The state of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) brings together three incredibly different worlds. Jammu and Katra, in the south, are the state's rail hubs and a major draw for domestic pilgrims. Kashmir Valley is India's Switzerland, attracting local tourists seeking cool summer air, alpine scenery and Srinagar’s romantic houseboat accommodation. And then there's the Himalayan land of Ladakh, which for most foreigners is J&K’s greatest attraction. Its ethnolinguistically Tibetan people are predominantly Buddhist; their timeless monasteries are set between arid canyons and soaring peaks, while emerald-green villages nestle photogenically in highland deserts.
Kashmir is politically volatile, with July and August often the "season" for shutdowns, demonstrations and curfews. Indeed, arguments over Kashmir's status caused three 20th-century wars. Ladakh is altogether different, a calm oasis where your main concern will be high-altitude acclimatization. Note that Ladakh is entirely inaccessible by road outside the summer season.