TRAVEL

Indian Himalayas Open To Foreign Tourists For First Time EVER

Jul 08, 2010 | Updated May 25, 2011

For the first time, foreign tourists will be allowed to climb the 100 Himalayan peaks on the Indian side of Kashmir (mostly in the Ladakh mountain range), the Associated Press reports.

The move is aimed to increase tourism in the region, which suffered for years due to insurgent groups between India and Pakistan. Tourism used to be a prominent source of income for Kashmiris as the area-- known as the Switzerland of the east--boasts scenic lakes, strenuous hikes and beautiful scenery. But separatist violence kept Western tourists away.

Unfortunately, the mountains of Ladakh lies in the middle of Kashmir, thus opening it up to brutal clashes between India and Pakistan over the years (it also borders China; parts of the state have been controlled by China for decades).

The government of Jammu-Kashmir (one of the five bordering Indian states) even declared 2010 as "visit Kashmir year." The peaks range from 9,840 feet to a whopping 26,246 feet.

"The tourism sector has suffered a lot during the last two decades. We're hopeful the decision will attract foreign tourists to the region," Aijaz Ahmed, a travel operator, told the AP.

Currently, there are no specific travel warnings about Kashmir (though there is an alert in action for Pakistan). It's safe to assume, we bet, that you travel at your own risk.