris visiting the Holy Shrine annually now exceeds one crore. This is due to the unflinching faith of the devotees who throng the Shrine from all parts of India and abroad. The Holy Cave of the Mother is situated at an altitude of 1,560 m. The Yatris have to undertake a trek of nearly 12 km from the base camp at Katra. At the culmination of their pilgrimage, the yatries are blessed with the Darshans of the Mother Goddess inside the Sanctum Sanctorum- the Holy Cave. These Darshans are in the shape of three natural rock formations called the Pindies. There are no statues or idols inside the Cave.
- Mubarak Mandi Palace. Mubarak Palace was built with the touch of three different styles, Rajasthani, Mughal and Gothic. Most famous part of this Palace is the Sheesh Mahal segment. There is a Dogra Art Museum, which is a treasure house of miniature paintings from various hill schools.
- Mughal Gardens. These beautiful gardens line the periphery of the famous Dal Lake in Srinagar. Decorated with colourful flowers, fountains and mighty Chinars, strolling in these gardens gives one a royal feeling.
- Peer Baba. This is of the holy places for Muslim saints. People from various religions come in large number to pray on Thursdays.
- Raghunath Temple. Raghunath Temple is dedicated to the Hindu Lord Shri Rama. All the inner walls of this temple are covered with gold, on three sides. Galleries of this temple are covered with ‘ Saligrams. The other surrounding temples are related to other gods from the Ramayana. This temple is located in the centre, the heart, of Jammu.
- Sri Amarnath Ji Temple (Holy Amarnath Cave). Temple is situated 144km east to Srinagar - Jammu & Kashmir state. Lord Amarnath is in the form of an ice Silva-lingam. On the full moon day the lingam is approx 1.8 mhigh. In Rigveda it is said "Ekam Sat" means "There is one Being, whom sages calls by many names. The Supreme Power (Parmeshwar) has three deities who carry on the world called - The Trinity . Lord Brahma - creator of World, Lord Vishnu - Perpetuator of life and Lord Shiva (Mahesh) - the purifier and perpetuator of good and destroyer of evil. Lord Shiva is known as Rudra in Rig Veda as in its following verse. "We Worship Tryambaka (Rudra), Who spread Fragrance and Increases Nourishment, May He release me, like the cucumber from its stem , From Mortal Life , But not From Immorality."
Trekking in Kashmir Valley
Srinagar serves as a base for many trekking expeditions which lead to Himalayan alpine high altitude lakes of Kashmir valley which has a great scope for adventure tourism. These high altitude alpine lakes have no access by any transport, they include Vishansar Lake, Nundkol Lake, Tarsar Lake, Gadsar Lake, Satsar Lake and so on. Many trekking units organise and operate trekking packages to these mountain lakes.
Zanskar is located at a very high altitude in Jammu and Kashmir. It is one of the best trekking destinations around the world. In Winter, Zanskar river freezes up, and get converted into an amazing adventures trek called Chadar-The Frozen River Trek. The traditional name for the Zanskar Trek is Chadar Trek as the river becomes a snow sheet during winters due to heavy snowfall. It boasts of some of the lowest temperatures making it a challenging trek for the adventurers. The most isolated and inaccessible for nearly eight months in a year due to heavy snowfall resulting in closure of all the access passes; Zanskar has the distinction of being the least interfered with microcosms of Ladakh, and thus one of the last few surviving cultural satellites of Tibet. This geographical isolation together with the esoteric nature of Buddhism practiced here has enabled its ten thousand inhabitants to preserve and perpetuate their cultural identity.
Shikaras are the limousines of the Dal lake. Lay comfortably in soft cushions and while the shikara cruises around the lake while vendors come along in their boats selling handicrafts. Also look for a jetski ride in summers.
- Kashmiri wazwan famous cuisine here (Rista, Goshtaba, Kabab, Yakhani, Rogan Josh,), don't miss this cuisine.
- Harisa and tuj at Khayam Chowk.
- Mughal darbar and Jan bakery are most famous confectioneries in Srinagar at Lalchowk.
- Kashmir valley famous for Kashmiri Kahwa, beverage made from saffron.
- Kashmir famous for dry fruits and apples.
- Kaladi (special milk product like paneer) Kulcha in Moti Bazaar.
- Phahalwan di hatti famous Sweet shop in Gandhi Nagar.
- Eat kachalu at girdhari shop near pacca danga.
- Good Non-Veg at Pape de hatti and pape the great- residency road, Paras raam de hatti at panjthirthi.
Two local specialities are kehwa, which is a special beverage prepared with saffron and dry fruits, and nun chai, which is a pink, salty tea.
Due to militant and insurgent activities, the situation in the union territory is far from stable. Outbursts of politically motivated violence and civil disobedience are possible, especially around Srinagar. Demonstrations and rallies can rapidly turn violent. It is vital for visitors to maintain good situational awareness.
As with many people in Kashmir, people are divided into three opposing camps - Some who advocate for full independence, some who advocate for integration with Pakistan, and some who advocate for integration with India. Given the sensitive situation in the region, the main thing to avoid is pontificating about the situation. Such discussions could make many feel uncomfortable.
Some may voice their support for certain Kashmiri militant groups and may react with anger if you call them terrorist organisations.