After being off limits for so many years, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office relaxed restrictions on travel to Kashmir in November 2012. While there are still restrictions in place it is now possible to travel to the incredibly beautiful city of Srinagar. Sometimes called the ‘Venice of the East’ the city is set around Dal Lake; the only way to experience Kashmir is to stay on one of the lake’s houseboats.
Srinagar was once a popular destination for the British looking to escape the oppressive summer heat. Unable to own property in the city, resourceful Brits converted old rice barges into luxurious houseboats, sidestepping the regulations and allowing them a comfortable place to reside during their holidays. These days the houseboats are permanently moored and are run as guesthouses.
Visitors are transported from the lakeside to houseboat by shikara, possibly one of the most relaxing transfers you will ever experience. These brightly painted boats have been used for centuries as a means of transport but also as mobile shops. Flowers, jewellery, sweets and household items are all sold from cheerful vendors paddling up and down the narrow waterways. For those willing to get up before dawn, the floating vegetable market is well worth a visit. Traders pile their boats high with vegetables grown in special floating vegetable patches on the lake.
While it is possible to travel to Srinagar all year round, to avoid the freezing winter temperatures the best time to visit is from late April to the end of August. With a warm climate, elaborate Moghul gardens to stroll around and plenty of time to relax and explore the lake, it’s an ideal way to relax after exploring some of India’s more chaotic cities.
Experience the beauty of kashmir for yourself by adding the Kashmir extension to our Little Tibet holiday.