What is it like to live on a houseboat in Dal Lake, Srinagar?

Houseboats and Srinagar are completely inseparable, and a visit to the city is rather incomplete without actually staying in one, even if it's just for one night. But did you know that the history of these houseboats is fairly recent and they introduced on the Dal lake of Srinagar only in the 19th century? Actually when the Europeans wanted to settle down in the state but local laws prevented them from buying land. So an ingenious guy decided to build these boats instead and it became homes for Europeans back then :)

So when I was in Srinagar staying in a houseboat was high on my agenda. Here is a story of about my experience of staying in a houseboat on the iconic Dal lake :)


review srinagar houseboat dal lake
Living room of my houseboat
review srinagar houseboat dal lake
Front porch of the houseboat

Since I have been to Srinagar a few times, many have asked me about whether I would recommend living in a houseboat in Dal Lake, Srinagar. So I am starting a two story series on Houseboats on Dal Lake – living inside and living outside.

So let me start with the story that we all want to see and enjoy. Living within the luxurious beautiful houseboats. These houseboats are basically hotels within the lake, albeit more personal and homely in nature.

While I was in Srinagar, I stayed in two different houseboats. Since I stayed for longer in the second one, let me share stories from there. Lets start with the very interesting name of the houseboat – Apollo Eleven! Well most houseboats have amazingly innovative names and this one was no different – it was named after NASA’s moon mission in 1969. I have no idea why the owners decided to derive their inspiration from this, but it certainly makes a very catchy name!

review srinagar inside houseboat dal lake
Some lovely light in the dining room...
review srinagar inside houseboat dal lake
The room are all on the right...and at the end...
review srinagar inside houseboat dal lake
Look at the ceiling - the wood-work is called Khatamband

The place is run by local guy, who came here as a young boy when he was just fifteen from a village near Gulmarg. At 24 now, he is the sole caretaker and has a young apprentice from his own village. The owner is a rich guy who lives in the city and we never really saw him.

Each houseboat usually has one to five rooms, and almost all of them are identical with an attached bathroom. The rooms are actually very plush and you can spend hours just sitting inside, reading a book or listening to music. Or you can also sip umpteen cups of Kashmiri Kehwa, though be prepared to miss it like hell when you go back home :)


Things to do in a  houseboat!

Shopping

Another fun activity to do is to sit on the front porch and do some shopping. There are many floating shops selling anything from fruits & vegetables, to Kashmiri pashmina and local exotic jewellery. If they sense your interest, they will come inside and show you there complete collection. I am not at all the shopping types, but was really curious to see the number of things that they can carry in a tiny shikara and the kind of negotiations that take place if you want to buy something.

Visit to the vegetable markets

If you are a bit more adventurous and enjoy early mornings, I would very strongly recommend a visit to the fantabulous floating vegetable market of Dal lake which takes place every morning within the lake itself. The market is for the locals and actually starts before sunrise, so if you want to actually go there leave sometime after 4am (it would be very cold then even in summers).


srinagar floating vegetable and flower market dal lake
Some gorgeous red carrots

Here is my personal favourite tip - don't drink any tea of kehwa before you leave because finding a loo at a floating market is not easy. I had this problem and had to knock on the house of a local Kashmiri home and use their toilets. The women of the house had a hearty laugh at my condition but to me they were angles front the sky.

Shikara rides

Now this is something which will happen by default as the only way to reach the houseboats is using another boat - the shikara. But you can do a shikara ride anytime during the day, and trust me it can be a very romantic as well. You can ask your shikara driver (they are very discreet) to take you a bit away from the crowd and he will do that for a small tip. Laze around in the sun, hold hands (try not to kiss in open though), and do all the love talk :)

Comments

  1. The interiors is too fancy for a houseboat.

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  2. House boats are simply stunning! You refreshed my memories from a visit to Kashmir when I was 8 or 9. We had stayed in a house boat and I remember how lovely it was to get there and away through a Shikhara. I also remember seeing beautiful flowers being sold and we used to buy gorgeous lilies that grew in the lake!

    Many house boats had signs that said 'To Let' and I remember thinking why they thought it so important to mention that they have a 'Toilet'! :)

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    Replies
    1. hahah,,even i had that confusion with TOLET. I use to think their school tought that spelling.

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  3. Nice read of your houseboat experience on Dal. The story behind the houseboats of Kashmir sounds interesting.

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  4. Lovely vivid write up... cheers

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  5. Madhuvahini Houseboat Service is the new initiative being launched by Malabar tourism management @ Bekal, Nileshwar, Kasaragod, Kannur, Calicut, Manglore. 1HR, 2HR, Sunset, Dinner, Overnight, Day Night Cruise Available. Life is Better on Boats to explore the area of backwaters and offer Kerala traditional Home and Boat Stay Service.

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  6. KeralaBoatStay::Explore your boating experience!Houseboats complement Kerala's backwater beauty and are an inseparable part of it. When in Kerala, one cannot and should not avoid the exquisite food choices and stay options at these houseboats.

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  7. I had heard that one of the best hotels in Srinagar is a houseboat, after reading your blog I guess it was true. Thank you so much for the post, very informative.

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