Tourism in Jammu and Kashmir
Jammu and Kashmir is the northernmost state in India. In the seventeenth century the Mughal emperor Jahangir set his eyes on the valley of Kashmir. He said that if paradise is anywhere on the earth, it is here, while living in a houseboat on Dal Lake. "Gar firdaus, ruhe zamin ast, hamin asto, hamin asto, hamin ast." If there is ever a heaven on earth, its here, its here, its here. In Jammu and Kashmir the most important tourist places are Kashmir, Srinagar, the Mughal Gardens, Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Jammu, and Ladakh. Some areas require a special permit for non-Indians to visit.
- Jammu — Jammu is the winter capital of state and it is famous for its temples, particularly The Vaishno Devi Temple in Katra which is visited by over 1 crore (10 million) pilgrims every year, making Jammu the most visited part of Jammu and Kashmir State.
- Kashmir Valley — some say it is Heaven on Earth, friendly people, beautiful gardens, vast lakes and pristine streams and stunning landscapes, it is all that "Enjoy the Incredible Kashmir"
- Ladakh — truly amazing landscapes high up in the Himalayas, popular for trekking and with those on a search for the most serene place in the world
- Jammu — the winter capital
- Srinagar — the summer capital of the state, set around famous Dal Lake, with its floating houseboats
- Gulmarg — Skiing and the world's highest gondola
- Katra — in the foothills of the Trikuta Mountains and home of the holy Mata Vaishno Devi shrine
- Leh — the jumping off point for treks and adventures around Ladakh
- Pahalgam — a calm and serene place offering multiple trekking routes. Starting point of Amarnath Yatra
- Patnitop — a small hill station in Jammu
- Zab Baihk
Before militancy intensified in 1989, tourism formed an important part of the Kashmiri economy. The tourism economy in the Kashmir valley was worst hit. However, the holy shrines of Jammu and the Buddhist monasteries of Ladakh continue to remain popular pilgrimage and tourism destinations. Every year, thousands of Hindu pilgrims visit holy shrines of Vaishno Devi and Amarnath which has had significant impact on the state's economy. The Vaishno Devi yatra alone contributes Rs. 475 crore to the local economy annually.
Tourism in the Kashmir valley has rebounded in recent years and in 2009, the state became one of the top tourist destinations of India. Gulmarg, one of the most popular ski resort destinations in India, is also home to the world's highest green golf course. The decrease in violence in the state has boosted the states economy specifically tourism. It was reported that 7.36 lakh tourists visited Kashmir in 2010 including 23,000 foreigners. In 2011, the number of tourist arrivals in Kashmir touched the mark of 10 lakh.
As elsewhere in India, English is fairly widely spoken among the educated classes and those involved in the tourist industry.
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 state of Jammu and Kashmir with the rest of the country. The Project officially coded USBRL (Udhampur Srinagar Baramulla Railway Link) starts from the city of Udhampur, 55 kilometres (34 mi) north of Jammu, and travels for 290 kilometres (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 state. They offer package tour to Gulmarg, Shonmarg, Yusmarg, Ular lake, City tour, etc. There is Tourist information center, where one get the tickets plus info.
- 4 wheel drive jeeps are quicker, a little more expensive and reach more locations. Private hire jeeps are also available.
Gulmarg is well known for its amazing natural beauty and it is counted as one of the unique tourist destinations in the world. Gulmarg is surrounded by dense forest. This place is famous for its golf hikes and beautiful highland golf course. The natural beauty accompanied with clean fresh air and a beautiful environment highlights Gulmarg as a major tourist destination.
The way to reach Sonmarg or the Meadow of the gold is from the Sindh Valley. This valley also shows more amazing facet in Kashmir. Sonmarg is located at an altitude of around 2730 meters from the sea level; it has snow-covered mountains as its backdrop against the sky.
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 temples are covered with ‘ Saligrams’. The other surrounding temples are related to other gods from the Ramayana. This temple is located in the centre or we can say in the heart of Jammu.
Bahu fort was modified and improved by Dogra Rulers of Jammu but first it was built by the Raja Bahulochan. This fort is located at a distance of around 5 km 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 goddess kali in the fort.
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.
This is one of the holy places for Muslim saints. Here, people from all the religions comes in large number to pray, on Thursday.
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 gets converted into an amazing adventures trek called Chadar-The Frozen River Trek.
Khilanmarg is another beautiful scenic beauty and a favourite tourist destination . the famous Liddar Valley is prominent feature .
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.
Other lesser known Tourist Destinations are Achabal, Kokernag, Verinag and Gurez.
In Kashmir Valley
- Vernag Spring and Mughal Garden- A fresh water spring and a Mughal garden next to it, spring is chief source of Jhelum River.
- Srinagar - Capital of Jammu and Kashmir, a popular hill station
- Dal lake - famous lake in Srinagar, with house boats called shikharas.
- Manasbal Lake
- Shalimar Gardens--Mughal Garden
- Nishant Gardens-Mughal Garden
- Chashme Shahi- Mughal Garden
- Badamwari Garden
- Pari Mahal- old monument of Pari Mahal, one can have full view of Dal Lake.
- Shankaracharya Temple- Ancient Temple of Lord Shiva
- Hari Parbat- Ancient Temple of Goddess Sharika Bhagwati and an old fort on this hill.
- Kheer Bhawani Temple
- Gulmarg - Popular hill station and skiing destination.
- Pahalgam - Hill station
- Betaab Valley- A lush green valley 15 km from Pahalgam where the movie Betaab was shot.
- Sonmarg - Hill station
- Yusmarg - Hill station
- Aru - scenic valley
- Amarnath temple - pilgrimage site for Hindu devotees of Shiva.
- Eco-tourism places:Gurez, Dudhpathri, Bangus valley.
- Vaishno Devi - famous shrine
- Patnitop - Hill station
- Bhaderwah - Hill station
- Eco-tourism places: Mantalai and Shivkhori
- Punj old fort
- Shahdra Sharif shrine
- Bhimgarh Fort
- Ramnagar Fort in Udhampur District
- Mansar Lake -Mansar lake, with its length more than a mile and width half-a-mile, is a very attractive lake in the midst of lusting greeneries surrounded by forest-covered hills. It is considered as a very holy site known from mythological periods sharing the sanctity and legacy of Mansa Sarovar. It is a very popular base of tourists.
A temple for a snake god, Sheshnag, is located on the banks of lake. It is believed that it is auspicious for newly wed couples to seek blessings of Sheshnag by performing three parikarma around the lake. Holy dip in the Mansar Lake is assumed to be purifying the sins.
A temple of Durga and two other ancient temples Narasimha and Parvathi Shiva (Umapati Mahadev) are located in the close proximity of the Mansar Lake. Mansar Lake is an ideal spot for boating, amidst the lusting greeneries of Jammu. There is a wildlife sanctuary nearby.
- Leh - One of the two districts of Ladakh, famous monasteries.
- Nubra Valley - scenic valley with towns of Deskit and Hundar.
- Lake Moriri - one of the largest and high altitude lakes.
- Pangong Lake - Lake divided between India and China
- Zanskar - scenic trekking areas.
- Suru Valley - Origin of various glaciers, Nun and Kun Peaks
- Drass - site of the 1999 Kargil war. Must visit Dras War Memorial
- Gurdwara Pathar Sahib
- Vaishno Devi Pilgrimage Close To 5 Million in 6 Months
- "Amarnath Board to study yatra impact on Kashmir economy". Online edition of The Hindu, dated 13 September 2007 (Chennai, India). 13 September 2007. Retrieved 6 June 2009.
- Vaishno Devi yatra injects Rs 475 cr to Katra economy annually(CJ: Rattan Sharma, 27 Aug 2007)
- "Foreign tourists flock Kashmir". Online edition of The Hindu, dated 18 March 2009 (Chennai, India). 18 March 2009. Retrieved 18 March 2009.
- Fairway to Heaven – WSJ.com
- Tourists arrival gives boost to J-K economy
-  [NDTV News report]
- "Jammu & Kashmir Govt ignoring less known Tourist Destinations". IANS. news.biharprabha.com. Retrieved 15 February 2014.
- Official website of the Jammu and Kashmir tourism
- Official website of J&K Tourism Development Corporation
- Contact details of J&K Tourist Reception Centers
- Official website of J&K State Road Transport Corporation
This article incorporates material from the Wikivoyage article "Jammu and Kashmir", which is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License but not under the GFDL.