If you’ve longed for the delights of a houseboat holiday, now is the time to try one out.
Srinagar is a unique city because of its lakes – the Dal, Nigeen and Anchar. The River Jehlum also flows through a part of the city.
The Dal, Srinagar’s largest lake, has the most number of houseboats, followed by the Nigeen and the Jehlum.
As a general rule, houseboats in the Dal are of all categories, from deluxe through to D class, while those in the Nigeen are largely luxury class and those in the Jehlum largely economy class. This, however, is a generalization.
Most houseboats on the Nigeen and the Jehlum are situated on the banks of the lake, and can be accessed directly from land without the help of a shikara, while all those on the Dal require a shikara to get to and from them.
Most houseboats on the Dal are situated in long straggling rows; some face the Boulevard, Srinagar’s most exciting address, while others are situated singly or in groups of two and three. The location of a houseboat tells us nothing about its class, but before checking into one, there are a few factors which you may like to consider.
A honeymoon couple may want to be away from it all, and may choose a houseboat with few, if any, close neighbors. To them, it will be an advantage to stay in the interior of the lake, accessible by a half hour long shikara ride. A family with young children on the other hand may find themselves better served in an area which overlooks the Boulevard where a crossing takes just five minutes.
When your houseboat is in a busy area of the Dal, it is enjoyable just to sit on balcony and watch the world row by.
Each houseboat has anything between two and four bedrooms in it with attached bathrooms and a common sitting and dining room. The charges of a houseboat always include all meals and a certain number of, crossings by shikara to and from the houseboat.
Houseboats offer far more personalized service than hotels because of the far higher host:guest ratio. On the other hand, fellow guests at the same house- boat tend to interact much more than if they were staying at the same hotel.
This is why houseboats are ideal for a large group of eight or more adults.
The Dal is famous not only for its beauty, but for its vibrance, because it sustains within its periphery, a life that is unique anywhere in the World. The houseboat and shikara communities have lived for centuries on the Dal, and so complete is their infrastructure on the lake, that they never have to step on land! Doctors, tailors, bakers – you’ll see them all in tiny wooden shops on the lake, near picturesque vegetable gardens and acres of lotus gardens.
A shikara ride is one of the most soothing, relaxing aspects of a holiday in Kashmir. It can be an hour long ride to see the sights of the Dal; a shopping- by-shikara expedition to visit handicraft shops within the periphery of the lake; or a whole day trip to visit important city landmarks.
Because the Dal is so central to the landscape of Srinagar, many places of tourist interest have, over the ages, been built in its vicinity. Nishat and Shalimar gardens as well as Hazratbal mosque is directly accessible by shikra.