I spent two months in Srinagar, Kashmir, India, this spring. I knew Kashmir was different comparing some other parts of India, but to tell you the truth, I didn’t know how much different and what to expect. My friend had told me so many stories about the place and I just couldn’t wait to see everything with my own eyes. On the other hand, other people were warning me about the fact that Kashmir is dangerous. Which really didn’t scare me though, because I trusted my friend and the fact that he wouldn’t take me anywhere unsafe. Now, what comes to safety, you should know that there is an army on the streets of Srinagar. This might seem a little odd or a little scary, but it shouldn’t really be a reason not to go there. You don't want to miss out the most extraordinary experience of your life, right?
At the beginning of April on early Thursday morning, we landed in Srinagar. The morning was sunny and a bit cold. Once we got out of the airport, I was amazed. It really didn’t seem that we were in India. During the ride from the airport to Dal lake, I couldn’t help but wonder the views. Were we really in India or maybe in England? Just a word or two about history; Brits did rule Kashmir until 1947, which maybe explains a bit, why it seemed like we were in England.
After about 30 minutes ride we reached to Dal lake and the final destionation; Houseboat Coronation, where I lived for two months. The history of houseboats in Srinagar is linked with the British period. They are important part of Kashmir tourism. These boats are anchored and they don’t move on water. In total there are about 700 houseboats around Srinagar, so you really have options to choose from and a trip to Kashmir is definitely not complete if you are not staying on a houseboat.
I have to say I love the ocean and I was concerned that I would miss it so much, but I was assured by my friend that once I live on a lake, I won’t be missing the ocean. And that was so true. Every morning I walked to the front part of the boat, and was mesmerized by the mountain view opening right in front of me and the calm lake where Shikaras (=type of a wooden boat) were gliding around. It was just so calming and amazing way to start the day.
I come from Finland, land of tens of thousands of lakes, but Dal lake was nothing like the lakes I’ve seen back home. I really can’t even start to explain the magic of it, it really is something that you’ll need to see with your own eyes.
The lake offers, of course, great views, if you go on a shikara ride, but what else there is that you can do in Srinagar? We arrived at Srinagar just in time for the tulip season. And one beautiful day in April, we spent roaming in one of the tulip gardens, Indira Gandhi Memorial Tulip garden, and admiring the colors of these beautiful flowers. There are many gardens in Srinagar actually and they offer a great way to spend your day surrounded by nature maybe enjoying a picnic lunch. If nature is something that you really enjoy, day in one of the gardens might be something that you could do while in Srinagar.
I already told on my previous post about the hikes in Kashmir and especially near Srinagar, what I didn’t tell you was, that you don’t really have to even leave the city to go for a hike. Right in front of the Dal lake there is Shankaracharya Hill, where you can climb and enjoy the feeling of hike and scenery of Srinagar. On the top of the mountain there is Shankaracharya Temple where you can visit before you start climbing down.
Kashmir reminded me of Finland. Spring and early summer, the waking of nature after winter was somehow very familiar, yet in a way, completely different. The scent of early summer and needles of pine trees on the ground reminded me about my childhood and times I spent with my grandmother. At the same time, it was very clear that I wasn’t in Finland.
Kashmir offers something for everyone, and for sure, something really exotic and fresh. If you haven’t visited there yet, don’t wait any longer, because the best time to visit Kashmir is right now! Go and explore the place yourself, you won’t be disappointed.