Jammu and Kashmir is known as heaven on earth. In the seventeenth century the Mughal emperor Jahangir set his eyes on the valley of Kashmir. He said that if paradise is anywhere on the earth, it is here, while living in a houseboat on the mesmerizing Dal Lake. Before militancy intensified in 1989, tourism formed an important part of the Kashmiri economy. The tourism economy in the Kashmir valley was worst hit. However, the holy shrines of Jammu and the Buddhist monasteries of Ladakh continue to remain popular pilgrimage and tourism destinations. Every year, thousands of Hindu pilgrims visit holy shrines of Vaishno Devi and Amarnath which has had significant impact on the state's economy.
Tourism in the Kashmir valley has rebounded in recent years and the state became one of the top tourist destinations of India. However with the decrease in violence in the state has boosted the states economy specifically tourism. In 2012, the number of tourist arrivals in Kashmir touched the highest mark.
GULMARG: The old name of Gulmarg was "Gaurimarg", the name of Lord Shiva's wife. Yousuf Shah Chak changed its name to Gulmarg, meaning the place of roses. During the early part of the 20th century the famous Central Asian explorer Sir Marc Aurel Stein (1862–1943), made his home here in a tent between his expeditions. It was a favourite summer holiday destination for the British stationed in India. With the abatement of militancy in the area, Gulmarg has quickly become one of the state's most visited destinations. The slopes of Afarwat Hills of the Pir Panchal Range one of the longest and highest ski slopes in Asia.
PAHALGAM: It is in Anantnag District of J&K. It is a popular tourist destination, and every year, many tourists visit Pahalgam. It is located on the banks of river Lidder at an altitude of 7200 ft. from sea level. Besides tourist huts, several hotels in private sector have come up. A number of treks in this region also begin from Pahalgam, as the 35 km trail traverses through pinewoods to the spectacular Kolahoi Glacier. Pahalgam is also associated with the Amarnath Yatra.
SONAMARG: In its vicinity lies the great Himalayan glaciers of Kashmir Valley namely Kolhoi Glacier and Machoi Glacier. Sonamarg an alpine valley is situated at the bank of Sindh Nallah, 87 km north-east from Srinagar, it is a popular tourist destination. It is upwards of sixty miles long valley and deep rock-girt gorge to open grassy meadow land and village-dotted slopes. Sonamarg has no permanent settlement and is inaccessible during winter due to heavy snowfall and avalanches.
YUSMARG: It is an alpine valley covered with snow clad mountains and the meadows of Pine and Fir, It lies 13 km south of Charari Sharief a town of Budgam of Jammu and Kashmir. It is situated at the bank of Doodganga River which is a tributory of Jehlum River. It is a popular tourist destination, nestled within the imposing Pir Panchal peaks, a sub range of Himalaya. Doodganga a river flows through this meadow. In its vicinity lies the alpine meadow of Tosa Maidan. A trek of 4 km leads to a small Lake named as Nilnag surrounded by pine trees. Another 10 km trek leads to the most interesting lake the frozen lake in Sang-e-Safed valley, most portion of this lake is covered by ice even during the summer.
Dal Lake: The urban lake, which is the second largest in the state, is integral to tourism and recreation in Kashmir and is nicknamed the "Jewel in the crown of Kashmir". The lake is also an important source for commercial operations in fishing and water plant harvesting. It is encompassed by a boulevard lined with Mughal era gardens, parks, houseboats and hotels. Scenic views of the lake can be witnessed from the shore line Mughal gardens, such as Shalimar Bagh and Nishat and from houseboats cruising along the lake in the colourful shikaras. The floating gardens, known as "Rad" in Kashmiri, blossom with lotus flowers. The wetland is divided by causeways into four basins; Gagribal, Lokut Dal, Bod Dal and Nagin . Lokut-dal and Bod-dal each have an island in the centre, known as Rup Lank (or Char Chinari) and Sona Lank respectively. The main basin draining the lake is a complex of five interconnected basins with causeways; the Nehru Park basin, the Nishat basin, the Hazratbal basin, the Nagin basin and the Barari Nambad basin. Navigational channels provide the transportation links to all the five basins.
Irreversible changes through urban expansion and road building have been made along the shore line to accommodate for dramatic tourist growth. Two islands built in the basin have placed further restrictions on the flow of the lake and as a result, marshy lands have emerged on the peripheral zones, notably in the foothill areas of the Shankaracharya and Zaharbwan hills. These marshy lands have since been reclaimed and converted into large residential complexes.
MANASBAL LAKE: It is located in the Jhelum valley, north of Srinagar city. The name Manasbal is said to be a derivative of the Lake Mansarovar. Lake is encircled by three villages viz., Jarokbal, Kondabal and Ganderbal and is stated to be the deepest lake in the Kashmir valley. The large growth of lotus at the periphery of the lake adds to the beauty of the clear waters of the lake. The Mughal Garden called the Garoka, built by Nur Jahan overlooks the lake. The lake is a good place for bird watching as it is one of the largest natural stamping grounds of Aquatic birds in Kashmir and has the sobriquet of "supreme gem of all Kashmir Lakes. The rootstocks of lotus plant which grows extensively in the lake are harvested and marketed, and also eaten by the local people.
The lake is surrounded by the Baladar Mountains on the east, by an elevated plateau known as 'Karewa' comprising lacustrine, fluviatile and loessic deposits on the north and bounded by the Ahtung hills in the south, which are used for limestone extraction.
Hari Parbat or Koh e Maran: is a hill overlooking in Srinagar city. It is the site of a Durrani fort built in 1808. It has the famous Shakti Temple on the western Slope and Muslim shrines of Khawaja Makhdoom Sahib and Akhund Mullah Shah on the southern slope. On the southern side of the outer wall there is a Gurudwara, which commemorates the visit of Guru Hargobind.The first fortifications on the site were constructed by the Mughal emperor Akbar in 1590. The present fort was built in 1808 under the reign of Shuja Shah Durrani.
SHARIKA MATA TEMPLE: The hill is considered sacred due to the presence of temple of Sharika. Temple is of goddess Jagadamba Sharika Bhagwati. She has 18 arms and is regarded as the presiding deity of Srinagar city. The goddess is represented by a Swyambhu Shrichakra (Mahamaha Shrichakra), also called Mahashriyantra, which consists of circular mystic impressions and triangular patterns with a dot (bindu) at the center. Sharika Devi is believed to be a form of Durga Mata or Shakti.
MAKHDOOM SAHIB: Nestled below the imposing Mughal Fort is the shrine of Sheikh Hamza Makhdum also known as Makhdoom Sahib, Mehboob-ul-Alam and Sultan-Ul-Arifeen. It is one of the most sacred shrines in Kashmir. This double storied, many-pillared structure displays a remarkable architectural style. This shrine is visited not only by Muslims but by people of all faiths, throughout the year. Makhdoom Sahib, also called Hazrat Sultan, was a Sufi saint.
GURDWARA CHATTI PATSHAHI: Gurdwara Chatti Patshahi, Kathi Darwaja, Rainwari, Srinagar is one of the most important Sikh Gurudwaras in Kashmir. It is believed that the sixth guru of Sikhism traveled through Kashmir, stopping to preach occasionally and stayed for few days.
AMARNATH CAVE: It is a famous shrine in Hinduism. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The cave is situated at an altitude of 3,888 m (12,756 ft), about 141 km (88 mi) from Srinagar and reached through Pahalgam town. The shrine forms an important part of Hinduism and is considered to be one of the holiest shrines in Hinduism. The cave is surrounded by snowy mountains. The cave itself is covered with snow most time of the year except for a short period of time in summer when it is open for pilgrims. An annual pilgrimage is made to the Amarnath cave by lakhs of Hindu devotees on challenging mountainous terrain to see an Ice Stalagmite formed inside the cave.