Demystifying the How Safe is Kashmir Question!

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How safe is Kashmir? People have asked me this question long enough to warrant a blog! Before we go deeper into this subject, I would like to suggest one thing. If you ever plan to travel to India’s crown, don't Google the answer to this question!
I read your messages in my inbox everyday, asking me to tell you more about this mystic land scarred by violence. We just spoke the other day, when you said I am brave to travel here alone. You asked what brings me to this war-torn place? Will you believe me if I tell you that I come here for peace?

Yes, Kashmir is everything that you read in the papers and see in news channels, but oh it is so much more!

When you wrote to me asking exactly how safe IS Kashmir? Trust me, I smiled reading it. I can’t answer that question for you. I can, however, tell you that the land’s beauty is matched by its people. You can write songs about their hospitality, spend endless hours listening to their quirky stories, and revel in their dark humor, sharing a laugh as they mock everything that is wrong with the valley. I did just that, one curfewed afternoon, when separatists declared a strike in opposition to their conflict with the Indian army. This is a common occurrence and a way of life for them, something they accepted over a period of time.

Counting Risks and Blessings

“Are you travelling alone? Come stay with us or at least visit us for a cup of kahwa.” ~ a local shopkeeper in Nowhatta

I have been to Kashmir now 4 times and I am on to my 5th round. People recognize me on the streets of Boulevard’s Ghat#9 where I stay every time I visit. The hotel owner, that was my CouchSurfing host, soon became like a father figure who ensured my safety and treated me like family. All help is just a phone call away and today I have friends on that very street who keenly await my arrival. It is a home away from home, amid speculated disturbances.

My daily routine involves taking a long, calming walk every evening as I watch Dal Lake turn from emerald green to molten gold, borrowing colors from Zabarwan Hills and the setting sun. I sit by the lakeside and listen to muezzin’s call for prayer, piercing through the crisp air of Srinagar. I watch the columns of Army officers looking bored and uninterested in the mundane life of its people.

What I described just now is a typical scene in Kashmir’s capital city. Media’s epicenter of flaming action is actually quite uneventful on most days of the month. Life goes on, business as usual, while your news channels report a stray attack in Shopian or a nondescript village somewhere deep in the valley, making you believe otherwise.

As much as I want to go out on a limb and say that Kashmir is not as unsafe as you think, I cannot do that, because it is not. But to be fair, you can’t make such conclusive claims for any place in the world.

Make Your Own Informed Decisions



Do people in your city think we throw stones for a living?” – a student at Kashmir University

Kashmir may not be “travel-safe” if advisories are to be believed, but it is definitely one of the friendliest places I have ever visited. The valley and its people are known for its deep rooted sense of warmth and friendliness. Everywhere you go, the first thing they will do is call you out for a cup of Kahwa.

They welcome strangers into their homes, their lives and take pride in that. They want you take back fond memories and unforgettable experiences of their lands, and hope against hope that you will share the right message, enlightening people that they are not what the media wants you to believe.

Travel is what you make of it. You see what you see and you take back what you experience. Each person has their own version of a city visited by a million other people. Travel is unique like that. It is up to you if you want to form an opinion based on over-hyped media channels or take it from someone who has gone and made it back, in one piece, happy and content with the decision.


Silver Lining in a No-Go Cloud

“What brings you here? We haven’t had a tourist in years” ~ Army officer at Sheikhpora Village Checkpoint in Gurez Sector

Oh utopian Kashmir, how you bleed to attract tourists! But to me, it is a blessing in disguise. Before you judge me for my selfishness, let me explain myself.

As a traveler, the last thing I want is to elbow my way through the crowds. I have something against a mass of people. Wherever I see a pack or a gathering, I run in the opposite direction; perhaps, this is the reason I keep running towards the north!

The no-go zones are gifted in the sense that you have this beauty to yourself. When I visited Chatpal in South Kashmir, I was stunned to see that I am the only person in the entire village, accompanied by some villagers directed by the tourism department to help me during my stay.

It was scary at first, but I soon started to enjoy the isolation. The staff was on their heels the whole time, going out of their way to ensure I was well fed. They even cooked my favorite dishes!

I went hiking in the nearby forest, sat with the locals and laughed heartily at their crazy stories. The caretaker, an old man, had a daughter almost my age and he was particularly happy to see me travel this far on my own. He said my father must be proud to have a brave daughter like me. Whether or not he is, is a topic for another day, another discussion!

The question of safety in Kashmir, or anywhere in the world, is superfluous. Everybody has their own definition of risk and have their own battles to fight when they go outside the proverbial comfort zone.

When I was coming to Kashmir, I was at my life’s lowest point, call it rock bottom. I was penniless, disoriented, and still struggling to find my pace in this manic world. My travel to the valley was an epiphany. I learnt so much from its people and found comfort in their chaos. All the uncertainties that I had internalized seemed so petty in comparison. That I was going into the heart of instability was the last thing on my mind.

Some valuable tips:

1. Stick to the touristic areas. The curfews and clashes rarely ever happen in areas that are tourist friendly.

2. Always seek latest inputs from the tourism department if venturing into border villages. They usually have the most accurate update.

3. Avoid getting into confrontational debates. Please understand their situation and try to empathise. You are, after all, a guest in their beautiful lands.

4. Follow the local customs and enjoy Kashmir’s raw kashmiriyat first hand.

5. Be prepared for sudden changes in your plans. Things can be very unpredictable in the valley.

6. Don't take curfews lightly. I did once and I am glad I lived to tell the tale.

So, how safe is Kashmir? It is as safe as the extent of your own limitations. Should you travel here? I wish I could take that decision for you. But if you are someone looking for an extraordinary travel experience, then you know where to go!

Did you know that spring season is one of the best times to visit Kashmir? Are you planning a visit anytime soon? Hit me up if you do. Do tell me your plans in comment and what you think about my solo adventures.

Follow my account on instagram for fresh updates and stories!

Kanika Gupta
Kanika Gupta
I find beauty in all things natural, mountains are my soul and adventure is my passion. I hate being stagnant and my mind feeds on problems. I travel because I believe that change is the only constant in this universe. So embrace it, love it and celebrate it!

49 Comments

  1. Rajat Jamwal says:

    Nicely written. Well composed . I was born and brought up in Kashmir. The facts are seldom known to people and and these days wrong facts easily make it across the www. This is wonderfully written with facts that I can relate too.

  2. Sujit says:

    I agree one hundred percent with you. I have travelled through lanes and bylanes of Sopore, Baramulla, Mattan, Tangmarg, Kupwara, Handwara and even deeper during my business trips by available public transport. Never had any issues whatsoever. Once I reached Baramulla in the dead of night and hotel fellow was more scared than I was. Only once was I shown red eyes was when on a hot summer day I asked for a bottle of cold mineral water from a shop in Chini Chowk in Anantnag. Later I realized it was the month of Ramzaan.

  3. ISHFAQ AHMAD SHEIKH says:

    It Could be to good if every indian treated us as same
    Hats off to you Sister
    When Ever you will come to visit This dream Land Please call me on 7780887663 or mail @ Paradisekashmir14@gmail.com

  4. As always, I loved reading your post. You have a way with words, Kanika. Your articles on Kashmir certainly are powerful enough to let people forget their fears and travel to the beautiful valley. I hope more and more people travel to Kashmir because tourism is their major source of economy.
    I have been to the valley twice but never got a chance to explore the offbeat gems of Kashmir which is next on my list.
    Keep inspiring!

    • Kanika Gupta says:

      Anjali, thank you so much! it brings a smile to my face when I read such beautiful comments. i am glad you enjoyed reading about my journey. If you ever want to travel to these offbeat places, do write to me. I will gladly help!

  5. Amrita Sen says:

    Wow, what a wonderful post! I loved reading through it. Kashmir is truly a beautiful place, not only in terms of nature, but also its people are so so good. On my first day in Kashmir, I was bang in the middle of a curfew! And then I realised the goodness of Kashmir and her people. Similarly, when people ask me how safe is Kashmir, I too smile like you!

  6. Abhinav Adarsh says:

    Hey Kanika…i read Ur blog for d 1st time…der is certain amount of calmness n serenity in Ur blog dat gives me a wanderlust kinda feelin…awesum write up…keep up d gud work…!!

  7. Pranjala says:

    Hi Kanika,
    Again a wonderful post..i can “feel” kashmir through your writeup. Please keep on writing more and more about this magical place. Hope by the end of this year, i would get to fulfill my dream of travelling solo to kashmir.

  8. Do come always we are at your service “I also request to all come” do visit here we are ready to serve you in every way”you people are our brothers sisters and we too” so don’t pay heed what the times print and screens presents kashmir “this is the only I can say the Ethos on Earth with full of colourful people” thanxx for highlighting the colours of Kashmir.

  9. PS Bhandari says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience.

    For sometime I wanted to visit Kashmir, but due to security, safety reasons could not muster courage to finalise the program.

    After reading your blog I have made up my mind and will soon embark on my journey to this beautiful place.

  10. Serena says:

    It looks really amazing and glad to hear that you went 5 times already. I am hoping to visit one day

  11. These are some really nice tips. I have never thought of visiting this destination, but will put It on the list to search for it.

  12. Answers like these aren’t easy to give, and I can understand that some people want to be super safe.
    Curfews can even be a difficult topic, but it really must be a unique experience!
    I hope I’ll be able to visit Kashmir 🙂

  13. This article is a great example that not everything you read via Google is true. Thank you for sharing a personal account of your experience. It is good to know there’s more to this beautiful place than what is normally reported.

  14. Anu says:

    You couchsurfed in Kashmir! Well, that is an eye=opener, I would have never thought of doing that in Kashmir though I have been a host for such a long time.

  15. Anita says:

    Wow it looks so amazing. I wish I can go there. Last time when I was in India I didn’t have enough time to go there. Hopefully next time.

  16. ARI says:

    Looks like you and I see eye to eye on this travel issue of Safety/Solo Female Travel/ No-Go Zones. It really is a matter of personal choice, personal perspective. What is right for one person may not be for another, and it seems like you followed your intuition to bring you to this region TIME AND AGAIN, finding treasures and joy in traveling to a less tourist destination. Love that you found such warm people and shared and exchanged with them many times. Cheers!

  17. AMBER says:

    I am glad you wrote this post as I am questioning the safety of many places near to Kashmir. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

  18. People are so quick to equate travel with danger, and while there are concerns that should notbe taken lightly, it is often very different than the way Western media portrays it. I think a lot of people would be shocked by the amountof gun violence we acceptas normal here in America, and even in “safe” areas, I would know to be watchful of my surroundings when walking alone at night.
    Kashmir seems like a place full of warm, beautiful people. It would be a shame to discount that because of the political turmoil. I’m glad you found it to be a place of peace and healing. Your photos are stunning, and make it easy to see why.

  19. Jordan says:

    What a great and informative post on this region! I’ve learned about the Kashmir region in school but it’s always great to have a firsthand account 🙂

  20. Mohana Das says:

    I like this post for its honesty. Yes, the incidents that make it to the news happen but Kashmir is so much more. Only through travelling can we recognize that in every country, every village there are people who want nothing but to live peacefully. Thank you for this wonderful post.

  21. Kacie Morgan says:

    Kashmir sounds like an interesting place to visit, as long as you keep your wits about you. I would especially love to try the raw kashmiriy.

  22. Rhiannon says:

    Great post and very inspiring, I would definitely consider going after seeing your beautiful photos 🙂

  23. Taylor says:

    I love that you make this reflective, I think more people should evaluate as you do when they read things online. It is really lovely to see you having such a meaningful experience <3 You have inspired me!

  24. Amy Dodd says:

    Great post! I think you bring up a lot of important points. Everywhere in the world is potentially dangerous to travel to. It is up to the traveler to understand the risks – and what may increase those risks. You brought it up that staying to tourist areas, and avoiding debates about politics. These are things people should just practice in all travels! sometimes it surprises me how people do not practice safer travel and then seem surprised when something bad happens.

  25. Michellle says:

    Your post is so eye true and eye opening. If only we all approached “safety” in a similar manner. Allowing us to see Kashmir through your experiences is so valuable.

  26. Amelia says:

    God this looks incredible. I haven’t been but have always wanted to; but yeah, I took a uni class on South Asian politics and it did kind of scare me off. Your stories have me so inspired though and I’m so grateful I found this blog!

  27. Stella Jane says:

    Kashmir looks like a beautiful place. And I’m glad to hear that people took such good care of you when you were at a low point in your life. Of course I would not want to get involved in local political conflicts as a tourist. I never think that is a good idea.

  28. Nancy says:

    Kashmir looks gorgeous! I am always scared of traveling alone but there are some perks! Gotta be careful no matter what! It’s pretty amazing that you’ve been there several times. Even though there are some risks to visiting Kashmir, at least there are nice rewards with all of the homely gestures and sceneries! Thanks for the tips!

    exquisitely.me

  29. Eva says:

    What an amazing experience? Your photos are just beautiful…I’m sure the natural scenery was helpful 🙂 It’s cool how you are able to really connect with the locals.

  30. No place in the world Is safe. When travelling you must always be on your guard & informed. Thank you for this post & I hope people read this and aren’t afraid to visit this place!

  31. Adrienne says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience – it seems like the people in Kashmir are just as friendly in anywhere else in the world! I think the media tends to sensationalize the “danger” in many places, and when you visit and see things for yourself, it seems much safer than the news makes it out to be.

  32. JyotiJJyti says:

    Thanks so much for sharing the beauty of Kashmir with us. This totally touches my heart. I’d love to visit before it becomes too crowded with tourists.
    There’s nothing like connecting with people and place we visit. Many more happy trips to you.

  33. Rosemary says:

    What stunning photography! Wow. It’s great to read about your experience in Kashmir and the larger context about not believing what the media says. As you mention, stay safe, seek out information and share with the locals. Great read and thanks for sharing.

  34. Mayuri Patel says:

    Kashmir is always safe to travel, I traveled 2 years back and would love to go again.It is the only place which media portrays wrong.Loved to know about wonderful experience of yours in kashmir.

  35. Alba says:

    I loved this post to bits. I have (almost) never been to Asia and I would love to visit the central part of it way more than the South East that’s so trendy (and, believe me, I would LOVE to visit the South East, it’s just a bit too crowded for me!), and reading your post I felt like Kashmir is just the right place to start. Do people speak English there, though? I think travelling is always more valuable if you can truly communicate with people and they can tell you your life stories 🙂 This is always the highlight of travel for me!
    Your experience in Kashmir reminded me of mine in Honduras and el Salvador. I remember my mum crying over the phone as I told her I would go to Honduras from where I was staying in Guatemala, begging me not to go. There are some political issues there (but hey, so are there in my country, minus the violence), but people are so incredibly friendly I could not even believe it. I once asked two ladies for directions to a cheap hostel and they offered me to stay at their house for the night and fed me dinner and breakfast. Words cannot explain just how amazing people are 🙂 This is something you can only see on the road.
    Thanks for your post! I’ll be following your adventures!
    Btw, you should explain what happened when you didn’t respect the curfew!

  36. prabhu says:

    wow! its seem you enjoyed a lot your trip even your taken photos prove that you were gone to everyplace. Even next month me to going there with friends. Hope the tour would be special as your. Thanks for sharing good trip experience.

  37. bvinbeobe says:

    Hi Please suggest me …as i am planning to visit kashmir in the month of september ..please answer me is it safe to travel as my parents bit scared to send us.

    • Kanika Gupta says:

      Hi there Bindiya, as you have read the blog, the question of safety is rather subjective. I had never had any problems anywhere in Kashmir, eve though I have seen all the border areas. So it really depends where all you want to travel. I would recommend you to stick to touristy areas for now, just to get the feel of the place. You can always return.

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