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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrA placid lake, famous houseboats, historical parks, and the scenic beauty have made the land of Srinagar in Kashmir one of the most sought after destinations for tourists, all across the world. However, the gorgeous region of Srinagar is often under the threat of riots because of the constant diplomatic issues between India and Pakistan over the occupancy of Kashmir. Though the tension has receded to a vast degree since 2003, the streets of the town are still filled with soldiers, doing their routine checks to ensure peace and safety in the Kashmir region.
People of Kashmir speak a local dialect called Kashmiri language]. Hindi is the second most-common language followed by English.
History and DemographicsSrinagar is the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir. It is because of the harsh weather in Srinagar during winter, the capital shifts to Jammu which serves as a winter capital. Situated in the valley of Kashmir, on the bank of Indus River, Srinagar has a long history. The region was once under the control of the Vakataka dynasty around 2,000 years ago. Later, it went into the hands of the Mauryan Empire and subsequently it was ruled by the Mughals. However, after the decline of the Mughal empire, Kashmir has seen a lot of infiltration of the Pashtun tribes. The state was then controlled by the Durrani Empire . During 1814, The Maharaja of Punjab – Ranjit Singh annexed a part of the region, including Srinagar. In the year 1846, the British signed The Treaty of Lahore with Punjab, which thereafter indicated complete suzerainty of the British over the land of Kashmir.
Kashmir was considered as one of the princely states of India and it enjoyed the status until India gained independence in 1947. After India's independence, trouble started brewing in the region to oust the Maharaja’s rule. It was also followed by the constant attack of Pashtun tribes to accede Kashmir. This event further aggravated to religious tension which resulted in bloodbaths when the Muslims tried to bag the majority of the land by eliminating other religious groups, like the Hindus.
Places to SeeKashmir has always been the most revered place for its spectacular natural beauty. From the marvelous garden in Gulmarg or to a stay in an exotic houseboat — Kashmir is a paradise on earth.
The capital Srinagar is the melting pot for tourists and it also acts as the main corridor to reach some of the most stunning locations of Jammu and Kashmir. As Srinagar served as the capital of Kashmir from 960 CE, there are a couple of historical places that you must see, along with several other attractions that dots the city.
The following section lists such location which are worth a visit in Srinagar.
The Mughals were patrons of art and architecture. During their reign, they have built some stunning architectural works in various parts of India and that still remains as a mark of their glorious rule. Srinagar houses three stunning gardens built by the Mughals which are the Nishat Bagh, Chashme Shahi and the Shalimar Bagh.
Nishat BaghThis terraced garden, situated by the bank of the famous Dal Lake with the backdrop of the Zabarwan range is simply spectacular to behold. The intricate works of the building, the fountain, and the flower garden stands as an enchantress of beauty amidst nature. The garden remains open from 9.30 AM – 5.30 PM and its entry fee is ₨ 10 ($0.16).
Chashme ShahiBuilt in 1632, the garden is situated in the Zabarwan range, overlooking the Dal Lake. The garden is very close to the Governor’s house (Raj Bhavan) and remains open from March-November. May-June is probably the best time to visit the garden, when it gets filled with different varieties of flowers.
Shalimar BaghShalimar Bagh garden once belonged to the Mughal Emperor Jahangir as he dedicated it to his consort, Nur Jahan. The park is now open to public and it stands, overlooking the Dal Lake.
Shankaracharya TempleThis famous Hindu temple is located in the Zabarwan range. It stands at an elevation of 1,000 feet and was probably built in 200 BC. However, the present structure that we see was built during the 9th century AD.
Hazratbal ShrineOne of the most important shrines to the Muslims, Hazratbal Shrine is located at the left bank of the Dal Lake. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the rules of entry while you visit the shrine. Women have restricted entry to this place.
Tulip GardenTulip Garden looks magnificent during April – May when the flowers bloom in this picturesque tourist spot. The entry fee to the park is ₨ 50 ($0.80).
HokesarIf you have an inclination towards Ornithology, Hokesar is one of the best places to visit in India. The region is situated around fourteen kilometers from Srinagar. During September – October, a large group of migratory birds visit this location.
Dachigam National ParkDachigam is located in the Zabarwan range. The distance to Srinagar is around 14 miles from Dachigam National Park. The park is well-known to all the nature lovers and is home to wild animals such as leopards, Himalayan brown bear, long tailed marmot, musk deer and also many varieties of birds.
Kishtwar National ParkKishtwar received the official ‘National Park’ status in 1981. From then on wards, it has become a major tourist attraction. However, the ride to the park may not be that inviting because of the narrow mountain-roads on the way. Still then, the steep nature and the rugged mountains make it quite an adventurous ride for a tourist. Kishtwar National Park also hosts a number of wild animals, like the brown bear, Asiatic black bear and snow leopard. The conservation of flora and fauna has even attracted many different birds to this region. Visitors often prefer to join the bird-watching session during their trip to the park. The distance from Jammu to the park is around 90 miles.
Other Places from SrinagarWhile in Srinagar, you can also cover many adjoining areas like Udhampur, Kupwara, Badgam, Pulwama, Anantnag, Poonch, Baramulla, Patnitop, Kishtwar, Nubra Valley, Drass and Ladakh. Some of these places are located at a considerable distance and you may need to make an extended plan in order to visit these locations.
Dal Lake and ShikaraThe Dal Lake is the pride of Kashmir. Often referred as the ‘Jewel in the Crown’ of Kashmir valley, this placid lake is surrounded by the boulevards of Mughal gardens, hotels, and buildings, with a gorgeous view of the Himalayan mountain range at a distance. Dal Lake is famous for houseboat and Shikara. The cultural symbolism of Shikara in Kashmir can be compared to that of the Venetian Gondolas of Italy. This small boat made of wood is used for various purposes like fishing, transport, tourist ride, and sometimes even serves as a shelter for the poor.
Major festivalsLike other states of India, Jammu and Kashmir celebrate various events in a year. The most notable festivals are Eid-ul-Fitr, Eid-ul-Azha, Baisakhi, Hemis Festival, Lohri, Urs, Dussehra and Diwali.
Pilgrimage from SrinagarSrinagar acts as a host to the pilgrims that visit the famous Amarnath temple. Every year, thousands of Hindu devotees visit the holy shrine to pay their obeisance to Lord Shiva. The temple is located at an altitude of 12, 756 feet and is covered with snow for most part of the year. As and when the temple becomes accessible, the Amarnath journey commences. The devotees generally travel by foot, either from Pahalgam or Srinagar.
TrekkingJammu and Kashmir is also a favorable spot for the trekkers because of the presence of many high-altitude alpine lakes. Some of the major trekking routes that you can consider visiting are Satsar Lake, Nundkol Lake, Gadsar Lake and Vishansar Lake.
Traveling in the CityLike other cities of India, Srinagar also has a host of buses, taxis and auto-rickshaw services. The auto-rickshaw are especially available in abundance in this city. Another option is to hire a motorcycle to travel in and around the Srinagar.
How to Reach SrinagarFor tourists travelling via train, the nearest major rail head is at Jammu.
Jammu acts as the railway corridor to reach the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The railway is well-networked, connecting to other parts of India. The distance between Jammu and Srinagar is 183 miles (approx.) and it takes around five hours by car. You will find shared and private car services from the station.
The Srinagar International Airport is well connected to some major international destinations. The domestic section also has a number of flights from different parts of the country.
Where to StayLiving on a houseboat is probably the most desirable wish for a tourist visiting Srinagar. There a number of houseboats available in different price ranges to suit any budget. The houseboats do not float as they are docked by the lakeside. Some of the recommended houseboat services are Young Bombay, New Shaheen, Butt's Clermont Houseboats, House Boat Taj Mahal, Houseboat New Shanshah and others.
Some recommended hotels in Srinagar are Dal-Fog Guest House, Hotel Paradise, G, Blooming Dale, Hotel Ishfan and Hotel Paradise and others.
What to EatThere are a number of eateries in Srinagar. Most of the restaurants are located by the bank of Dal Lake or in Lal Chowk. The restaurants mainly serve Indian, Chinese and Mughlai dishes. Make sure to try some famous local dishes, like grilled mutton (known as tekh or tilli), Rogan-Josht, Tabakmaaz, Gushtaba and Rishta. Some popular eateries are also located in and around the Khayaam area in this city.
For continental food and drink, you can check out The Alpine Ridge Hotel in Gulmarg. They serve alcohol along with western foods and remain open from 10 AM.
Best Time to VisitKashmir is best visited during the month of March, till the end of August.
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Author: SubhasishMitra. Last updated: Feb 01, 2015