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Long before KASHMIR was immortalized in the eponymous Led Zeppelin song it had already achieved legendary status with western travellers, from officers of the British Raj to the first hippy overlanders in the 1960s. No stint in the Subcontinent was complete without an idyllic sojourn on the famous houseboats of the capital Srinagar, which is at the heart of the idyllic Kashmir Valley. The state capital of Jammu is a bustling city with an imposing fort and liberal sprinkling of temples.

By the end of the 1980s, the tourist business was booming alongside agriculture, and had in fact overtaken it as the region’s main source of income. This all came to an almost overnight halt with the onset of the conflict in 1989. Only in recent years has the situation stabilized enough to see the number of visitors swell to more than a trickle, though it’s still well below the 1980s zenith and domestic tourists continue to greatly outnumber foreigners. Most people content themselves with a visit to Srinagar, although the towns of Gulmarg and Pahalgam, both in prime trekking territory, are regarded as being safe these days, as is the lovely town of Sonamarg on the Kargil road. Nevertheless, before setting off for Kashmir, it is wise to check on the current security situation.

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