The world famous tourist places like Pahalgam, Gulmarg, Sonamarg of Kashmir will be passé soon. The Jammu and Kashmir government has identified nine places, including otherwise inaccessible militancy-infested areas, to open to tourists. These virgin 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 to air safaris.
It will be for the first time, two virgin valleys, Lolab, at an altitude of 2700 metres and Bungus, at 3,500 m, will be thrown open to tourists. Lolab valley, more than 150 km north of Srinagar, is infested by 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 spread over 20 km with the width of 15 km. Dozens of bakkerwals (nomads) take cattle to the pastures in summers. A senior official, however, said militant presence have some 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 with Jammu & Kashmir Tourist Development Corporation (JKTDC) its nodal agency to coordinate the air safaris, which will be an add-on for providing fillip to greater tourism activity.