Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), India's fascinating Northern most state awes the tourist with its wide cultural and geographical contrast. It consists of three regions differing in topography and culture - Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.
The region of Jammu includes the city of Jammu, situated on the north Indian plains, a short distance from the Shivalik Hills. North of the Shivaliks the rest of the Jammu region is drained by the Chenab River whose vast catchment area includes several narrow valleys that extend deep into the high Himalayas. The region of Jammu is predominantly Hindu, although there are small pockets of Muslim communities. Jammu was the stronghold of Hindu Dogra kings and abounds with popular temples and secluded forest retreats.
The Kashmir Valley, north of Jammu, is a fertile verdant region enclosed by high snow-capped ridges of the Pir Panjal range to the west and south and the main Himalayan range to the east. Its population is predominantly Muslim with a rich Islamic history that can be traced to the 14th century. The Mughal rulers were always happy to retreat here from the heat of the plains. They developed their formal garden style art to its greatest heights in Kashmir. The State's summer capital Srinagar is located in this valley. Kashmir has been involved in a political controversy ever since the independence of India, with parts of it under the occupation of Pakistan and China. With easing diplomatic relations with neighbours, peace is slowly but firmly making a comeback to Kashmir.
Ladakh, the Land of Passes, is the northernmost province of the State and lies beyond the Kashmir Valley over the famous Zozi La Pass. It marks the boundary between the peaks of the western Himalayas and the vast Tibetan plateau. It is a magical land completely different from the green landscape of other parts of the Himalayas with barren mountains, lush-green river valleys, deep blue skies, fascinating monasteries and numerous lakes full of bird life.
It has become one of the most popular summer destinations; the area remains virtually monsoon free due to the great barrier of the Himalayas. It is the abode of rare Kiang (wild ass) and highland Yak. Ladakh is one of the best living traditions of Tibetan Buddhism in the world. Leh, the main city of the region lies at the Tri-junction of the historic silk route from Sinkiang to West Asia and to the plains of India.