Warfare ravages a country’s tourism for years after conflict ends. One place this is clear is in Kashmir. The border of this Himalayan region has been contested between India and Pakistan, inciting three wars between the two countries in 1947, 1965 and 1999 and various skirmishes over the years, which has caused many world governments to issue travel advisories against the region.
The travel advisory technically poses a red flag for insurance companies, giving them an out so they don’t have to honour their policies if something happens while you’re there. But as is so often the case, the reality is far from what the authorities actually say it is. There have been protests and militant attacks here and there in recent years, but in a state so large and with so many people you’d have to be pretty unlucky to get caught up in one of these isolated incidents. And there’s a massive police and army presence in the state intent on preventing these incidents in the future, which unfortunately makes for a rather unsightly view, unless you happen to like looking at army troops standing on rooftops and behind barbed wire bunkers. Sadly, misinformed (or overly cautious) administrators and overblown travel stories prevent so many from travelling to this incredible spot of Incredible India.
Commonly known as “Paradise on Earth,” Kashmir boasts some of the most impressive geography in the world as it lays where the low-lying plains meet the massive Himalayas. With a temperate climate and loads of places to enjoy the scenery, it’s no wonder these countries are drawing their guns over this prime piece of land.
Prior to 1989 the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir had a thriving tourism industry that contributed greatly to its economy, but after the most recent insurgency broke out the region’s tourism suffered greatly. Since the last war more than a decade ago, tourism has slowly bounced back, but not to the level it could be.
Finding houseboats is easy. Either reserve a houseboat from the House Boat Owners Association at the Tourist Reception Centre in Srinigar Airport or at the Tourist Reception Centre at the Jammu Railway Station. Or for the best rates, just head to the lake, hire a shikara and paddle around until you find a boat that you like and make a deal. There’s good availability so you won’t have to look hard if you don’t want to…they will come to you!
Houseboats abound for all budgets—you can hire a good boat including three tasty home-cooked meals a day for $10 a person. And if you want your privacy, that’s not a problem either as you can get a boat all for yourself. A word of warning—spend a little too long on Dal Lake and your houseboat may just turn into your home!