Known as the Jewel in the Crown of Kashmir and Srinagar’s Jewel, Dal Lake is the most important landmark of Srinagar. It figures high on tourist itineraries and every tourist to the Kashmir valley makes it a point to visit the water body. There are two theories for the origin of the lake – one states that it is a post-glacial lake that has undergone a lot of changes in size over the years. The other theory of the origin of the lake states that the Dal Lake was formed due to flood spillage from the Jhelum River.
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Dal Lake has an average depth of almost 5 ft and a maximum depth of 20 ft. Covering an area of 18 sq km, the Dal Lake is part of a natural wetland that covers an area of about 21 sq km which includes floating gardens. The floating gardens are known as ‘Rad’ in Kashmiri language. The floating gardens are known for the lotus flowers that blossom during the months of July and August. The Dal Lake is divided into four basins, Bod Dal, Nagin (also a separate lake), Gagribal and Lokut Dal. There is an island in the middle of Bod Dal known as Sona Lank. Lokut Dal is also known as Rup Lank and Char Chinari.
Dal Lake is lined by gardens built in the Mughal era and many parks. Mughals, who were smitten by the beauty of Kashmir, laid extensive gardens to heighten its beauty. The best views of the lake can be seen from the Shalimar Garden and Nishat Garden that were built during the reign of Mughal Emperor, Jehangir.
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The beauty of Dal Lake has attracted filmmakers and over 20 films have been shot in and around the famous water body. Mainstream Hindi films like, Junglee, Jab Jab Phool Khile, Kashmir Ki Kali, Jaanwar, Lamhaa, Yahaan, Mission Kashmir, Dil Se, Kabhi Kabhi, Rockstar and Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani were shot or have scenes in which Dal Lake forms the backdrop. The sight of actor Shammi Kapoor gamboling on a shikhara in Kashmir Ki Kali or Shashi Kapoor lamenting about failed love in Jab Jab Phool Khile have helped popularize and romanticize the Dal Lake in the popular imagination.
Shikaras are a cultural symbol of the lake and seen mostly in lakes of Srinagar. It is often called the Gondola of Kashmir and has achieved iconic status. While the boats are a part of daily life on the lake and used for a slew of purposes including transporting people and goods, it has become very popular with tourists. A ride on the lake is a must for tourists visiting Kashmir.
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Unlike the houseboats of Kerala, houseboats on the Dal Lake are usually stationary. Made of wood and with intricately carved wood paneling, the houseboats are of different sizes, some even have three bedrooms, living room and kitchen. Staying on a houseboat provides a unique experience. Houseboats vary in degree of luxury and have been accordingly graded by the Department of Tourism. Often the owner and his family offer personalized service.
Rampant tourism and population growth have increased pollution levels of the lake.
WHERE TO STAY
There are enough accommodation options in Srinagar ranging from budget hotels, mid-range hotels to luxury hotels. Houseboats on Dal Lake are a popular accommodation option. Along with breathtaking views of the Dal Lake and the mountains, they also offer a unique experience. Most of the houseboats are run by families living on the Dal Lake. Houseboats are also available in the budget, mid-range and luxury.
WHERE TO EAT
Srinagar is a foodie’s delight. Innumerable restaurants, cafés and street stalls serve delicious food. The most popular places to eat in Srinagar are found near Lal Chowk, Khayam Road and the area near Dal Lake. Kashmiri and Moghlai cuisines are extremely popular and served in almost all the restaurants. Srinagar is famous for its non-vegetarian delicacies like rogan gosht, gushtaba, rishta, tabakmaaz, kanti, etc. There are a few restaurants that provide tasty vegetarian meal along the road near Dal Lake. Seekh Tuji is another popular delicacy found in the street stalls of Khayam Road.
BEST TIME TO VISIT DAL LAKE
May to November is the best time to visit Dal Lake as the climate is pleasant. During winter, it gets extremely cold.
BEST TIME TO VISIT SRINAGAR
The average minimum and maximum temperature of Srinagar is as given below. The best time to visit Srinagar is also specified.