Srinagar : Capital city entwined in Past, Present, and Future
City with historic significance and becoming major economy contributor
Srinagar, the capital city of J&K is very similar to other capital cities of the country. There is one side of the city that is getting influenced by modernization and social media platforms and then there is another side of the city that is still dwelling in the past and struggling with the adversities left behind by our elder generation. Struggles and harmony co-exist in this city and you get to experience both.
In our observations, things are changing for good in Srinagar valley, as you observe education hoardings, hostels, PGs advertising IITs, NITs for the next generation to grow and contribute to society in a transformative way. It was a good sign that the education sector, which holds the key to bringing ever-lasting peace is now at the center of the city.
When you are in Srinagar, as your base camp, you may opt for staying in a hotel ( mostly located near and around the city center), houseboats, or Airbnb as per your convenience.
Generally, an option which is most explored is to keep 1N stay in houseboat, few days stay in a hotel and few days stay in other locations. We took a slightly different approach to stay in Airbnb throughout as we found houseboat stay a little discomforting. We are not particularly cozy in a closed, confined kind of stay.
Let’s discover what we can do in Srinagar and how many days at least need to be spent in the city.
Locations to cover
It is advised that you keep at least two days for Srinagar, and you can split it in a way like if you reach early on the day of your landing you can cover the Shikhara ride on Day 0 ( it takes around one hour to complete the ride (basic ride) though you can extend it by shelling few more bucks). Also, you can cover the Hazrat Bal shrine which is second to Jama Masjid (oldest Masjid in Srinagar), however, its historic significance is second to none. You can visit it for its beautiful peaceful surroundings.
One full day can be kept for Srinagar to cover the rest of the tourist spots and do some shopping as well.
When it comes to tourist attractions, most of the tourist attractions are located in a 25-30km Dal lake semi-circle. You can start from one end of the lake and unravel all the locations in a single visit. All of the locations start opening up around 10:00 AM so you may be the first one to reach one of these locations if you are standing at the gate right at 10’o clock.
The Dal Circle
Most of the locations here are “Bagh” or Gardens and they were curated during Mughal times. The centerpiece of attraction in these locations is “Chinar” trees and their leaves are very similar to maple leaves. During December – January most of the “Chinar” trees shed off all their leaves and you can bring back some leaves for decorative purposes.
If you enter from one side of the Lake, you can start with Nishat Bagh, which is seven layers of gardens beautifully maintained and curated. As soon as you are through the entry door, a royal feeling is imminent to take over. As you progress further in the garden, you respect the way the garden has been maintained over the years and how magnificently they stand just on the corner of Dal lake.
Yes, it’s true, in winter garden will not be blooming with budding flowers, yet the garden aura can be expressed in contrasting colors which represents a very important phase of transformation.
As you move out from Nishat Bagh, you can next visit the Shalimar Bagh / Botanical Gardens. They are very similar to Nishat Bagh and again very beautifully maintained. Given the time of the year, they all have very similar vibes, so you can pick and choose which gardens you want to cover. You may not find anything different here.
All the gardens are spread across acres and if you are interested in spending some quality time in open spaces, there is nothing better than these gardens.
Next, you can cover Chashme Shahi and Pari Bagh. Roads leading to Chashme shahi and in particular, Pari Bagh are breathtaking. If you are lucky, you may come across some amazing fauna and possibly some of the wild animals as well. We decided to go to Pari Bagh first and though the gardens are very well maintained, they had those old rocky formations of the wall and looked like a painting out of a history book. Views of the Srinagar valley were stand out of Pari Bagh. Area wise Pari Bagh is smaller than Nishat Bagh or others however “layered garden” architecture is common.
On our return from Pari Bagh, we stopped at Chashme Shahi and the major difference here is the natural spring water around which this garden has been developed. You can drink natural spring water and it is said that it does have medicinal properties.
For all the gardens that we have mentioned, there are a lot of stairs in all of them. So if you have elderly in the group, they may struggle with all of the walking engaged. If you have to pick with least stairs, we recommend Botanical gardens and Pari Bagh as one can enjoy enough at one level.
The last stop in Dal lake circle is going to be Shankaracharya Temple, located on the hilltop and near the famous TV tower. Govt has created multiple viewpoints on the hill where you can stop and enjoy the valley from different locations. Due to very limited traffic police near temple premises, traffic jams are pretty common, so you have to keep a good buffer time. Another important thing here is you cannot take any mobile phones, cameras with you. So you have to keep them in your cars/vehicles or deposit them with security at the entrance of the premises.
As Shankaracharya temple is located on the highest point of the hill, you will be greeted with 250 steps stone bases stairs. So be ready for your cardio exercise of the day. As soon as you reach the temple entrance and as you look down from your location, all this exercise will look worth it. You will then see Dal lake is not just a lake in a big circle, it has a snake-like tail and goes for miles.
When you visit the prayer site of the temple and think about how this temple was built, you surely will experience goosebumps that it was built centuries ago when engineering was not at its prime.
On the side exit of the temple, you have a small temple dedicated to Guru Shankracharya, where he meditated for years. It is a small cozy place and you keep wondering how is this possible to stay let alone meditate in this.
With this, we have covered must-visit locations in Srinagar check out the food and local markets and other places from the following links: