: Srinagar, Kashmir
: Islands, Houseboats & Floating Gardens
Best Time To Visit
June To August
The Kashmir valley is gifted with exotic natural scenic beauty of landscape and water bodies, out of them, the most famous are Dal Lake and Nagin Lake. These water bodies are of great ecological and socio-economic significance. These lake with its multi-faceted eco-system and grandeur has been inviting the attention of national and international tourists.
Dal Lake is one of the most beautiful lakes of India and the second largest in the J&K state. Its three sides are surrounded by majestic mountains and a large number of gardens and orchards have been laid along the shores. The campus of University of Kashmir is also located along the shores of the lake. Dal Lake is unique in having hundreds of houseboats, which afford an opportunity to tourists to reside on the lake in an atmosphere of peace and tranquility.
Areas of the Dal Lake are clustered with sloping roofed houses on islands, while other parts appear lush and green like well-tended gardens. As the eye travels onwards, houseboats, houses and vegetation cease abruptly, and two enormous sheet-like expanses of water, the Bod Dal & Lokut Dal, come into view.
About Dal Lake
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, and 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. Shikaras are long boats which crowd the Srinagar lakes. They are used for getting back and forth from the houseboats or for longer tours. It is worth to take a pleasure ride around the lake in shikara. Shikara is a Gondola type light rowing boat. The two hour boat ride takes tourists on a relaxing sightseeing tour of interior parts of the calm and placid waters of Dal Lake, and be part of shopping- by-shikara expeditions. 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 are directly accessible by shikara.
While giding on Shikara we can often observe white breasted Kingfishers (Halycon smyrnensis), large striking birds with robust bills perched on the branches of willow trees. These birds concentrate their efforts to hunting on the floating Gardens. These man made islands comprise of reeds, willow rods, aquatic vegetations and and held together with humus consisting of mud from the lake bottom. This is extremely fertile and provide rich source of food in the form of frogs,lizards,mice, grasshoppers and other insects to the Kingfisher.
Attractions Around Dal Lake
There are three islands in the lake; three real islands anyway, there are other sorts of islands joined by causeways. Around the lake are many of Srinagar's most interesting sights, in particular the pleasant Mughal gardens. It's also flanked by hills, particularly along its east bank. The Shankaracharya hill provides a very fine view over the lake.
Have A Swim!
The waters of Dal Lake are amazingly clear. Nevertheless one is advised not to go swimming in the lake although the swimming houseboats, equipped with diving boards and chutes, are moored in a deeper part of the lake, 'upstream' from the concentration of houseboats. Swimming here can be quite refreshing, especially on a hot afternoon. One will undoubtedly be joined by a number of Indians, including Hindu women who swim in their saris.
The lake is probably at its most beautiful when the lotus flowers bloom in July and August. The floating gardens, known as "Rad" in Kashmiri, are one of the stranger aspects of Dal Lake. They're composed of matted vegetation and earth, which are cut away from the lake bottom and towed to a convenient location where they are moored. Tomatoes, Cucumbers and Melons all grow amazingly well in these gardens, if one look underneath one can see that they do literally float on the lake. One can also approach the floating gardens by road; the boulevard runs along the eastern edge of the lake, providing fine views all the way.
One will often see weeds being pulled up out of the lake - this serves a double purpose. The lake waterways are kept clear and the weeds are rotted until they form excellent compost for the gardens. The shallowness of the lake and its heavy growth of waterweeds is probably the main reason there are so very few powered boats on the water. Dal Lake would be nowhere near as pleasant if there were powerboats rushing back and forth across its tranquil surface.