What can I say about the Kashmir Valley? Other than you must go. It is a beautiful place, the Lakes are fascinating and the people are delightful. The crafts they produce are breathtaking – shawls, carpets, embroidery, papier mache, carving.. Most importantly it is only 1.25 hr from Delhi by plane – easy. It is completely different to anywhere I have been before - it is mountainous, Muslim, cool, the food is different too – lots of meat, quite spicy. Very little alcohol, so get your own.
The war between India and Pakistan, which have had such a catastrophic effect on this lovely region, is quiet now and, Inshalla, peace will reign. But of course militant attacks can happen at any time – around political anniversaries or if a politician makes a provoking speech... there are websites to look at, www.kashmirtimes.com is one, or the BBC. Then, if all looks calm and you happen to be in Delhi, or Rajasthan, pop up there for a few days.. They so badly depend on tourism.
After Rajasthan I found Kashmir wonderfully cool. July is high summer, a lovely time to go there, and their high season (April - August). The autumn is lovely (ask a Kashmiri and they will tell you all the time it is beautiful!) – particularly November when the chinnar leaves are red. Chinnars, plane trees but huge, are magnificent and protected – and there are lots of other beautiful trees. It snows late in December until the end of February – and it can be very cold and the snow deep – but the shikaras continue paddling about on the Lake until it freezes over. (Gulmarg, 1.5 hours from Srinagar has very good skiing, go to Nedous Hotel.) Spring, March until April is - of course - beautiful.
There are lots of houses being built – I am talking mainly about Srinagar, but other places too – so hopefully people are confidant about the future. All houses old and new have corrugated iron roofs – I presume so the snow shoots off easily – and they don't have guttering.. because the gutters would get pulled off by the snow. It is hard for me to picture anything but the Lake glistening with summer sun..