Set like a jeweled crown on the map of India, Kashmir is a multifaceted diamond, changing its hues with the seasons – always extravagantly beautiful. The Mughals aptly called it ‘Paradise on Earth’ where they journeyed across the hot plains of India, to the valley’s cool environs in summer, Kashmir is a land where myriad holiday ideas are realized – Golfing at 2,700 m above the sea, water-skiing in the lakes or simply drifting down the willow fringed alleys of lakes in shikaras.

Jammu, the second-largest city in the state of Jammu & Kashmir. This is the city of temples and is also an important trade centre and a convenient stage on the road journey to Srinagar. The famous Raghunath Temple, situated at the city centre consists of seven shrines, each with tower. The interior of the temple is decorated in gold. Its main sanctuary is dedicated to Vishnu’s eighth incarnation and Dogras’ patron deity the Rama.

Srinagar is located in the heart of the Kashmir valley and spread on both sides of the river Jhelum. The Dal and Nagin lakes enhance its picturesque setting, while the changing play of the seasons and the salubrious climate ensures that the city is equally attractive to visitors around the year. Its waterways with own quaint lifestyle, the unique ‘Houseboat’, the blossoming gardens, shopping for lovingly handcrafted souvenirs and the nearby resorts make it a cherised spot among those looking for a memorable holiday.

Gulmarg – the ‘meadow of flowers’, is an apt term indeed for idyllic flower-laden meadow situated at a distance of 52 kms from Srinagar. The towering peaks above the meadow are covered with dense forests of tall conifers and gigantic fir and pine trees, all vying with each other to touch the azure skies. An equally popular destination in summer, it is also known for its lush green golf course, which is the highest in the world. A must is fun-filled ride in the newly introduced gondola lift through the pine-clad slopes.

Sonmarg – the ‘Meadow of Gold’, is situated in the Sindh Valley. The drive to Sonmarg presents yet another spectacular facet of countryside in Kashmir. The fast flowing Sindh River makes it popular for trout and mahseer fishing in summer. Highly recommended is a pony ride to one of the glaciers for some fun in the snow and ice.

Pahalgam – the ‘Valley of Shepherds’ is situated on the confluence of streams flowing from river Lidder and Sheshnag Lake. It offers wonderful treks, skiing, mountaineering and camping sites. En route to Pahalgam is the Avantipura ruins, a 1100 year old temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu.

Katra (Vaishnodevi) Located 46 kms from Jammu, Katra is the base camp to visit the famous shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi. It ’s a 13 km walk to the shrine along the laid footpath. The cave shrine of Mata Vaishno Deviji or Trikuta Bhagwat (alt: 5,200 ft.) has been a beacon of faith and fulfillment to millions of devotees from all the world. Popular belief holds that anybody who walks the Himalayan trail to her abode to ask for a boon, rarely goes back disappointed.