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Kashmir rediscovered

| Words by Zoe Crane |

Like nowhere else in India

Kashmir has been a celebrated escape since the Mughal emperors ruled over India (1526 to 1751), however conflict between India and Pakistan, causing three wars since 1947 and continuing unrest, has seen tourism in the region grind to a halt. Kashmir is safer now than it has been in decades, giving travellers the chance to rediscover Kashmir’s incredible culture and natural beauty.

The Himalayas of northern India View of the Indian Himalayas

High in the far northwest Himalayas of India, the region is endowed with beautiful mountains and unique village scenes, with stately houses, rich orchards, and meadows complete with grazing sheep and goats. The region’s cultural and scenic centre is the magnificent Vale of Kashmir, home to the capital Srinagar. This rapidly developing city retains a distinctively Central Asian flavour both in the clothing and appearance of the Kashmiris and their impressive architecture. The town is dotted with old timber and mud brick mosques and colourful bazaars, where the smells of fresh herbs and flatbreads from hundreds of little bakeries make walking a sensory treat.

The houseboats of KashmirHouseboats on Lake Srinagar in Kashmir

Srinagar is surrounded by a series of beautiful lakes, set against a backdrop of snow covered peaks and groves of huge chinar and poplar trees. The people here still farm on the islands and sell produce in floating markets. The beautiful lakes of Dal and Nageen are a scenic highlight and home to Kashmir’s unique accommodation – houseboats dating back to the days of the British Raj. The boats are ornately decorated with Kashmiri carpets, hangings and furniture, and are accessible only by colourful canopied canoes called shikars, which are set with cushions and rowed by their bearded owners. From plying the still waters to being served tea and delicious Kashmiri cuisine by your houseboat butler, or sitting on the deck watching the sun rise above the snow-capped peaks, staying on a houseboat is the quintessential Kashmiri experience.

The safest and easiest way to experience Kashmir is with a local English-speaking guide. Stay on a charming houseboat and tour the old town of Srinagar and some of its finest mosques, see two of the valley’s Moghul gardens, enjoy a dawn boat ride to the floating vegetable markets, and drive up to the beautiful meadows and farmlands around Yusmarg on Travel Indochina’s Kashmir Houseboats and Himalayas four-day tour.  Kashmir is easily accessible by numerous daily flights from Delhi.

Prior to travel we advise you to check the latest Smart Traveller, Foreign and Commonwealth office and United States Department of State warnings.

Have you been to Kashmir, or do you yearn to go? Share your thoughts below.