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Tourist Places To Visit In Jammu and Kashmir
Few places in the subcontinent come close to the tummy-flipping beauty of the Himalayan mountain system. Like a pretty young girl, magnanimously voted by all as the beauty of her family, Jammu and Kashmir (often referred to simply, as J&K) has always been enveloped in an aura of mystery and elusiveness. J&K consist of 3 main regions: religiously oriented Jammu (the winter capital of the state), the pretty, flowery valleys of Kashmir and the cold, ruggedly handsome desert land of Leh-Ladakh. Whichever area you choose to start with, try completing the entire circuit to do full justice to these spellbinding lands of the North. The top tourist places to visit in Jammu and Kashmir include Srinagar, Pahalgam, Gulmarg and Leh among others. Read on for lots more.
Located on the banks of the Jhelum river, at an elevation of 5,200 feet, Srinagar holds the distinction of being the "summer capital" of J&K. Srinagar is well known for the"Dal Lake" and its many colourful 'shikharas' and house-boats. It is also known for dry fruit, saffron and traditional Kashmiri handicrafts like handwoven woollen shawls, carpets and rugs.
Not far from the hustle and bustle of Srinagar is a pristine little hill-town called Pahalgam. The area holds a rich cover of vegetation, the dominant forest consisting of conifers which account for over 90%. There are many species of rare, endangered and protected species to be found among the vegetation here. Wildlife enthusiasts are bound to spot some Hangul, Musk deer, Serow, Brown bear, Leopard, Rhesus macaque, Grey langur, Wild bears etc, apart from a large variety of exotic mountain birds. Due to the constant threat of illegal border crossings, the Indian army is always patrolling the area and is on constant high alert. However, the area is safe for tourists.
Legendary beauty, prime location and proximity to Srinagar make Gulmarg a premier hillstation in the region. Originally called "Gaurimarg" by shepherds, its present name was given in the 16th century by the Mughal Sultan Yusuf Shah, who was inspired by the sight of its grassy slopes emblazoned with wild flowers. But Gulmarg is not merely a mountain resort of flowery beauty- it also boasts of the highest green golf course in the world - at an altitude of 2,650 meters. The journey to Gulmarg is half the enchantment of reaching there -- roads avenued by tall fragrant poplars, rice fields interspersed with picturesque villages and lots of pretty fragrant flowers. There is a point known as "View Point", where travellers generally stop to get a lungful of fragrant air and take in the beauty of the white-capped mountains.
Situated at an altitude of 2730 metres, Sonamarg (that translates as 'Meadow of Gold') is backed by snowy mountains that stand tall against a cornflower blue sky. The Sindh River that meanders through the valley abounds with Trout, and angling is a favourite activity in this area. Ponies can be hired for the trip up to the Thajiwas glacier which is a major local attraction during the summer months (we recommend you have a walk instead). Weekend campers arrive here in herds during peak season. Thickly forested Sonamarg is filled with the fragrance of sycamore and alpine flowers, silver birch, fir and pine. Great to visit if you're an out and out nature lover.
There is very little left to say about the cold, bare and hauntingly beautiful desert of Ladakh, that hasn't already been said before. Tales of its beauty and mystique are sung far and wide, with people from all over the world putting the region on their bucket list of places to experience before they die. It's cold, it's crystal clear and it's very, very photogenic up here. Bi-humped bactrian camels, red cloaked monks, and flocks of mountain goat trudge along, lending the landscape a timeless aura. Stunning blue-green lakes ripple silently within giant basins of brown and purple rock. The sun and clouds bathe each part of the region in a different Hue at different times of the day; sometimes a hopeful golden, sometimes a glowering indigo. The region is very used to tourists, so you will always find plenty of places to stay, eat and rest. Hiring local driver-driven jeeps is expensive, so many people prefer to brave the terrain on yaks, bikes or on foot. Leh is a quiet, spiritual little town, steeped in tradition and Buddhist culture. Many people prefer to stay in Leh and make day trips into Ladakh and its neighbouring villages. Ladakh is great to visit if you're into travel photography or writing or just want a good adventure and some alone time.
The holy shrine of the Hindu Mother Goddess located in these hills have made this place very famous. Every year, thousands of pilgrims, trek their way up the steep slopes, to offer prayer to their goddess. The shrine complex itself is built on a steep outcrop, and makes for quite the twinkling sight at night. The holy cave shrine of Vaishno Devi is nestled in a beautiful recess of the Trikuta Mountains forming a part of the lower Himalayas. It is located 61 km north of Jammu at a height of 5,200 feet above the sea level in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. In the cave there are images of three deities viz. the Mahakali, Mahalakshmi and Mahasaraswati. Perfect to visit if you're into religion and spirituality.
Jammu, the counterpart of Kashmir in the state of Jammu & Kashmir is the southernmost part and home to some of India’s oldest temples and ruins. Located in the Shivalik Hills, Jammu makes the winter capital of the state and welcomes tourists all year round. Vaishno Devi and Amarnath trips start from Jammu, while there are Buddhist stupas, Dogra dynasty relics and MahaKali Temple marking important tourist spots here.
Amarnath is a cave in the hills of Himalayas, in Jammu & Kashmir. This cave is renowned around the world for the ice shivling that manifests naturally inside its mouth every year. Millions of Hindus visit Amarnath after a treacherous trek to complete a pilgrimage that is as holy as the Char Dham. As legend goes, Shiva revealed the secret of life and death to his wife — Parvati right here.
Amarnath cave opens only during the summer months of Shravan, falling somewhere between June to August. Then the shivling melts on its own until it is formed again next year. If you don’t want to trek then helicopters are also available now.
Kargil is a district in the northern reaches of Jammu & Kashmir, where the LOC runs between India and Pakistan. It became a tourist hotspot after the Kargil War of 1999 between India and Pakistan. Even though the region is a hotbed for armies on both sides, lately the security measures here have been tight to protect the civilians. The Nun Kun Peaks, Kargil War Memorial, Suru River and apricot farms are coveted tourist attractions in the area.
A moonscape of land, Lamayuru is the land where Buddha’s teachings sanctify the path forward. It lies on the Leh to Kargil road and is a small hamlet settled around a hill, with the monastery topping its pinnacle. The Lamayuru Monastery is a beautiful heritage structure, with relics, ancient books in its library and a line of monks ready to tell you zen stories. Lamayuru is a great stop on your way to Leh.
Hemis is another beautiful harsh area in the Ladakh region, home to the Hemis National Park. The elusive snow leopard is found prowling its jungles, making Hemis India’s Snow Leopard Capital. The Hemis Monastery is another popular tourist haunt, especially during the Hemis Festival. The monks wear colourful costumes and perform elaborate shows. You can also check out the stupas, thangkas, murals and the museums when in Hemis.
Nubra Valley falls on the ancient silk route, looking like a white orchard of Ladakh. Home to monasteries, rivers, mountains and Bactarian camels, Nubra Valley has lately become a hot favourite among travellers and backpackers for its serene beauty. Because of the Siachen Base camp at the tail end of the valley, you need some permissions to visit Nubra, but they are easily obtained. Almonds, apples, apricots etc are pretty famous here, as are Pashmina shawls, woollens and Tibetan artefacts.
Udhampur is well known for being the Northern Command base of the Indian army, but it is also a scenic paradise that has something for everybody. With snow-capped mountains and rolling dark forests, Udhampur is a great trekking hub. Winter brings heavy snowfall and snowfall brings skiing and sledging to Udhampur. Summers are packed with other wonderful adventures like parasailing, trekking and mountain climbing. If you just want to chill and relax then hop onto a hot air balloon and float over Kashmir. Didn’t we say Udhampur has something for everybody.
Rajouri finds mention in the epic Mahabharata, as a significant part of the kingdom of Panchal, from where Draupadi came. The name Rajouri itself means a land of the kings. With its forts, bhavans and temples, it literally is a city of kings. The foothills of Pir Panjal impart much appreciated natural beauty to it, while manmade heritage structures are awe-inspiring — Rajouri Fort, Rama Temple, Balidan Bhavan, Law Bawli, Dehra ki Gali, etc.
Pulwama became famous lately because of the infamous Pulwama attacks, another Indian army base. But that hasn’t taken from it the stunning natural beauty that is due to never ending apple orchards, cute little hamlets, lakes and larger than life mountains. Do visit the Aharbal Falls here, check out Marsar lake and explore Shikargarh. Trekking is a summer adventure while snowboarding and skiing make winters so much fun. So either season is good.
Patnitop is Kashmir’s ‘hill station’ material. Located in the lower reaches of the Himalayas, Patnitop offers spellbinding views of Pir Panjal ranges as well as the mighty Chenab river. Meadows, rivers, forests, meadows — it’s like a fairytale town with great food to go! Drink from freshwater springs, bask in the sun on afternoon picnics, ride horses and climb mountains… that’s the magic of Patnitop.
Kupwara is all lush forests and cobalt blue lakes. The meadows of Kupwara shine like emeralds in the sun and the valleys open up like the arms of god. It is such a peaceful little place that travellers seek its embrace for some much needed rejuvenation. Photographers, nature enthusiasts and campers choose Kupwara amongst all other equivalent places; simply because it is off-beat and quiet and beyond beautiful.
Akhnoor, literally means, the light of the eye. Legend goes, a blind king came to a lake here and miraculously his sight was restored. That is how Akhnoor got its name. Even the Pandavas exiled themselves here in a cave. There is also a Parashuram Temple here, a one of its kind, worshipping this avatar of Lord Vishnu who rid earth of khsatriyas 24 times. If you have time then do explore the famed Akhnoor Fort.