Travel Guide to Srinagar, Kashmir
No other place in the world has so widely been referred to as paradise, as Kashmir in India. Srinagar, the summer capital of the state of Jammu and Kashmir and a beautiful valley set with lakes, brooks and exquisite gardens, is a wonderful first-hand rendition to what Kashmir truly is! We arrived in Srinagar smack in the middle of Spring Equinox, just when the winter had loosened its hold on the valley and the delicate fragrance of almond blossoms filled the air. This article will act as a complete travel guide on Srinagar that’ll highlight places to visit and stay in Srinagar, local delicacies to try in Srinagar, best restaurants/cafes in Srinagar, what and where to shop in Srinagar, and what an ideal Srinagar itinerary will look like.
Table of Contents
Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Botanical Garden
Hari Parbat Fort
Naqashband Sahab Shrine
Floating Post Office
About Srinagar, Kashmir
Located at an altitude of 5200 feet above sea level, Srinagar is nestled in the Himalayas, forming the northernmost part of India. Blessed with beautiful lakes, fertile land that blooms every year, historical gardens, and River Jhelum that forms the lifeline of Kashmir, the landscapes of Srinagar are reminiscent of what one would fancy painting in childhood. Historically, Srinagar has been a major trade center connecting Persia to Central and East Asia. As Kashmir has been ruled by different religious monarchs over the last 2000 years, namely Buddhist rulers in Ashoka’s and Kushana's time, Hindu rulers in medieval times, Islam rulers for most of the last 600 years, Afghani rulers for shorter durations, and Sikh rulers during Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Srinagar has become a cauldron of all these cultures.
Tourism as well flourished in between 1950s to 80s when Kashmir used to be most visited place in India by foreign travellers. In fact from what we were told by some locals, the famous houseboats of Srinagar where introduced by foreign tourists who legally could not own anything on land which was immovable and fixed. But they could venture into building and buying houseboats on Jhelum river. River safaris used to be a popular concept where one would travel across Kashmir in these boats. Slowly locals realized the income potential of these houseboats and moved their base to Dal lake. All of this however came to a halt with exodus of Kashmiri pandits in early 90s as political unrest took control. Tourism slowly started again in mid 2000s and since then has been on a rise.
Is it safe to travel to Srinagar, Kashmir?
While one may still feel safety could be a concern while visiting Kashmir, times have changed. In our 3rd trip to Srinagar across 9 years, we could definitely see how most people have left the past behind and are embracing the future. Srinagar feels like any other developing city of India. Education and economic prosperity are at the forefront of people's mind. Though you might still see Army personnel all around, we never for a second felt unsafe in our 3-week trip across Kashmir. The innate welcoming nature of Kashmiris is unparalled. Their humility and friendliness have always existed. While many things have changed, as travellers we need to change our perception as well.
How to reach Srinagar?
You can reach Srinagar by either of these 3 routes:
Reach Srinagar by air
The Sheikh ul-Alam Airport in Srinagar is an international airport and is well connected with regular flights from Delhi, Mumbai, and Chandigarh. You can book connecting flights to Srinagar airport with a few hours layover at any of these airports. Srinagar airport is located about 15-20 kilometres from the centre of the city.
Reach Srinagar by rail
Udhampur railway station (150 km away from Srinagar) and Banihal Railway Station (100 km away from Srinagar) are the two nearest railway stations to Srinagar. These railway stations are connected by a network of trains to the major cities in India via Northern Railway Line. You can reach any of these stations and then hire a private taxi or take a government bus to reach Srinagar.
Reach Srinagar by road
Srinagar is the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir state. The city is very well connected with National Highways to major Indian cities like Delhi (800 km), Chandigarh (570 km), Leh (420 km), and Jammu (250 km). There are decent bus services and cab rentals available from these cities to Srinagar.
Best time to visit Srinagar
We are often asked this question and it is the most difficult one to answer! All the seasons are very prominent in this part of India.
The spring season (late March to April) is all about new blossoms and varied colours (especially white, pink, and yellow). Asia’s largest Tulip Garden opens for about a month during spring and is visited by thousands of tourists. During this time, there’s still snow in high-altitude areas near Srinagar (like Gulmarg, Doodhpathri and Yusmarg), but spring has made it’s way in the city. So a trip to Kashmir at this time will allow you to enjoy best of both seasons (winter and spring).
In the summer season (May to August) everything turns green. The weather is pleasant, various trek routes open up near Srinagar (like Great Lakes trek starting from Sonamarg and ending at Naranag), the valleys bloom with beautiful flowers, saffron blooms cover the entire area near Srinagar in purple coloured flowers, Dal Lake is covered in pink coloured lotuses, and the apple, pear, and plum trees are laden with fruits. Also, the inaccessible valleys and passes that receive high snowfall in winter (like Bangus valley, Gurez valley, Sinthan Top in Daksum), open up for visitors in summer time. However, this is also the peak season, when lakhs of tourists visit Srinagar/Kashmir (especially May-Jun which is summer vacation in most schools in India); hence if you choose this time, make sure you make all the bookings in advance and be ready to face a lot of crowd.
As autumn season arrives (September to November), the valley shifts its colour to amber, orange, brown, and reds. The leaves of trees, especially the Chinar trees, shed and cover the ground in magical colours. It’s amongst the best time to visit the Mughal gardens in Srinagar (as well as in Kokernag, Anantnag, and Verinag), which are full of Chinar trees.
In the winter season (December to February), the valley is covered under a white sheet of snow. Snow in Srinagar city only lasts for about a fortnight, but you get to experience snow in almost all the nearby areas like Sonmarg, Gulmarg, and Pahalgam. If you are into snow sports like skiing, sledging, snowshoeing, and ice-skating, this is the best time to visit Kashmir.
As you may have realised, each season gives you a different flavour in Kashmir. The best time to visit Srinagar/Kashmir depends on what season you enjoy the most, what you want to see, and what exactly you are looking to do. Note that Jul to Sep could also see some rains. However over time, rains have become quite erratic like many other places across the world and off-season rains also happen very often.
Places to visit in Srinagar
Most tourists arrive in and depart from Srinagar during their Kashmir tour. However, in a run to visit the touristy places (like Gulmarg, Pahalgam, and Sonamarg), they fail to visit the gems of Srinagar. Following is the detailed guide on all the places to visit in Srinagar that you must spare time for:
Gardens of Srinagar -
There is no shortage of scenic gardens in Srinagar. With evergreens, ornamental trees, and perennial flowers that have different bloom times, the gardens in Srinagar have something to offer the visitors every season. All gardens have an entrance fee of INR 24 per adult except Tulip garden which has a fee of Rs.50 per adult.
Tulips are among the first flowers to bloom after a prolonged spell of winter in Kashmir. The tulip blossoms last only for 4-6 weeks in the months of March end and April. Srinagar’s Indira Gandhi Tulip Garden is Asia’s largest tulip garden, where you can see display of millions of tulips in full bloom, in 20 acres of land painted with different colours of the flower. The dates could slightly vary each year and is published beforehand.
Note that due to limited timeframe, it is usually full of visitors. It is highly recommended you avoid weekends when locals and tourists in equal numbers flock the garden. Weekdays in morning at the time it opens (around 8:30-9 AM) is the best way to avoid crowds.
Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Botanical Garden
Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Botanical Garden is located just besides the Tulip Garden and is worth a quick visit. The garden surrounds a huge pond and is filled with wide varieties of flowers and trees planted in decorative ways. The well-manicured garden is a great picnic spot, both for locals and visitors.
Nishat Bagh, located on the banks of the Dal Lake, is the largest of all the Mughal Gardens in Srinagar. The garden has stair-typed shallow terraces with a water channel in the middle that carries fresh spring water from its source high up in the Zabarwan Hills. The garden has huge Chinar trees, which we’re sure might be a sight to behold in the autumn season. Nishat Bagh is also adorned with seasonal flowers and numerous fountains.
Built by Mughal emperor Jehangir for his beloved wife, Empress Nur Jahan, Shalimar Bagh is the most magnificent Mughal Garden of Srinagar. It’s also referred to as an ‘abode of love’ for the same reason. Built in the same architectural manner as Nishat, Shalimar Bagh also has several terraces with a canal flowing through the middle of the garden. During our visit, the daffodils and apricot trees were in full bloom, decorating the garden with vibrant white and pink colours.
Badam Wari, meaning ‘garden of almonds’, is an almond haven which becomes an eye candy for visitors during the onset of spring season by covering 38 acres of land with white-coloured almond blossoms and some pink cherry blossoms. The locals come here during the spring with food, tea, and bread and spend time in recreation. Badam Wari is one of the most beautiful gardens on the banks of Nigeen Lake, which is less touristy and gives a more local feel.
Apart from the ones mentioned above, Srinagar is home to several other well-maintained gardens that include Chashme Shahi Mughal Garden, Chinar Heritage Park, Naseem Bagh, and Nageen Park - each one quite unique and offering good views of the Dal/Nigeen Lake and providing a serene experience.
Lakes of Srinagar
Lakes in Srinagar are not just the usual water bodies that you find in other cities or areas, but they are the quintessential examples of Kashmiri beauty, with snow-capped mountains as scenic backdrop. It’s hard to believe that all the lakes in Srinagar, in fact in Kashmir, are connected to each other through narrow canals or rivers.
Often referred to as the Jewel in the Crown of Kashmir, Dal Lake is a popular tourism and recreation spot in Srinagar and the second-largest lake in Kashmir (first one being Wular Lake). The lake’s shoreline is encompassed by a boulevard and is lined with Mughal gardens. Tourists can opt to stay on the Dal Lake in Kashmir’s indigenous houseboats, made of pure cedar wood, and those staying elsewhere on land can also enjoy the lake by taking a bedecked ornamental Shikara ride. In summers, lotus flowers grow in the Dal Lake, which turns a part of the lake ‘pink’. Dal lake has more than 30 ghats starting with ghat one at Dal gate. Ghat number is usually the reference point for sharing addresses of house boats.
We recommend taking the Shikara Ride twice - First of course in the evening, when the setting sun imparts golden colour to the water of Dal Lake. There are many options based on how long you want to go around and how many points you want to cover. We opted for a 3-hour Shikara ride in the lake in the evening, where the Shikara-boy rowed the boat with heart-shaped oars and took us to 8 points in Dal Lake, including the floating post office, the Nehru Park, the Golden Lake, the Gurkha houseboat (where Mission Kashmir movie was shot), and the floating market - Meena bazaar (selling all kinds of Kashmiri handicrafts and trinkets) that can be accessed only by a boat. You would also find number of hawkers on boats coming by to sell all kinds of things such as Kahwa (Kashmiri Tea), Barbeque, handicrafts, flowers and even offering to shoot your photographs. Note that you might have to pay a higher cost for most items on the Dal Lake.
We opted for a 3-hour Shikara ride in the lake in the evening, where the Shikara-boy rowed the boat with heart-shaped oars and took us to several points in Dal Lake, including the floating post office, the Nehru Park, the Golden Lake, the Gurkha houseboat (where Mission Kashmir movie was shot), and the floating market - Meena bazaar (selling all kinds of Kashmiri handicrafts and trinkets). We definitely suggest going for a Shikara ride, but note that you might have to pay a higher cost for most items on the Dal Lake.
Another great time to enjoy a Shikara ride in the lake is very early in the morning, when the waters are still and reflections in water much better and hardly any tourists around. The added advantage of this time is getting a chance to see the lake dwellers buying and selling fresh vegetables at throw-away prices at the floating vegetable market known as ‘Raad’ in Kashmiri. Note that to witness this, you may have to start very early (around 5 AM) in your Shikara based on how far you you stay from this market.
Leading from the Dal Lake is the smaller Nigeen Lake. This lake’s surroundings are more serene and and peaceful. The lake is surrounded by willow and poplar trees, whose reflections are beautifully mirrored in the water of the lake. Nigeen Lake is a nice getaway from the happening / chaotic (depends on how you see things) Dal Lake and acts as a perfect place to escape from the hectic and busy urban life. Without having to travel out of Srinagar, Nigeen Lake provides tourists a chance to unwind.
We stayed in houseboats at both Dal and Nigeen Lake, and all we can say is that the lakes are completely opposite of each other. At Dal, you will be surrounded by a lot of hawkers selling over-expensive trinkets in their boats; who, after a point of time, start irritating you. However you can access the boulevard road easily that has hordes of shops, restaurants etc. At Nigeen, everybody mind their own business and that’s what makes it peaceful. Houseboats are spaced apart in Nigeen unlike Dal making it much more quite and serene.
Higher Points Giving 360 degree Views of Srinagar
Whenever we explore a city, we first try to get to its highest point to get a real perspective of the place, understand the geography, and of course to enjoy a birds eye view. Here are some places you can visit in Srinagar to get such a view.
Situated at an altitude of 1100 feet above the surface level of city, Shankaracharya Temple is a renowned Hindu temple in Srinagar, which is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Adi Shankaracharya, who was a philosopher, stopped to stay at this very place in Srinagar about 1000s of years ago, hence the name.
You will need to climb some 200 well-laid stone steps to get to the Shankaracharya temple. But from the temple premises, you get a stunning 360 degree view of Dal Lake and Srinagar city on a clear day; worth all the hard climb. Note that road leading to the hill gets closed at 4:30 PM itself and hence you will have to plan accordingly.
Pari Mahal (also called as ‘The Palace of fairies’) is the highest of all the Mughal gardens in elevation from the sea level, as its located atop a hillock in Srinagar. It has a total of seven shallow-terraced gardens built one above another that lead to a palace. Pari Mahal is different from the other Mughal gardens due to the absence of a water channel in the middle. Nevertheless, the garden offers a matchless view of Dal Lake and Srinagar city from its terraces.
Hari Parbat Fort
You can also get a bird’s-eye view of Srinagar from the Hari Parbat Fort, built under the reigns of Mughal emperor Akbar in 1590 AD. Hari Parbat Fort stands on a hillock and the topmost point of the fort provides breathtaking view of Dal and Nigeen Lakes as well as most of Srinagar city. The fort also houses a Hindu temple, few mosques, and a gurdwara, making it a symbol of the diverse religious and cultural history of the region. Hari Parbat Fort is maintained by the Indian Army and late in the evening, it is lit beautifully in tricolours.
Old City of Srinagar
If you want to see real Kashmir, you need to venture into the non-touristy areas (beyond Dal Lake and Mughal gardens) and visit the old yet culturally rich interiors of Srinagar city. And the best way to explore such areas is to enroll for a guided walking tour. We joined a Heritage Walking Tour organised by Cliffhangers India, who apart from organize adventurous treks and offbeat tours across Kashmir, also specialise in having intimate knowledge of the city and its history.
Our walk started from Naqashband Sahab Shrine, a Sunni Muslim shrine, located amidst a garden. It’s believed that when the holy relic of Phophet Mohammad’s hair was brought to Kashmir in the 1690s, it was first kept in this shrine; which was later shifted to Hazratbal shrine. The Naqashband Sahab Shrine is made of wood with intricate carvings in the pinjra-kari style of work. The shrine also embraces a graveyard of martyrs who were killed by the Dogra forces in its surrounding gardens.
The heritage walk then moves towards the Jamia Masjid, one of the most important mosques in Kashmir. Jamia Masjid’s construction is highly influenced by Persian architecture, with the traditional Chaar Bagh plan and a small water body in the middle. The mosque can accommodate up to 30,000 pilgrims during prayer time and has separate sections for women to offer their prayers.
We then meandered through the Kashmiri Pandit areas, where we saw their abandoned shops and homes having projected balconies and arc-shaped doors. The heritage walk then opened into magnificent Sufi mosques and tombs like the Budshah Tomb, located on the banks of Jhelum River. The tomb is of the mother of the most benevolent ruler of Kashmir, Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin - the 8th emperor of Shah Mir dynasty that ruled Kashmir from 1339 to 1561. The tomb looked more like a grand mosque and is believed to be influenced by Persian architecture.
Again on the streets, we moved towards Pathar Masjid, a Mughal-era stone mosque with several arches. Built by Empress Noor Jahan, it is amongst the very few structures erected by a Queen in Kashmir. The mosque really stands out with a lotus-like plinth and non-pyramidal roof.
We crossed wooden bridges (locally referred to as Kadals), over the Jhelum River, a few times during the walk. The view of all the notable monuments from Ali Kadal and Zaina Kadal was breathtaking. We also separately walked to the Zero Bridge while staying near Dal Gate. It’s a beautiful wooden structure marvel. There are 7 old wooden bridges on River Jhelum that are named after the various rulers of the region and also in numbers 'zero to six'. Buzzing markets surround these bridges.
Our walk ended at Khanqah-e-Moula, the most stunning Kashmiri monument decorated with papier mache art on the walls. The mosque is prominently green in colour with intricately carved wooden doors and windows. The inside is adorned with chandeliers and colourful walls. Khanqah-e-Moula has a huge pavilion, where the worshippers feed grains to hundreds of pigeons flying around in the complex. A perfectly marvellous end to our Heritage Walking Tour with Cliffhangers India.
The Heritage Walking Tour was much more than a guided tour; more like an friendly walk with a highly knowledgeable person - Mr. Arif, who is not only passionate about Kashmir and its heritage, but is also well-read and keen to answer all our curious questions ranging from Kashmir to Islam. He was open enough to objectively view his own religion and history & paint an honest picture for us. As someone who has seen political aspects of this region only from a distance - this walk was a complete eye-opener for us and we highly recommend it to visitors who want to understand Kashmir beyond the tourist-traps.
We also happened to visit the Hazratbal Mosque separately. It is actually a Dargah, which houses the holy relic of Prophet Mohammed. Hazratbal Mosque is located on the banks of Dal Lake and provides a great view of the lake from the backside garden. Made of white marble, the mosque is amongst the most respected Dargah in Kashmir. It’s fun to see thousands of pigeons cooing and playfully flying between trees in the backside garden.
Other places to visit in Srinagar
Floating Post Office
The Nehru Park Floating Post Office located on the Dal Lake is the only floating post office in the world. The post-office is basically in a houseboat anchored close to Ghat No. 9 and easily accessible from the Boulevard road surrounding the lake. The post office generally sells postcards at the houseboat itself, but they are running out of stock since 6-7 months now.
The nearest shop that sells postcards is near Ghat No. 1, so we had to drive all the way back to Dal Gate to get the cards. And disappointingly, the quality of the photos on the postcards that we saw were way outdated. Any tourist would have better photos with them, if only we could get them printed! With no option left, we bought those average cards at INR 20/postcard.
Back at the floating post office, the post master stamped the cards (INR 5 stamp for India and INR 20 for foreign countries) and put a seal of 'a man riding a shikara' over the stamps. All-in-all, the service at the post office is smooth and quick, just get your cards from elsewhere. The red post box is hung right outside the floating houseboat and excitedly we dropped our cards in there, hoping they’ll reach the addresees.
If you are one interested in museums, Srinagar does not have many options. The best museum to visit in Srinagar is Sri Pratap Singh museum in Lal mandi which is located in summer palace of Maharaja Sri Pratap Singh, ruler of Jammu & Kashmir from 1848 - 1925. There are upwards of 70,000 artifacts here that enlighten visitors about the rich cultural heritage of the state. One can easily spend an hour here going through archaeological section, antiquities, coins and decorative arts.
You can also visit craft museum in central market near Airport which houses various handmade artifacts such as Namdha carpets, copperware, sozni embroidery, Papier-mâché, clothing items etc.
Places to visit near Srinagar
Gulmarg (50 km), Pahalgam (90 km), and Sonmarg (100 km) are the most touristy places to visit near Srinagar and are often frequented by lakhs of visitors each year. We did an Offbeat Tour of Kashmir to lesser known places around Srinagar with Cliffhangers India. The Offbeat Tour included places like Daksum (100 km), Doodhpathri (50 km), Yusmarg (50 km), Bangus Valley (100 km), Lolab Valley (100 km), Athwatoo (70 km), and Naranag (50 km).
Other places to visit near Srinagar include Gurez (130kms), Dachigam National Park (20 km), Wular Lake (65 km), Manasbal Lake (30 km), Aru and Betaab Valley (100 km).
Where to stay in Srinagar?
We were in Srinagar for few weeks and were hopping around different areas which helped us identify some great places to stay in Srinagar. You can read our detailed article on Best places to stay in Srinagar, but here is a quick summary of places we experienced and would recommend.
Undoubtedly the best luxury accommodation in Srinagar. Mascot Houseboats are a group of three houseboats located in a quiet corner of Nigeen Lake. They have palatial rooms with 5-star amenities and an upper deck, that offers stunning views of the lake and surrounding mountains. Their Kashmiri hospitality is top-notch and food so yum, you will lick your fingers! Mr. Showkat, the host at Mascot, has built the iconic houseboats with great zeal and they truly are a marvel of intricate wooden artwork.
Naivasha Ladakh House
An apartment/boutique stay you should book if you prefer living with the locals irrespective of the centrality of the location. The studio apartment is spacious with a functioning kitchenette. The best part of Naivasha Ladakh House is the lovely orchard in their backyard, that was ready to bloom with flowers during our visit. We found this gem on AirBnB and are grateful that we got to stay here. Fozia is an excellent host and we had some extremely interesting conversations with her.
The Cottage Nigeen
Located close to the Nigeen Lake, The Cottage is a charming homestay with service staff that promises you an authentic Kashmiri experience. The accommodation is an old, re-furbished house with featuring five large rooms surrounded by a well-maintained garden. The Cottage Nigeen is a perfect place to stay in Srinagar if you are looking for a vintage Kashmiri house and home-cooked food.
What to eat in Srinagar (Local delicacies)?
Kashmir is known for its street food, so here’s a list of culinary experiences you must sample when you are in Srinagar.
The cuisine of Kashmir, Wazwan, is an aromatic feast with rice, lamb, and chicken forming the basis of the dishes. Our host at Mascot Houseboats was kind enough to prepare a vegetarian Wazwan for us, which included Kashmiri Haak (green leafy vegetables cooked in mustard oil, asafoetida, and local spices), Aloo-Bukhara (peeled apricots tossed in a spicy gravy), Nadru Yakhni (lotus stem cooked with spices and yoghurt), and Paneer tossed in two different gravys (spicy and sweet); everything served with local bread and rice, ending with Phirni (dessert made of rice, milk, saffron, and cardamom). Absolutely yummy!
This is a fried street food made by dipping lotus stems in rice and gram flour, and then deep-frying them in oil. The outer covering is crispy, but as you start chewing, the inner lotus stem gives a soft yet neutral flavour.
This Kashmiri version of tacos is made by filling the local Lawasa roti (bread) with chick peas (a legume) and making a wrap out of it. Masaal is quite fulfilling and not just satisfies hunger, but taste buds too. It is served with radish chutney.
A basic take-away healthy snack, where black gram and other Kashmiri beans are steamed with spices and salt and served hot.
A much-loved Kashmiri street food. Halwa is made of semolina (sooji) and ghee and served hot with a portion cut from a huge (3-feet diameter) paratha made of all-purpose flour.
A soul-warming Kashmiri drink made by boiling green tea leaves with local saffron, cinnamon, cardamom, Kashmiri roses, herbal infusions, and lots of different nuts. It tastes yum when the brew is served hot.
It is a traditional Kashmiri tea made with green tea leaves, milk, salt, and baking soda. The chai is pink in colour and tastes salty. Sometimes, butter and almonds are added to noon chai.
Where to Eat in Srinagar or the Best Restaurants/Cafes in Srinagar?
Having stayed in Srinagar for a fortnight, we hopped to eat in several restaurants and cafes each day. Here are the ones that we found the best.
The Central Perk
As the name suggests, this café is themed around the popular sitcom show - F.R.I.E.N.D.S. The interiors are bang on with the famous apartment blue door, the famous couch, and posters on the wall with each characters’ famous dialogues. The Central Perk majorly serves fast food, but there was also a small section of Indian cuisines. We ordered noodles, burger, and oreo shake; all served in good quantity and tasted yum. Highly recommend this café for food and photography. The staff is friendly and are willing to click pictures if you ask them. They also sell F.R.I.E.N.D.S-themed merchandise like notepads, coasters, magnets, cushions, and mugs.
There’s another restaurant named - The Winterfell Cafe, themed around the Game of Thrones, in case you are a fan.
If you crave for some authentic chaat, sweets, and fast food dishes while in Srinagar, do visit Nathu’s Sweets located on the Boulevard Road around Dal Lake. Nathu’s Sweets is basically a sweets and snack shop, but they also have an in-house restaurant serving mouth-watering, freshly-prepared food. We ordered Pav Bhaji, Sev Puri, Ras Malai, and a couple of drinks and everything we tried tasted awesome. We hear that they also serve amazing Pani Puri, but by the time we finished eating everything else, we were super-satiated! Not really Kashmiri delicacies but still highly recommended.
Cafe Emerald is located on the Foreshore Road with stunning views of the Dal Lake. They have a first-floor seating that overlooks the lake and you can opt to sit outside in the balcony as well as inside. The place is creatively decorated with flowers and pot plants, and is beautifully surrounded by nature. Do try their coffee, mocktails, and vegetable rolls. The food is priced reasonably and the service was quick. Full marks for the location though!
Books & Bricks Cafe
This one’s a book themed cafe. Books & Bricks Cafe is very uniquely designed with a good collection of books across all genres. It’s ideal for a book lover, a foodie meeting friends, and even for someone who just wants to chill with a coffee and book, and work. We tried a Falafel Burger that came with cheesy garlic dip and with a good portion of French fries. Also ordered pasta that was served with two big portions of garlic bread. Their hot chocolate is yum and must try. All-in-all, great ambiance and good food! With best companion (books), of course.
Apart from these, if you are non-vegetarian and looking for authentic Kashmiri cuisines, Ahdoos restaurant, Stream restaurant and Kareema restaurant would be places you must consider.
What and Where to Shop in Srinagar?
Srinagar’s markets are huge and sell all sorts of things. But these are the things that you should buy from Srinagar -
Dry Fruits: The valley is full of walnut and almond trees and you sure will get high-quality of these dry fruits in Srinagar. There are several wholesale shops in Lal Chowk area in Srinagar that sell finest quality of dry fruits.
Spices: Kashmiri saffron, the world’s most superior spice is grown in bulk in areas around Srinagar (Pampore and Lethpora). Apart from saffron, Kashmiri red hot chilli and Kashmiri jeera are the other spices that you should buy from Srinagar. You will find the spice shops in Lal Chowk area of Srinagar.
Kashmiri Art: Kashmir is famous for art work like making of carpets, wicker baskets, papier-mâché, silk, copperware, silverware, Kashmiri shawls, and other embroidered garments. When it comes to buying art work, why not buy them directly from the artists. Cliffhangers India conducts a day tour named ‘Art and Crafts Safari’ in Srinagar, where they take you to places where artists work, you get to see and understand first hand how things are made, what materials are used, what skills are required, and then you may also opt to buy their art/craft pieces. For example, they take you to a carpet making warehouse, where you get to see how carpets are made, and likewise.
Fruits: Well, since fruits are perishable, you can’t store them for long, but that shouldn’t stop you from sampling these superior Kashmiri fruits. You can buy apples, pears, plums, cherries, and peaches from any local market in Srinagar and savour on their delicious taste. You would also find related products such as jams, jellies, dried slices etc.
Kahwa Powder: Kahwa also comes in powder form which simply needs to be mixed with hot water. Easy to make and also bring back home. Now whenever we make Kahwa chai, it’s flavour reminds us of our early morning Shikara ride to the floating vegetable market in Dal Lake.
Cricket Bats: Kashmir is the largest exporter of cricket bats in the world. Willow trees grow at large, in and around Srinagar. The cricket bats are made out of this tree’s wood. There are lots of cricket bat factories in Bijbehera, a town in Anantnag district near Srinagar. You will find big stores on the highway to Anantnag that sell these cricket bats.
Local Conveyance in Srinagar
Cab aggregators like Uber and Ola do not have their services in Srinagar. The local conveyance is controlled by taxi union and travel agencies. You can either book a taxi with any of the travel agencies or ask your accommodation hosts' to help you with the cab bookings. In touristy areas, you can easily hail an auto-rickshaw to get from one place to other. But be ready to bargain as they quote exorbitant rates.
We tried using cab/auto aggregator app named Jugnoo for getting around in Srinagar, and surprisingly, it worked extraordinarily well. You could also try Novo Cabs which is a local app allowing you to book cabs within Srinagar. We also rented a scooter for a weekend from one of the local two-wheeler rental agencies near Dal Lake. It generally costs upwards of INR 800 / day depending on what kind of two-wheeler you choose to rent. We rode the vehicle to all the sightseeing places in Srinagar without any issues. You could also use the vehicle to visit places bear Srinagar.
Another way you can get around Srinagar is by renting bikes/bicycles. Though you can get the bicycles on rent through several local shops/agencies in the city (mostly located around Dal Lake), we also came across mobile-app based cycle aggregators like Curve Electric, who have several docking stations in the city from where you can take the cycle, leave it at any docking station, and the amount will be deducted from your app based on the duration you took the cycle for.
Guide to Srinagar Itinerary
You can find all the above listed places of interest in map below. You can use it to further plan your itinerary in detail. For Srinagar, we suggest spending a minimum of 3 nights which will allow you to explore everything listed above:
Day 1: Land/arrive in Srinagar, check-in to your place of stay. Late afternoon, visit Nigeen / Dal Lake and take a Shikara Ride.
Day 2: Full day sightseeing starting with the Mughal gardens - Shalimar Bagh, Nishat Bagh, Chashme Shahi Bagh, Pari Mahal and then move on to visit the Shankaracharya Temple. While returning back, visit the floating post office.
Day 3: Book a half-day Srinagar Heritage walking tour for this morning. Late in the afternoon, visit Hari Parbat Fort and Badam Wari.
Day 4: Very early in the morning, go for a Shikara ride (booking to be done a day before) to the floating vegetable market in Dal Lake. The ride starts at 5 AM and you will be back by 8 AM, when you can check-out and move on to other places to visit near Srinagar.
You could of course stay more and do things slowly. You might also get more time to shop, do art and craft walks or hop cafes.
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That's all about Srinagar - best places to visit, stay, eat, and everything in between. If you have already visited Srinagar and have suggestions, please leave a comment below. Hope this guide on Srinagar helps you plan your trip.