5 Things To Do In Jammu & Kashmir

Written By Sonali Chowdhury, Travel Story

Summer is here and with it is the insatiable urge of escaping somewhere that is greener, cooler and prettier than the dusty concrete jungles of our daily lives. What better place to run away to, if not the veritable ‘paradise on earth’- the beautiful state of Jammu & Kashmir.

Here are our recommendations of 5 must-do things when you are happily lost in the paradise:

5. GO RELIGIOUS

The state is a serene meeting place of India’s many religious beliefs. The famous Charar-e-Sharif mosque and the Shankaracharya temple coexist in harmony in Srinagar. The state is also steeped in Sufi mysticism and you will hear many an old tale of miracles and divine compassion at one of the innumerable ‘dargahs’. But the big ticket destinations here are the Vaishno Devi Temple (at Katra, 54 km from Jammu) and the grand pilgrimage of Amarnath.

INSIDER'S TIP: Apart from temples, J&K h also has a myriad collection of forts & palaces. The Hari Niwas (Jammu) and the Moti Mahal (Poonch) will surprise you with hints of Irish in their architecture, whereas Leh will show you how a fort made of mud (Zorawar Fort) can survive for centuries.

4. GO TO THE VALLEY

If there is a paradise on earth, this must be it. Srinagar valley, though scarred by years of political turmoil is still pretty as a picture. The Dal Lake and its famous shikaras, the spectacular natural vistas, the exotic flavors of Wazwan cuisine and some swanky new hotels such as the Taj Vivanta are once again attracting hordes of tourists back to the paradise.

INSIDER'S TIP: if you are staying for long, try the various road trips to places like Kargil. Not very touristy but the place is sure to make your heart swell with pride at the sight of our brave jawaans.

3. GO ROAD TRIPPING!

If you like being behind the steering wheel and have an adventurous streak, J&K is the place for you. Raid de Himalaya is India’s foremost rally held annually honoring the challenging roads of the state.  The road trip to Leh via Manali is considered the Holy Grail for the many Enfield fanatics of India. There is also the new Mughal road, which runs from Jammu to Poonch and then on to Srinagar after crossing the magnificent Pir Panjal mountains.

INSIDER'S TIP: Mughal road was the route taken by the Mughal emperors  en route to the valley for a summer break and so you will find many ruins of medieval rest houses nestled amongst the absolutely unspoiled natural beauty of Poonch.

2. GO SKIING

Gulmarg will surprise most first time visitors. Jaws will drop, cameras will be whipped out and the inevitable comparisons to the Swiss Alps will begin. The ski routes here are a treat for novices and pros alike and the state deservedly serves as the hub of the sport in India.

INSIDER'S TIP: Go exploring as well. The surrounding area is breathtakingly beautiful. Pine trees, pristine white snow and a small temple where Rajesh Khanna once sang ‘Jai Jai Shiv Shankar’, this is indeed a slice of heaven.

1. GO TO LADAKH

Simply put, there is no other place quite like Ladakh. The famous ‘moonscape’ of one of India’s foremost tourist destination is a surreal sight. Drive across the 18380 ft high Khardung-La pass (once the highest road in the world), see the countless lakes in and around Ladakh (yes, the famous one in 3 Idiots is here too), get ‘attracted’ to the inexplicable magnetic hill and find some inner peace at the beautifully perched Shanti Stupa. Ladakh is the trip of a lifetime.

INSIDER'S TIP: Don’t restrict your visit to Leh alone. Do cross over to the Nubra valley and see amazing sand dunes among the highest mountains in India as well as the rare twin-humped Bactrian camels.

Photo by: Aman Jhorar

With the travel magazine Lonely Planet India voting Jammu and Kashmir as the best destination-emerging (India) for 2012, it's time that you shed all the concerns about the state and explore the paradise on earth.

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