What I only knew of Venice, that it was built on/around a water body and one could travel around in a gondola and it being very romantic is all also true of Srinagar. The Dal lake is not just a lake one can go boating in, it connects the city, one can travel to different parts of the city via the Shikara and it is romantic!
While on the boat ride many other boats will come offering products on sale – jewellery, food… You can also go to a market on boat, have some hot kahwa and maggi at a small foodstall all the while swaying on the gentle motion of the Shikara.
The entire Dal lake is lined with house – boats and they are unique at least in the way they have been named. You will find the Cheerful Charlie, New Australia, Helen of Troy, King of Kashmir and many other very western named house boats here. The naming surprised me a lot because I cannot understand it’s source, have not seen such random western influence in other areas of India. Usually names of hotels, restaurants, shops are all Indian in most other cities with some rare English name like ‘Chinese dragon’ but here every name seems to top the other in its western fantasy quotient!
We stayed in one such called ‘Soloman & Sheba’, it was very good. Bath tubs, English book collection, artistic rugs, working desks, tv with cable were just some of the luxuries.
The popularity of jain and Gujarati tourists can be clearly seen in the sheer number of restaurants that are pure veg and serving Jain food! We have tied up with some local tourist agency and boat guys to take us around the city. A lot of bargaining is possible.
Interesting places to see within the city incude,
Gardens – The Mughals really liked to stroll around in beautiful gardens. So srinagar has quite a few of these. Shalimar, Nisaan Bagh are the two we saw. Pretty good!
Shankaracharya temple – Its beautiful to see the scattering of ancient hindu temples in this Muslim populated land. Shankaracharya temple is in Srinagar itself on a hill. A popular tourist spot. This is a place built by the Pandavas and Shankaracharya did a lot of sadhana here before going off to build the Char Dhams.
Chashmeshahi – There is a small spring of water here which is said to miraculous properties. It seems Indira Gandhi when in office used to have an helicopter transport her daily water from this place.
Manasbal lake – Is a nice lake a few kilometres from Srinagar. This lake flows into the Jhelum river so you can go on a Shikara to see the confluence.
There also many nearby places to visit which are a few hours from the city,
Sonmarg – A glacier Thajiwas is seen here. Its an hours walk or you can take the pony. I would suggest don’t take the pony.
Gulmarg – The highest golf course in the world is situated here. It also has the world’s second longest Gondola.
Pehelgaam – This place has probably Kashmir best restaurant at Tulyan! It serves Chinese, South Indian and North Indian – all great food at par with restaurants here in Mumbai! Yummy. Ofcourse also some very pretty scenic spots around here – Betaab Valley, Chandanwari glacier, Aru valley etc.. This is also where the Amarnath caves route start from.
You can see more of my trip photographs on my Facebook Page!