What appeared as a calm and serene waterbody from a distance as you enter the Dal Gate area of Srinagar, soon turn out a whole city on water – the Dal Lake.
Covering an area of 18 sq km, the Dal Lake is part of a natural wetland that covers an area of about 21 sq km which includes floating gardens and markets. The Dal Lake is divided into four basins, Bod Dal, Nagin (also a separate lake), Gagribal and Lokut Dal. There is an island in the middle of Bod Dal also known as Sona Lank. Lokut Dal is also known as Rup Lank and Char Chinari.
Rows of ‘Houseboats’ line up the far side of the lake and the walkway on the road side of the lake has lines of ‘ghats’ with many of the ‘Shikaras’ anchored to the piers. The ‘Shikara walas’ would call, cajole and convince you with a ‘sweet deal’ for a ride in the lake. A ritual on Day 1 of any itinerary, the ride takes you thought the floating markets, ‘kabutarkhana’,Golden lake, Nehru park and many other as part of the ‘6 point’ attractions.
The Dal Lake basin can be classified into five basins, namely, 1. Nehru Park Basin, 2. Nishat Basin, 3. Hazratbal Basin, 4. Nagin Basin, and 5. Brari Nambal Basin. All the basins are interconnected with navigation routes in the shape of intertwined waterways.
The most striking thing about the Dal lake is the presence of hundreds of house boats with artfully designed interiors, excellent Kashmiri wood carving, Kashmiri embroidered curtains and Kashmiri carpets. The families of house boat owners, Shikara and shop owners and vegetable and flower cultivators have been existing on the Dal Lake for centuries.
A floating market called as Meena Bazaar is a major attraction. You can buy everything from Kashmiri shawls to papier mache artefacts and wood carving items to Kashmiri dry fruits. The myriad of colors and forms on the water makes up for a perfect picture for a photographer’s lenses. The traditional village is an interesting site and your Shikara owner can take you to visit the looms where shawls and carpets are being made.
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. IIt is worth your time and money to take that joyride ride around the lakes of Kashmir in a shikara. You can also access tourist spots like the Shalimar Garden, Nishat Garden, and the Hazratbal mosque via the Shikara as the Dal Lake is quite central to these places in Srinagar.
Sunrise or Sunset, Dal Lake is always beautiful! It offers immense views from any side of the lake, with it’s beautiful landscape, beautiful people, beautiful atmosphere and above all it’s still pollution free! Spending a day at Dal Lake is suggested if you are in Kashmir!