Though its reputation as one of the world's most beautiful places has hardly diminished, Kashmir has spent much of the last two decades embroiled in a civil conflict violent enough to keep tourists at bay. Now that the anti-Indian movement in the state is abandoning firefights in favor of talks, the lovely city of Srinigar may finally see its opulent houseboats fill with visitors again.
The latest encouraging news for Kashmiris was the British Foreign Office's decision to scrap travel advisories warning tourists to steer clear of the Srinigar and Jammu areas. As The Guardian points out, the area has been considered dangerous to foreigners since six tourists were kidnapped in 1995 by an Islamist group.
Violence has faded along with Pakistan's support for paramilitary groups and now seems poised to pose a small enough risk to make the rewards of visiting Kashmir worth the trouble. And what exactly are the rewards? Snowcapped mountains, the mirror-still waters of Dal Lake, warm mornings breaking through the alpine cold of the night and, come autumn, forests blushing in the breeze.
This is the Kashmir travelers have missed and, with a little luck, the one to which they'll return.