It’s not called ‘heaven on earth’ for nothing. Always featuring among the top summer travel destinations in India, Kashmir never stops being popular among tourists. After two summers lost in the pandemic, tourists from Kolkata are once again making a beeline for the picturesque hill station to beat the heat and spend the summer vacation in the best way possible.
What makes Kashmir popular?
This year, seven out of 10 people are heading to Kashmir for summer vacations, informed Usha Agarwal, owner of a travel agency. Explaining the reasons behind its popularity, she said, “Travelling to Kashmir has become easier and more comfortable, making it an ideal vacation spot. The current weather in Kashmir is extremely nice and the scenic beauty is unparalleled as usual. The mouthwatering food also lures tourists. When it comes to lodging, Kashmir has a lot of options to suit all budgets.”
Anil Punjabi – chairman (eastern region), Travel Agents Federation of India – echoes Usha. “The demand for Kashmir has seen a big jump this summer. Many even prefer Kashmir over international destinations and it is considered to be the Switzerland of India. Such is the popularity that many don’t even mind paying a hefty amount for flights and hotels for Kashmir. No wonder, hotels there are fully booked this summer season,” said Anil, who also owns a travel agency.
Lawyer Sudipto Gupta, who is avoiding international travel due to the pandemic, opted for Kashmir as a summer vacation spot. “Covid is not over, so I feel it’s better to travel within India. What can be a better place than Kashmir in this season? The shikaras in Dal Lake, the floating markets and gardens with the sweet smell of flowers and the museums that hold the glory of the rich culture and heritage of the region make Kashmir a paradise on earth,” said Sudipto.
A hit with all age groups
Manav Soni, chairman of the Travel Agents Association of India (eastern region), has observed that a lot of senior citizens have started travelling to Kashmir in groups after the pandemic. “Weather is nice and so is the infrastructure, so a lot of aged people are going to Kashmir in big groups. It is a hassle-free and beautiful place to visit, which makes it popular with all age groups. Tourism in Kashmir has increased above 100%,” he said.
Children, too, love Kashmir for more reasons than one. Eight-year-old Anaisha Agarwal, who is currently enjoying her summer vacation, recently visited the valley with her parents. Describing it as one of her best holidays, she says, “After being stuck at home for the last two summer vacations, this getaway was quite refreshing. From horse rides to gondola rides and snow-capped mountains – I created some lovely memories. But my favourite part was dressing up in traditional Kashmiri attire and feeling like one of the locals!”
Offbeat destinations in focus
Ahsan Ul Haq, officer-in-charge, J&K Tourism, Kolkata, said, “In the past two-three months, we have received five lakh tourists. J&K Tourism is now promoting 75 offbeat destinations such as Yousmarg, Doodhpathri, Manasbal and Gurez Valley. But Gulmarg, Sonmargh and Pahalgam valley remain the three most preferred destinations.”
Bilolaksha Das, who runs a travel agency, said, “Kashmir is trending because there are direct flights and the place is not too expensive when it comes to food and stay.”
‘Safe and full of options’
Pradip Patra, a photographer, recently went on a family trip to Kashmir. “From religious places to trekking points, lakes, gardens and markets – Kashmir has everything under the sky along with delicious food. My wife always wanted to visit the place where so many films have been shot. Though we were initially sceptical from the safety angle, all our fears washed away once we witnessed the pristine beauty of Kashmir with our own eyes,” he said.
Landscape designer Sonali Roy Chowdhury went to Kashmir with friends in March. “We wanted to see the tulips in full bloom. It is such a clean place and the people are extremely warm. At no point did I feel unsafe,” said Sonali.