Jammu and Kashmir is a state in northern India, often denoted by the acronym J&K. It is located mostly in the Himalayan mountains, and shares borders with the states of Himachal Pradesh and Punjab to the south. Jammu and Kashmir has an international border with China in the north and east, and the Line of Control separates it from the Pakistani-administered territories of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan in the west and northwest respectively. The state has special autonomy under Article 370 of the Constitution of India.
Jammu and Kashmir is home to several valleys such as the Kashmir Valley, Tawi Valley, Chenab Valley, Poonch Valley, Sind Valley and Lidder Valley. The main Kashmir Valley is 100 km (62 mi) wide and 15,520.3 km2 (5,992.4 sq mi) in area. The Himalayas divide the Kashmir valley from Ladakh while the Pir Panjal range, which encloses the valley from the west and the south, separates it from the Great Plains of northern India. Along the northeastern flank of the Valley runs the main range of the Himalayas. This densely settled and beautiful valley has an average height of 1,850 metres (6,070 ft) above sea-level but the surrounding Pir Panjal range has an average elevation of 5,000 metres (16,000 ft). Because of Jammu and Kashmir's wide range of elevations, its biogeography is diverse. Northwestern thorn scrub forests and Himalayan subtropical pine forests are found in the low elevations of the far southwest. These give way to a broad band of western Himalayan broadleaf forests running from northwest-southeast across the Kashmir Valley. Rising into the mountains, the broadleaf forests grade into western Himalayan subalpine conifer forests. Above the tree line are found northwestern Himalayan alpine shrub and meadows. Much of the northeast of the state is covered by the Karakoram-West Tibetan Plateau alpine steppe. Around the highest elevations, there is no vegetation, simply rock and ice.
Ladakh is famous for its unique Indo-Tibetan culture. Chanting in Sanskrit and Tibetan language forms an integral part of Ladakh's Buddhist lifestyle. Annual masked dance festivals, weaving and archery are an important part of traditional life in Ladakh. Ladakhi food has much in common with Tibetan food, the most prominent foods being thukpa, noodle soup; and tsampa, known in Ladakhi as Ngampe, roasted barley flour. Typical garb includes gonchas of velvet, elaborately embroidered waistcoats and boots, and gonads or hats. People adorned with gold and silver ornaments and turquoise headgears throng the streets during Ladakhi festivals. Shikaras are a common feature in lakes and rivers across the Kashmir valley. The Dumhal is a famous dance in the Kashmir Valley, performed by men of the Wattal region. The women perform the Rouff, another traditional folk dance. Kashmir has been noted for its fine arts for centuries, including poetry and handicrafts. Shikaras, traditional small wooden boats, and houseboats are a common feature in lakes and rivers across the Valley. The Constitution of India does not allow people from regions other than Jammu and Kashmir to purchase land in the state. As a consequence, houseboats became popular among those who were unable to purchase land in the Valley and has now become an integral part of the Kashmiri lifestyle. Kawa, traditional green tea with spices and almond, is consumed all through the day in the chilly winter climate of Kashmir. Most of the buildings in the Valley and Ladakh are made from softwood and are influenced by Indian, Tibetan, and Islamic architecture.