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Srinagar - What and How to Explore The City

 Srinagar was our first and last stop on our Kashmir Trip. We spent a night each in Srinagar on our way in and out of Kashmir. Given the city's location as the gateway of the valley and the uncertainties involved in road travel in this region, we recommend a similar approach for everyone. In this article, we will provide all the information you may need to plan your trip to this beautiful city. To know more about our entire Kashmir trip in a nutshell (including where we stayed and what to be careful about), please visit our article

Kashmir Trip in a Nutshell – Itinerary, Experiences, & Learnings

An Introduction to Srinagar

Srinagar is the summer capital of the union territory, Jammu and Kashmir, and is located on the shore of the Jhelum River. Located about 1500 meters above sea level, Srinagar is famous for its gardens, houseboats, and natural beauty. Srinagar has always been a tourist's fantasy and sees a huge rush throughout the year. Let us take you on a journey to this mesmerizing city and provide you all the information you need to plan your visit.

A video log (vlog) of our Srinagar Visit - Part 1 of our Kashmir Visit Sequence

How to Reach Srinagar and Navigate

Srinagar is the only airport to reach the Kashmir region of the Union Territory. There is an airport in Leh for further north visits, but Srinagar is ideal for visiting the valley. There are regular flights connecting Srinagar to various cities in India.

The airport in Srinagar is smaller than some of the airports in metropolitan cities in India, however, it is a fully functional establishment. It caters to most of the requirements for passengers including lounge facilities. The boarding process at this airport is a bit tedious because of security concerns. You are required to have your luggage X-rayed once even before you enter the airport premises. Once you are in, you have to take it through another round of checks. Given, they do not have those "behind-the-scenes" X-ray machines, you need to get them through yourself and have them stamped.

Surreal Views en route Srinagar

Apart from air, Srinagar also has decent road connectivity to the rest of the country. There are regular bus services to closeby cities. You could also try the rail route until Jammu and take a road journey from there.

For internal travel within the city, there are multiple options. City buses ply on major routes and you can also hail an auto rickshaw (similar to tuk-tuk in Thailand) curbside. Most tourists end up hiring a taxi for an entire day. Whatever you choose, it is pretty easy to navigate the city as long as you are carefully negotiating taxi or rickshaw fares.

What to Explore - Six Things to Do in Srinagar

Srinagar is a beautiful city and is the gateway to the region. While the natural scenery of the Himalayas is generously bestowed throughout, the city also boasts of a number of gardens and other places of interest.

Experience a Night in Houseboat

One of the major tourist activities for tourists is a stay in a houseboat. These are wooden boats modeled as a house and stationed in the Dal Lake of Srinagar. It is a perfect way to spend a night in a different kind of accommodation than you would generally stay at. Sleeping in a wooden vessel swaying by the waves of the Dal Lake is a good break and a wonderful experience. These are classic wooden boats with 2-3 bedrooms (with attached washrooms), a dining/living room, and a kitchen. The only difference compared to other houseboats you may have experienced at other places is that these boats are stationary. However, they still offer a flavor of what it is to live on a moving vessel with limited means yet all functionalities.

Houseboats in Kashmir - A Unique Experience

Given the wild negotiations involved, we recommend that you book your houseboat stays in advance. Also, if you have a booking in hand, you get a free shikara ride to your houseboat from the shores of the lake (and a return ride on check-out). Any additional journeys to and from the shore are paid ones but the staff at the houseboats are happy to arrange one. We chose to experience the houseboat on the first day of the trip when we landed in Srinagar. We went straight to the houseboat from the airport. The only activity that we did on that day was a long shikara ride in the Dal Lake. It allowed us to relax and unwind to kick off the trip.

We think it worked best for us but alternatively, you can also do it on the last day of your trip and use the first day for Srinagar sightseeing.

Enjoy the Serenity of Shikara Ride in Dal Lake

Dal Lake is definitely a beautiful sight to relish and there is no better way to consume the beauty than a slow and steady ride on a shikara. A shikara is a wooden boat or gondola with a roof that is artistically decorated and equipped with a long couch. The boatman takes you on a ride on calming waves of the lake while you can spread your legs and relax. The views on the ride are mesmerizing as you float across the numerous houseboats parked with a backdrop of snow-covered Himalayas.

Scenic Views on a Shikara Ride

The boat ride also takes you to the floating market where you can find anything under the sun. There are shops on boats where snacks and souvenirs are available. While we recommend enjoying some snacks (a Maggi or coffee on a boat is a great idea), we strongly ask you to desist from shopping temptations. The prices are highly marked up and the variety is limited. There are great shops available in the main market areas which are better suited for picking souvenirs.

You can take a shikara ride from the shores or from the houseboat (if you are staying at one). We advise visitors to research well on the prevailing ride prices for the time when they are visiting and then negotiate hard. It is easy to feel intimidated by the bunch of boatmen surrounding you, but stand guard. If you are not sure of being able to manage that, get it included in your tour package.

Unwind in Numerous Gardens

Srinagar has several gardens, each of which is beautifully manicured and maintained. These provide a good way to relax. If you are traveling with kids, these are also great places to let them free and enjoy some time. We believe that while we enjoy the views and scenery, kids sometimes find it difficult to appreciate those. Gardens give them a way to unleash their energy! There are some touristy activities available in most of these gardens - one of which is dressed photography.

Nicely Manicured Gardens

One of Many Gardens in Srinagar

Some of the gardens that you may want to cover are Shalimar Bagh Mughal Garden, Tulip Garden, and Nishat Garden. Most of these have a negligible entry fee.

Take Blessings in Shankaracharya Temple

This is a revered temple and is also known as the Jyesteshwara Temple. The temple is located on a hill and you could either take a cab or an auto ride to the top. Alternatively, you can also hike if you are inclined. The parking at the top is limited so you may end up hiking for some part anyway. The temple is surreal and provides peace and tranquility. If religion is not your thing, you may still consider visiting this site for the mesmerizing views of the city from this height.

Shankaracharya Temple in Srinagar

Cuisine and Kahwa - Indulge Your Tastebuds

Kashmiri food has unique flavors because of the amalgamation of spices, local vegetables, and colors. The food is nothing short of a work of art and you should definitely try to dig into some of these local flavors. Some of the most popular dishes here are Rogan Josh, pulao, and rajma. While the food is great, a visit to Kashmir is not complete without trying Kahwa.

Kahwa is a local preparation of green tea which includes additions of local spices. This preparation of tea is consumed in the region and is believed to provide relief from freezing cold.

Shopping for Local Handlooms and Souvenirs

Kashmir is famous for its local hand-woven shawls, carpets, and textiles. The products are great for cold weather and provide good protection. In addition to these, wooden products and spices are also popular purchases. Saffron is a thing that has not become iconic for Kashmir. There are several emporiums and shops in tourist areas but we would recommend shopping from local markets. Local markets would provide you with a wider variety and better prices as these are places where locals shop. One of the major shopping areas in Kashmir is Lal Chowk Market.

Kashmiri Dresses - Get Close to Culture

These are recommendations based on our experience of spending 3 days in Srinagar as part of our Kashmir Trip. If you have been to Srinagar and have additional sights to recommend, please do mention in the comments. In case you are planning a trip and these tips help, please send in your love. 

If you need some cautions or things to be aware of, read them in our article - Kashmir Trip in a Nutshell – Itinerary, Experiences, & Learnings.

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