Have you been to a place which represents emotion, sensation, spirit, and soul?
Well ladies and gentleman, undeniably, it is Srinagar. Period.
Srinagar which literally means “The City of Wealth”, represents beauty and love, Srinagar is exuberant in every way giving you more than enough reasons to spend time here.
After undertaking classic treks like Kashmir Great Lakes or Tarsar Marsar, both of which end in Srinagar, it is essential for you to step back and relax enjoying and exploring Srinagar, indulging in its rich history and unique culture, before you fly back.
Why should I spend time in Srinagar? You may ask.
Dal Lake - Srinagar's Jewel
Rightfully called as the City of Wealth, Srinagar is abundant in beauty, be it the famous Dal Lake or its floating market, the lip-smacking Kashmiri food or the central Asian style bazaars, the scenic mountains or the iconic chinar trees, peach and walnut trees or the juicy apple orchards, the distinctive houseboats or the Shikara rides, the Hazratbal shrine or the Shankracharya temple, there are plenty of reasons for you to fall in love with Srinagar. But the most important of them all is the delightful locals and the time spent knowing their culture.
Every one of us would’ve heard or read about magical stories of Srinagar which made you dream about planning a trip to this exciting place. So, here we talk about how to reach Srinagar, some sightseeing and things you shouldn’t miss while you are there.
How to reach Srinagar
Srinagar is at a distance of 810 km from Delhi and is well connected by road, rail and air.
By Air: The most convenient and fastest way to reach Srinagar is to take a flight from Delhi or Chandigarh. The total duration of your journey will be about 1.5 hours.
By Road: There are no direct buses between Delhi and Srinagar. You will have to fly to Jammu from Delhi and then take a state transport bus or shared taxi from Jammu to Srinagar. Outstation cabs from Jammu to Srinagar are also available, however a bit expensive.
By Rail: There is no direct train between Delhi and Srinagar. The closest railway station to Srinagar is in Jammu and Jammu is well connected to Delhi by trains.
6 best things to do in Srinagar
Showcasing the highlights of Srinagar, we talk about its culture, historical sights, and cuisines.
1. DAL LAKE
Dal Lake often referred to as Srinagar’s Jewel has always been synonymous with Srinagar. Covering an area of 18 sq. km this romantic beauty hosts Mughal era gardens, houseboats and the floating market, a local favorite. Dal Lake has floating gardens of Lotus known as “Rad” in Kashmiri which blossom during the months of July and August.
Dal Lake with its splendid views
Spending a night or two in a houseboat, on the Dal Lake is incredibly romantic. These houseboats, made of wood from walnut trees giving a very elegant look with beautiful interiors are stationary. Sip on some delicious Kahwa (Kashmiri tea) as you feel like time has stopped while watching the traffic of boats and shikaras on the Dal Lake which shows that the lake also acts as an important source, both commercially and economically.
Traditional Houseboat with gorgeous interiors
2. SHIKARA RIDE
The Shikara is a cultural symbol of Kashmir. A paddled wooden boat decorated with Kashmiri carpets and rugs, it is used to ferry visitors, sell ornaments and souvenirs by locals, vending of fruits, vegetables, and flowers, for fishing and harvesting aquatic vegetation. These boats are navigated by boatmen wearing Pherans (a traditional dress).
Shikaras docked at a Shikara stand locally called as "Ghat"
The best way to enjoy a Shikara ride is in the evening when the sky is blue enough to spot its perfect reflection and that of the surrounding mountains in the water. Take a big ride through the floating lotus gardens all the way to the iconic “Char Chinar”, four magnificent Chinar trees on a platform right in the middle of the Dal Lake. Watch the best sunset of your life, a moment to cherish forever. You can also choose to take a shikara ride at the less touristy but equally beautiful Nigeen Lake.
Char Chinar island in Dal Lake
3. FLOATING MARKET
One of the highlights of Srinagar is its unique Floating market of vegetables and flowers, the only one in India, where vendors set up shops in boats and customers arrive by boat as well. Try going there by sunrise, you will not regret it.
4. HAZRATBAL SHRINE
The pretty white Hazratbal shrine also known as Dargah Sharif is located by the shores of Dal Lake. It is considered to be Kashmir’s holiest Muslim shrine as many Kashmiri Muslims believe that it contains a relic, a hair from the head of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Choose to visit there on a weekday to enjoy its peaceful ambiance.
Hazratbal Shrine also known as Dargah Sharif
5. DAY TRIPS
There is no shortage of stunning day trips that can be taken from Srinagar. A scenic drive through Kashmir’s stunning beauty will keep you spellbound. You can choose from the picturesque valley of Sonmarg (Meadow of Gold) or the offbeat Yousmarg, a luscious meadow with hundreds of pine trees, or the iconic Gulmarg which gives you panoramic views of the Himalayas and which during winter is famous for its ski slopes. Drive to these places for the perfect day trip.
6. KASHMIRI CUISINES
Kashmiri cuisine is an important part of the Kashmiri culture. A lot of ingredients used in the Kashmiri cuisines are native and unique to the area. From the elaborate feast of Wazwan, a platter of the most delicious Kashmiri dishes, to the lip-smacking Rogan Josh, a lamb curry unique to Kashmir. Indulge in the local favorite Tabak Maaz, a Kashmiri style lamb ribs marinated with native spices and milk and try Nadru, lotus stem abundantly found in the lakes of Kashmir. Kashmir has an impressive spread of delicacies that will leave you craving for more.
A vendor in a Pheran (traditional dress) selling Lotus stem fritters, locally known as Nadru Monje (far right)
The Kashmiri delicacies are incomplete without Kahwa, a flavorful brew of green tea, cardamom, saffron, spices, and some grated almonds. This will energize you and keep you warm during the cold winters of Kashmir.
But remember, your experience in Srinagar is incomplete without spending some time talking to the locals. Be it your houseboat guy or the person rowing your shikara, everyone has something to share about their life. Kashmiris are saddened by the way Srinagar and Kashmir have been portrayed as a volatile place, which has limited people from visiting this city which is actually full of life and love. People have this image of Srinagar which is associated with terrorism and curfews. But, only after spending time there you will realize how friendly and caring the people are, how magical this city is, and how false the image associated with Srinagar is.
Even when people undertake treks from Srinagar they often tend to fly back the very next day their trek ends instead of spending at least two full days in this joyous city. But, in the process, you are missing out on a timeless classic.
Give Srinagar a chance to show you how perfect this city is, give it a chance to melt your hearts, give it a chance to fill your memories. More than anything else take a chance by spending some quality time in this city. It will be the best decision you have made in your life, ever.
Srinagar, even though being very much Indian is still different from any other city in India.
This city is more than a place in space, it is a drama in time.