Dal Lake, Mughal era gardens, majestic mosques nestled in the mountains, summer festivals and winter sports: this and more make up the region of Srinagar. Its proximity to Jammu and Leh make it the perfect place to venture for a few days and it's unique position as a melting pot between Hindu and Islamic cultures make it historically rich and ethnically diverse.
You can't visit Srinagar without spending a day paddling around Dal Lake. Take a shikara (gondolas) and jet around with the mountains as your backdrop.
Don't miss the colorful and sacred mosque that was built entirely without nails. It truly is an architectural wonder.
Don't miss the unique opportunity to spend a few nights living in a houseboat on Dal Lake. When in Srinagar...do as the locals do!
Dal Lake is densely populated by more than just floating shrubbery. Its unique surface is where floating villages and markets open daily. Take a boat and spend the day exploring.
The famous Shalimar Bagh is a collection of beautiful gardens that have survived from the Mughal era to today. It was initially built for Nur Jahan, an Empress consort of the emperor Jahangir.
Whether at sunrise, sunset, during the day or at twilight, the beauty of Dal Lake is readily apparent to every visitor. From the moment you step onto the small boats for a tour around its 122 square miles to the moment you arrive at a luxury houseboat accommodation (with its own private shikhara), to the swimming, boating and canoeing activities the lake offers, you're sure to be mesmerized. Pack a small lunch and take a tour of its eerie and mystical floating gardens. At the height of the season, you can find incredible floating lilies atop their pads, undisturbed and picturesque. The lake itself can be enjoyed for its activities, its flora, its stunning scenery or as a causeway to connect visit to other major points in Srinagar.
There's nothing that can be said that would do justice to the beauty that is the grand Shalimar Bagh. Only viewing these stunning and immaculate Mughal-era gardens will truly suffice. Expect an experience unlike any other, for these "gardens" are not simply a leisurely stroll in a park. The Shalimar Bagh is yet another lavish sigh of doting affection by the Emperor Jahangir for his wife Noor Jahan. Built to resemble the Persian Gardens but modified to accommodate the region's hilly terrain, the gardens are laid in a square plan with four pathways leading straight to a center with a water source, and covering an area of 31 acres. Its sycamore-lined pathways, beautifully intricate fountains and a grand marble pavilion in its interior will whisk you away to an era where such grand spaces were but an everyday offering of love.
With a holding capacity of 33,333 people during a single prayer congregation, the Jama Masjid attracts much more than those of the faith. This masjid or mosque was built to last as a symbol of faith and importance during the Mughal era. Its turrets and vast gardens and pathways are evocative of both Buddhist and Persian traditions. Glimpse the sacred in its cavernous interiors.
Spread over an acre of land, Chashme Shahi is set against the towering Zabarwan range of mountains. But don't be fooled by its size. Unlike its sister gardens, Nishat and Shalimar, Chashme Shahi is all about the details. The architecture, planning and design of the gardens make use of water, trees and pathways in a way that brings to mind a constant journey. The garden features waterfalls and aqueducts as well as level terraces to show a progressive descent to its lowest point.
Its magical name actually belies some of its more scientific and educational purposes. This seven terraced garden sports stunning views of the city of Srinagar. But in 1650 AD, this beautify example of Islamic architecture in India was used for the study of astronomy and astrology.
Though each season in Srinagar comes with its own charm, the most popular time for travelers' sojourns is from April to June. Temperatures at this point range from 50°F to 86°F.
Land at the Sheikh ul Alam Airport International airport in Srinagar and take a taxi for 8.45 miles into the city center, which costs around ₹550.
The Rail network of India is currently working on building a Srinagar Railway Station, scheduled to open in 2017. Until then, to reach the city by train, stop at Jammu Jammu Tawi or Udhampur railway station and take a taxi.
Depending on where you're coming from, there are a variety of routes. From Leh or Kargil, for example, use the NH1. From Jammu, use the NH44.
Getting in from nearby cities like Jammu or Leh, you can use J&KSRTC buses. Fares start at ₹350.
If you want to stay in style while in Srinagar, rest up at The LaLit Grand Palace Srinagar, which is a heritage hotel. Or, for real novelty, try a houseboat like the House Boat Taj Mahal. Budget travelers will love Noor Guesthouse.
Rainawari - This district is one of the main hubs in Srinagar and encompasses half of the beautiful Dal Lake, small shops and plenty of modest but delicious eateries.
Shalimar - When you're here, check out the Shalimar Bagh, a well-curated garden built in the Mughal Period.
Muja Gund Ghat - This picturesque neighborhood is home to incredible sloping mountains, misty sunrises and the ever-blooming famous Tulip Garden.
There are buses around Srinagar but these are hop-on-hop-off. Fares depend on how far you're going and tickets are sold on the bus.
You can grab a taxi from the streets or you can pre-book. Pre-booked taxis costs between ₹100-₹250. The per mile rate for taxis is ₹13.
Car rentals in Srinagar usually come as a package deal from companies like Kashmir Car Rental. A 4-day package, for example, start at ₹7,000 for non-AC and ₹8,200 for an AC car.
Those who love shopping will find plenty of smaller shops selling jewelry and clothing at Lal Chowk Ghantaghar.
A quart of milk costs ₹34 and dozen eggs costs around ₹57.
You don't want to miss sampling authentic Kashmiri cuisine at Mughal Darbar. Enjoy vegetarian and non-vegetarian mains for ₹105-₹340 or order wazwan, a multi-course Kashmiri dining experience, for 4 for ₹640-₹2875.