Jammu and Kashmir
British India's princely state of Jammu and Kashmir is now divided between the Republic of India and Pakistan and China. India claims the entire area of the former state, whereas Pakistan regards the same area as "territory in dispute" awaiting a plebiscite. While some Kashmiris hope for an independent and unified Kashmir, the majority seem to simply want peace. It is a mountainous region of great beauty and diversity offering much in the way of outdoor activities and sights for the tourist. The unrest had pretty much completely shut down what was once a thriving tourist industry in Kashmir, and it’s now only starting to make a slow comeback. As a rule of thumb, the western area remains unsafe, while the eastern area (Ladakh) is fine - see "Stay safe" below. Today, Jammu and Kashmir is one of two Muslim-majority administrative divisions in India, the other being the Lakshadweep Islands. It has an area of 39,179mi² (101,473.1 km2).
The inhabitants of J&K belong to three religions, with Kashmir being mainly Muslim, Jammu being mainly Hindu and the Ladakhis divided almost equally between Buddhists and Muslims.
The state's official language is Urdu. However, the main languages spoken are Kashmiri in the Kashmir Valley, Ladakhi in Ladakh and Dogri in Jammu. Most people speak at least a little Hindi and you may even hear Punjabi.
As elsewhere in India, English is fairly widely spoken among the educated classes and those involved in the tourist industry.
The last stop on the railway line north is Udhampur, where you can catch onward buses and hire SUVs/MUVs (Tata Sumo / Toyota Innova/ Mahindra Scorpio). However it is better to get down in Jammu and catch a taxi from there as these are more readily available.
The Kashmir Railway is a railway line being built in India to connect the state of Jammu and Kashmir with the rest of the country. The project, officially coded USBRL (Udhampur Srinagar Baramulla Railway Link), starts from the city of Udhampur, 55 kilometres (34 mi) north of Jammu, and travels for 290 kilometres (180 mi) to the city of Baramulla on the northwestern edge of the Kashmir Valley. The route crosses major earthquake zones, and is subjected to extreme temperatures of cold and heat, as well as inhospitable terrain, making it an extremely challenging engineering project.
Gulmarg is well known for its amazing natural beauty and it is counted as one of the unique tourist destinations in the world. Gulmarg is surrounded by dense forest. This place is famous for its golf hikes and beautiful highland golf course. It is also a ski resort holding the world's highest gondola. You can see the LOC (line of control) border of India and Pakistan. You can ski from a height of 4050 m.
The way to reach Sonamarg or the Meadow of the gold is from the Sindh valley. This valley also shows more amazing facet in Kashmir. Sonamarg is located at an altitude of around 2730 meters from the sea level; it has snowy mountains as its backdrop against the sky.
Raghunath Temple is dedicated to the Hindu Lord Shri Rama. All the inner walls of this temple are covered with gold, on three sides. Galleries of this temples are covered with ‘ Saligrams’. The other surrounding temples are related to other gods from the Ramayana. This temple is located in the centre or we can say in the heart of Jammu.
Bahu fort was modified and improved by the Dogra Rulers of jammu but it was first built by the Raja Bahulochan. This fort is located at a distance of around 5 km from the main city and is perhaps the oldest edifice in Jammu. This fort is facing the Tawi River. There is a temple of the goddess Kali in the fort.
Mubarak Mandi Palace:
Mubarak Palace was built with the touch of three different styles, Rajasthani, Mughal and Gothic. Most famous part of this Palace is the Sheesh Mahal segment. There is a Dogra Art Museum, which is a treasure house of miniature paintings from various hill schools.
Peer Baba: This is of the holy places for Muslim saints. Here, people from all the religions comes in large number to pray on Thursday.
Sri Amarnath Ji:Holy Amarnath Cave ( Temple) is situated 144 kms east to Srinagar. Lord Amarnath is in the form of an ice Silva-lingam. On the full moon day the lingam is approx 6 ft high.
Amarnath - One of the holy trinity, Shiva is a living god. Legend has it that Shiva recounted to Parvati the secret of creation in a cave in Amarnath. Unknown to them, a pair of doves eavesdropped on this conversation and having learnt the secret, are reborn again and again, and have made the cave their eternal abode.
Mata Vaishno Devi : A pilgrimage to the Holy Shrine of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Ji is considered to be one of the holiest pilgrimages of our times. Popular the world over as Moonh Maangi Muradein Poori Karne Wali Mata, which means, the Mother who fulfills whatever Her children wish for, Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Ji resides in a Holy Cave located in the folds of the three peaked mountain named Trikuta (pronounced as Trikoot). The Holy Cave attracts millions of devotees every year. In fact, the number of Yatris visiting the Holy Shrine annually now exceeds one crore. This is due to the unflinching faith of the devotees who throng the Shrine from all parts of India and abroad. The Holy Cave of the Mother is situated at an altitude of 5200 ft. The Yatris have to undertake a trek of nearly 12 km from the base camp at Katra. At the culmination of their pilgrimage, the yatries are blessed with the Darshans of the Mother Goddess inside the Sanctum Sanctorum- the holy cave. These Darshans are in the shape of three natural rock formations called the Pindies. There are no statues or idols inside the cave.
Zanskar is located at a very high altitude in Jammu and Kashmir. It is one of the best trekking destinations around the world. In Winter, the Zanskar river freezes up, and gets converted into an amazing adventure trek called Chadar - The Frozen River Trek.
The traditional name for the Zanskar Trek is Chadar Trek, as the river becomes a snow sheet during winters due to heavy snowfall. It boasts of some of the lowest temperatures making it a challenging trek for the adventurers. The most isolated and inaccessible for nearly eight months in a year due to heavy snowfall resulting in closure of all the access passes; Zanskar has the distinction of being the least interfered with microcosms of Ladakh, and thus one of the last few surviving cultural satellites of Tibet. This geographical isolation, together with the esoteric nature of Buddhism practiced here, has enabled its ten thousand inhabitants to preserve and perpetuate their cultural identity.
Stay far away from the Pakistan border. Any attempt to cross or even approach the border will likely result in immediate death. The Indo-Pakistani border is on high alert from both sides due to lasting tensions. Under no circumstance should you come within a close distance to the border.
Jammu offers a combination of traditional and modern shopping. The famous market of “Raghunath Bazaar” is very popular among tourists/ pilgrims as it is right in the heart of Jammu city, next to the Raghunath Temple.
Another popular shopping place among shopping markets in Jammu is Gole Market which is a little distance away across the Tawi River in Gandhi Nagar locality. This locality is famous for modern shopping including electronics, garments, footwear and other modern accessories.
Jammu is also famous for its Choclate Burfi and Sund panjeeree, famous shops for such sweets are Amritsarian Di Hatti at Raghunath Bazaar and Pahalwan Di Hatti at Gole Market Gandhi Nagar.
Ladakh is removed from the tension and can be considered safe.