Traditional houseboats, Shikara rides, Dal lake, Pari Mahal, Chashma Shahi, Shalimar Bagh, Nishat Bagh, delicious food and MORE in Srinagar, Kashmir.
For anyone planning to head to Kashmir, India, your first stop will invariably and most likely be the beautiful city of Srinagar, which is also where your flight will land.
Once you are done with the airport formalities, enjoy the butterflies within your stomach whilst your rented car speeds towards beautiful Srinagar.
Srinagar is where your flight to Kashmir (India) will land. It is the largest city and summer capital of the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Srinagar is also home to the majestic Dal Lake and surrounded partially by towering mountains, adding an aura of seclusion.
The principal “must-do” activities of Srinagar include staying overnight on a houseboat on Dal Lake and also enjoying a majestic Shikara ride.
Winters are chilly, with daytime temperatures averaging 2.5 degrees Celsius and dropping to below freezing point at night. In summer, daytime temperatures average 24 degrees Celsius.
Srinagar will also be the principal touch-down base from where you will be able to explore the other aspects of Kashmir.
Home to the majestic Mughal Gardens, Dal Lake and Shikara rides, Srinagar is an absolutely stunning place where you can actually spend a few lovely days exploring and enjoying all of the following:
The traditional Kashmiri wedding attire is nothing short of being absolutely gorgeous! Additionally, once you put it on, you will truly find yourself feeling very much like a film heroine or even a bride.
There are several peddlers plying this trade in Srinagar, so keep your eyes open and I guarantee that you will get this opportunity sooner or later during your trip. If not, I advise speaking to your houseboat/hotel/tour manager and they can arrange it for you too.
Although you have a variety of locations available to you, I would recommend that you arrange your photo shoot on a Shikara on Dal Lake itself.
Do remember to ask for the high resolution soft copies of your photos so that you can always keep them as memories. Printed/hard copies can easily get lost or damaged.
Negotiate and haggle, but remember to do it respectfully. Kashmiris are very proud of their heritage and adequate respect needs to be given to the fact that quality demands slightly higher costing at times.
Although Srinagar has some fabulous and absolutely gorgeous Mughal Gardens, if you are short on time, I strongly suggest the following:
Pari Mahal, Shalimar Bagh, Nishat Gardens and Chashme Shahi.
The architecture and landscape of these gardens are gorgeous. Numerous terraced gardens, picturesque surroundings, eagle eye views of the surrounding landscape and Dal Lake, cascading fountains, water channels and colourful flower formations adorn these gardens, making them excellent options to explore at leisure.
Do NOT miss out on Pari Mahal for the amazing bird’s eye views and Chashme Shahi for the fresh spring water sprouting from a fish’s mouth.
Visiting Kashmir is synonymous with enjoying a relaxing Shikara ride on the beautiful Dal Lake – in fact it is one of the highly recommended attractions of Srinagar, despite being so touristic.
The Shikara itself is a wooden carved, colourful boat, with comfortable interiors to sit back, relax and enjoy the surrounding scenery. You can hire the Shikaras for an hour, two hours or even more, depending on how long you you want to enjoy the ride. The rates are usually pre-fixed by the government and the updated rates are displayed at various points between the “ghats” themselves.
The best times for the Shikara rides are during the early mornings for the tranquility and the late afternoons for the bustling activity on the lake.
Enjoy the grilled kebabs and snacks sold on the lake itself – you can purchase these from other passing boats.
Enjoy window shopping on the floating market, but save your purchase options for when you are on land – you will be able to find better prices.
Kashmir has its own charm when it comes to food. The locals are mostly meat lovers, which means that a major portion of the traditional cuisine, called “Wazwan” is meat based. In spite of that, purely vegetarian restaurants are abundant, catering to the many tourists and locals who prefer non-meat based dishes.
Yoghurt is a common ingredient in many dishes, along with dried fruits, nut paste and a multitude of exotic spices. There is also a variety of roadside snacks and delicious street food that you can try out. And, no matter what you do, do not miss the irresistible “Kehwa” (Kashmiri sweet tea).
The restaurants “Shamyana” and “Lhasa” serve authentic Wazwan cuisine and afternoon roadside snacks along the numerous “ghats”.
Excellent kebabs and grilled food is available on certain streets/ markets away from the tourist spots. Ask a local to take you there or give you directions.
Just like the Shikara ride, the Mughal gardens, the Wazwan cuisine and the traditional attire, living aboard a traditional houseboat on Dal Lake is also a unique experience and one that I definitely recommend!
Although this accommodation option may have been slightly expensive previously, you will be able to find decent houseboat options at reasonable prices these days, owing to the recent influx of houseboat options. Many of these houseboats are decorated with intricate woodwork and traditional furniture, adding to the ambiance and genuine feel of the Kashmiri cultural heritage.
Instead of choosing a hotel in the city, stay in a traditional houseboat during the entirety of your stay in Srinagar. This option isn’t widely available worldwide, so make the most of it here! The few extra dollars will be worth it.
Srinagar regularly hosts an Annual Tulip festival at the Indira Gandhi Memorial Tulip Garden (Siraj Bagh) around April each year. This is the best time to visit Srinagar if you want to go and check out the tulips.
I remember my first fascination for tulips stemming from my first glimpse of them in the Indian movie Silsila starring Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bachchan and Rekha.
Although the tulips were not in season when we visited, locals assured me that they are truly a magnificent sight to behold during April, and I don’t doubt it one bit!
Try to match your visit around April for the tulips, or alternatively during September for the purple Saffron flower fields and the red apple orchards!
During your holiday to Kashmir, you will have the opportunity to run into many locals in many different places. Use these opportunities wisely and ensure that you socialize and make conversation. The locals are very friendly and will be able to advise you on the best times and the best purchases you can make during your stay in Kashmir.
We loved our traditional Kashmiri shawls (scarves), honey, walnuts, cherries, Kehwa (Kashmiri tea), cashews, saffron, rose pickles and other items that we picked up. Since Srinagar is the state capital of Jammu and Kashmir, there are some items which are cheaper here rather than anywhere else in Kashmir or even anywhere else in India. You will also have more options to choose from.
As Srinagar is your first port of arrival, you can initially window shop here. Save the final shopping for the end of the trip – by then you would have explored the other regions and will be able to make informed choices.
Srinagar has its own charm and this place has different facets of beauty during different seasons. For this reason, it is also the kind of place that you can actually visit over and over again and still be left in awe of the beautiful views and scenic beauty.
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