In recent years, the Dal Lake in Srinagar has become somewhat of an icon for the state of Kashmir, which is often represented through photos of floating shikaras, or wooden boats, on the Dal's pristine blue waters. Today Srinagar is a busy, densely populated business center, and visitors are inevitably relieved to come across the Dal Lake, which is like an oasis of calm in the heart of the bustling city.
The Dal Lake in Kashmir occupies roughly ten square miles. This most notable lake in Srinagar is surrounded by snowcapped peaks such as the Takht-i-Sulaiman and the Hari Parbat, which provide a perfect scenic backdrop to Dal Lake's shimmering waters. There are three small islands on the lake: Char Chinar, Kabutarkhana, and Nehru Park. Of these, the Char Chinar is the most famous and is easily visited on a shikara.
Over on the shore, the Dal Lake in Kashmir is lined with willows and poplars, which further add to the otherworldly feel of the place. A few yards in from this vegetation around the Dal Lake Srinagar, you'll find a multitude of boulevards and beautiful gardens, some of which date back to the Mughal era, which was an age of such architectural and decorative feats as the Taj Mahal and the Agra Red Fort. Of the hundreds of gardens built during the Mughal era in Kashmir only a few survive today; the Tulip Gardens in Srinagar are a notable tourist attraction in their own right.
The Dal Lake in Kashmir has a lot to offer for both those fond of watching various species of birds and those who take an interest in discovering local flora. Various species of herons and kingfishers can be seen here, while water lilies and lotuses grow on the lake. For active travelers, meanwhile, kayaking and canoeing are both permitted on the lake. Likewise, the Dal Lake Srinagar is an angler's paradise, though make sure to collect a license from the tourism bureau before casting your line.
While in Srinagar, you can pass over a conventional hotel in favor of a stay on one of the two hundred or so houseboats that are to be found on the lake. These houseboats—some nearly a hundred years old—were originally constructed for the British colonial administrators in India. Consequently, the lavish arrangements in a houseboat can rival those of any hotel.
If boating on the Dal Lake Srinagar takes your fancy, it's also possible to hire a shikara, which could be said to be the Kashmiri versions of the Venetian gondolas. Reaching many of the things to do in Srinagar, such as the Hajratlal Mosque, is easily done on one of these crafts..
Dal Lake Srinagar is also famous the world over for its floating vegetable market, and you should try to include a visit in your itinerary when exploring this part of India. Vegetable sellers carrying fresh local produce travel over the lake in shikaras at dawn, before making floating gardens of reeds on which to display the goods. It's a visual treat, and the food tastes good, too.
Srinagar can be reached by road from Shimla, which is a hill station in Humachal Pradesh. During colonial times, Shimla was declared the summer capital of India, and today it's still a great place to visit, off most travelers' beaten path, which consists of only the Golden Triangle (Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur), and perhaps a beach or two in Goa. If you're not arriving in Sringar via Shimla, it's possible to fly into the city, with the airport serving routes from most major Indian cities.