Srinagar is one of several places that have been called the “Venice of the East” or the “Kashmiri Venice”. Lakes around the city include Dal Lake – noted for its houseboats – and Nigeen Lake. Apart from Dal lake and Nigeen lake city is also famous for wular lake and manasbal lake to the north of srinagar. Wular lake is one of the largest fresh water lakes in Asia.
Srinagar has some Mughal gardens, forming a part of those laid by the Mughal emperors across the Indian subcontinent. Those of Srinagar and its close vicinity include Chashma Shahi (the royal fountains); Pari Mahal (the palace of the fairies)etc. The following form the list of the best things you can do to explore Srinagar at its best!
1. Houseboats !! 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! 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.
2. Visit the Dal Lake and Nageen Lake The Dal Lake which has the length of 8 Km long and a width of 4 Km, spreads over a total of 26 Sq. Km.The Dal Lake gets some of its water from spring but is also supplemented by water from the mountain lake, Mar Sar. In the western part of the Lake one can glimpse a few islands, some bigger, some smaller. Its shores are very fertile and surrounded by willows.Nagin Lake, though sometimes referred to as a separate lake, is actually part of Dal Lake, being linked through a causeway which permits only bikers and walkers to enter the lake precincts. The caseway carries the water supply pipeline to the Srinagar city in the east.
3. Bow down at the Shankracharya Mandir Thickly forested Shankaracharya Hill is topped by a small Shiva temple, Shankaracharya Mandir , built from hefty blocks of visibly ancient grey stone. Previously known as Takht-i-Sulaiman (Throne of Solomon), it’s now named for a sage who reached enlightenment here in AD 750, but signs date the octagonal structure as 5th century and the site is even older.
4. Take a walk through the Mughal Gardens –Mughal Gardens, as the name suggests, built in the Mughal period is a marvel located in Srinagar. The Mughal emperors built gardens from Tehran to Agra but it is in Kashmir, complemented by the lake and the mountains, that they reach their perfection. Indeed after houseboats and the mountains it is these gardens for which Kashmir is most famous.
5. Explore the natural splendor and biodiversity of Wular Lake: The Wular lake changes character with every few miles of its course. Being devoid of any artificial feature, Wular Lake is home to an enchanting variety of avian life. The extensive marshes surrounding the lake support dense coniferous forests, alpine pastures and orchards, add to the natural beauty of the wetland area. The lake serves as a wintering site for several migratory waterfowl species like Common Pochard, Cattle Egzet, Little Egzet, Shoveler, Common Pochard etc.
6. Marvel at the intricate Persian and Iranian architectural influences Hazratbal Shrine: The silvery white Hazratbal Mosque is revered for housing a relic, the Prophet’s hair. Situated near the Dal Lake, the only domed mosque in Srinagar is a place of serenity, a must visit. Women are allowed only till the first part of the mosque. The Hazratbal Mosque lends a historic and divine appeal to Srinagar. This pilgrimage destination is known by a number of names viz. the Assar-e-Sharif, Madinat-us-Sani and the Dargah Sharif. The architecture of the shrine is a combination of Mughal and traditional Kashmiri.
7. Visit the biggest mosque in Kashmir valley, Jama Masjid: The Jama Masjid of Srinagar is situated at Nowhatta, in the middle of the old city. An important mosque in Srinagar, it was built by Sultan Sikandar in 1400 AD. Later, the son of Sultan Sikandar, Zain-ul-Abidin got the mosque extended. The attractions of the Jama Masjid of Srinagar, Kashmir include beautiful Indo-Saracenic architecture, a magnificent courtyard and 370 wooden pillars. Another feature of the mosque is the peace and tranquility inside it, standing out against the hustle of the old bazaars around it. Thousands of Muslims assemble at the mosque every Friday to offer their prayers. This Jama Masjid of Kashmir, India has seen a number of destructions till date. It got ruined thrice in fire and was reconstructed every time. The last restoration was carried out during the reign of Maharaja Pratap Singh.
8. Traverse the seven terraced garden – Pari Mahal: Located at the top of Zabarwan mountain rangeover-looking city of Srinagar and south-west of Dal Lake, the architecture depicts an example of Islamic architecture and patronage of art during the reign of the then Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. It is five-minute drive from Cheshmashahi, Srinagar.
Today Srinagar is a resort for the tourist who want to experience the best, at first hand, the peculiar beauty of the valley that has attracted the Chinese, the Mughals and the British. Its waterways with their own quaint lifestyle, shopping for lovingly hand-crafted souvenirs, the blossoming gardens, the unique Houseboat, water sports activities, and the nearby resorts make it a memorable and lovely spot for all travel lovers.