Srinagar, the capital of the northernmost state of Jammu and Kashmir is famous for its lakes and houseboats. There are plenty of sights to take in and things to do and it is also a great place to shop for Kashmiri handicrafts. Our Srinagar tourism guide lists the highlights.
1. Bird watching at Hokersar
This wetland attracts thousands of migratory birds during winters from Siberia and Central Asia. This is an important natural refuge for rare breeds that use it for wintering and breeding. It is located 14 kilometres from Srinagar. Birds that are most prominent here are geese, Brahminy Duck, Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Garganey, Greylag Goose, Mallard, Common Merganser, Northern Pintail, Common Pochard, Ferruginous Pochard, Ruddy Shelduck, Northern Shoveler, Common Teal, and Eurasian Wigeon.
2. Houseboat and shikara ride
These are the most famous symbols of the city and tourists come from far and wide to spend a few hours cruising on the lake. Those who have time for a longer stay can rent houseboats. The Dal lake is the ideal place to enjoy this activity. In the off season a shikara ride costs about Rs. 150 but in the peak season the price can go up to Rs. 500.
Mughal emperors created many gardens in the city. Prime amongst them are the Mughal Gardens, Chasm-e-Shahi, and the Nishat and Shalimar Bagh. The Tulip Gardens is a recent addition to the city and is dedicated to tulips of various colours.
4. Hazratbal Mosque
This pure white mosque is very serene and beautiful. It is one of the most important mosques in Srinagar and is highly revered. Much like other mosques, only the outer area is open for women to enter. The nearby market is a good place to enjoy local food.
5. Roza Bal
In Khanyar is the Dastgir Saheb mosque and shrine. It also known as Roza Bal and is said to be the tomb of Jesus Christ. The belief is that Jesus survived crucifixion, came to Kashmir and lived here till he was at least 100 years old. The belief isn’t backed by many scholars but it was the foundation of books such as ‘Jesus Lived in India’ by Holger Kersten.
Srinagar’s major festivals are the three Eids, Navroz, Urs and Ramzan. Eid is celebrated thrice a year. One is meethi Eid, which is a family fare, the other is Muharram where people flog themselves in the street and the last is Bakra Eid where a goat is sacrificed in every Muslim home. Navroz is a 9-day festival which is celebrated in March or April with feasts, new clothes and prayers. Urs is typical to Kashmir. It is held at the shrines of Muslim saints on their death anniversaries. It is also celebrated by some Hindus and Sikhs. Ramzan is a month of hard fasting and during Ramzan Muslims do not eat or drink from dawn to dusk.
7. Shankaracharya Mandir
This Hindu temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is perched on a hilltop. It’s not usually crowded as Srinagar no longer has a significant Hindu population but is a popular site with visitors. Cameras and cellphones should be left behind as they aren’t allowed inside.
- The climatic conditions in Srinagar are mostly alpine. Srinagar is best visited during summers between the months of April and June.
- The domestic airport in Srinagar is located at a distance of 14 kms from the city and operates regular flights to major Indian cities like Delhi and Mumbai.
- The nearest railway station from Srinagar is at Jammu Tawi, about 293 kms from the city. Jammu station has excellent rail connections with almost all major cities of India. Once you reach Jammu station, board a bus or hire a car / taxi to proceed on a 12-hr journey to Srinagar