When someone thinks of Srinagar, they think of the state of Jammu and Kashmir that is capped with violence and instability at the moment. However, one misses out on all the hidden aspects of the state and its capital. Truly the paradise in the North of India, Srinagar will never fail to make people fall in love with the famous Dal Lake with its shikaras. It will pour your body and mind with nothing but tranquillity when you hike or trek to explore the white mountains and valleys in all their splendor. The architectural style of Srinagar is mainly from the Mughal era, giving the city much historical and religious significance.
Literally translating to ‘the city of wealth and abundance’ from Sanskrit, Srinagar lacks in neither the richness of nature not the abundance of history. Srinagar is the capital of Jammu and Kashmir located in the heart of the Kashmir Valley on the banks of the River Jhelum. Bestowed with names such as the ‘Venice of the East’ or ‘Kashmiri Venice’, the city will take every tourist – explorer, adventurer and laid-back – on an experience that will remain in their hearts forever.
There are plenteous attractions to visit in Srinagar and one can almost never cover them all. From bountiful gardens to pristine water bodies, Srinagar has it all.
Hop on board one of the shikaras with their distinct names and take a tour on the alluring Dal Lake. Famous among honeymoon couples, Dal Lake harbors several different types of fish, birds, and flowers, making the lake one of the most irresistible to visit. Spread over 26 sq km, Dal Lake also has houseboats, which were first brought in by the British. It has been given the honor of being ‘Srinagar’s Jewel’ and makes a picture perfect view – literally – with the Himalayan range in the backdrop.
Thousands of devotees visit this beautiful mosque every year, but apart from the faithful followers, tourists love to visit the Jama Masjid for its architecture. Jama Masjid is one of the oldest and the biggest mosques in Kashmir. This monument has spires instead of domes and minarets. Each of the 350 pillars of Jama Masjid is made from a single deodar trunk.
Hari Parbat Fort:
This Mughal architectural beauty stands on a hill named Hari Parbat. It narrates the story of how the demon Jalodbhava was crushed under this hill when Goddess Sati dropped a pebble on his head, which expanded to become the gigantic Hari Parbat. The main entrance to the Hari Parbat Fort is the Kathi Darwaza which is an arch-like structure that appears to be guarding it. The view from the Hari Parbat Fort or anywhere on the hill is spectacular as it overlooks Srinagar in its entirety.
Located at the foot of the Zabarwan Mountains and in close proximity to Dal Lake, Nagin Lake is known for its clear blue waters. Titled ‘Jewel in the Ring’, this stunning beauty also offers tourists the opportunity to swim, water ski or even sail. The best time to visit Nagin Lake is between June and August when the weather is less harsh and cold. Interestingly, there is a Nagin Club on the bank of the lake that has a bar and tea pavilion.
This splendid lake is spread across 30 to 260 square kilometers, depending upon the season. The River Jhelum flows here and then out again. Wular Lake is believed to be one of the largest freshwater lakes in Asia. However, Wular Lake is about 60 kilometers from the city of Srinagar, so we recommend an early departure from the city to visit Wular, surrounded by a picturesque landscape. Tourists can indulge in activities like water skiing and fishing at Wular Lake. It is also the perfect spot for bird watching as it is in close proximity to their natural habitats.
Translating to ‘The House of Fairies’, Pari Mahal is a historical site in the city of Srinagar. It is a monument situated above the Chashma Shahi Gardens. It has taken on many roles, from being a Buddhist Monastery to serving as a school of astronomy. This beautifully landscaped garden covers a sprawling area that is 122 meters in length and 62.5 meters in width. It comprises six terraces, which have separate water tanks that are filled with underground pipes. Many Bollywood movies have also used this monument for shooting songs and scenes in films.
Shalimar Bagh is filled with beautiful terraces and a water canal running straight through it, making everything look absolutely stunning. Look out for the Baradari. It is a building or pavilion with 12 doors designed to allow free flow of air. Another attraction is the Chini Khanas, which are arched niches in the Shalimar Bagh. It is one of the largest Mughal gardens in Kashmir valley built by Mughal emperor Jahangir and the epitome of Mughal Horticulture. The serene water canals, vivid flower beds, gushing fountains, and the ancient architecture make this garden a wonderful place to spend a fine sunny day. Photography is also encouraged here and it is the perfect spot for photographers to capture the beauty of nature. Also, read more about Shalimar Bagh here.
Pratap Singh Museum:
Srinagar has a huge variety of shawls, arms & armory, paintings, ancient coins and handicrafts from Ladakh at the Pratap Singh Museum. Located in the Lal Mandi area, Shri Pratap Singh Museum was established in 1858 and gives an insight into Kashmir’s traditions. Keep in mind that tourists need to show their passports while entering the museum.
This mosque is famous for housing a precious relic – the Prophet’s hair. The architecture of Hazratbal Mosque id deeply influences by Persian and Iranian styles. It is an extremely important mosque of historical significance and we highly recommend a visit here. However, women are not allowed after the first part of the mosque.
In around 200 BC, Jaluka, the son of Emperor Ashoka, had built this Shankaracharya Temple. The temple is one of the famous sacred sites in Srinagar and is situated at an elevation of 1100 feet. No cell phones or cameras are allowed inside the temple. The view from here is stunning and one can see the entire valley. Also read about the hidden gems of Kashmir here.
There are quite a few options for accommodations in Srinagar. However, this Srinagar Travel Guide highly recommends spending a night on one of the quaint little houseboats with their unique names. They have all the basic amenities and delicious cuisines. If you prefer to stay on land, there are hotels like Hotel International and Hotel City Plaza. One must make the bookings in advance as they turn out to be cheaper.
Typical Kashmiri cuisine is rich and laced with a number of spices. A non-vegetarian fare is most popular and has excess usage of cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and saffron. Most hotels have attached restaurants so you have a fairly wide range of selections. Kashmiri kebabs found are famous worldwide and you just cannot step out of Srinagar without trying these. Srinagar is also the best place to try the authentic green tea and Kawah.
The best time to visit Srinagar is between April and October when the weather is pleasant and cool. However, the city experiences extremely cold and harsh winters where the highest temperature is only 15 degrees Celsius. Srinagar does not get much rainfall because of its location.
Srinagar tourism is highly motivated by the different events and festivals that take place in Srinagar.
Urs, a Kashmiri festival, is held annually in several shrines of Muslim saints on their death anniversaries. Celebrated throughout Srinagar, not only by Muslims but other communities also, Urs is one of the best times to witness inter-communal harmony. An interesting feature of the Urs in the cities of Batamaloo and Anantag is that both Muslims and Hindus do not take meat during the course of this festival.
Being religiously dominated by Muslims, Ramzan is a popular festival in Kashmir. This is the time when Muslims fast for a month and they break this fast on the day of Eid Ul Fitar.
Baikunth Chaturdashi Mela:
This is the main festival celebrated in the city in October or November when artists from all over the country come and perform in various cultural shows. The festival truly and literally lights up the city of Srinagar and various contests and sports activities are held during this four-day festival. It is believed that childless couples praying on this auspicious day at the Kamleshwar Temple have their prayers answered.
Srinagar Travel Guide recommends tourists to visit Srinagar for three to five days, spending it relaxing and sightseeing.Read more about Srinagar itinerary here. If you’re visiting during the time of one of the festivals, you can indulge in the festivities with the locals. However, Srinagar is a commercial city and Srinagar tourism is limited to attractions and other city amenities. If you want to explore further and experience true tranquility, you can choose to travel to Sonmarg, Gulmarg or Pahalgam. They are all a few hours’ drive away from Srinagar and have several things to offer.
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