Jewel in the crown of Kashmir: Dal Lake, Jammu & Kashmir
Located in the summer capital of Srinagar in the state of Jammu and Kashmir is the beautiful Dal Lake. Dal Lake is also know as the “Jewel in the crown of Kashmir” because of its shear beauty and tranquility. This urban lake which is the second largest lake in the state is an integral part of recreation and tourism in Kashmir.
Dal Lake is very easily approachable from Srinagar. The best way of getting to Dal Lake is by walking to the lake since nearly all the guest houses and hotels are in close proximity to the lake.
Dal Lake is a civilization of its own with locals making their house boats their homes. These house boats are stationary and are parked all around the lake. People who live on these boats use their own Shikaras (wooden boats) to move around this beautiful lake.
Every day, early in the morning from 4 am to 6 am Dal Lake has its very own floating market, where locals trade and sell different kinds of vegetables and fruits. Making it for this early morning specialty is totally worth waking up in the morning and cutting short on some sleep.
It is always better to hire a Shikara the previous evening since early in the morning the Shikara owners charge a lot more and are not ready to negotiate their prices.
If you cant wake up early in the morning and make it in time for the floating market do not worry Dal Lake has plenty to offer all through the day. There are plenty of Shikara rides to choose from – ranging from a short half an hour ride to a long two hour ride which covers the whole lake.
There are plenty of Shikara owners who will come and suggest a ride with them in their boat, a important thing to keep in mind is that the Shikara rides are negotiable. So bargaining is a skill that will come very handy while dealing with the Shikara owners. Always keep in mind never to pay them more than 50% of the price that they quote first.
The two hour shikara ride takes one through the entire lake. once the ride starts, plenty of sellers and traders come with their own Shikaras to sell different things ranging from saffron and fruits to noodles and cold drinks. Some even come selling ice creams and ornaments. Bargaining comes handy even while buying things from these traders they will always agree to reduce their price by 35% of what they have originally quoted.
Dal Lake also has its very own park named Nehru Park which is in the center of the lake. This park has a small entry fee and has a few eateries and plenty of photographers who offer tourist pictures in traditional Kashmiri attire with the background of the Dal Lake and the beautiful snow capped Himalayan mountains. A stop at Nehru Park is totally worth it.
Dal Lake also has its very own shopping center where Kashmiri shawls, handlooms, sweaters, gloves etc are sold. The Shikara owners have a tie up with these shops and will generally promote the shops coercing people to buy something from these shops. Please do not get carried away by their suggestions and only enter shops if you like something.
Around Dal Lake there are plenty vegetation with locals growing vegetables and fruits. During the summer months of July and August lotus flowers bloom all around the lake and give it a very serene look.
Accommodation in Dal Lake is plenty and to suit every traveller’s budget. There are budget house boats for backpacker and also luxury deluxe ones to suit the needs of the luxury travellers. The budget house boats come with just a room that includes a fan, bed and a washroom. It is advisable only to book a house boat that is registered by the tourism board since there have been cases of travellers getting robbed and cheated on house boats what are run by them. These house boats are anchored and remain stationary throughout, they do not float and move around the lake unlike the ones in Kerela.
The best season to visit Dal Lake is during the months of July to November. Dal Lake is frozen during the winter months from December to February.
While in Srinagar, Dal Lake is a must visit place. The lake is unlike any other in the entire country and a boat ride around the lake will surely take your breath away.
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