Kashmir has marched into a temperate autumn and tourists are only too willing to keep their date with the valley, where streets are now carpeted by falling chinar leaves that have turned golden.
Harud, as autumn is called in Koshur (the popular name for Kashmiri language), this year holds much promise for locals dependent on tourism. The rush of visitors has started, maintaining the spring and summer trend.
Chief minister Omar Abdullah is upbeat. “More than 1 million tourists have visited the state this year, rejuvenating the tourism sector,” he had said.
The state received 1.3 million tourists last year and hopes to surpass the figure this year.
“A group of 24 amateur photographers is arriving in November,” said Prasad Mantri from Maharashtra, who arranges tours for Amarnath yatris. Amrita Tulsi from Lucknow, a first-time visitor, said, “Chashmashahi Garden and Pari Mahal look out of this world.”
With day temperatures likely to hover around 20 degrees Celsius and nights being nippy at 10-15 degrees till mid-November, hotel and houseboat bookings have surged.
Manzoor Ahmed, secretary general of Kashmir Hotel and Restaurant Owners Federation, strikes a pragmatic note. “We are still far behind the numbers we saw in the 1980s.”