SRINAGAR – THE CITY OF HOUSEBOATS – Kashmir’s most well known city, Srinagar, stands by the clear waters of the Dal Lake, and the rushing Jhelum. During the days of the Raj, the ruler of Kashmir let the British come to Srinagar but did not allow them to build. So they took to the water and lived in houseboats on the lovely Lake! And the houseboats stayed on to become a symbol of the beautiful valley and famous hill station.
Srinagar – City of Houseboat, Dal Lake, Shikaras
A houseboat holiday is a delightful experience. Just stepping on board transports you to a different world, away from the hustle and bustle and noise of the city. There are different categories of houseboat, from deluxe to D class. And they could be situated either on the banks of the lake or river, or in the interior of the lake. So while selecting one you should consider this factor. If you are with your family and young children, it would be advantageous to take one which is on the banks or overlooking the Boulevard, so that you can get ashore in a few minutes. If honeymooning, you may prefer to be in the interior, all by yourselves.
Soothed by the sound of water lapping against the hull, you can relax in the cosy comfort of the living room or curl up with a book in the bedroom. Or better still, savour the peaceful ambience sitting on the veranda as shikaras glide silently by like floating supermarkets overflowing with fruit, vegetables, flowers or the choicest of handicrafts.
When in Srinagar a leisurely cruise on the lake in a shikara is a not-to-be-missed experience. You could take a short hour-long ride to see the sights of the Dal Lake, a shopping trip to floating handicraft shops on the lake or a day-long trip to visit the city’s landmarks. Down the ages many important places have been built in the vicinity of the lake such as the Hazratbal mosque and the beautiful Mughal Gardens – Nishat Bagh, the largest, with several terraces, the four-storeyed Shalimar Bagh, and Chashma Shahi, which is at a height above the city and offers spectacular views.
You can also trek up to the Shankaracharya’s Temple a thousand feet above the city or pay homage at the Chatti Padshahi Gurudwara in Rainawari.
Gulmarg (2730 m) – the meadow of flowers About 50 kms away from Srinagar, it is a cup-shaped meadow 3 kms long, and over 2000 metres high. It has the highest green golf course in the world, miles of forest and numerous ski peaks. It is a golfer’s paradise in summer and a skier’s delight in winter. Indeed, with the range of facilities available (such as ski-lift, chair-lift and gondola cable car), as well as the variety of slopes, from the most gentle to intermediate and then steeper and longer, Gulmarg is the ultimate beginner’s ski resort.
Srinagar Ski Resort, Mountains, Srinagar DestinationPAHALGAM (2130 m), ‘the valley of shepherds’, sits along the banks of the Lidder river and is the start point for treks, excursions to glaciers and other scenic places, and the pilgrimage to the holy Amarnath shrine. It is 96 kms north-east of Srinagar.
Sonamarg (2740 m), ‘the meadow of gold’, is the last halt on the Kashmir side on the Srinagar-Leh road. It is a popular destination for trekkers, being the start point for a major trek to several beautiful mountain, lakes – Satsar, Vishansar, Kishansar, Gadsar and Gangabal.
Kashmiri Food: Kashmiri cooking has imbibed the best of Mughal, Persian and the Pandits’ food. Wazwan, an elaborate meal of 12 or more, mostly meat, dishes, is served on special occasions. The ‘wazas’ or cooks pound the meat for hours; and the finer the pounding the greater is considered their culinary art. The heady aroma of saffron, cumin seeds, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and red pepper being crushed, and rice being steamed, really gets the taste-buds working in anticipation. And as you eat each course you have to remind yourself to leave room for the remaining that are to follow!