Jammu and Kashmir (abbreviated as J&K) is one of the most beautiful places in the world, and not just in India. It is the northern most state of the country filled with the most pristine gifts of nature. J&K is divided into three main regions – Jammu in the south, Kashmir in the north and Ladakh in the east. The state has two capitals. Jammu city in Jammu region is the winter capital, whereas Srinagar in Kashmir region is the one for summers. Before entering Pakistan, the great Himalayan Range makes its way through this place. The state is bordered by Pakistan in the west, China in the north and east, and the Indian states of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh in the south.
The three regions of J&K are rich in both natural and man-made wonders. Kashmir region, which exists in the form of a valley, is known for its high altitude mountains and lakes. Few of them include Mt. Haramukh (5142 m), Mt. Kolhoi (5425 m), Mt. Machoi (5458 ) and so on, and similarly, Dal Lake, Gadsar Lake, Gangabal Lake and so on respectively. The Mughals ruled over Kashmir for around 250 years, during which, they built various palaces and gardens. Places like Pari Mahal, Nishat Bagh, Shalimar Bagh and so on are great tourist attractions of the region, and receive a huge number of visitors every year.
Most places in Ladakh are remote, and therefore, the region is not as populated as the other two. However, it is greatly regarded for its raw natural beauty. It’s mountainous, and thus, not many plants grow here, making the region quite dry. Still, animals like Tibetan Wild Ass, Black Neck Crane, Yaks, Ibex and so on can be spotted here. The Great Himalayan Range touches the southern part of Ladakh. The culture and traditions followed by the people here are quite similar to that of Tibet, as a result of their close proximity to each other.
Jammu, in comparison to Kashmir and Ladakh is a low altitude area. It has more vegetation, and greenery that the other two, and therefore, the attractions in the region compliments the same natural setting. One of which is Nandini Wildlife Sanctuary, nestled in the thick forests. Here, one can find birds like Indian Peafowl, Red Junglefowl, Cheer Pheasant and so on, and animals like Wild Boar, Rhesus Monkey, Bharal and so on. Mansar Lake is another such natural wonder located among lush green hills, where visitors can spot rare animals like Spotted Deer, Neelgai and so on.
A very interesting thing about J&K is the sporting event called Ladakh Marathon. Out of the 4 races conducted in the event, Khardungla Challenge, a 72 km long run, is considered as the toughest marathon in the world. It is organized at an altitude of 5370 m making it the highest altitude marathon as well. To participate in the event, the runners are required to reach the location one week in advance so that their bodies have enough time to acclimatize with the place. It’s an annual competition, with participants coming from all over the world. In 2015, a total of 3000 runners from 20 countries enrolled for the races.
Apart from marathons, the state is also popular as a destination for skiing and related activities. The hill station of Gulmarg, has numerous ski resorts that offer such facilities. The town is also known for its high altitude Green Golf Courses. J&K receives a very high number of tourists from around the world, and other states of India alike. In 2017, it received around 1 million tourists altogether.
Throughout the state, there are numerous historical, cultural and religious sites that attracts tourist from other parts of India, as well as, from around the world. Amarnath Cave in Jammu is one of such attractions and a significant tourist destination. It features a huge stalagmite that people worship as a shrine. Every year during the months of July and August, treks from Pahalgam to the cave are organized. Hundreds of thousands of people visit the shrine during this time. Another such site is Vaishno Devi, located in Kashmir region. At the foothills of Trikuta Mountains is this small town named Katra. Tourists tend to trek for 14 km, from this town to Vaishno Devi complex.
Jammu and Kashmir sits on India, like the crown on the head of a monarch. Mere words aren’t enough to appreciate the beauty of this place. Absolutely remarkable, a paradise! One has to experience it first hand to fathom why it’s so indescribable!