One of the top tourist destinations in India, Srinagar is located in the union territory of Jammu & Kashmir, on the banks of river Jhelum. As picturesque as the most stunning painting to ever be painted, Srinagar is known for the stationary houseboats, colourful Shikararas on Dal Lake, Mughal gardens, Sufi shrines and exquisite Kashmiri handicrafts.
The main draw of Sringara, the gondola-type rowboats – Shikaras are used by the tourists to see attractions like the Floating Vegetable Market, and the Mir Bahris – a lively community of people who live on the lake itself. Known as the summer capital of Jammu & Kashmir, Srinagar is home to some of the most exquisite Mughal-age gardens in India, with the top attractions being Nishat Bagh, Shalimar Bagh and Chashm-E-Shahi Garden.
Kashmiri cuisine is famous all over the globe, so when in Srinagar, trying out the local dishes, which are rich in unique fragrant spices, is a must. Srinagar is also famous for the Kashmiri shawls, Kashmiri apples and the dried fruits (almonds and walnuts) which can be bought from the Lal Chowk Market.
Heavy snowfall affects the connectivity of Srinagar during the winter months of December to February. Communal tensions also lead to frequent curfews in some parts of the city. Make sure to check the situation before visiting.
Places to Visit
The Jewel of Srinagar, the Dal Lake is synonymous to a visit to Srinagar and almost a visual definition to the town. Spread over 15 kms, it is the second-largest lake in Jammu & Kashmir. The mirror-like Dal Lake reflects the peaks of the Pir Panjal mountains while the colourful shikaras (gondolas) float around. The houseboats and shikaras are its main attractions.
The Dal Lake of Srinagar is also popular for the floating market (known as Raad) where vendors have their own Shikaras and are not shy of approaching tourists with their most endearing handicrafts, saffron, edibles and even ice-creams in tow. Ice skating during winter on the frozen Dal Lake also attracts many tourists.
The important attractions in and around the Dal Lake include the Island of Char Chinar, Nagin Lake, Chashme Shahi, Shankaracharya Temple, Hari Parbat, Hazratbal Shrine, and Mazar-e-Shura Cemetery. A sweeping view of the lake can be witnessed from the shores of one of the Mughal Gardens.
Mughal Gardens which have truly changed the face of the Mughal Empire is one of the most popular and the most visited tourist attractions of Srinagar. During their rule, the Mughals began to build several types of gardens in Persian architecture, and the combination of these gardens is referred to as the Mughal Gardens. The natural beauty of the place filled with lush green grass and the scented flowers is a stress-buster and pleasing to the eyes. The tourists who come here take long strolls in the garden or sit and admire the beauty of the place.
The Mughal Gardens in Srinagar comprise of Nishat Bagh, Shalimar Bagh, Chashme Shahi, Pari Mahal, Achabal and Verinag Garden. The grandeur of the gardens is dedicated to Emperor Jahangir who always had an undying love for Kashmir. Jahangir was responsible for the selection of the site and planning the requirements of the paradise gardens. It is always a lot of fun in exploring the history behind these gardens. They follow a Persian style of architecture and have been influenced by the Persian gardens. Some typical features of Mughal Gardens which are a treat for its visitors include canals, pools and fountains.
The Nishat Bagh is a 12 terraced garden located near Srinagar’s famous Dal Lake. It is the second-largest Mughal garden in Kashmir after Shalimar Bagh. Popularly known as “Garden of Bliss”, it has a splendid Mughal central water channel with several fountains, which is surrounded by tall Chinar trees. Nishat Bagh was designed and built in 1633 by Asif Khan, the elder brother of Nur Jehan.
Even though the layout of Nishat Bagh was based on the design of the Persian gardens, the actual landscaping was done in accordance with the terrain and water patterns unique to Kashmir Valley. A stream of standstill water divides the garden into two halves, and each level of the garden is marked by a raised embankment which has its collection of kaleidoscopic flowers. You can catch a magnificent view of the Dal Lake with the Zabarwan Mountains as its backdrop.
Shalimar Bagh is a beautifully laid out Mughal garden, the largest of the three Mughal gardens in Srinagar (the other two being Nishat Bagh and Chashme Shahi). This pristine attraction was built in the year 1619 by the Mughal emperor Jahangir for his beloved wife Nur Jahan and lies overlooking the scintillating waters of the Dal Lake. The chini khanas or arched niches placed behind waterfalls and the chinar trees are the highlights here.
The term ‘Shalimar’ is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘Abode of Love’ and is known by several other names such as Faiz Baksh, Farah Baksh and “Crown of Srinagar”. Sprinkled generously with well-trimmed gardens and exquisite architecture, Shalimar Garden is a gentle blend of natural allure and man-made structures. Exhibiting the exemplary craftsmanship of Mughals in horticulture, the mughal garden is quite popular with tourists from all over the world.
The paramount reason why people come to Srinagar is for the relaxing and memorable Shikara rides. Taking the ride across the scenic Dal Lake at the backdrop of the majestic slow clad Himalaya’s is indeed an experience in itself both enjoyable and unparalleled.
Shikara rides can be taken in one of the circuits from Nehru Park past Hazratbal, Nagin, Rainawari and back.
The Hazratbal Shrine in Srinagar is the holiest Muslim shrine and mosque in Kashmir, located on the banks of the Dal Lake. The silvery-white mosque houses a relic known as Moi-e-Muqqadas which is believed to be a sacred hair of Prophet Muhammad’s beard. The hair is brought before the general public only on specific occasions.
The shrine takes its name from the Kashmiri language, where Hazrat means ‘holy’, and the word bal stands for ‘place’. Known by multiple names such as Assar-e-Sharief, Madinat-us-Sani and Dargah Shari, the Hazratbal Shrine is a beautiful structure made of white marble and is the only domed mosque in Srinagar.
Women are allowed only till the first part of the Hazratbal Shrine. Situated on the banks of Dal Lake facing the Nishat Bagh, it affords a picturesque view of the lake and surrounding mountains. The weekly prayer at the Hazratbal Shrine takes place every Friday.
Chashme Shahi is one of the three Mughal gardens in Srinagar, located in the Zabarwan range overlooking the Dal Lake. Also known as Chashma i Shahi, it was built 1632 AD by Ali Marda Khan on the orders of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan for his eldest son Dara Shikoh.
Translating to the Royal Spring, Chashme Shahi is a terraced garden dotted with walkways, colourful plants and pools of water. Exhibiting exquisite Mughal architecture, the Chashme Shahi garden is influenced by the Persian gardens. It is built around a freshwater spring that was unearthed by Rupa Bhawani, a renowned female Kashmiri saint. The garden was originally named Chashme Sahibi after her (Rupa Bhawani’s family name was Sahib).
Indira Gandhi Memorial Tulip Garden
Lines of tulip cultivation in every possible colour with a backdrop of the majestic Zabarwan Hills, is the Indira Gandhi Memorial Tulip Garden and a view which one must not miss while in Srinagar.
Dal Lake is marked by an island which houses ancient and beautiful Chinar trees. Don’t forget to ask your Shikara to be steered in this direction to catch a view of this island.
The Shankaracharya Temple is a beautiful and mesmerising temple that is situated on the Gopadari Hills on the south-east of Srinagar at the height of 1,100 feet above the sea level. Built in the dedication of Lord Shiva, the temple is also known as the Jyoteshwar Temple or the Pas-Pahar by Buddhists and overlooks the entire magnificent city of Srinagar. The temple is visited by thousands of devotees every year, especially for worship and during the Amarnath Yatra. A visit to the Shankaracharya Temple is a must for anyone who wants to experience pure divinity and ecstasy and spend some time in blissful solitude.
The ancient temple is named after the great philosopher Shankaracharya who had visited the valley about ten centuries ago. Shankaracharya used to worship the Shiva Lingam, which is still found in the Sanctum Sanctorum of the temple. Information boards that are erected in and around the temple tell the visitor that Adi Shankaracharya attained spiritual knowledge at this particular place. It was after this enlightenment that he went out and formed the four Hindu schools of Advaita, or the philosophy of non-dualism.
The hill on which the temple is situated was initially known as Jetha Laraka, and then later on renamed as Gopadari Hill. The structure of the Shankaracharya temple is constructed on a high octagonal platform that is approachable by a flight of steps. The architecture and style of construction of the entire temple are quite charming. In fact, it is built in the traditional style of architecture that prevailed in those times, and this is precisely why the Shankaracharya Temple is a fascinating place for religious devotees as well as architecture students alike.
Must Try Food in Srinagar
1. Ahdoos Restaurant
2. Krishna Dhaba Restaurant
3. Down Town Cafe
4. Stream Restaurant
5. Boulevard Avenue Dine In
6. Pincer Vegetarian Foods
7. Vishal Dhaba
8. Kooks Restaurant
9. Kareema Restaurant
10. Linz Cafe
How To Get Here
Many people take the train to Jammu followed by a taxi or bus ride to Srinagar. State buses are safe but a little uncomfortable. Foreign travelers on visas are required to register upon arrival at the airport or to their hotel or houseboat. Jammu has an excellent airport which has many flights from Delhi and Leh. Spice Jet, Jet Airways, Air India and Goair have flights from Delhi.
The Srinagar International Airport is well connected to must major cities in and outside India.
Nearest Airport: Srinagar International Airport (SXR)
Srinagar is connected by a network of roads to Chandigarh, Gulmarg, Jammu, Sonamarg, Delhi and Pahalgam.
The closest railway station to Srinagar is in Jammu Tawi. This is a main railhead for the region.