At the heart of Srinagar, Kashmir's capital, is Dal Lake, which many call the jewel in the crown of Kashmir. Srinagar was built around it. And today, it's bustling with life with its floating communities and many houseboats with the tourism economy they create.
Hiring a shikara (traditional boat) and exploring Dal Lake should be in your bucketlist when visiting Srinagar. It's best to do it in the morning or late in the afternoon. The lake is quite big so you won't be able to explore all of it. Our shikara ride took us around the vicinity of our houseboat.
It's quite interesting observing the daily life in Dal Lake as locals make their way around on their boats, going about their business, meeting with friends or selling souvenirs to tourists. Yes, some persistent merchants pursue tourist boats and try to sell you everything under the sun from flowers, seeds and spices (such as saffron) to shawls, clothing and jewelry.
There are also shops which sell necessities such as a medicine, food (dried fruits and nuts are quite popular here) and things you'd see in a regular market. And of course, there are also shops for tourists.
You'll see families with children on their way to school on the mainland or locals boating to the port to proceed to work.
But it's just not people which make life on Dal Lake interesting. There are many species of birds and other wildlife and interesting flora.
A visit to Kashmir would not be complete without noticing military and police presence. It may be scary at first. But you realize they keep the area stable and safe. I actually felt secure while I was in Kashmir, seeing them all over the place.
After our shikara ride, we were off to the airport to catch our Jet Airways flight back to Delhi. Goodbye Kashmir! It was a pleasant and interesting visit indeed!
Jet Airways flies daily to Srinagar!
Jet Airways has twice daily flights from Delhi (DEL) to Srinagar (SXR). Jet Airways also connects to Delhi from Manila via Bangkok, Singapore or Hong Kong at least twice daily!