Srinagar was like a bonus addition in the trip as our primary target area was Ladakh. We started from Hyderabad to Srinagar in morning with a change of flight in Delhi. I saw T-3 terminal in Delhi for the first time and it was very huge. We were feeling like crossing a city while going from one end to other end of this terminal. Then we boarded our next flight to Srinagar and I was excited to head towards summer capital of Kashmir. As our flight was about to land, I noticed 3-4 army commandos with guns patrolling around runway and a bunker some meters away. For a moment we experienced like ‘welcome’ to Kashmir but then realized we are entering into a sensitive area so security has to be there. Please note that pre-paid SIM card connections of outside of Kashmir don’t work here.
We had not done any advance hotel bookings and had planned to decide after reaching airport. We collected our luggage and inquired about hotels at tourist counters. I had read average reviews about houseboats in Srinagar but still decided to stay there following the maxim “When in Rome do as Romans do”. The tourist counter had a brochure of houseboats categorizing them based on luxury level and we decided to go for a basic one. It costed us Rs. 1200 for 1 day. The houseboats are different from Kerla backwaters and do not move in Lake. We booked a prepaid taxi till taxi stand for around Rs. 400 and from there an auto ride till banks of Dal Lake. Then we were taken by a Shikara ( a boat with place for 3 -4 people along with a boat driver ) to houseboat.
Inside view of Houseboat
After resting for an hour we decided to have lunch and then start for famous Dal lake visit. We found a Panjabi dhaba cum restaurant just in front of Lake and had our lunch there. Our houseboat owner Mr. Siddique informed us about various site seeing options and also arranged a cab for us. Since we needed cab for next day to Kargil it was a good opportunity to meet the driver. We decided to skip all gardens as we were both short of time as well as short of interest in gardens and chose to head towards Shankaracharya Temple which is 7-8 KM uphills.
View of Srinagar City
On the Way to Temple
The uphill way was very scenic and we could see Dal Lake from top in it’s full glory. Because of security reasons Camera/Cell phones are not allowed to carry so we could not take any pictures of temple. You need to climb some 15-20 steep high stairs to reach inside. After spending some time there we started to return with some clicks on 2-3 viewing points of city on the way back. The cab cost us Rs. 600 round trip and autos charge somewhere around Rs. 300 for same. Since we felt that driver was good, we made a deal with cab for drop till Leh with a night stay in Kargil for Rs. 11000 including toll and other payments
Shikara in Lake
After returning to Dal lake in evening around 5, we found the lake looking extremely beautiful. We had tea in a near by stall and then decided to have a walk near by Lake. It was a pleasant evening with water fountains in Lake, sun setting down and Shikara rides visible in Lake. We took some photos of lake and sun setting down. Then we decided to go for a Shikara ride ourselves. It costed Rs. 300 for 2 hours and was completely worth it.
Sunset at Dal Lake
It was almost dark by that time and it was an amazing experience in lake with lights turned on all houseboats around and other shikaras passing near by. The shikara ride took us through market as well which is located on water itself. If you want to do some shopping you can request the rower to stop in front of shop. The good thing was rower was not hurrying and ride continued for around 3 hours.
Dal Lake Just Before Dark
We had our dinner in Dhaba next to previous one and had a pathetic dinner :(. Still keeping spirits alive we returned to houseboat to sleep in time. Next day we had to start for Kargil early morning.