The terms “Heaven on Earth” or “Paradise” are often used to describe Kashmir and it’s easy to forget any security concerns while trekking among tall pine trees, wildflower laden meadows and distant snow capped peaks under deep blue skies. The stunning beauty of the region has long attracted visitors from afar and the tourism industry has long been a mainstay of the local economy. A peaceful political situation made the region a popular destination for international visitors in the 1970’s and 1980’s but all this came to a halt with political unrest in the 1990’s. The kidnapping of 6 foreign tourists by militants near Pahalgam in 1995 led to various governments including the US state department to impose strict travel restrictions on the region and the number of visiting tourists declined to almost zero due to safety concerns.
The situation is improving albeit slowly. In 2011 the German government along with several other European countries recognizing the improved security situation lifted travel restrictions in the area and the number of domestic tourists visiting has seen a substantial increase. Despite this recognition of an improving situation the US State Department ordered travel restrictions imposed for at least another year in 2014 and the UK has also followed suit.
We visited the region in 2014 and had a great experience. While, travellers may attract a lot of stares they are in general friendly and curious ones. Real security incidents involving international have been rare and that the people of Kashmir are at large warm and welcoming. That said, strikes in Srinagar and other smaller cities are still common and may erupt in local violence often aimed at the heavy local military presence towards which there is good deal of local resentment. A feeling of instability still exists and the town of Srinagar still closes its shops and restaurants early in the evening due to security fears.
If your heart is set on visiting this beautiful region its best to keep the risks in mind and at the very least follow some precautions. Check the news headlines before visiting and ensure that new issues have not arisen. Travel with a group to areas frequented by other foreigners. We organize both the ( Great Lakes and Kolahoi Glacier Treks ). The region is dominantly Muslim so respect the local religion by dressing and speaking appropriately (that is avoiding political or religious topics). If you have international travel insurance be advised that if you are travelling to areas your government does not recommend that it is likely to be void. While we can not endorse a visit or ensure your complete safety we can say that it’s a beautiful region and that we have visited ourselves without incident and plan to do so again in the near future. If you have any concerns regarding a visit don’t hesitate to reach out to us personally with any questions or concerns.