The Dal Lake
is rightly named as ‘Srinagar’s Jewel’ or ‘Jewel in the Crown of Kashmir,’ as it is one of the most astonishingly beautiful Lakes on the surface of the Earth.
Nestled in the mountain valley of the Himalayas in the paradise state of India, Jammu and Kashmir, the lake draws huge crowds every year for a ride in the Shikara Boat across its waters in the backdrop of high rising peaks covered in snow.
No one visiting Srinagar can leave the place without visiting the Dal Lake. In fact many tourists stay at the houseboats on the shores of the lake. There are luxury and deluxe houseboat; and local houseboats that serve as home stays. Their number exceeds more than 700 and they remain stationary, unlike the ones in Kerala that give you ride around the place.
Going a little back into history, one finds that Dal Lake was a prominent centre during the Mughal rule in India. They built beautiful gardens around the periphery of the lake, the most famous being the Shalimar Bhag on the northeast end of the lake, and the Nishant Bhag on the eastern side.
In the middle of the lake is the Island of Char Chinar owned by the Royal family of Jammu and Kashmir. It has been named after the four Chinar trees on its land. Also, there is the Nehru Park, a floating park on the lake, which gives an all round view of the valley and the lake.
Plenty of merchandising boats line the shores of the lake. They sell all items of need like vegetables, fruit, and snacks, beverages, and more. Also, there are specialized boats that sell local handicrafts like Pashmina shawls, carpets, capes, spices, and more.
Numerous small restaurants and cafés are open for the tourists to enjoy local cuisines and some of the best preparations of Mughalai food, Indian, Kashmiri and Chinese food as well. A must try is the locally prepared Kawah Tea, which is made from green tea leaves, mixed with various herbs and spices.
The Dal Lake is also bordered by temples on the shores and the surrounding peaks. The Shankaracharya Temple and the Hari Prabhat being the most frequented. According to legend the great philosopher, Shankaracharya had stayed here almost 10 centuries ago, and therefore the temple was built in his memory.
Hari Prabhat on the contrary is a fort, whose precincts encompass temples, mosques, and gurudwara. The fort is said to have been built by Shuja Shah Durrani.
Other attractions around the lake are the fresh water springs, called Chashme Shahi, and the Hazratbal Shrine.
Apart from sightseeing, the Lake also offers various water sports for the more adventurous visitors. One can go water surfing, swimming, kayaking, angling, and canoeing. For others, a stay in the houseboat can be an unforgettable experience. The plush wooden interiors of the boats and rich adornments enthrall every visitor.
The best time to visit the lake in during spring and summers. The gardens around the lake are lush with fresh and colorful blossoms with fragment air that fills the nostrils. Winters are a difficult season on the lake. Temperatures drop drastically, sometimes freezing the lake. The houseboats all remain idle, and there is hardly much activity around the lake.
Since the Dal Lake is located in the heart of the city of Srinagar, reaching the place in not difficult. You can easily get taxis from anywhere in town to take you to the Dal Lake, and once there you can hire the water taxis to explore its waters and the lake.