About Kashmir

Kashmir is the northernmost geographical region of the Indian subcontinent. Until the mid-19th century, the term "Kashmir" denoted only the Kashmir Valley between the Great Himalayas and the Pir Panjal Range. Today, it denotes a larger area that includes the Indian-administered territory of Jammu and Kashmir (subdivided into Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh divisions), the Pakistani-administered territories of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, and Chinese-administered territories of Aksai Chin and the Trans-Karakoram Tract.

Kashmir the pradise on Earth Set like a jewelled crown on the map of India, Kashmir is a multi-faceted diamond, changing its hues with the seasons - always extravagantly beautiful. Two major Himalayan ranges, the Great Himalayan Range and the Pir Panjal, surround the landscape from the north and south respectively. They are the source of great rivers, which flow down into the valleys, forested with orchards and decorated by lily-laden lakes.

The Mughals aptly called Kashmir ‘Paradise on Earth’ where they journeyed across the hot plains of India, to the valley’s cool environs in summer. Here they laid, with great love and care, Srinagar’s many formal, waterfront gardens, now collectively known as the Mughal Gardens. Anecdotes of four and five centuries ago describe their love for these gardens, and the rivalries that centred around their ownership. They also patronized the development of art & craft among the people of Kashmir, leaving behind a heritage of exquisite artisanship among thes people and making the handicrafts of the land prized gifts all over the world.

Kashmir is a land where myriad holiday ideas are realised. In winter, when snow carpets the mountains, there is skiing, tobogganing, sledge-riding, etc. along the gentle slopes. In spring and summer, the honey-dewed orchards, rippling lakes and blue skies beckon every soul to sample the many delights the mountains and valleys have to offer. Golfing at 2,700 m above the sea, water-skiing in the lakes and angling for prized rainbow trout, or simply drifting down the willow fringed alleys of lakes in shikaras and living in gorgeous houseboats are some of the most favoured ones.

SEASONS

Kashmir has four distinct seasons, each with its own peculiar character and distinctive charm. These are spring, summer, autumn and winter.

Spring- which extends roughly from March to early May, is when a million blossoms carpet the ground. The weather during this time can be gloriously pleasant at 23oC or chilly and windy at 6oC. This is the season when Srinagar experiences rains, but the showers are brief.

Summer- extends from May until the end of August. Light woollens may be required to wear out of Srinagar. In higher altitudes night temperatures drop slightly. Srinagar at this time experiences day temperatures of between 25oC and 35oC. At this time, the whole valley is a mosaic of varying shades of green - rice fields, meadows, trees, etc. and Srinagar with its lakes and waterways is a heaven after the scorching heat of the Indian plains.

Autumn- the onset of autumn, perhaps Kashmir's loveliest season, is towards September, when green turns to gold and then to russet and red. The highest day temperatures in September are around 23oC and night temperatures dip to 10oC by October, and further drop by November, when heavy woollens are essential.

Winter- from December to the beginning of March is winter time, which presents Srinagar in yet another mood. Bare, snow-covered landscapes being watched from beside the warmth of a fire is a joy that cannot be described to anyone who has not experienced it. Some houseboats and hotels remain open in winter-these are either centrally heated or heated with ‘bukharis’, a typically Kashmiri stove kept alight with embers of wood, quite effective in the winter.

Security

While there is a military presence in Srinagar, it is mostly handled by a paramilitary force that is there to reassure both tourists and locals about security. There are times when you’ll see military vehicles, armed soldiers, and surveillance equipment along the streets and highways, but this is to ensure safety. It’s probably a good idea to register with your country’s consulate upon arrival in India and give them a copy of your itinerary. Before you go, read any travel warnings that might be current.

Curfews

Over the years, spontaneous protests have broken out by various groups trying to carve out their place in Kashmiri society. As a result, sometimes curfews and checkpoints are imposed. Be aware during curfews it takes longer to go places. This is especially relevant if you are flying during this time. It might be difficult to get transportation to the airport, so plan ahead. Also the airport only lets passengers in who are departing within three hours. If you arrive earlier due to curfew restrictions, you might have to wait outside.

Airport

The only carry-on allowed are pre-checked laptops and cell phones. All other luggage must be weighed, scanned and checked. Make sure you have your departure ticket, passport, and carry-on electronics accessible before you arrive at the security checkpoint.

Streets

The population of Srinagar is about 1.2 million people. There are approximately 880 women for every 1000 men. It is also a predominately Muslim society with about 5 percent being Hindu. Women are not required to cover their face or head but should dress respectfully with pants and sleeved shirts. It is perfectly safe for women to walk on the streets without much danger of being approached or harassed, but still be aware of your surroundings.

Floating Hotels

Srinagar, once known as the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, is famous for the grand houseboats anchored on the piers and floating in the middle of the lake. The James Bond movie “Octopussy” featured these floating barge homes. However some have fallen into disrepair from years of neglect. Recently, the newly elected government worked with the local tourism officials and formed the Houseboat Owners Association. Together they wrote safety standards and are bringing back these Kashmiri palaces. Be careful when booking your stay that you choose a houseboat with the HOA approved logo.

Weather

If you venture to Srinagar during the winter months, make sure you bring proper clothing. Layering and a good jacket should be sufficient. Near the lakes can be icy, so be careful when walking that you don’t slip though the ice. Winter storms in Zabarwan Range can freeze the lake or envelop the valley with a foggy mist, giving Srinagar an ethereal beauty.

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