Jammu & Kashmir
Jammu and Kashmir, India's one of the most pictorial state lies on the peaks of Himalayan Ranges with changeable landscape and ethnicity. Jammu was the iron grip of Hindu Dogra kings and abounds with admired temples and quiet forest retreats. Kashmir's capital city, Srinagar presents enchanting holidays on the lakes with their shikaras and houseboats. Kashmir, the topmost alpine area of North India is the ethereal cold desert that goes by given names such as ‘The Last Shangrila’, Moonscape, Little Tibet and so on. Ladakh is an appealing domicile of charming allure and varied escapade activities like rafting, jeep safari, water sports and much more.
Ladakh Tourism in hilly region of India will felicitates discovering sensuous snow clothed mountains, pathways and pilgrimage of Ladakh, that have kept the heritage of India lively. Ladakh offers you a mystical and exotic escapade destination. A trip to Jammu & Kashmir leaves the everlasting golden moments in your life. Snuggling in the lap of the astounding, snow-capped Himalayas, the Kashmir valley is indisputably a crystal in India's tiara. With its natural charisma and charm Kashmir is always renowned as honeymooner’s paradise; a nature lover's wonderland. Tourists are everywhere, soaking up all that Kashmir has to offer - the walks, the pony treks, the shikara rides at sunset on the Dal lake and once you have visited Kashmir,, you will agree that what began as a dream, lives on as an unforgettable experience.
|Climate of Jammu & Kashmir
If you are scheduling a trip to Kashmir, summers are the finest starting June-August, all through this time the temperature of Srinagar is amid 25°C and 35°C, temperatures in the hill resorts are significantly lesser. In the evenings, light woollens are requisite for Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Sonamarg, but not for Srinagar. Spring (March-May) and autumn (October-November) are cold. With minimum temperatures plunging down to 7°C, woollens are essential. On the plus side, these are Kashmir's most scenic seasons; off-season reductions are given and all houseboats and hotels have resourceful vital heating. During the winter season (December-February) all three resorts and Srinagar are snow clad, with temperatures at times reaching a low -10°C. Heavy woollens are mandatory during this season. During winter Srinagar, Pahalgam and Sonamarg have off-season, nevertheless peak season in Gulmarg. Kashmir obtains most of its rainfall during spring.
Art & Culture of Kashmir
Jammu & Kashmir is a state with affluent craft and cultural legacy. This charming land is renowned for its pictorial landscapes and also for its crafts context of people and culture. Kashmir is also famous for its exotic, colourful and vibrant paintings, ornaments and costumes. J & K is a home to the famous miniature Basohli Qalam paintings that are found in eminent museums across the world. The ramparts and columns of several edifices in Jammu, especially the temples, are bejeweled with carvings, intricate sculptures of Gods and Goddesses or floral motifs. The charming designs and striking naqqashi work done on various handcrafted items, displays a strong mark of ancient tradition. Kashmiri artisans’ are taking effort to persist the ancient tradition of artistic quality, even though a few changes have taken place.
Kashmiri arts and crafts are renowned for their affluent workmanship. Some popular art and crafts of the state comprise floor carpets, Wood-work, Papier mache, Metal work, Silverware, Jewellery, Basketry & mat weaving. Kashmiri Leather and furs, Clay and ceramics, Paintings and Stone craft are also renowned for its beauty and perfection. The Kashmiri artisan also manufactures articles of copper-ware which includes cooking pots and samovars and sundry articles for the households. As far as textile is concerned, Jammu & Kashmir has a detach pose owing to its enthralling art of Kashmiri Pashmina shawl. As pure Pashmina is exceptionally expensive, it is frequently blended with silk to make it more reasonable. A pure Pashmina shawl is an expensive possession which can be handed over from one generation to the other. These shawls have a great demand in the local as well as international market.
Cuisine of Jammu & Kashmir
The state proffers a diversity of striking recipes abiding a discrete seal of the state. The cooking style differs according to religions and provinces. In Jammu & Kashmir you can find mainly three ways of traditional cooking, they are followed by Kashmir pandits, Muslims and Rajputs. Each one of these has their own qualities and peculiarities. The delicacies include both vegetarian and non-vegetarian cuisines but meat based dishes with lamb usually favored over others.
People of the state use a wide range of spices, condiments and curd in their cooking. The medium of cooking is chiefly mustard oil and pure gee as this helps to retain the body temperature. One most significant feature of Kashmir cuisine is the utilizing of expensive saffron or kesar, which is produced in the state. Rice is the chief form of staple food in Kashmir. Variations in recipes can also be seen in the different regions of the state. Cooking pattern as seen in Ladakh differs to that Hindu Dogras. This is due to variation in crop production in different regions of the state.
Fairs & Festivals of Jammu & Kashmir
Jammu and Kashmir rejoices numerous festivals. The festive season commences with Lohri which blotches the end of the cold season. Dance and music goes on for quite a lot of hours around the fire by young boys and girls. Holi is rejoiced by all the group of people where they squirt colors on each other. Jammu is packed all through Navratri with pilgrims returning from Vaishnov Devi mandir. Other fiestas celebrated in Jammu and Kashmir are Guru Ravi Das's birthday, Navroz, I'd, Diwali, Mahavir Jayanti and Buddha Jayanti. The insignia of celebration that pack the heart and essence of each traveler who pays a visit to this place during the festival season is the distinctive trait of this state that makes you carve the vision to stopover this place all over again to enjoy the festivals here.
Lohri is celebrated in Jammu region with unique flavor and enthusiasm to welcome the spring. It is celebrated on every year one day before Makar Sankranti. Thousands of devotees take a holy immerse in the sacred river. The rites and rituals connected with the celebrations aree performed in almost every house and temple in Jammu. In the rural areas, there is a custom that the boys go around asking for gifts from newly-weds and new parents. 'Chajja' dance is presented on this event and the boys in company with their ornately decorated 'chajjas' with tinted paper and flowers, dance in a pageant on the street escorted by pulsating drumbeats.
The 'Baisakhi' festival is normally celebrated on every April 13th. This is the harvest festival of northern India which is considered to be much auspicious for marriage ceremonies. Each year, followers take a ritual dip in the rivers, canals or ponds in there region. During this celebration, various fairs are organized. Baisaki which represents the ‘vaishaka’ the first month according to the Hindu calendar marking the New Year holds special importance for the Sikh community in Jammu. According to Sikhs this is the day on which the formation of the Khalsa sect had taken place by their 10th Guru Gobinth Singji. Bhangra dance is usually carried out as part of the celebrations.
Baba Jitu was a straightforward and sincere farmer who chosen to commit suicide rather than give in to the unfair demands of the local landlord and part with his crop. He used to reside in the village of Jhiri, 14 km from Jammu. It is alleged that Baba and his supporters gather together at Jhiri on the allotted day from every area of North India. He is honored for his concern, audacity and sincerity and an annual fair is held in his respect.
Hemis Festival is the most significant festival in Ladakh region. This festival is celebrated to memorialize the birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava. The Hemis festival is prepared in the vast quad of the biggest monastery in Ladakh. This is celebrated usually on the 9th, 10th and 11th day of 5th month following the Tibetan calendar. It is also believed that these are the days on which Guru Padmasambhava fought with demons and defeated them. To portray this, Lamas disguise themselves in traditional clothes and century old masks, and perform a rite dance depicting the victory of good over evil. Seeing the dance performance in itself is mesmerizing, and the music from drums and long horns only give you an extra reason to get spell bound.
Places of Worship
The shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi is one of the most important pilgrimages of the Hindus. This sacred shrine is located at a height of 5, 300 feet above the sea level. The site is located inside a cave in the Trikuta Mountains in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, 62 kilometers from Jammu and 14 kilometers from Katra. Matha Vishno is an incarnation of Goddess Durga. There is a legend connected with this temple which states that a young girl Vaishno was created by the Gods to fight the demons in the Treta yug. Having taken a vow of celibacy, she spent almost all her life in meditation and prayers. When she went to jungle for meditation, a man named Bhairavnath, enchanted by her beauty, started pestering her to marry him. She fled from the jungle to shun him. After being elusive for nine months she confronted him outside a cave and decapitated him. After being beheaded he sought for forgiveness and Vaishnodevi forgave him. Since then this is regarded as the temple of Bhairavnath. And it is also believed that a yatra to Vishno will not be fulfilled unless one pays a visit to the Bhairavnath temple.
According to common Hindu religious belief Mata Vaishno grants the four important boons of righteousness, material pursuits, contentment and enlightenment to all those who visit this sacred place of worship. Usually devotees offer coconuts, dry fruits and red net scarves as a token of worship to the deity. Once at the entrance to the cave; the path turns into a narrow tunnel with a cold stream running through it. This stream is called the Charan Ganga. There are rock cut idols of three deities inside the cave, viz. Mahakali, Mahalakshmi and Mahasaraswati. These idols have crowns made of gold and silver.
Amarnath Yatra is devoted to Lord Shiva, one of the Trinity gods. The Amarnath shrine is positioned at a height 4,175 m above sea level nearly 145 km from Srinagar. The path leading to the holy cave of Amarnathji is unreachable in the winters. This is because from September to June, the weather conditions in the area are exceptionally antagonistic and the path remains covered with snow. The Amar Nath pilgrimage tour from Kashmir is possible only in monsoons, i.e. from July to August.
It is believed that an ice Shivalinga will be formed in every lunar month in the cave of Amarnath. The Shivalinga begins taking figure on the first day of the bright half of the month and forms fully on the full moon day and then starts to melt on the no moon day. One can find four to five ice figures resembling various deities inside the Amarnath cave. As per the ritual, the largest one is believed to be of Amarnath (Lord Shiva), one on its left of Lord Ganesha and ones on the right of Parvati and Bhairava respectively. There are many legends linked with this temple. One of the legends is that Lord Shiva was describing the secret of creation and immortality to Goddess Parvati in a cave in Amarnath. Without their acquaintance, a pair of mating doves overheard their conversation. Having learned the secret of creation, the doves now take rebirth again and again and the same cave serves as their abode since then. Another popular legend is that, to make all the gods immortal, Lord Shiva distributed celestial nectar of immortality or “Amruthu” amongst them. This led to awarding of the name Amarnath to Lord Shiva, meaning "Lord of Immortality'".
Yet another legend is that once a Muslim Shepherd named Buta Malik was gifted with a sack of coal by a sadhu. After reaching home, he opened the sack top and discovered that the sack contains Gold. He went back to thank the sadhu and on the spot of their rendezvous found a cave. In due course, this place became a pilgrimage destination. It is believed that, till date, a portion of the donations by pilgrims is given to his descendents. Last, but not the least is the legend that Kashyap Rishi, the grandson of Lord Brahma drained the Kashmir valley of water. After the whole valley was drained, Bregeish Rishi, who was traveling the Himalayas, discovered the Amarnath cave and lingam. Slowly, people came to know about the cave and the Shivalinga and Amarnath came to be regarded as the abode of Lord Shiva and a revered pilgrim center.
Places to Visit
Jammu-City of Temples
Jammu is a chief tourist destination in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Estrange the milieu of the snow-capped Pir Panjal range, Jammu marks the shift between the Himalayas in the north and the dusty plains of the Punjab in the south, connecting these two extremities by a series of scrub covered hills, woody mountain ranges and deep river valleys. In accordance to the ancient beliefs the King Jambu Lochan discovered this area whilst on a hunting trip. Jammu is situated close to the Shivalik ranges on the banks of the Tawi River. This tourist destination lies at a height of 305 meters above the sea level. Tours to Jammu must include a trip to the important tourist destinations in and around Jammu. These include travel to the Vaishno Devi temple, the Raghunath Mandir, the Dogra Art gallery and the Amar Mahal Palace.
Air: Jammu city has its own airport which is just 6 km away from the city center. Indian Airlines has a daily flight operating to Jammu from Delhi.
Rail: Jammu Tawi is the most important rail-head in Jammu and Kashmir which receives trains from all major cities and towns of India.
Road: Jammu is connected with all other cities of J & K and all states of India through roads. State transport buses of all states have their buses plying to Jammu.
Tourist Destinations & Attractions
112 km from Jammu, Patnitop boasts of being a hill resortof matchless beauty. Perched on a beautiful plateau and encased by thickly wooded forests, it offers pretty picnic spots, tranquil walks and panoramic views of the mountainous of the basin of River Chenab. Snow enwraps it in winters and there are endless opportunities for various snow games such as skiing. Natural charm, climate, pine forests and lush green cover compliment the best-developed touring spot of Jammu region. Situated at a high altitude, there are many pleasant walks around Patnitop. It is also a starting point for many short or long treks into the nearby mountains such as the attractive one-day 11-km walk to Shiva Garh, situated at an altitude of almost 3,500 m.
The highlights of Patnitop are its three gushing, ice-cold freshwater springs in the area, which are said to have medicinal properties. Flowery meadows make Patnitop an ideal place for walks and picnics. It also has a 6-hole golf course, which is being expanded to 9-holes. Adventure lovers may trek or ride ponies along little known trails, opt for paragliding and basic skiing while others can enjoy camping and walks. Sudh Mahadev is a sacred spot situated close to Patnitop.
Nucleus of a group of temples, this temple in situated in the city center and is dedicated to Lord Rama. Maharaja Gulab Singh who founded the kingdom of Jammu and Kashmir initiated the intricate work on the temple in 1835, which was completed in 1860 by his son, Maharaja Ranbir Singh.
Bahu Fort stands 5 kms away from the city centre on a rock face on the left bank of Tawi River. Believed to be the oldest fort in the city, Bahu Fort was originally built by Raja Bahulocan over 3,000 years ago. Most recently the existing fort was imporved by the Dogra rulers. Inside the fort there is temple of goddess Kali, while a garden known as Bagh-e-Bahu has been developed around the fort.
Aquarium Bagh- e-Bahu
This is the largest underground aquarium in the subcontinent. This aquarium in Jammu's Bagh-e-Bahu area is attracting a huge number of tourists ever since it was opened to the public. Besides students, tourists also throng here; this place provides them an opportunity to revel in the exotic marine world. The aquarium-cum-awareness centre encompasses of 24 aquarium caves plus 13 small caves for keeping freshwater fishes, two large caves for displaying marine water fishes and nine medium sized aquariums for holding marine and fresh water fishes. It has state-of-the-art equipment, a public gallery, museum, laboratory and a multimedia conference hall. The entrance is designed in the shape of the mouth of a fish and the exit in the shape of a fish tail. The aquarium houses a museum where 400 varieties of freshwater and marine fish are displayed.
Dargah of Ali Shah – Symbol of Protection
The shrine of Peer Budhan Ali Shah is the most venerated shrine in the city and is said to protect the people from the mishaps and evil spirits. Despite belong to different religions all the people visit the shrine to pay their tribute to this saint and find the solution to their daily problems. Peer Mittha was another saint who used to accept nothing more than a pinch of sugar from his devotees and was named Mitha for this reason. Visiting this place will be a real spiritual experience and spend sometime in the introspection you will definitely find answer for your queries.
Srinagar- City of Lakes
Srinagar is the summer capital of Jammu & Kashmir. Srinagar is the most beautiful city located in the heart of Kashmir valley at an altitude of some 1730 meters above sea level. Srinagar is popular among tourists for its lakes and the charming rows of houseboats floating on them. It is also known for traditional Kashmiri handicrafts and dry fruits. Srinagar is popular among tourists for its lakes, scenic beauty and the Mughal gardens. The Nishad and Shalimar Gardens are popular venues for picnics in Srinagar. The area around Dal Lake is also a favorite place for visitors who sit on the banks of the Dal Lake and watch boats float by, or venture out on a boat ride.
Air: Srinagar has a domestic airport connecting it to other parts of India.
Rail: Jammu is the nearest railhead.
Road: J&K State Road Transport Corporation (SRTC), private super deluxe buses or taxis.
Tourist Destinations & Attractions
Dal Lake is one of the chief attractions of Srinagar and it is a maze of intricate waterways. The Dal Lake contains vegetable gardens, lotus plantations, shops and narrow lanes of water, bordered with the willow trees. The lake is divided into Gagribal, Bod Dal and Lokut Dal by a series of causeways. Within the Dal Lake there are two islands which are famous picnic spots for locals and tourists as well. Silver Island (Sona Lank) is to the north end of the lake while Gold Island (Rupa Lank) is to the south. There is a third island, Nehru Park, at the end of the main stretch of the lake side Boulevard. Whether you are just relaxing on your houseboat or visiting the Mughal's gardens around the lake there is plenty to see and do on Dal Lake. A shikara ride around the lake is a wonderful experience and not to be missed. A leisurely cruise around the lake will take all day including visits to the Mughal Gardens and many other places on the lake side.
Hazratbal mosque is situated on the North West Shore of Dal Lake. It is the only mosque in the Kashmir Valley which is built of white marble and surrounded by a dome. Hazratbal mosque enshrines a single hair of Prophet Muhammad which is exhibited to public a few times in a year. For non-believers the mosque will be interesting for its beautiful setting on the shores of the lake having the snow-capped peaks as a backdrop.
The Mughal Gardens
The Mughal Gardens with their patio gardens, abundant maple trees, revitalizing fountains and thriving flowers, have become the exceptional attributes of Srinagar. Located in the far eastern side of pictorial Dal Lake, The Shalimar Bagh (garden) and the Nishant Bagh are the most striking of all that are there in the city. Even Chashmashahi, though small, has made its mark as an unbeaten tourist spot owing to its spring of charming and refreshing water which was once intended for drinking by the Mughals.
Dachigam National Park
Dachigam National Park is spread over an area 141 sq.km offers the best place all animal and nature lovers. This park is situated just 22 km from Srinagar. The park is renowned for its rich flora and fauna and as a great bird watching spot. The park has been divided into two sectors, the Lower Dachigam and the Upper Dachigam. The altitude difference between the lower and upper section is quite prominent which makes the climate drastically different. Dachigam has more than 20 species of mammals like Leopard, Himalayan brown bear, Langur, but the prize possession of this park is the Rare Kashmiri Stag called Hangul which is an endangered species of red deer. The place is also great for spotting beautiful birds of more than 150 species. Few of them are Golden Oriole, Golden Eagle, Black Bulbul, and Bearded Vulture. The park remains closed between January and April and the best time to visit this park is May to August for Upper Dachigam and September to December for Lower Dachigam.
Rainawari is the holy place where the most important gurudwara in Srinagar is situated. The Gurudwara is built by the sixth guru of Sikhism who traveled through Kashmir. The guru halted in this place and a gurudwara, known as Chatti Padshahi Gurudwara was constructed. Rainawari has historical and religious importance. This place has all the beauty of any other place in Srinagar, ranging from picturesque surroundings, cool and nice weather and calm, quiet environment. Visitors can mix up with locals and have a close look at their lifestyle and culture.
Pari Mahal- literally means ‘House of Fairies’ is one of the chief attractions in Srinagar. The Mahal is encircled by an exquisite garden overlooking the Dal Lake and has lots of flowers and fruits and a spring in the middle. The Mahal is an example of brilliant architectural style. Pari Mahal was once a Buddhist monastery before being an astrology school promoted by Dara Shikoh, the eldest of Emperor Shah Jahan’s sons.
Nagin Lake, with its name resulting out of the name of the trees surrounding the lake, is also renowned as the 'Jewel in the Ring’ and is measured as one of the imposing lakes in Srinagar. This is a small lake appearing attractive in deep blue. This lake is estranged from the Dal Lake by a thin causeway. This is an exhilarating tourist spot with numerous houseboats dwindling in the tranquil water. Nagin is an ideal place to go for swimming as it is less packed and deeper. Water Skiing is another water sports one can venture out in this lake, skiing facilities and fiberglass sailing boats are available for hire.
Wullar Lake, the biggest fresh-water lake in India, is serving as a natural reservoir by drawing the surplus water from the River Jhelum. Relics of an amazing island built by King Zain-ul-abidin are seen in the middle of the lake. This lake, uncharted and undomesticated by whichever reason, is an abode for many bird species. This is a most sought after tourist goal. Many streams, Pohru, Harbuji, Erin and the Aarah, flow into the enormity of Wullar Lake. Tour to the scenic beautiful Wullar Lake is a memorable experience. One can visit the nearby Nal Sarovar Bird Sanctuary, which is another tourist destination.
Gulmarg – The Meadow of Flowers
Gulmarg literally means ‘meadow of flowers’ located 52 km to the west of Srinagar. Snuggled high in the Himalayan ranges, Gulmarg is one of those picture perfect tranquil hill stations often sighted in elite travel brochures. The magnificent splendor of the untouched snow-covered scenery, the opulence of the exquisite valleys and traditional Kashmiri warmth combine to make Gulmarg a must-see on any itinerary to the Jammu and Kashmir region. It is a panoramic hill station positioned at an altitude of 2690 m above sea level amidst the languish wrap in the basin of Pir Pranjal basin. This daunting hill station was a bliss resort for kings and royal family members and a summer retreat for the British officers during the British rule in India. History asserts that Mughal emperor Jehangir was a recurrent visitor to this pleasing milieu.
Gulmarg is a striking place with scenic backdrop, gorgeous gardens with stunning flowers and fragrance. Gulmarg provides one of the best ski resorts in India as it gets heavy snowfall particularly during winter. Some of the highest ski slopes in India lies in the shoddy Himalayan regions in Gulmarg. Gulmarg is credited with the longest and highest cable car project in Asia. The experience in this cable car is breathtaking and really memorable.
Air: The closest airport is at Srinagar (57 km). Regular flights are operated to Srinagar from almost all the major cities in India.
Rail: Jammu is the nearest railway station from Gulmarg.
Road: Buses and taxis are operated regularly from Srinagar and several other major cities of the state.
Tourist Destinations & Attractions
Cable Car to Kongdoor
The wonderful attraction of traveling over the hilly peaks admiring the pristine beauty of the nature; the trip in the cable car from Gulmarg to Kongdoor offers one an enthralling experience. This is renowned as the Gondola lift. The car passes over the pine forests, initially from a height of 2690 m above sea level and rise up to 3090 m while reaching Kongdoor. The imposing vision of the lusting green hilly topographies and the panoramic view of the quaint surroundings offer the supreme experience for a tourist enjoying the awesome travel in the cable car.
Alpather Lake is located beyond Khilanmarg, at the bottom of the twin 4,511 m Afarwat peaks, 13 km from Gulmarg. This triangular lake remains frozen until mid-June and stripes of floating ice can be seen even in the later part of the year. To reach the lake, one has to trek over the 3,810 m Apharwat ridge, the peak that detaches Gulmarg from Khilanmarg, and then up the valley to the bottom of the mountain, at an altitude of 3,843 m above the sea level. The boulder strewn incline of the crests and the mountainous terrain grants an idyllic ground for trekking aficionados.
Throughout the summer and well into the autumn, Gulmarg is a tempting attraction for golfers from every nook and corner of the world because of the world's highest, 18-hole green golf course is located Gulmarg. An upland meadow, just 4 km from Gulmarg, Khilanmarg is reachable by foot, by pony or in a dandi. The vision of the snow peaks and the limpid waters of the Wular Lake from here is a breathtaking one, describing the beauty of Himalayan splendour.
Khilanmarg presents an incomparable view of the great Himalayan range. The Apharwat peak pilots to the Alpather Lake, a pictorial alpine lake that remains frozen until late June. For those who love horse riding, Alpather Lake provides an excellent location. Somewhat lower than Gulmarg is the shrine of Baba Reshi (a Muslim mystic saint) visited by people of all faiths.
This smaller valley is about a 6km walk from the Gulmarg bus stop and car park. The meadows are carpeted with flowers during the spring. This is the site for Gulmarg's winter ski runs and presents a fine sight of the adjoining peaks and over the Kashmir Valley. It's a 600-metre ascent from Gulmarg to Khilanmarg and during the early spring, as the snow melts, it can be a very muddy hour's climb up the hill. The effort is rewarded, if it's clear, with a sweeping view of the great Himalayas from Nanga Parbat to the twin 7,100-metre peaks of Nun and Kun to the southeast.
Flowing from the melting snow and ice on the Apharwat peak and the Alpather Lake, this pretty mountain stream is located at a distance of 8 km from Gulmarg. This charming stream continues down into the valley below and joins the Jhelum River near Sopur. This long grassy valley is a popular picnic spot and the walking path carries on, crossing the Ningli (also spelt Ningle) Nallah by a bridge and continues on the Khilenmarg, another grassy meadow and a good spot for camping. In early summer one will probably share the campsites with Gujars moving their herds up to the high meadows.
Shrine of Baba Reshi / Ziarat of Baba Reshi
It is a Muslim shrine located a few kilometres from Gulmarg. The shrine is built on the slopes below Gulmarg and can be reached from either Gulmarg or Tangmarg. Devoted to a renowned Muslim saint, who was a courtier of the Kashmir King Zain-ul-Abidin, the shrine witnesses thousands of devotees every year, regardless of any religion or faith. The five century old shrine was constructed with the architectural styles of Persian and Mughals. The shrine is located in a vast expanse of greenish lawns and it can accommodate many thousands at a time.
Skiing is what nowadays defines Gulmarg. The town has the best skiing resort in the entire country. Once winters set in, the entire landscape of the town changes. The bright green slopes of summers now become the shinning white skiing tracks, beckoning professional as well as amatuer skiers. The vast snow slopes becomes the perfect locations for indulging in hail skiing from the mountaintop.
Sonamarg- The Meadow of Gold
Situated at an altitude of 2743 m above sea level, Sonmarg is utterly justifies its name, which means 'Meadow of Gold'. The first thing that you will observe in Sonamarg is the snow-capped mountain that forms the milieu of the town. Wrapped with alpine trees from all sides, Sonmarg has few of the loveliest flower assortments in J&K. During winter the entire town is covered with snow giving it an altogether diverse charisma of white. Sonamarg is renowned for its charming numerous short walks and stunning trekking routes. The most famous trek is certainly the one that takes you to Amarnath caves. In fact Baltal which is just besides Sonmarg, is used as a base camp for starting the holy Amarnath yatra.
The spectacular valley of Sonamarg gets its name from a legend. As per the legend there is a well in the Sonamarg valley whose water can turn anything into gold. The other possible reason for the name Sonamarg could be its location on the route to Central Asia. Sonamarg remains cold even during summers. The meadow, encircled by snowy mountains, dense forests full of sycamore and alpine flowers, silver birch, and fir and pine, presents a captivating sight. May-June is considered the best time to visit Sonamarg. Sonmarg in itself is a stunning place full of natural elegance and bequests. This appealing little town of Sonmarg has some dazzling blue water lakes and affluent in color grasslands. From Sonmarg, you can also look at the towering snow clad mountains of the Ladakh region that are a real treat to eyes.
Air: The nearest airport is in Badgam District.
Rail: The nearest railhead is at Jammu and is easily approachable via NH-1A.
Road: Located 80 km from Srinagar, Sonamarg is easily accessible from NH-1A by buses or taxis.
Tourist Destinations & Attractions
The most popular trekking route through Sonamarg leads to the holy Amarnath cave. This route witnesses the maximum number of devotees to Lord Shiva during Sawan Purnima. Besides, Sonamarg is the base for the major treks that pass through several mountain lakes-Vishansar, Kishansar, Gadsar, Satsar and Gangabal. The 4 to 6 day trek route of Gangabal is one of the most popular routes that are open throughout mid summer.
This activity is popular on frozen glaciers. Sonamarg has several adventurous routes with beautiful green water and frozen lakes around. The popular Thajiwas glacier, 3km from Sonamarg, is an ideal spot to enjoy a sledge ride on the snow even in mid summer. The area near the Thajiwas glacier is a perfect camping site too.
Angling and Fishing
Sonamarg offers wonderful opportunities for fishing as the Sindh River that passes through the valley is rich in trout and mahaseer. For angling in Sonamarg, one needs to get an approved license from the fisheries department. The Krishnasagar Lake at an altitude of 3,801m is also famous for Trout fishing.
Nilagrad is the place where union of the Mountain River and Indus River takes place. One stricking thing about this place is that the colour of the river stream here is bright red. There is a belief that the water has curative powers and it can cure skin ailments. The local people here come here to take a bath in this special water once a week.
Krishnasar Lake is one of the most captivating lakes in Himalayan region. This charming lake is located at a height of 3801m above sea level. Travelers from various places throng here to enjoy the charismatic view of nature. This lake is renowned for trout fishing.
Baltal is extremely stunning grassland which is situated right at the foot of Zoji la pass, adjacent to Ladakh territory. Baltal is more famous for its closeness to Amarnath cave. You can just walk to the cave which is approximately 5 km away from here. During the Amarnath yatra, many pilgrims set up camps here to rest.
Leh-Ladakh- Dropped Piece of Heaven
Leh is one of the desired tourist destinations situated in the northernmost parts of the country. Lapped in the snow-clapped fringes of the Himalayas, Leh has been the center of Tibeto-Buddhist culture since ages. Its colorful gompas have attracted the devout Buddhists from all over the globe. Besides, it is also a favorite hiking setting and is identified for some of the best hikes in India. Ladakh is one of the three provinces in Jammu and Kashmir with its capital at Leh. Situated at an average height of more than 3000 m above sea level, Ladakh is India's highest plateau and most mysterious as well. The name Ladakh literally means 'land of passes' and it is sited in between Karakoram Mountains in north and Himalayas in south. Ladakh is also renowned as 'Little Tibet'. Ladakh consists of two districts, Kargil and the capital of Leh. Leh district has the credit of being the largest district in India. The face of Leh is spotted with few of the most striking structures in Ladakh. The Leh city is also renowned for the splendid Leh Palace which reminds you the famous Potala Palace of Tibet. World’s largest observatory is located in the village of Hanle of Ladakh. The major section of the population in Ladakh is Buddism followers. But in the Kargil district, major population consists of Muslims.
Adventure is the major aspect of tourism in Ladakh. Exactly from the first stone in Ladakh to the last, there are plentiful options for adventure. Trekking, mountain climbing, river rafting and yak safari are some of the favorite adventure sports. Although the suitable time for many of these adventures is during the summer season. The climate here is entirely diverse from other regions of India owing to the mountain cover that is there on all sides it. The humidity is low at around 10 percent and the rains are quite less. In fact for Irrigation, people of Ladakh greatly rely on the waters due to the melting snow from the glaciers. The summers are quite pleasing but nights are a bit chilly.
Air: Nearest airport is at Leh. Airline service operates regular scheduled flights to Leh from Delhi, Jammu and Srinagar. From Jammu there are two flights in week and from Srinagar one in a week.
Road: Leh is having a road connection to Srinagar and Manali. The route to Srinagar is open from June to October, whereas route to Manali is open from July to September.
Local Transport: Buses are the main mode of transport in Ladakh. You will also find jeeps and taxis for hire.
Tourist Destinations & Attractions
Thiksey Monastery located at a distance of 20 km from Leh was built in the fifteenth century and it belongs to the Gelugpa sect. This monastery is one of the most impressive monasteries in Leh-Ladakh region. Thiksey Monastery consists of 12 levels ascending a hillside, culminating in an incarnate lama’s private abode at the summit. This monastery complex contains plentiful stupas, thankas, wall painting, swords and a large pillar engraved with Buddha’s teachings. The monastery is still very lively and has around 10 temples inside the premises. Inside the monastery, you will find the one of the most snapped image in Ladakh, the 15 m tall Maitreya Buddha. It was built to commemorate the visit of Dalai Lama in 1970. If possible, try to come to this monastery in early morning or at noon. That is the time when prayers are held in the monastery. Accompanied by rolling drumbeats and Tibetan horns, the prayers are not to be missed.
Hemis Monastery is the largest and the wealthiest monastery in Ladakh in the present day. This monastery was built in the year 1630 by King Senge Namgyal. This monastery is also known as 'Chang Chub Sam Ling' which means the solitary place of the compassionate one. The monastery sets veiled deep in a chasm and a stroll to the monastery will take you across many shortens and small walls. The monastery today belongs to the Kagyug Drukpa Red Hat sect and is abode to Drukpa Kagyug lineage. Inside the monastery, you will be awestruck to discover the largest thangka in the world, which stands as tall as two floors in length. The thangka is exhibited only once in 12 years and the next exhibit will be held on 2016. The monastery is also renowned for the three day Hemis festival that is celebrated to memorialize the birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava on every 9th, 10th and 11th of fifth month according to Tibetan calendar. During the festival you will see Lamas and laypersons performing a sacred dance dressed in century old masks and traditional clothing portraying gods and demons and depicting triumph of good over evil.
First look of the palace reminds you the legendary Potala Palace in Lhasa, the capital city of Tibet. It is exactly resembles real Potala Palace as a miniature model of it. This palce is also known as Lhachen Phalkar and was built in 17th century by Dharamraja Singey Namgial. This palace was once the abode of royal family till 1830s. This is now serves as the Ladakhi branch of archaeological conservation organization of Indian Government. The palace is situated at the edge of a hill and just on top of the palace one can see the victory tower build to celebrate the Ladakhi victory over Balti Kashmir. This palace also houses an awesome collection of exquisite artwork on Thangaka paintings.
Located about 3 kms west of the bazaar, this white memorial of peace was built by a Japanese Buddhist order to celebrate 2,500 years of Buddhism and to spread the message of peace. Inaugurated by the Dalai Lama in 1985, this stupa overlooks Changspa village and during night this becomes extraordinarily impressive by illumination.
Located astoundingly on a crest right of the Indus, about 8km from Leh, Spituk Gompa was built in the 15th century. It is one of the most prominent monasteries of the Gelukpa order and has Sankar Gompa as its subsidiary. This monastery was built above the relics of an 11th century gompa and presents a bravura view of the Indus and Zanskar valley. The monastery houses two prayer rooms those are revealed only once a year during Gu-stor festival. These rooms contain some beautiful statues of Buddha.
Located in the Zanskar valley, 20 kms south of Rangdum, this is an exceptional cave monastery. It is stunningly nuzzled on a crag overlooking the Zongkhul falls. It is believed that Indian yogi Naropa used the caves of this monastery for meditation, and his footprints are said to be embedded in a rock. Since then, this monastery has been considered to be a sacred place for meditation, with abundance of enlightened ones like Dubchen Kunga Gyatso, Dubchen Nawang Tsering, Dzadpa Dorje and Kunga Choslag having taken meditative consolation here.
The Stok Palace is the abode of the current Royal family of Leh. It is a stunning palace, built in 1825 by one of Leh’s most famous kings, King Tsespal Tondup Namgyal. The Stok Palace is exposed to visitors and one can see some truly incredible royal ornaments, crowns and special attire. The architecture of the Stok Palace is an exact amalgamation of modern and medieval style. The best views of the valley and witnessing a sunrise or a sunset from the Stok Palace is a truly magical moment.
Vajra Bhairav Shrine
Vajra Bhairav Shrine is the place of worship of the protector god of an order known as the Gelug Pa. The Gelug Pa order is one of the oldest in Buddhism and the Vajra Bhairav Shrine is located in the gorgeous valley of the Indus River. One very unusual thing with the Vajra Bhairav Shrine is the fact that the deity is only observable to devotees once a year. The rest of the year the deity is kept in a closed sanctum. However the shrine is home to some very beautiful paintings and some of the paintings date back to around 600 years.