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Srinagar

India and Pakistan both dispute ownership of the Kashmir Valley, and political violence can flare up without warning. Many foreign governments advise against all travel, or all but essential travel, to areas outside the cities of Srinagar and Jammu, and your travel insurance may be invalid if you ignore this advice.

Ringed by an arc of green mountains, Srinagar's greatest drawcard is mesmerizingly placid Dal Lake, on which a bright array of stationary houseboats and shikara (gondola-like boats) add a splash of color and a unique opportunity for romantic chill-outs. Charming Mughal gardens dot the lake's less urbanized eastern shore; while the old town bustles with Central Asian–style bazaars and a collection of soulful Sufi shrines, as well as a fortress and many historic wooden mosques. Add in a mild summer climate, feisty Kashmiri cuisine and famous local apples, walnuts and almonds, and you have one of India’s top tourist draws.

Except, that is, when communal tensions paralyze the city. Sadly that happens all too regularly, leaving a chance that you'll be stuck in strikes, pro-independence demonstrations and partial curfews. Although foreign tourists themselves have never been seen as targets, you should absolutely check on the latest situation before you visit.

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These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Srinagar.

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