World famous tourist places such as Pahalgam, Gulmarg, and Sonamarg in Kashmir will be passé soon. The Jammu and Kashmir government has identified nine places, including otherwise inaccessible militancy-hit areas, to open for tourists. These tourist spots will be introduced to visitors through air safaris.
“The J&K government has decided to start air safaris to attract high-end visitors to tourist destinations in the state,” said Tourism Minister Nasir Wani.
In its phase, eight tourist destinations -- Lolab-Bungus, Gurez and Zanskar in Kashmir and Doda, Kishtwar, Poonch and Rajouri districts in Jammu –- will be introduced through air safaris.
It will be for the first time that two valleys Lolab, at an altitude of 2,700 metres and Bungus, at 3,500 metres, will be thrown open to tourists. Lolab valley, more than 150 km north of Srinagar, has militants, especially the Laskhkar-e-Tayyeba. With rugged terrains and lush meadows, the valley is close to the Line of Control and is surrounded by Shamsberry Range and Leepa Valle.
Bungas valley is spread over 20 km. Dozens of nomads take cattle to the pastures during summers. A senior official, however, said militant presence has come down drastically in these valleys.
“Air safaris hold great potential in our state. Gradually, we will establish a well-coordinated network to take tourists to new identified spots in remote areas,” said the state Tourist Minister.
The state government is floating national-level tenders. Jammu & Kashmir Tourist Development Corporation (JKTDC), its nodal agency, will coordinate the air safaris, which will be an add-on for providing fillip to greater tourism activity.