Tourism in the union territories of Jammu & Kashmir, and Ladakh
Jammu & Kashmir is the most popular tourist destination in India visited by thousands of Indians and foreigners every year. J&K's chief attractions are its great natural beauty, cuisine and the natural hospitality of its diverse people.
Tourism was greatly affected by the continuing unrest as well as the pandemic. However since the beginning of 2022 tourism has once again boomed. It is perfectly safe to visit the state.
According to media reports, a record-breaking 20.5 lakh tourists, including 3.65 lakh Amarnath yatris, visited Kashmir till end August 2022. Officials say the golden era of Kashmir tourism has returned.
Top Tourist Destinations in Jammu & Kashmir
Located on the banks of the Jhelum River, Srinagar is the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir. Its natural beauty and salubrious climate draws tourists from India and all over the world. The city has a number of lakes, the most famous being the Dal Lake which is dotted with shikaras and traditional houseboats. The floating vegetable market on the Dal Lake is the only one of its kind in India and provides a unique experience for visitors to Srinagar.
The city also boasts of several gardens, founded by Mughal emperors. A visit to the Mughal Gardens, Chashma Shahi, Pari Mahal, Shalimar Bagh and Nishath Bagh cannot be ruled out. The Shankaracharya Temple is set on a hill top which offers a stunning view of the city.
How to Reach Srinagar:
Srinagar is accessible by domestic and international flights. Indian Railways offers train services on the Banihal-Baramulla line. From Delhi, it entails a 12-hour train journey to Udhampur and from there on to Banihal either by bus/van which is a 5 hour trip. Local trains are available from Banihal to Srinagar and the travel time is about two hours.
Sonemarg or Sonamarg is literally the Golden Meadow. Surrounded by the snow-capped Himalayan peaks, the green meadows are like a slice of paradise. Trekkers and adventure seekers hot foot it to Sonemarg, which is located at an altitude of 9000 feet.
Zojila Pass that connects Kashmir to Leh, Ladakh, is situated at an altitude of 11400 feet, is a popular tourist destination. Camping, white water rafting and trekking are some of the favourite activities of those who enjoy outdoor sports. The area is dotted with lakes and streams which make for perfect spots to enjoy the beautiful landscape.
How to Reach Sonemarg:
Sonemarg is about 80 kms from Srinagar and travel time by road would take roughly 1.5 hours.
The Meadow of Flowers, or Gulmarg, is a preferred tourist spot for those who are travelling to Srinagar during the summer months. During winter, snowboarding and skiing enthusiasts descend on Gulmarg. It is also a popular golfing destination.
Tangmarg, a quaint little town, that is at a distance of about 13 km from Gulmarg, is a popular stop for trekkers. The Gondola Cable Car ride from Gulmarg to the Seven Springs in Kongdori is a must-do for tourists. It offers a spectacular view of the Srinagar and Gulmarg valleys.
How to Reach Gulmarg:
Gulmarg can be accessed by road from Srinagar. The distance is about 55 km and the journey can be completed in a couple of hours.
Located at a distance of 95 km from Srinagar, and situated at an altitude of 7200 feet, it is the perfect getaway for those looking for a tranquil holiday surrounded by snow-capped mountains and flowing streams. Some of the popular places to visit include the Betaab valley, which is named after the Bollywood film 'Betaab' featuring Sunny Deol and Amrita Singh was shot here.
It is also the base camp for devotees who are doing the Amarnath Yatra. The Sun Temple at Martand, which is believed to have been built during the time of the Pandavas, is an interesting tourist spot for those interested in the heritage of Kashmir.
How to Reach Pahalgam:
Pahalgam can be reached by road from Srinagar. It takes about three hours to cover the distance of 95 km. The Aishmuqam dargah, where the popular Bollywood song from 'Bajrangi Bhaijan' was shot, falls en route and a detour to the shrine (on a hillock) is well worth the trip.
Dachigam is located at a distance of 22 km from Srinagar. Covering an area of 141 sq. km., it was initially set up to provide clean drinking water to Srinagar city. In 1981 it was designated a national park. It's the habitat for the endangered Hangul, or Kashmir Stag. Open throughout the year, the best time to visit the park is between April and August. The Park is home to musk deer, brown bears, leopards and the Himalayan black bear. During summer, the melting snow feeds numerous streams through the Park, highlighting the beautiful landscape and thick foliage.
How to Reach Dachigam National Park:
At a distance of about 32 km from the Srinagar railway station, and 22 km from Lal Chowk, Srinagar, the Park is within easy reach by road.
Situated on a plateau in the Shivalik belt of the Himalayas, Patnitop is a serene tourist destination in Udhampur. It is located at an altitude of 6640 feet. The Skyview Patnitop is India's highest ropeway which was built with Indo-French collaboration. The ropeway has cut down travel time between Sanget and Patnitop to 15 minutes from the earlier 1.5 hours.
How to reach Patnitop:
Rail, road and air connectivity is available for Patnitop. Udhampur railway station is the nearest rail head, located at a distance of 44 km from Patnitop. Taxis and buses run between Udhampur and Patnitop. Jammu airport is the nearest airfield and located at a distance of 112 km from Patnitop. Buses and cabs are easily available from the airport to the destination.
Katra is located in Jammu and Kashmir on the foothills of the Trikuta mountains. It is a popular destination for Hindu devotees who visit the shrine of Vaishnodevi. The city has a large number of hotels, guest houses and restaurants that cater to the pilgrim traffic who visit the temple. To reach Vaishnodevi, the pilgrims have to trek 14 km. For those wanting to visit Baba Bhaironnath, another 2.5 km trek has to be taken from Vaishnodevi. Helipad services are also available to the Vaishnodevi temple.
How to reach Katra:
Katra is well connected by road, rail and air. The NH144 passes through Katra. The Jammu-Baramulla rail line connects Katra railway station to the rest of the railways network. The nearest airport to Katra is Jammu airport.
Yousmarg, or the Meadow of Jesus, is often referred to as the trekkers' paradise. An alpine valley, located 47 km south of Srinagar, Yousmarg is surrounded by mountains, pine nurseries, green pastures and water bodies. Situated on the banks of the Doodhganga river, a tributary of the Jhelum river, it lies at an altitude of 7861 feet. The place is so named because it is believed to have been visited by Jesus.
How to reach Yousmarg:
Yousmarg is easily accessible from Srinagar. The drive takes about 2 hours from the capital city of Jammu and Kashmir.