Tourist’s guide to Jammu and Kashmir, the most conflict prone state of India

The state of Jammu and Kashmir (India) is an ancient beautiful land in the northern part of the country. It consists of three regions differing in relief, climate, and culture.

Mountains in Jammu and Kashmir

Kashmir – spacious picturesque valleys with numerous lakes. Jammu – dense forests and many ancient temples. Ladakh – amazing Himalayas and secluded Buddhist monasteries.

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General information

The state of Jammu and Kashmir is located in the northernmost part of India. China is its neighbor in the east, the Indian states of Himachal Pradesh and Punjab are on the south side, and Pakistan is in the northwest.

The state, consisting of three regions – Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh – combines 22 districts. The largest city in the state of Jammu and Kashmir and at the same time its capital in the summer is Srinagar, the capital in the winter is the city of Jammu.

Historical fact! For a very long time on the earth, where the state of Jammu and Kashmir is now located, a semi-independent principality of the same name was located. When India and Pakistan split in 1947, Jammu and Kashmir became part of India.

Muslims living on its territory could not come to terms with this state of affairs and raised a rebellion, and the armed forces of Pakistan came to their aid. As a result of the Indo-Pakistani war, approximately 60% of the territory of the principality remained within India, and the remaining 40% went to Pakistan. Another area – Aksaychin, sparsely populated, but of great strategic importance, is located in the occupation of China. Jammu and Kashmir is considered the most problematic state of India, as it remains the zone due to which confrontations arise between India and Pakistan.

Map of Jammu and Kashmir

The area of ​​the state of Jammu and Kashmir, which is part of India, is 222,236 km², and its population is significantly higher than 12 million people. The most significant part of the population is concentrated in the Kashmir Valley (53.9%), a slightly smaller number of people in Jammu (43.7%), the smallest number of people in Ladakh (2.3%).

The official language of the state is Urdu, which uses Persian writing. The languages ​​Kashmiri, Hindi, Punjabi, Kishtvari, Dogri, Balti are quite common. Many residents of the state know English, at least they understand it well.

Historical fact! Jammu and Kashmir was the only state in India that had a special status: the laws established by the Parliament of India were only valid if they were ratified by the state parliament. In August 2019, the country’s leadership removed an article from the Indian Constitution that guaranteed autonomy to the northern state. Accordingly, in the political habitual for all, the state of Jammu and Kashmir ceased to exist – two allied territories were created in its place: Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh (the main city of Leh).


Pir Panjal Range

Jammu and Kashmir is located in the highlands. Its relief is defined by the Himalayas and the Pir-Panjal ridge, between which the valleys stretch: Kashmir, Tavi, Chenab, Punch, Sindh and Lidderskaya. The largest – Kashmir Valley, whose area is 15 520.3 km².

The largest rivers in the state are the Indus, Tavi, Ravi, Chinab, Jhelam.

Interesting fact! Ravi is one of the rivers that gave the name to Punjab. In addition, as one of the rivers of the Seven Rivers, it is mentioned in the Vedas.

There are several glaciers in the north of India. Among them, the longest in the Himalayas is the Siachen Glacier, 70 km long.

Climatic conditions

Weather in Jammu and Kashmir

The climatic conditions in Jammu and Kashmir are heterogeneous, they depend on the terrain and its height relative to the sea. In the southern regions of Jammu, the monsoon temperate climate is humid, in Kashmir the conditions are continental, and in the Himalayan valleys the weather is cold with piercing winds.

In the Kashmir Valley and the surrounding area, the rainy season lasts from February to April, while in Jammu it dominates in July and August.

The average annual air temperature rises from the north to the south. In winter, it gets colder in Ladakh to −20 ° C, and sometimes to −50 ° C, but in Kashmir it is usually 0 ° C at this time.

Of course, the best time to travel to any country is always considered the period when there is warm comfortable weather without rains. Based on weather conditions, it is best to go:

  • in Ladakh from July to October, when the heat is held around + 25 ° C;
  • to Jammu in October and November;
  • to Kashmir from May to November.

Culture and religion

Jammu and Kashmir are the only state in India where Muslims predominate: 67% here, 30% Hindus, 2% Sikhs and 1% Buddhists. In some regions of the state, there are strong differences in religion: in Srinagar and Kashmir, 97% of all residents are Muslims, in Jammu 65% of the inhabitants are Hindus, and mostly Buddhists live in Ladakh.

Jammu and Kashmir mosque

Life, and therefore the culture of the people of all of India, is very much connected with religion.

In Kashmir, they still venerate the wise naga serpents, even there are sanctuaries dedicated to them. The men of the Wattal tribe of Kashmir dance the dhumal, accompanied by their own singing and beat beat by drummers. Among women, the roof dance is known, which is customary to dance in the spring to the choir of chakri singing. Kashmiri woolen carpets, which are still handmade now, are considered the best of all Indian rugs.

Interesting fact! Before amendments were made to the Indian Constitution in August 2019, residents of other states did not have the right to acquire Jammu and Kashmir land. It is for this reason that there are so many “houses on the water” – not having the opportunity to buy a plot in the valley, people built houses on the water.

Houses on the water in Jammu and Kashmir

In the entire Jammu region, the traditional festivals of Lohri and Vaisakha are very popular – a festival of harvest and the New Year.

Ladakh is famous for its Tibetan culture. In ancient times, the inhabitants of Tibet worshiped the spirits of nature and their ancestors, their religion was shamanism. All this is reflected in modern life: every year on this territory of the northern Indian state, religious holidays are held, during which ritual dances are performed to the sounds of masked drum llamas.

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Of course, Jammu and Kashmir – the state is very attractive in terms of tourism, because it has many interesting natural and man-made attractions. But this area is quite unstable and even dangerous. Terrorist attacks and bandit attacks on military and civilian targets (even tourist ones) often occur here. During such complications, some areas of the state are completely closed to tourists. When planning a trip to India, to the territory of Jammu and Kashmir, the situation needs to be known in advance! The exception is the high mountain Buddhist region of Ladakh, located in the east of the state – it is always calm and safe there.

Dal Lake

“A jewel in the crown of Kashmir” and “Srinagar treasure” are the name of the second largest lake in the state, Dal Lake, which lies in the east of the city of Srinagar.

Dal Lake

Interesting fact! Lake Dal is connected by various waterways to many lakes of the Kashmir valley.

Dal Lake Square is 18 km². Its coastline is 15 km long, and along the greater part of the coast there is a Boulevard promenade.

Ever since the nineteenth century, since the time of British rule, housebotting has spread here – houses on the water, in which, fleeing the heat, the British moved for the summer. Now houseboats, of which there are about 500 in this pond, stand on a pier along the coast and are used as hotels.

Painted Shikhara boats resembling manual gondolas go along the water surface. For 100 rupees per hour on these boats you can just go for a swim or go shopping at the floating vegetable market.

Dal Lake is cleaned of algae, but still it is heavily contaminated and only the most brave ones risk swimming in it.

The confluence of the Indus and Zanskar rivers
The confluence of the Indus and Zanskar rivers

36 kilometers from Leh, the largest city of Ladakh, you can observe a unique natural phenomenon: the merger of two famous rivers of India – Indus and Zanskar. The spectacle is really amazing: two streams of water of different colors merge into one! The junction point is clearly visible even from the highway, if you go in the direction of “Leh – Lamayur” or vice versa.

Advice! To see this natural attraction in all its glory, you need to choose the right time.

In May-June, the water in the rivers is clean and beautiful, and in July it is already dirty, brown. If the weather is cloudy, everything seems too gloomy and gloomy. In the afternoon, when the sun is at its zenith, the river glare and it is impossible to see the color of the water. The best time to travel to the confluence of the Indus and Zanskar is from early morning until about noon, or after 17:00.

Tixey monastery

Tiksey Monastery is the largest as well as easily accessible monastery in the vicinity of Leh (18 km from the city). This shrine is located on the top of the hill, which offers picturesque views, including the highest local mountain peak Stoke Kangri.

Tixey monastery

Thiksey Monastery consists of a huge 12-story complex. A feature of the Tiksey Monastery is a two-story, the largest Buddha statue in Ladakh, access to which is from above and below. The premises of the complex contain a valuable collection of handwritten Buddhist books, statues of deities, swords and paintings of Thangka.

Every morning around 7:00 in the Thiksey Monastery morning prayers are held, which are allowed to attend tourists.

Stupa shanti

Just 5 km from the city of Leh is another attraction of the northernmost state of India: the Buddhist white dome Shanti Stupa. It stands on top of Changspa hill, whose height is 4267 meters, and 500 steps have been laid to it from the base of the hill.

This is a very young shrine, built in 1991 under the leadership of the Japanese monk Gyomö Nakamura.

Stupa shanti

Shanti stupa has 2 floors, in the premises of each of them there are numerous images of a meditating Buddha. In the evening and at night, this snow-white building is highlighted, so it does not look like it is during the day, but no less beautiful. For visits, this attraction is open daily from 5:00 to 19:00.

Shanti Stupa has also gained popularity among tourists because it makes it possible to contemplate the vast expanses, city and villages from below.

Nubra Valley and Diskitsky Monastery

Nubra Valley is a valley at the confluence of two rivers: Nubra and Shayok. It is located in Ladakh, north of the city of Leh.

Important! The Nubra Valley is a border zone, as the border of India with Pakistan passes at a distance of several kilometers. To enter this territory of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, a special pass is required – a permit. How and where to get it can be found at the end of the article.

Nubra Valley

This area was open to tourists only in 1994. Literally until the 1950s, until China closed the border, the Central Asian route, better known as the Silk Road, passed through the valley.

Interesting fact! An alpine serpentine road leads from Lech to the Nubra Valley. To overcome the distance of 150 km, it will take 4-5 hours. This road is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the highest in the world, because it passes through the Khardung La pass, whose height above sea level is 5602 m.

Nubra Valley is a picturesque, although quite deserted space, among which there are oases with lush vegetation. There are several settlements, and on the left bank of the Shayok river there is the administrative center of the valley, the village of Diskit with a rather atmospheric old quarter. In the center of Diskit, south of the main street, most of the guesthouses are concentrated (bargaining is a must!).

It is in Diskit that the oldest and largest Buddhist monastery of the Nubra Valley is located – Diskit Monastery or Diskit-Gompa. He stands on a high hill, and you need to go to him for about 30 minutes along a dusty, snake winding up the road. This road goes straight to the stairs, climbing up which you immediately find yourself in the Dukhang prayer hall. A Buddha statue is installed in this room, and a huge prayer drum is placed next to it. A floor above is a hall with numerous images of deities.

Diskitsky Monastery

In fact, Diskit Gompa (15th century) is a temple complex on the territory of which there are several notable buildings:

  • Gon Khan – the temple of the Guardian, which steps on the head of the defeated Mongolian demon;
  •  Lachhung – the temple of Tsongkhapa, the founder of Gelugpa (the so-called school of yellow-monk monks);
  • two storage temples – Kangyu Lang and Tsangyu Lang – which contain ancient Tibetan and Mongolian manuscripts.

Important! Buses go to the Nubra valley from Leh, but if the trip should be very short, it is better to take a taxi from Leh and back. Prices are fixed and quite adequate.

Pangong Lake

In the Himalayan mountains (Ladakh region), at an altitude of 44,250 m above sea level, there is a unique lake Pangong. The length of the Pangong Tso Lake is almost 150 meters long, and only 40% of this length is in India, the remaining 60% is in China.

Pangong Lake

The water in Pangong is cold and brackish, therefore almost lifeless. Only small crustaceans live in the lake, many ducks and gulls live near it. Despite the fact that the water is salty, in winter the lake completely freezes.

The area is very beautiful: a picturesque lake and mountains of different colors: beige, brown, gray, white. Throughout the day, the weather here changes repeatedly, and with it the landscapes. The color of the lake varies from deep blue to pale blue – it all depends on the position of the sun, the time of day and the point of view.

Interesting fact! The pebble spit, on which tourists love to take pictures, is also the place where the scenes of the film “Three Idiots” were shot.

Near Pangong Tso Lake there is a tent city where you can stay for the night. When planning a trip with an overnight stay, you should definitely take warm clothes with you, because it is cool there even during the day.

Important! Pangong Lake is located in the border zone, and a special permit is required to enter this zone – a permit. How and where to get it – read on.

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How to get permite

Permite sample

Permit is a pass permitting entry into the border territory of India, in particular, to the Nubra Valley and to Lake Pangong in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

You can get a permit to visit these attractions in Leh. A taxi company or any travel agency can help with this. It is better to find out the prices in several agencies and choose the right one, since the prices vary (on average 400 rupees per person). A pass is made per day: if you submit documents in the morning, then the next day everything will be ready. Immediately you need to make several photocopies – they will be picked up at checkpoints.

There is one more nuance: permits are issued only for 7 days without the right to renew. Therefore, if you plan to visit the Nubra Valley, Lake Pangong and other attractions in the border areas of Jammu and Kashmir (India), then it is better to order individual passes right away. The fact is that there is no direct road between these points, that is, you have to return to Leh and go from there. Extra time is required on the road, and if all points are indicated in one Permit at once, then it will not work in 7 days to travel around them with all the desire.

The nature of North India, as well as a visit to the cities of Kashmir and Ladakh:

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