Houseboats on Lake Dal
Srinigar was once at the end of the great trail north for India's visitors. War put paid to that for many years. Reopened, but still shabby, travel into the far north east of India and experience the peace of Srinigar, the legendary houseboats and the wonderful location
It was once THE place to visit, then there was a long lull like an arrested gasp waiting to exhale and now it's back on tourist maps. The Shangri-la that is Kashmir has always been captured with images of houseboats on Dal Lake. As with all things 'Jammu & Kashmir', the very heavenly nature of the place has been its bane. Once you prepare yourself for the clichéd thing to do, you will be surprised at the whole experience the Dal Lake provides.
From the shikara boat ride to the moored houseboats with intricate carvings inside, the floating flower markets to the beautiful mountains all around, what you come away with is the feeling of discovery. The serendipity of it all envelops you instantly. The place is still paradisal and the fear of the world losing it all someday with the constant military strife around only adds to the often twisted joy of having made it here and seeing it all!
The River Jhelum feeds the Dal Lake and Nagin Lake where the famous houseboats of Kashmir stay afloat. The houseboats are owned by joint families who live off it with dwellings nearby using the smaller canoes or shikaras for commuting.
Wake up to sounds of shikaras gliding by taking children to schools. Observe the way of life here and the constant whispers about military among the folks here. Old-timers here will explain how the canals that feed the lake have narrowed down with encroachment.
Hear about the romantic Bollywood films shot here, the song and dance routines from shikaras to houseboats and more. Bollywood has once again come back to Kashmir eschewing international locations with more and more tourists flocking to Jammu and Kashmir once again.
Romance is in the air here, the beauty and the weather all add to the lure of Kashmir with its Shalimar Bagh (Mughal Gardens) filled with chinar and poplar trees that were planted by the besotted emperor Jahangir.
Take a late afternoon shikara ride that gives spectacular views and watch how the houseboats, more than 1500 of them, light up like opened treasure chests made of walnut wood when night falls.
Summer may be the popluar time to visit, however, the locals here find the winter more beautiful when everything becomes white and wisps of cotton float down on the lake and turns Kashmir into magic land. It is not difficult to understand how the phantasmagoric tales in Haroun and the Sea of Stories was inspired around the Dal Lake and Kashmir Valley.