Kashmir is a region of stunning natural beauty, nestled in the Himalayan Mountain range. With its gushing rivers and peaks, its magnificent chinars and huge round poplars, mouth-watering fruits, its shining rivers and murmuring streams teeming with Himalayan trout, and a host of endless natural attractions, Kashmir, as Amir Khusrau said “Agar firdaus bar roo-e zameen ast, hameen ast-o, hameen ast-o, hameen ast”.
The region is also known for its picturesque valleys and forests, which are home to a wide range of flora and fauna. Beyond its natural beauty, Kashmir is also known for its rich cultural heritage, from its distinct music and art to its exquisite cuisine and handicrafts. The region has been a popular destination for tourists for many years, offering opportunities for adventure, relaxation, and cultural exploration. The Dachigam National Park is a popular destination for wildlife enthusiasts and is home to species like the Kashmir stag, Himalayan black bear, and musk deer.
Kashmir is home to numerous lakes, including the famous Dal Lake in Srinagar, which is known for its floating gardens and houseboats. Other notable lakes in the region include Wular Lake, Manasbal Lake, and Gangbal Lake. The Lidder Valley in Pahalgam, the Tosa Maidan Valley, and the Lolab Valley are just a few of the stunning valleys that can be explored in Kashmir. Kashmir is home to a wide range of forests, including coniferous and deciduous forests, and is known for its rich biodiversity.
With its stunning natural beauty and rich cultural heritage, Kashmir has the potential to become a major tourist destination. Visit of over 22 lakh tourists to Kashmir valley in 2022 is a testimony to the positive changes being witnessed by the valley. Boating in dal lake to climbing the peaks, watching beautiful birds to skiing, enchanting view of Shankaracharya temple to traditional markets of Lal Chowk, Srinagar has it all. This place is called as the “Venice of the East”. It’s the largest city of Kashmir. After three decades, Kashmir valley attracted lakhs of tourists which locals termed as return of golden era of Kashmir tourism. Over 1.62 crore tourists visited J&K in 2022 which is highest in past 75 years.
A record breaking 20.5 lakh tourists, including 3.65 lakh Shri Amarnath ji yatris, visited Kashmir till October 2022. The tourist sites like Pahalgam, Gulmarg, Sonamarg and Srinagar were buzzing with people from all across the country. However, lack of adequate infrastructure in the region has been a major barrier to the growth of the tourism industry, with many potential visitors discouraged by the difficulty of accessing and navigating the area. The challenges will require a coordinated effort from the government, private sector, and local communities to promote sustainable tourism practices and ensure that the benefits of tourism reach the local people while protecting the environment and the local culture.
The Jammu and Kashmir tourism department has started a program called “Clean, Green, and Beautiful Kashmir” to keep the tourist spots clean and free from garbage. With Introduction of travel and tourism graduate courses, various universities of J&K are teaching subjects such as travel & tourism management, general administration & catering, international hospitality, business management and human relations. The locals are being trained and gaining knowledge about operations of tourism industry, learning about tour operators, airlines & hotel industry and tourist boards.
Despite the challenges faced by the region, Kashmir remains a unique and enchanting destination that is well worth exploring. True to the word, Kashmir is “the heaven on earth”. While, tourism has seen a new high in the valley, attracting tourists from across the globe and at the same time providing job opportunities and skills to the locals of Kashmir.