Crown of Incredible India project: 8 great homestays in Kashmir, including in the border areas

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The J&K government is set to reopen 75 off-the-beaten-track locations in Kashmir to tourists; in some of these places, homestays are the only available option for accommodation. (Photo: Irfan Amin Malik)

Surrounded by the snow-clad mountains and lakes, Kashmir is considered heaven on earth. The Valley had received over 5.8 lakh tourists till April this year, five times more than last year’s figures of 1.26 lakh during the same period.

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Jammu and Kashmir’s Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha said that Kashmir is witnessing a “golden period” on the tourism front. According to the government, J&K is today the sixth largest tourist destination in India in terms of tourist inflow, and the industry has created both jobs and revenue.

Now, the J&K government is set to open 75 off-the-beaten-track locations, which will provide adventure seekers, trekkers, and international visitors with an experience of nature’s wilderness through homestays.

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#Crown of incredible india, #kashmir, #kashmir border areas, homestays, tourism
A mud house in the Valley. (Photo: Irfan Amin Malik)

Rural homestays in the Valley can offer a piece of the culture, cuisine, traditions, and warm hospitality to domestic and international travellers. Here are eight homestays where tourists can enjoy the local and tribal flavour of Kashmir:

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Pahalgam

While Pahalgam is known globally for its scenic beauty, gushing waters of the Lidder and lush green meadows, what tourists were missing out on was the ethos of Pahalgam. Homestays provide the opportunity to a tourist to experience the local cuisine, understand the life of people, the hardships they brave during the harsh weather, how they throw open not their houses but their homes in the service of tourists.

Pahalgam has become the first destination in J&K for the launch of 10 homestays under the “Crown of Incredible India” project. Tourists while enjoying homestays in Pahalgam can experience the life of pony riders, they can relish local cuisine and can also go camping with Gujjars. The pure water coming from Tulian lake, surrounded on three sides by mountains, have chunks of ice floating – locals say you can drink the water as is.

While in Pahalgam, tourists can also visit Betaab Valley—a picturesque area encircled by tall deodar trees and pine forests, with the Lidder river flowing right through it. Betaab Valley got its name from the Bollywood movie Betaab – the film with Sunny Deol and Amrita Singh in the lead roles was shot here.

Besides Betaab Valley, tourists can also check out Baisaran, 6 kilometers from Pahalgam. With tranquil meadows, pristine lakes and a picturesque setting, it also has many options of fun games, pony rides, zorbing, etc.

Nishat

Nishat is famous for a garden, the largest one of the Mughal gardens in Kashmir. It is situated on the banks of the Dal Lake in Srinagar.

Tourists can walk in the gardens, enjoy scenes of Dal Lake here and also join the fishing community of the area. While in Nishat, try the Lotus stem, locally known as “Nadur”, grown in Dal Lake. The people in Nishat mostly eat floating vegetables and fish.

Harwan

Situation 15 km away from Srinagar, this small village is incredibly beautiful. Tourists here can stay with locals and enjoy the pure honey produced from traditional bee hives. Set against the backdrop of majestic mountains, the hamlet offers tourists a site of unadulterated beauty. Its lush greenery and tall chinar trees make it a beautiful homestay in the Kashmir Valley.

Kokernag

Situated in south Kashmir, Kokernag offers gardens (the flower variety is something to behold), freshwater springs and rainbow trout farming. Kokernag has no hotels, making homestays the only option for tourists.

Kokernag is part of the Breng Valley (The Golden Crown of Kashmir). Tourists can enjoy the local bread—Kripa, Girda and Kulcha—along with salted tea locally known as Nun Chai.

Kokernag is known for its trout streams and the largest freshwater spring in Kashmir. Here, tourists can also visit the trout hatchery. Kokernag also has the state’s first rural mart, promoting and marketing the handicraft products manufactured by the local women here.

#Crown of incredible india, #kashmir, #kashmir border areas, homestays, tourism
Kokernag, Kashmir. (Photo: Irfan Amin Malik)

Verinag

Around 78 kilometres south-east of Srinagar, Verinag is a place of incredible natural beauty along with a famous garden and spring water which tourists can enjoy.

While staying here, tourists can see the hill covered by pine trees and evergreen plants. In the absence of hotels a lot of homestays have opened up in Verinag.

Verinag Spring and the Mughal Arcade surrounding is officially recognized by the Archaeological Survey of India as a monument of national importance.

Gurez

Gurez has everything a tourist in J&K could ask for: mesmerising beauty, vast forests, pastures, and green meadows, serenity, and history. It was once the gateway to the famous Silk Road from Europe to Kashgar in China.

The homestay experience here includes the local cuisine, more than a peek into life inside the tribal huts, medicinal plants, herbs which tribal people use and vegetables grown in forests.

People here grow potatoes, kidney beans, apples and corn but everything is organic.

For six months, from November to May, Gurez remains completely cut off from the world, buried under 6 meters of snow. This is what makes it a tranquil and striking place to visit.

#Crown of incredible india, #kashmir, #kashmir border areas, homestays, tourism
(Photo: Irfan Amin Malik)

Aharbal

Located on the River Veshav, Aharbal has a spectacular 25 metre waterfall.

The Aharbal waterfall is known as the Niagara Falls of Kashmir, owing to the volume of water that falls.

Homestay owners here are primarily engaged in agricultural activities. Tourists here can also enjoy adventure activities like horse riding, photography, and skiing during winter.

Lolab

Known as the Land of Love and Beauty, Lolab falls in the northern belt of Kashmir. Being a far-flung area, Lolab is home to many ancient springs, and is covered with dense forests of pine and fir. Also known as the fruit bowl of Jammu and Kashmir, tourists while staying with locals can see how people here grow apples, cherries, peaches, apricots and walnuts. Lolab also has many natural landmarks like the caves of Kalaroos and Green Meadows.

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