When I knew that we were going on a trip to Kashmir, Dal Lake was the first spot that came into my mind. Dal Lake was essentially on my mind since then. I wanted to experience living in a houseboat and witness the floating market of Dal Lake. It was one of the most unique experiences in India and I ended up exploring a lot of it.
Dal Lake is a top tourist destination in Srinagar and is the second largest lake in the state of Jammu & Kashmir. Due to its beauty and serenity, it is known as the “Jewel in the Crown” of Kashmir. It is spread over 18-22 km sq and offers various tourist destinations, shops and markets. After the Sonmarg trip, we were back in Srinagar.
Our Srinagar stay lasted for 4-5 days and was the last spot of our Kashmir Trip. I wanted to make it memorable with every efforts to enjoy it to the fullest. When I found out that out of 5 days, we were going to spend 2 days on a houseboat in Dal Lake, my happiness knew no bounds. Then we were taken on a shikara to our houseboats where they had arranged our stay.
The Houseboats of Dal Lake
The shikara ride was quite memorable. The small boat was decorated with colourful Kashmiri ornaments and was looking more beautiful than the surrounding scenery, which is encircled by snow-laden peaks reaching the sky and green pine trees. We finally reached our houseboat via a narrow bridge made of barrels. There is also a wedding hall in the middle of Dal Lake with the mountains surrounding it.
The moment I entered the houseboat, I was mesmerized seeing its interior and its ancient architecture. There was a big hall in the centre, behind which was a big kitchen consisting of an 8-seater dining table. And behind the kitchen were the massive rooms with magnificent interiors. I had a room at the end of the houseboat which was truly stunning. After getting freshened up, we had a delicious breakfast of bread, butter, omelette, fruits and boiled eggs.
While travelling to the houseboat, I had talked with its owner. He to me to prepare to visit the famous floating market. My excitement to visit this was so high, that I actually was not able to concentrate on my breakfast. We finally left for the market, travelling by shikara, which was always an adventure.
Another Side of The Lake
This was a side of the lake I’d never ever seen in the pictures. We navigated through narrow lanes, and under the wooden bridges, passing by houses and their mirrored reflections in the water, as well quite a few more shikharas going towards the market. After a 45 minutes ride, we reached the market, where the vendors had already occupied the centre stage. All the boats were loaded with fresh vegetables, which made the lake look colourful in the wee hours of the day. There was a wonderful man selling flowers, who was kind enough to gift me a flower from his bunch.
I then asked the operator of my shikara to take me to the Nishat Garden. This was probably the second best decision I had taken, after the visit to the floating market. This is one of the many pieces of floating land on the waters of Dal Lake known as “Chori ki kheti” (Stolen farmland). The operator asked me to step on that floating piece of land, and guaranteed that I wouldn’t sink!
Then we went to a coffee shop on the lake where we drank a local tea known as “Kahwah”. Kahwah is a famous tea grown in Kashmir and is a speciality of the region. There was also Kashmiri Hookah to be had. Kashmiris smoke hookah to keep themselves warm in the extreme cold of Kashmir. I wish I could that hookah pot home!
Serene Splendour on the Lake
As the sun started getting higher, the water lilies on Dal Lake began to bloom fully. The lake looked marvellous covered with these floating gardens. When I asked my shikara wala to take a picture of me with the white lilies, he very sweetly pulled out a flower and made a necklace from of it.
After visiting a lot of places on Dal Lake, we finally went back to the houseboat for a long nap. I decided not to have lunch as I was still full from breakfast. After the nap, we went shopping around the lake and bought famous local items, such as sweaters and Pashmina shawls.
That was my Dal Lake experience, one that was truly enchanting. Now, I only wish that I could have a destination wedding in that wedding hall in the centre of Dal Lake.