Kashmir is a destination in India, which is extraordinarily beautiful and no other place on the earth can match the beauty of Kashmir. A lot of people call Kashmir Heaven, while the other popular name for Kashmir is Heaven on Earth. If you are an Indian and you haven’t visited Kashmir at least once in your life, you are missing the best experience of your life. The region is known for its highes...
Kashmir, the ‘paradise on earth’ beckons tourists despite the news of bloodshed, gunshots, and day-to-day terrorist activities taking place in the valley. The alluring charm of nature overpowers all fear and that’s the reason why people still make their way to this heavenly valley. If you wish to know how safe Kashmir is for you, read on…
Tourists cannot resist the siren lure of enchanting Kashmir but still have some hesitation given the widespread media reports about unrest in this region.
The good news is that it is just as safe to travel to tourist locations in Kashmir as it is any place elsewhere in India. For that matter, Kashmir may be safer than some other States of India, especially where tourists are concerned because the locals know tourists generate revenue and treat them with courtesy instead of ripping them off. The predominantly Muslim local population welcomes tourists and treats them with respect, going out of their way to be helpful. In order to help tourists who may feel they are being cheated or harassed, there is a special cell in the Tourist Reception Centre operating under the J&K Registration of Tourist Trade Act where cases of cheating, harassment, pestering, and touting are handled.
In the past five years, governments have taken stricter measures to uproot threats and with the latest Modi Government in place, Kashmir is safer than ever. The last visit of Mr. Narendra Modi in the aftermath of the floods is a case in point. He did make a statement that Kashmir is safe and that all measures are in place to ensure the safety of tourists. One, you will note the heavy presence of police and paramilitary forces. Their presence may seem a bit ominous. However, they do not bother tourists. The only time you will have a brush with the police is when baggage is checked at various checkpoints such as at Srinagar airports and when you travel from one spot to another. This is a minor inconvenience but it goes with the situation and the process is conducted smoothly by courteous police staff.
If you are wary about suspected risks, start off with Srinagar. Book accommodation in a houseboat and you will find any houseboat to be safe and secure. Take a walk alongside the Dal Lake to the markets and there is hardly any evidence of any unrest. Visit the Shalimar Baugh, the Nishat Mughal Gardens, and the Chashme Shahi Gardens and it is as safe as being in your home. Go all the way to Shankaracharya Hill for a panoramic view of the city and you will find the atmosphere carefree with no tensions. Just to check, take a walk after 10 PM and you will see just how safe it is. Visit mosques or temples and there is no one to hinder your movement or cause anxiety.
Proceed to Gulmarg, about 70 kilometers from Srinagar, an enchanting and scenic destination with skiing adding to the attraction. Other than routine baggage checks on the road you are not likely to be disturbed or even pestered by anyone. Frolic in the snow or take the cable car and admire the stunning scenery spread out beneath you. The cable car takes you to Kungdoor and Aparwath with Aparwath being the more charming of the two destinations. Though the Pakistan border is only a 30-minute hike from here there are no signs of any disturbances. What you should take care about is to keep warm and not let the cold get through the clothes to your body.
From here you can go on to Pahalgam or if you are part of a tour they will bring you back for the night to Srinagar and take you to the Betab Valley the next day. The trip goes off like a dream as you are lost in the scenery spread around the Lidder River. Pahalgam is as scenic as it gets but the Betab Valley is simply magnificent and idyllic with no signs of anything to cause apprehensions. You can wander off by yourself confident in the fact that there are neither terrorists nor dacoits lurking around any bend in the Betab Valley.
If you have come this far it would be a shame to ignore Sonamarg. Driving on the scenic Srinagar-Ladakh highway is like a dream and the two odd hours pass so quickly as you come upon this Meadow of Gold. Here Nature is at its poetic best and you might feel encouraged to trek to the Thajiwas Glacier, a walk of about five hours and you never felt safer. Camp here or at Sonamarg on any of the meadows and spend a night under starlit skies feeling absolutely cocooned and at peace.
Kashmir is safe despite what media reports say. It is worse in Egypt but still tourism there flourishes in the Nile Valley. Kashmir Valley is infinitely safer. Just to test how safe it is go off to Sinthan Top, a relatively secluded place in comparison to Gulmarg and Pahalgam. Despite the lack of facilities and a rugged terrain safety never is an issue as you walk around and explore the charming slopes around this place.
From Srinagar, you can drive off to Yousmarg and never encounter anything on the road to raise your adrenaline levels. Explore forested trails along the Doodh Ganga River or take a pony ride and sample apples if you are here at the right time. Since the Charar-e-Sharief is so close, do not miss an opportunity to visit the Sufi Shrine. Do you notice anything amiss? Hardly. It is as normal here as it is anywhere in India, perhaps a bit too peaceful and the air is so clear and pure. How is that for safety? In Mumbai or Delhi, air pollution levels make life so dangerous.
Talk a bit about safety record and incidents: Srinagar was the site of a bombing campaign in 2006, a curfew in 2010, a yatra row in 2008, and a gunfight in 2005. That’s about all for an area that is said to be sitting close to the Pak border and in an area infiltrated by insurgents looking to foment disturbances. You are more at risk when you drive in your car on streets in your city.
If you plan to visit Kashmir, do not delay it. Visit in winter when the countryside is swathed in virginal white, in autumn when it bears hues of gold and crimson, or in spring when the landscape is so fresh and verdantly green as well as dotted with colors of innumerable flowers.