Dal Lake is situated in the hub of the modern city of Srinagar, the summer capital of the State. The urban lake which is the second largest in the state is integral to tourism and recreation in Kashmir and is nick named as Srinagar’s Jewel.
Ancient history records mention that a village named Isabar to the east of Dal Lake was the home of Goddess Durga. This place was known as Sureshwari on the bank of the lake which was sourced by a spring called Satadhara. Today the lake is an important source for commercial operations in fishing and water plant harvesting and a famous tourist spot.
The shoreline of the lake 15.5 km approx is encompassed by boulevard lined with hotels, parks, restaurants and shops selling cashmere (pashmina) shawls, capes, beautiful paper mache products, carpets and chain stitch rugs. many of these shops and restraunts are open till mid night during the tourist season.
Scenic view of the lake can be witnessed from the shoreline Mughal Gardens built during the reign of Emperor Jahangir, from the houseboats and from the colourful shikaaras cruising along the lake. A recent addition to the beauty of the boulevard is the ‘Royal Springs’ golf course.
Overnight stay in a houseboat is an experience of a life time. A usual houseboat consists of a front balcony, a drawing room, a dining room and three bed rooms with attached toilets. Some of the houseboats even have a small terrace.
It would be difficult to find even an inch of the wooden walls of the house boats which is not carved, usually hand carved. The houseboats have been made warm and welcoming with colourful carpets, comfy sofas, a king sized dining table and royal bedrooms which coupled with the hospitality of the houseboat staff makes you feel like a king.
Daily needs and small nick nacks can be bought from the floating markets which are the shikaaras selling selling their merchandise from house boat to house boat.
In the center of the lake is an island named ‘chaar chinaar’ which has been named after the four chinar trees on it. This property belongs to the royal family of Jammu and kashmir. Nehru park, which is a floating park on the lake is about 55 yards from the boulevard. It gives a splendid view of the lake, boulevard and the mountains around. There are small shops and stalls iin the park selling hot aswell as cold beverages and light snacks.
During the winter season, soometimes the temperature falls as low as -11 degrees celsius, freezing the lake. Often people can be found ice skating on the lake at that time. Ideal time to visit the lake is during the month of April-September.