Location : Srinagar, Kashmir
Attractions: Islands, Houseboats &
Best Time To Visit: June To August
Dal - A Lake Made Of Lakes
Dal Lake is, initially, one of the most confusing parts of Srinagar
for it's not really one lake at all, but three. Further more much of
it is hardly what one would expect a lake to be like - it's a maze
of intricate waterways and channels, floating islands of vegetation,
houseboats that look so firmly moored they could almost be islands
and hotels on islands which look like they could simply float away.
Lake lies immediately to the east and north of Srinagar and
stretches over 5-km. The lake is divided into Gagribal, Lokut Dal
and Bod Dal by a series of causeways.
Nagin Lake, which is usually thought of as a separate lake, is also
divided from Dal Lake only by a causeway. The causeways are mostly
suitable for walkers and bicycles only so they make a very pleasant
way of seeing the lake without having to worry about traffic or
The main causeway across the lake carries the water pipeline for
Srinagar's main water supply. Dal gate, at the city end of Dal Lake,
controls the flow of the lake into the Jhelum river canal. It's the
steady flow of water through the lake, combined with its relatively
cold temperature, which keeps it so clear looking.
The largest group of houseboats lies along the western edge of the
lake near the lakeside boulevard, towards Dal gate. They are lined
in looping rows and around small islands. Several hotels can also be
found on flat islands in the lake. Beyond the houseboats to the
northwest are the floating gardens.
Around Dal Lake
There are three islands in the lake; three real islands anyway,
there are other sorts of islands joined by causeways. Around the
lake are many of Srinagar's most interesting sights, in particular
the pleasant Mughal gardens. It's also flanked by hills,
particularly along its east bank. The Shankaracharya hill provides a
very fine view over the lake.
Have A Swim!
The waters of Dal Lake are amazingly clear. Nevertheless one is
advised not to go swimming in the lake although the swimming
houseboats, equipped with diving boards and chutes, are moored in a
deeper part of the lake, 'upstream' from the concentration of
houseboats. Swimming here can be quite refreshing, especially on a
hot afternoon. One will undoubtedly be joined by a number of
Indians, including Hindu women who swim in their saris.
The lake is probably at its most beautiful when the lotus flowers
bloom in July and August. The floating gardens, known as "Rad" in
Kashmiri, are one of the stranger aspects of Dal Lake. They're
composed of matted vegetation and earth, which are cut away from the
lake bottom and towed to a convenient location where they are
moored. Tomatoes, Cucumbers and Melons all grow amazingly well in
these gardens, if one look underneath one can see that they do
literally float on the lake. One can also approach the floating
gardens by road; the boulevard runs along the eastern edge of the
lake, providing fine views all the way.
One will often see weeds being pulled up out of the lake - this
serves a double purpose. The lake waterways are kept clear and the
weeds are rotted until they form excellent compost for the gardens.
The shallowness of the lake and its heavy growth of waterweeds is
probably the main reason there are so very few powered boats on the
water. Dal Lake would be nowhere near as pleasant if there were
powerboats rushing back and forth across its tranquil surface.
There are many tours around the lake but by far the best way to see
it is to take a Shikara for a day and do a circuit of the Mughal
gardens. At a reasonable price, there's hardly any other lazier and
more pleasurable way of getting into the swing of Srinagar.