Srinagar Houseboats, an unique experience on Dal Lake
Hundreds of srinagar houseboats, of varying budgets and quality, line Dal Lake’s (and the neighboring Nagin Lake’s) shores making it difficult for a visitor to figure out where to stay and for how much. To make matters worse almost all of them look old and weathered from the outside, which makes first-time visitors like us wonder if they are worth the effort. But trust me, they totally are! The nicer houseboats have updated interiors with the most exquisite walnut-wood carvings and Kashmiri rugs lining the interiors. But above all, nothing can beat the location! Being able to sit on the porch of these marooned boats, gazing at the serenely floating shikharas or the buzzing streets of Srinagar is an unforgettable experience! There’s no way one can experience Srinagar in its true sense by staying in the dull hotels that have sprouted up everywhere else.
We have been told that it’s nicer to stay in houseboats on Nagin Lake as it is away from the crowd and chaos of Boulevard, which lines the southern bank of Dal Lake and is the heart of touristy Srinagar. Most foreigners on extended stays prefer to stay here just for the peace it affords. However, we found Dal Lake to provide much easier access to stores, restaurants and sight-seeing activities. So for first-time visitors we would still recommend it. Maybe the next time we are in Srinagar, when sight-seeing and sampling restaurants is not a priority, we’ll find a quiet place stay on Nagin Lake.
Houseboat YuvrajDal Lake, Srinagar
Although not a luxurious boat, Houseboat Yuvraj has nicely-maintained interiors with intricate walnut-wood carvings, traditional Kashmiri furniture and plush Kashmiri rugs. The large, common, living room where patrons can relax over a cup of Kahwa while watching TV is really nice and won us over as soon as we stepped in. Our double-room was large with enough room for a double-bed, an extra day bed, a vanity table with mirror and a couple of lounging chairs. A small, curtained dressing area with storage cabinets led to the attached bathroom. This was the only area in the houseboat that looked like it needed some updating: all the fixtures and faucets, though functional, were old and not a pretty sight!
Meals can be included in the stay but we didn’t opt for it. However, we ate breakfast a couple of times which was simple and non-fussy consisting of tea, toast and omelets. We even had dinner one night; it was a nice meal of chicken curry and pulao done the Kashmiri way; the portions were a tad small, though!
Hot water was available in the mornings after 6am and on request in the evenings.
The nicest part of our stay in Yuvraj was our interaction with the owner Fayaz, his wife and a young lad who helped run the place. They were super warm and friendly! Fayaz chatted with us incessantly about Kashmir and gave us a candid insight into life there. He went out of his way to arrange Shikhara rides, rental cars or shopping for us and almost always managed to get us a good deal. Salma, his wife, made some of the nicest Kahwa (Kashmiri-style tea) and was always ready for a chat. The young lad, Firdauz, was usually entrusted with rowing us to the shore and back in a little boat that he expertly maneuvered. He is a smart chap with a shy smile and has an air of efficiency as he shuffles around running errands for the houseboat; a rarity in kids of his age. Fayaz, Salma and Firdauz were the first few Kashmiris we interacted with and they made quite an impression on us!
Rating : 8 out of 10
Houseboat SaleemDal Lake, Srinagar
We stayed here for one night when we returned from Pahalgam and were heading to Sonamarg the next day. We had planned on staying at Yuvraj but they were full so Fayaz brought us here. And I’m glad we got the chance to try a different place.
Houseboat Saleem is nicer than Yuvraj because its interiors have been recently updated. The decor may be comparable but the bathroom was much, much nicer. All the fixtures and faucets were new! The furniture and rugs looked newer too. We met a British lady there who has been coming every year to stay for a month in Houseboat Saleem for the last 20 years!! She loves it and has only had wonderful experiences staying there. We met the houseboat owner too. He is an elderly gentleman who speaks well. His refined manner reflects in the way the srinagar houseboat is maintained and managed; we wished we had more time to stay!
Rating : 9 out of 10