Jammu and Kashmir’s summer capital, Srinigar is home to the tranquil Dal Lake on which sits dozens of beautiful, stationary houseboats. Seeing as we live on a houseboat in London, we were incredibly excited to visit the city. We were also in need of a relaxing few days after our exhausting journey up from Jammu.
We were staying on houseboat Royal Lodge and spent lots of time catching up on sleep and reading. The boat had a beautifully decorated living room that was perfect for lounging and a lovely back deck to admire the views of the Pir Panjal mountains that surround the city. It even had a flat-screen TV to watch the World Cup!
Colourful local gondola-like taxis called shikaras ferry you across the lake and we caught one early one morning to the daily floating vegetable market. With the sun not yet up, it was very quiet on the water as we made our way past many beautiful boats and patches of lovely pink lotus flowers. The market was busy with many different vegetables swapping boats. How they grow cucumber, pumpkin and the like on the lake is beyond me! Alongside vegetables, ‘Mr Marvellous Flower Man’ was selling flowers while sweets and tea were also available (we tried for the first time Kashmiri kahwa – a divine golden tea flavoured with saffron, cinnamon and almonds).
Alongside the Lake, Srinigar is famous for its Mughal Gardens – gardens built by the Mughal Emperors in the Persian style of architecture. We visited the beautiful Nishat Bagh Mughal Gardens and admired not only its many flowers but also the mountain views. The gardens are the perfect spot to while away an afternoon reading and people watching.
Finally, we explored a little of the old city with its many alleyways, beautiful mosques and wooden buildings that make you wonder how they’re still standing.
Its hard to ignore the huge army presence around the state due to Kashmir’s complicated history and history of conflict. The army were absolutely everywhere including on every street corner and even hidden in the bushes! Perhaps because of this people were incredibly welcoming and although we felt very safe it was a little unnerving having that many armed guards around.
Practical Information (£1 = INR 90)
Where to Stay
There are dozens of boats and it would be tricky to look for one upon arrival (the shikara driver would no doubt take you to his friend / cousin / uncle’s boat). We found Royal Lodge on Hostelworld and the room was INR 700.
How to get around
Shikaras are a dime a dozen and cost INR 50 to ferry you to your boat.
It’s easy to hail down a shared jeep on the main road that runs along the lake and it’s INR 25/ person to get to the gardens and Pari Mahal.
An auto rickshaw (tuk tuk) to the old city cost us INR 100 and we walked back.
The houseboat can arrange a shikara to visit the floating vegetable market and it cost INR 1,000 for a two-hour trip.