There are two lakes in Srinagar, namely Dal Lake and Nagin Lake which are connected to each other (the water in these lakes are from the surrounding Himalayan Mountains). The Dal Lake is perhaps one of the most famous lakes in India, with its calm waters, traditional houseboats, people moving around in traditional boats against the beakdrop of beautiful mountains. I would say that Dal Lake and Nagin Lake seems to resemble Venice surrounded by the Himalayan Mountains!
The lakes are very calm and the water is very clean, in fact you can see quite deep into the water. There are lots of freshwater plants underneath the water as well as small fishes. During winter, the water in the lakes may freeze but this has happened only a few times in the last fifty years or so.
The biggest problem facing the lakes are they are slowly decreasing in size due to less water from the Himalayan Mountains and problems with the drainage system. Hope that these lakes can be saved because they are indeed very beautiful.
More photographs of the lake are at the travelogue section of this VT page.
Srinagar is a city located in the Kashmir valley at an altitude of about 1730 m above sea level. The population of the city is about 1 million people, consisting mostly Muslims. In fact the state of Jammu and Kashmir (the northern most state of India) is the only state in India where the predominant population are Muslims. Srinagar is the summer capital of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, while the city of Jammu to the south is the winter capital of this state.
The most famous natural landmarks of Srinagar are the tranquil Dal Lake and Nagin Lake, with the numerous traditional house boats on the lakes. Other that these, Srinagar is surrounded by mountains to the east, and there are many beautiful architecture which I will share with you in the next few tips.
The main problem with Srinagar (and the rest of Kashmir) is the strong presence of the Indian army because of the border disputes with neigbouring Pakistan. Security can be a problem and it is best to check on the situation before going to Srinagar and the rest of Kashmir. For those of you who make it, the rewards are worth it (such as very beautiful landscapes, culture, people etc).
Take the shikara ride in the evenings in Dal lake. The Shikara is a banana shaped boat made out of wood and fitted with a velvet couch for the guest. The boat man sits at one end and take you around the Dal Lake (something like Venice). The evening ride is quite romantic if you are with a partner, or even otherwise the ride is very soothing and you can actually fall asleep in the Shikara.
This is an interesting mosque located midway down the Hari Parbat (a hillock next to Dal Lak). The short climb to the mosque to the hill takes you through interesting alleys and stalls selling snacks and sweets, the most eye-catching of which is the giant Puri (a fried circular Indian bread) thats about a cm thick and 2 feet in diameter. On Friday you can experience the muslim congregational prayer called Jumu'ah.
A shikara ride on the Dal lake is something most tourists do, but if you ask your boatman to take you past the houses, shops and settlements that exist at the edge of the lake it can be an interesting and memorable ride.
This was, by far, the highlight of my trip. The whole day trip including lunch was arranged by our hotel. The shikara picked us up from our house boat in the morning with a tour guide and 2 attendants. These guys all sat in the back of the boat which is separated by a partition. The front of the boat seats 3 comfortably, 4 with a little leg shuffling, We made a few stops at first to buy some food they needed to cook for us. We stopped at a butcher to buy some mutton (i believe..), a baker to buy some hard rolls, and a floting grocer to buy what we needed for the munchies.. (chips, cookies, water, gum, tissues, juice) and we brought beer with us (from the hotel), The tour around the open lake was pretty, but the really interesting part was going around the backwaters, through the ancient houses built out of the water.. and seeing how people live here. We stopped at one womans house who makes honey in several flavours, including marijuana and opium.. tasty. The meal they somehow managed to cook for us on this little boat was surprisingly outstanding. A very simple meat curry with bread.. we literally licked our plates. With all the beer going to the bathroom was quite interesting... the boys simply peed off the edge of the boat, while they had to make a special stop for me at an uninhabited house boat where I was very kindly welcomed to use the facilities. All in all a beautiful day.
I went to 3 of these: Shalimar Bagh, Nishat Bagh and Chashmashai. They're pretty but not great. The structures at the gardens are interesting, but the lanscaping is a bit sparse.. and they are bit repetitive. Nishat Bagh has a great view of a fragment of a bridge remaining in the Daal Lake.
This was the first mosque built in Srinagar, and is constructed entirely by wood joinery. Its very ornate with wood carvings and papier mache intricately covering the interior and exterior. Worth a look. Women should bring a shawl to cover your hair if you wish to go inside, and dress conservatively, no shorts, no tank tops.
On a clear day this a beautiful mosque to admire from a shikara out on the lake. It casts a magnificent reflection in the water. We did not venture into the mosque, which is said to be fairly plain on the inside.