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All That I Wanted Was A Shikara Ride On The Dal in Srinagar

A stitch in time saves nine


Dal means lake in Kashmiri
‘Dal’ means ‘Lake’ in Kashmiri. Don’t call it  ‘Dal Lake’, only Dal….

With bewitching landscapes, verdant surroundings, undulating mountains, gorgeous trekking trails and bounteous blessings of nature, Kashmir is blessed. It is rightly called the paradise on Earth. I had always known it through books, news, websites and people until I got an opportunity to see it myself. With no second thoughts, it will always be a trip, very very close to my heart. I am a traveller who does not believe in making a bucket list but I will confess, I always had an urge to see Kashmir. Ever since I started travelling in India and abroad, there was a fascination to see Kashmir and maybe that came from two things, first, its breath-taking landscapes and second the conflicts of the valley.

No doubt, there were many apprehensions and speculations around the lurking tension in the city but my intense desire to see it at least once won over my fears. I can’t even explain how happy I had felt that day when I had got a confirmation mail for my trip to Kashmir. The fresh snow, the Gondola ride, the Mughal gardens, the colourful houseboats and the floating market, everything that I had heard or read about Gulmarg and Srinagar seemed closer.  When we landed at Srinagar, in the very next hour, we (a team of travel bloggers and journalist) were headed to Khyber Resorts first. The plan was that we would come back to Srinagar after exploring Gulmarg.

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Snow covered Gulmarg
Gorgeous Gulmarg
Dal lake in Kashmir
The beauty of the Dal lies in its houseboats and shikaras
Khyber resorts and spa
Aah, I had a fabulous stay at Khyber in Gulmarg!

The idea of seeing the ravishing landscape of snow-covered Gulmarg and surrendering to the world-class hospitality of Khyber Resorts and Spa for three days made me feel lucky for the rest of the road trip. The views of the valley on the way were equally heartening. To cut the story short, the next three days in the lap of luxury passed in a jiffy and the overall experience turned out to be better than my expectations.

Also Read: When it Comes to Hospitality and Warm Welcome, No One Can Match up to Kashmiris

Gulmarg – Drung – Srinagar

So it was the fourth day! After having a gala time in Khyber, we bid goodbye to Gulmarg and came to the city that often makes news for all those reasons that keep us away from exploring its beauty. On the way, we stopped to explore Drung (14 kilometres from Gulmarg and 3 kilometres from Tungmarg).

However, I must confess I was impatient and anxious to see Dal. For all these years, the only thing that defined Srinagar for me was this beautiful water body and the city that floated over it. I wanted to see it for real, what a Shikara looked like and what the Kashmiri houseboats looked like.

The Shikara Stand in Srinagar

By 5 p.m., we entered the Boulevard Road and I had my first ever view of the Dal, the houseboats, the floating life, and most importantly the soul of Srinagar. It was precious. It was more beautiful that the image that I had painted in my mind. I almost choked with happiness and my heart skipped a beat. If you are close to your dream, you know how it feels and what it does for your soul and body. I was extremely thankful to God for being kind. I wanted to stop there but we went on to cover the whole stretch of the road around the Dal and checked into our hotel first. I am glad, my friends decided to walk to the Dal in the next fifteen minutes. This was really important because I couldn’t afford to miss the ‘Sunset of Srinagar‘.  I will sum up by saying that it was an evening to remember.

The next day we went for a ride in the Nageen Lake. It was a small ride but totally worth it. It is one of the major lakes in Srinagar – Dal Lake, Manasbal Lake, Nigeen Lake, Wullar Lake while River Jhelum crisscrosses the city.  I got a chance to see a Kashmiri houseboat (Mascot Groups of Houseboats) for the first time and as luck would have it, it was one of the best on Nageen. The view from the deck was pristine. We missed the sunset on the other side but the view on the other side was equally worthy of our time and indulgence. On the sixth day, we went to Mattan to discover and learn about the famous Sun temple of Kashmir and returned by late evening. By the time we made it to the boulevard road, the water in the Dal reflected many colours from the light falling from the houseboats. I walked around the promenade of the Dal and silently watched the pace of life. I would have loved to do a Shikara ride but then my gang decided to go to Hazratbal Mosque. 

Nageen lake
Nigeen Lake (alternatively spelt as Nageen Lake)
The beauty of the Nigeen lake is no less than the Dal but I loved the colourfulness of Dal more.


The Shikara Ride is all that I wanted from Srinagar!

On my last day in Kashmir, everything in the universe conspired for that one wish of mine. As they say, all is well that ends well. The bird’s eye view of the Dal from the Shankaracharya temple simply stunned me and changed my view of the lake. For the first time, I realised that Dal was more than a lake. It was the soul of the city. It seemed to be an entirely different world, a full-fledged city in itself where people had their houses, gardens, shops, fields, schools, cafes and more. When we came down from the temple, the only thing that I wanted to do was to spend the rest of the time around the Dal. Due to the hectic schedule and so many things on our ‘to-do’ list in the last 3 days, we had not been able to spend quality time around Dal. Before returning to Delhi, I wanted to dedicate all the time to Dal. And we did just as I desired. We hired a Shikara and he took us for a round trip introducing us to the many facets that lay hidden in the lake. From the various mobile shops to the houseboats, he also told us about the floating fields and why people also call them ‘Chori ki Zameen’. We explored the interiors and the lanes between the houses and shops. only to take a snack break at Gulshan Bookstore and Cafe. This soulful ride was the highlight of my entire trip. It was a dream come true moment and its evident with the contentment on my face(picture above).

The view of the Dal from the view point, on the way to Shakaracharya temple
The view of the Dal from the viewpoint, on the way to Shankaracharya temple
Chicken tikka being served on houseboat
The floating market of Dal impressed me for sure.
Al Noor Deluxe took me around on the Dal lake and helped me live my dream.
Al Noor Deluxe took me around on the Dal lake and helped me live my dream.

So here is the story, when I was asked to list down my expectations from the media trip organised by Jammu and Kashmir Tourism and Kashmir Trails, while other bloggers had listed down everything from sightseeing to culture to art to food, I had a sweet and simple request. I wanted to do a Shikara ride on the Dal. Rest everything was a lovely add-on. So as they say, dreams do come true! 

The trip to Kashmir is incomplete without a sikhara ride in the Dal. Period!


23 thoughts on “All That I Wanted Was A Shikara Ride On The Dal in Srinagar

  1. Wow it looks so pretty here. I’d love to visit somewhere so calm and beautiful. It was nice of the hotel to leave you a kind letter, never seen anything like that!

  2. Amazing photography! Do you mind suggesting what camera / lens are we going to use to capture such beauty? Thanks!

  3. What an adventure! The color on the shikaras are just beyond words!! I so would love to see that! The colors of the lakes and the boats….wonderful. We always travel with the kids and enjoy showing them all the interesting and unusual and fascinating things the world has to offer. Adding this wonderful adventure to our list of ‘wants’.

  4. It looks so pretty and tranquil there, the Nigeen lake looks absolutely gorgeous with the mountains in the background. So happy that you got to tick off the bucket list of a shikara ride on the dal.

  5. Love your photography, everything looks so vibrant! I too would love to ride a Shikara (which I kept reading as Shakira and got really confused haha) on the lake, it looks so beautiful.

  6. OMG! Wow! That’s very much of my wishlist! Kashmir entirely for that matter! All I want right now (and since quite some time) is to take a shikara ride on Dal lake, errrr, I mean Dal (thanks for that gyaan)! Indeed a Paradise on Earth!

  7. The actual face of Kashmir is really very beautiful and your post is describing it very well.

  8. I can sense your fascination and love for Kashmir. 🙂 I absolutely agree with you when you say that a shikara ride is a must to complete your Kashmir experience. I took a solo shikara ride, which was a bit funny because it’s such a romantic experience. Maybe I need to pay a second visit 😉

  9. This was a wonderful experience for you. The boats are colorful and pretty. I’d also like to try the shikara ride. I like the photo of Dal.

  10. Forgive my ignorance but I haven’t been to this place before. But it does waken up your senses with all of the vibrant colors. Your photos captured the essence of this place beautifully!

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  12. It’s a good thing that I came across your blog for Kashmir-related posts because am planning to visit Kashmir in early Nov this year. When I first visited North India in 2010 for business trips, I had always wanted to visit Kashmir but at that time, there were curfews (if I recall correctly). Am hoping now is my chance to see this beautiful gorgeous place that has been mentioned in poems, books and films – fingers crossed. Will catch up with you soon!

  13. Thank you very much for post the article. Really, it’s very good. I learnt a lot about this. I’ll try to apply your ideas and tips. It regarded hear a portion of the particulars of your exploration.
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