Kashmir was off limits to tourists from 1990 – 2002 due to safety issues, but the environment has changed, and I was recently in Kashmir and felt very secure. Kashmir can be included as part of an India tour at any time of year. In the summer, touring Kashmir and Ladakh is a great combination.
Jahangir, the 17th century ruler of the Mughal Empire, referred to Kashmir as “Heaven on Earth.” Kashmir is famous for its natural beauty and has often been referred to as the ‘Switzerland of the East. The people are warm and friendly and are eager for tourism. Domestic tourism is high but international travel has not returned to the high level seen before 1990.
A visit to Kashmir starts in Srinagar where you can visit the Mughal gardens of Shalimar, Nishat and Parimahal, tour the old city with its heritage architecture, shrines, mosques, markets and the early morning floating market and take a ride on a shikara through the narrow canals to see the local life. My favorite shrine is called Shah Hamdan. I was awed by the magnificent architecture which is different on each side. While in Srinagar, a stay on a houseboat is a must but do this on Nagin Lake and not Dal Lake. Nagin Lake is more beautiful because it is less commercial and crowded. While staying in Srinagar, you can drive to Yusmarg and take a hike in a beautiful forest and see the mud houses in which the nomads live. On the way back to Srinagar, stop at the Sufi Shrine of Sheikh Noor–ul–Din, founder of Rishism (Sulfism).
Pahalgam, referred to as the Valley of Shepherds, is a beautiful 3-hour drive from Srinagar past saffron fields and villages. Stop at the Avantipura ruins, an 1100-year-old Lord Vishnu temple referred to as the Sun Temple. Pahalgam is a small town set amongst the mountains, many of which are covered with glaciers. Pahalgam is great for walking and fishing. You can take a 30-minute drive on a winding road to Aru, a small village, which is the starting point for day and several day treks.
Gulmarg has great skiing in winter. The rest of the year you can relax, take a gondola ride, pony ride and walk.
In Srinagar, I recommend the Lalit Grand Palace, Srinagar and the Vivanta by Taj –Dal View, Srinagar. I also recommend the following boutique properties: Almond Villa, Dare–Salam hotel, Dove Cottage and, of course, a houseboat stay is highly recommended. I recommend the Welcome Group, Gurkha Houseboats on Nagin Lake. If you want to stay on Dal Lake, I suggest Sukoon Houseboat.
I cannot wait to go back to Kashmir. I really enjoyed this part of India. I enthusiastically suggest that you include Kashmir as part of an India tour. If you are planning an India trip and would like to visit Kashmir, call Susan at 877 255 7438 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.