India in August is traditionally avoided by tourists due to the monsoon season. However the rains’ impact worsens the further south you travel, making August the perfect time of year to visit Northern India. Here’s my guide to visiting India’s most northerly state.
Kashmir and Jammu
This state is one which has had a troubled past so it is advised that you check the current situation before you travel. However, there are many areas within the state that you’ll always find at peace so don’t let your preconceptions of Kashmir stop you from visiting this beautiful part of the country. Kashmir and Jammu brings together the spiritual, historical and natural elements that make India so appealing which is why it is the perfect destination to explore by taking a tour around the state.
In August, Kashmir and Jammu enjoys a summer which is cooled by a fresh air moving in from the Himalayas and much more comfortable than summer in the rest of the country. Temperatures average 30C (86F), the sun shines brightly throughout the day and rainfall, when it does fall, shouldn’t have too much of an impact upon your day.
If you’re looking for an authentic Indian experience then look no further than Jammu. Favoured by Indian visitors, the city is rarely visited by foreign travellers. To miss this city is certainly a mistake as it is filled with many historical sites to see, including the palace of Mubarak Mandi, the temple complex of Raghunath Mandir and Amar Mahal. Visiting during August will see the city filled with people making a pilgrimage to Amarnath Yatra.
From Jammu head further north to Srinagar, choosing to travel either by bus, train or plane. The journey north is filled with an abundance of sights that will have you reaching for your camera including mountains, woodland and the stunning Kashmir Valley. Srinagar is the summer capital of the state so you’ll find it a bustling city to visit during August. Its abiding feature is the houseboats which over Dal Lake that certainly give the area a vibrant splash of colour and culture. The lakes and gardens, such as Shalimar Bagh, are definitely there to be enjoyed during the summer so take a Shikara ride across Dal Lake and visit the floating village that sits in the centre.
Top sites to visit in Srinagar include the Old City which is a fascinating step back into Indian history. Here you’ll find mosques dating back to the late 1600s, all intricately decorated. Visit the shrines of Rozabal and Pir Dastgir Sahib and take a car to the Hindu shrine Shankaracharya Mandir to grasp the importance of religion upon not only the state but the wider country. Just outside of Srinagar, is Parihaspora where you can also see palaces belonging to the former spiritual rulers. You should also try to visit the Roza Bal tomb which has interestingly been put forward as the tomb of Jesus.
Take the Zoji La Pass across the north of the state to move from Srinagar to Ladakh. This epic journey will take at least two days to complete and it is worth making a stop off in Kargil as most of the bus operators do. Sights along the way to see or stop off at include the Thajiwas Glacier, Mount Kolahoi and the Suru Valley. Alternatively if time is tight, fly directly from Srinagar to Leh which is the best portal into exploring Ladakh.
Leh is framed perfectly by the mountains that dominate the landscape and give the town a truly enchanting feel. However if you feel light-headed when you arrive, this probably is due to adjusting to the altitude rather than being intoxicated by the town! Leh is a town that begs to be explored, whether that’s through the bazaars, out in the green fields or around the Old Town. Here you’ll find a number of great buildings to see, including the Buddhist Shanti Stupa, the Tsemo Fort and the magnificent Leh Palace. With the mountains close by, you can also head up into the clouds though it is advised to do so with a guide. From Leh, Ladakh opens up into an open, mountainous terrain that is truly breathtaking.