Introducing The Kashmir Valley
Deep within seemingly endless layers of alpine peaks, the 140km-long Kashmir Valley opens up as a wide upland bowl of lakes and orchards. Traditionally fabled as a paradise of tranquility but divided after Indian Independence, Kashmir spent the later 20th century oscillating between violent upheavals and periods as an idyllic summer getaway. Tin-roofed villages guard terraced paddy fields delineated by apple groves and pin-straight poplars. Proudly independent-minded Kashmiris mostly follow a Sufi-based Islamic faith, worshipping in distinctive box-shaped mosques. Many Kashmiris have startlingly green eyes, and in winter keep warm by clutching a kangri (wicker fire-pot holder) beneath their flowing grey-brown pheran (woollen capes).