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Srinagar City Guide

Nishat BaghSrinagar, the state capital, is situated at an altitude of 1,730 meters above sea level. It is connected by Indian Airlines and Jet Airways flights directly to Jammu and New Delhi, and hence to every part of the national network. An all-weather road to Jammu, which in turn is connected, too many parts of North India connects Srinagar. Srinagar's nearest railhead is Jammu, which in turn connects all parts of the country, including Delhi, Kolkata, Pune, Murnbai and Kanyakumari, Kashmir receives most of its rainfall in spring. If you've longed for the delights of a houseboat holiday, now is the time to try one out Srinagar is a unique city because of its lakes - the Dal, Nagin and Anchor. The River Jhelum also flows through a part of the city.

Most houseboats on the Nagin and the Jhelum are situated on the banks of the lake, and can be accessed directly from land without the help of a shikara, while all those on the Dal require a shikara to get to and from them. Most houseboats on the Dal are situated in long straggling rows; some face the Boulevard, Srinagar's most exciting address, while others are situated singly or in groups of two and three.

The location of a houseboat tells us nothing about its class, but before checking into one, there are a few factors, which you may like to consider. A honeymoon couple may want to be away from it all, and may choose a houseboat with few, if any, close neighbors. To them, it will be an advantage to stay in the interior of the lake, accessible by a half-hour long shikara ride. A family with young children on the other hand may find themselves better served in an area, which overlooks the Boulevard where a crossing takes just five minutes. When your houseboat is in a busy area of the Dal, it is enjoyable just to sit on the balcony and watch the world row by.

Each houseboat has anything between two and four bedrooms in it with attached bathrooms and a common sitting and dining room. The charges of a houseboat always include all meals and a certain number of crossings by shikara to and from the houseboat. Houseboats offer far more personalized service than hotels because of the far higher host guest ratio. On the other hand, fellow guests at the same houseboat tend to interact much more than if they were staying at the same hotel. Which is why houseboats are ideal for a large group of eight or more adults.

The Dal is famous not only for its beauty, but for its vibrance, because it sustains within its periphery, a life that is unique anywhere in the world. The houseboat and shikara communities have lived for centuries on the Dal, and so complete is their infrastructure on the lake, that they never have to step on land! Doctors, tailors, and bakers - you'll see them all in tiny wooden shops on the lake, near picturesque vegetable gardens and acres of lotus gardens. A shikara ride is one of the most soothing, relaxing aspects of a holiday in Kashmir. It can be an hour-long ride to see the sights of the Dal, a shopping- by-shikara expedition to visit handicraft shops within the periphery of the lake; or a whole day trip to visit important city landmarks. Because the Dal is so central to the landscape of Srinagar, many places of tourist interest have, over the ages, been built in its vicinity.

Nishat and Shalimar gardens as well as Hazratbal mosque are directly accessible by shikara.
Mughal Gardens:
Kashmir was a favourite of the Mughal emperors who visited it as often as they could. Cool and refreshing after the plains of North India where the business of governance kept them, they planted gardens with stepped terraces and flowing watercourses. When they rested in their gardens, they dreamt they were in paradise. Cheshmashahi is the first Mughal garden you will pass after Nehru Park. Built at a height above the city, its views are as stupendous as its layout. The smallest of Srinagar's Mughal gardens, Cheshmashahi has only three terraces in addition to a natural spring of water enclosed in a stone pavilion.

The next garden along the road that encircles the Dal is the Nishat, Kayakking on the Dal Lakebuilt by Empress Nur Jahan's brother Asaf Khan. The largest of the gardens, Nishat has several terraces, a central watercourse and a majestic site between the Dal and the Zabarwan hills. Jehangir, the Mughal emperor, whose love for Kashmir was legendary, planted the third Mughal garden -the Shalimar -. Shaded by magnificent chinar trees, the Shalimar is a series of stone pavilions and flowing water with paint-box bright flowerbeds.

Across the Dal from Shalimar is the mosque of Hazratbal, the only one of its kind architecturally in Kashmir. Made of white marble with a dome and a mina- ret, Hazratbal is the repository of a single hair of the Prophet Mohammed, exhibited to the public on certain days of the year.

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