Jammu and Kashmir state occupies an area of 222235 sq kilometers including those under occupation of Pakistan and China. Jammu and Kashmir is encircled by China in the north, by an autonomous region of Tibet in the east, by the Indian states of Himachal Pradesh and Punjab in the south, and by Pakistan towards the west and north west. Many major Himalayan rivers like the Jhelum, Indus, Tawi, Ravi, Zanskar and Chenab flows through Jammu & Kashmir state. The state is also home to many Himalayan glaciers with Siachan Glacier being the longest.
Jammu and Kashmir state is made up of three main regions of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.Home to several valleys the main Kashmir valley is 100 km wide and 15,520 kms in area. The Himalayas divide the Kashmir valley from Ladakh while the Pir Panjal range, which encloses the valley from the west and the south, separates it from the Great Plains of northern India. Along the northeastern flank of the Valley runs the main range of the Himalayas. This densely settled and beautiful valley has an average height of 1,850 meters above sea-level but the surrounding Pir Panjal range has an average elevation of 5,000 meters. Most of Kashmir valley is covered with thickly forested mountains, lakes & waterways as well as stepped/terraced fields. Jammu region consists of plains, mountains and the foothills. Ladakh, accounts for nearly two-third of the area and is essentially a cold desert with inhospitable climate and low population density. This region is encompassed by several oasis villages and many of ancient Buddhist monasteries.
Srinagar – Steeped in tradition and set in one of the most dramatic locations in India, with majestic mountains pressing in on three sides, Srinagar is the summer administrative capital of Jammu and Kashmir. The sight of houseboats lined up, on the Dal and Nageen lake with the surrounding peaks reflecting in its greenish-blue waters are incredibly photogenic. Of the city’s sights, options include the Pari Mahal and the gardens that surround the lake, such as Shalimar Bagh and Nishat Bagh.
Pangong Tso – Pangong Tso ( ” Tso” meaning lake in Tibetain ) is a high altitude endorheic lake at 14300 ft and at a distance of 150 kms from Leh. With many shades of vivid blue water, depending on the time of day and amount of sunlight with the backdrop of stark dry snow capped brown and grey mountains, its a sight to behold and there is nothing much to do except be lost in the mesmerizing beauty and the calmness of this out of the world place.
Leh – Located at 11,500 ft in the Ladakh Valley, Leh is the capital of Ladakh district in Jammu and Kashmir state. This quiant Himalayan town, though increasingly touristy has a laid back attitude and quite charm. Attractions in and around the town itself include the former palace and Namgyal Tsemo gompa, perched amid strings of prayer flags above the narrow dusty streets of the old quarter, whose layout has not changed since it was founded in the sixteenth century. Leh is also the base for most of the destinations in Ladakh.
Nubra Valley – A 5 hour jeep drive over the world’s highest motorable pass, Khardung-La (18,380 ft), leads you to northern Ladakh’s lush Nubra Valley, a fertile region with incredible gompas and some of the most extraordinary mountain scenery in the Himalayas. Deep within the breathtaking Karakoram mountain range, the twin-tiered Nubra valley combines terrific dry mountain topography and fertile fields watered by the Siachen and Shayok rivers — sand dunes and oases lie side by side. The valley is dotted with peaceful, idyllic and sparsely populated villages where friendly villagers live a simple life .
1. Sit on the banks of the Pangong Lake and enjoy its serenity.
2. Take a road trip from Srinagar to Leh via Zojila Pass, Sonamarg, Kargil and Drass.
3. Try the multi course Kashmiri cuisine called Wazwan.
4. Spend a night in a tent at 15000 feet in Sarchu.
5. Drive up to Khardungla Pass, the highest motor able pass in the world at 18380 feet.
6. Take a double humped bactrian camel ride in the sand dunes of Nubra Valley.
7. Learn about Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism exploring the many monasteries of Ladakh.
8. Explore Dal lake in a shikara at a leisurely pace taking in the views.
9. Visit the meadows and pine forests of Pahalgam.
10. Tackle the rapids, white water rafting on the Zanskar River.