beautiful lake at Kashmir

For decades, Kashmir, India, was a site of violence - a symptom of the political warfare that had natives fighting for their home turf. In spite of the awe inspiring landscape and rich culture, Kashmir was the opposite of a tourist destination. Now, in early 2013, Kashmir is once again showing promise that it will once again be the serene paradise that the Beatles' George Harrison made so famous all those years ago, when he wrote about living in a houseboat on Kashmir's Dal lake while learning how to make music with a sitar. Are you planning on visiting Kashmir? Here's what you should know:

Cause for concern? By late 2012, it was reported that nearly one million tourists had visited Kashmir over the course of the year - this compared to only 27,000 in 2002. Beginning in the late 1980's, Indian insurgencies in the Kashmir area accounted for a devastating number of fatalities, but that threat has gradually fizzled over the last two decades, and Kashmir's chief minister, Omar Abdullah, is now being very proactive about spreading awareness in regards to the safety of tourists in Kashmir. He points out that the last foreign tourist casualty in Kashmir was in 1995 - that there simply is no longer the cause for concern that used to keep tourists away.

Dal lake. Of course, you can't visit Kashmir without spending some time on Dal lake, on - you guessed it - a houseboat. Mr. Harrison wasn't the only celeb to have a deep appreciation for the Victorian-style boats, floating gardens, park-lined shore, and shakira water taxis of Dal lake, set against a backdrop adorned by awe-inspiring temples. There is a reason why Dal lake has been named "The Most Beautiful Lake in India," and that reason has made this most-picture perfect site home to many of the world's richest and most famous people.

Other points of interest. In addition to Dal lake, Kashmir offers an other-worldly landscape that will remind you of why it used to be a revered tourist destination for all those years prior to the Indian insurgency. While you are there, take a walking tour of the Nowhatta Mosque, snap some picture of the Mughal Gardens (what many say is among the prettiest landscapes in all of Asia), and experience some world class skiing in nearby Gulmarg.

As you can see, there are many great reasons to pay a visit to Kashmir - and, as it seems apparent now, no good reason to stay away. Consider all of these finer points when considering a travel to Kashmir, and plan on staying a while, because you might not ever want to leave.

cc Image credit: Colin Tsoi

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