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SIGHTSEEING IN SRINAGAR

DAL LAKE
The Dal is famous not only for its beauty, but for its vibrance, because it sustains within its periphery, a life that is unique anywhere in the world. The houseboat and Shikara communities have lived for centuries on the Dal, and so complete is their infrastructure on the lake, that they never have to step on land! Doctors, tailors, bakers- one can see them all in tiny wooden shops on the lake, near picturesque vegetable gardens and acres of lotus gardens.


NAGIN LAKE 
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 Shikaras. The main causeway across the lake carries the water pipeline for Srinagar's mains water supply.

THE ISLANDS
There are three main islands in the lake, each poplar excursion points. Silver Island is at the northern end of Dal Lake and is also known as "Char Chinar" after the four-chinar trees, which grow on it. There's a small snack bar on the island as there is also on Gold Island at the south end of the lake. It is also known as "Char Chinar" for it too has four Chinar trees.

The third island is Nehru Park, at the end of the main stretch of the boulevard and only a short distance from the shore. It too has a restaurant although it's a very run down, miserable affair. The children's playground here has also seen better days. Often in summer there are evening shows, dances and festivals held at Nehru Park.

North of Nehru Island a long causeway leads out into the lake from the boulevard just off its end is "Kotar Khana", the 'house of pigeons', which was once a royal summer house.

The Bund
From above Zero Bridge to below Badshah Bridge one can walk along the banks of the Jhelum River on the popular footpath known as the bund. It's a pleasant relaxing place to stroll along and many Doonga houseboats can be seen beside it. The GPO, the government handicrafts emporium and a string of handicraft shops are all close beside the Bund.

Shri Pratap Singh Museum
The Shri Pratap Singh museum is in Lal Mandi, just south of the river between zero bridge and Amira Kadal. It has an interesting collection of exhibits relevant to Kashmir including illustrated tiles excavated near Harwan.

The museum is open from 10.00 am to 5.00 pm except on Wednesdays when it is closed and admission is free.

MUGHAL GARDENS

Kashmir was a favourite of the Mughal emperors who visited it as often as they could. Cool and refreshing after the plains of North India where the business of governance kept them, they planted gardens with stepped terraces and flowing watercourses. When they rested in their gardens, they dreamt they were in paradise.

The next garden along the road that encircles the Dal is the Nishat, built by empress Nur Jahan's brother Asaf Khan. The largest of the gardens, Nishat has several terraces, a central watercourse and a majestic site between the Dal and the Zabarwan hills.

The third Mughal garden - the Shalimar - was planted by Jehangir, the Mughal emperor, whose love for Kashmir was legendary. Shaded by magnificent Chinar trees, the Shalimar is a series of stone pavilions and flowing water with paint box bright flowerbeds.

SHALIMAR BAGH
The Shalimar were built by Emperor Jehangir for his wife Nur Jahan, 'light of the world' in 1616. Although it is known today as the 'garden of love' it was originally named the Farah Bakhsh or 'delightful garden'.

 The garden is built in four terraces with traditional water channel running down the middle. The gardens measure 540 by 183 metres. During the Mughal period the top terraces used be reserved for the emperor and the ladies of the court and was the most magnificent. It included a pavilion made of black stone in the middle of the tank. Black Marble fluted pillars supported the pavilion, which was used as a banquet hall.

Shalimar Bagh has an air of seclusion and repose, and its rows of fountains and shaded trees seem to recede towards the snowcapped mountains. A Son Et Lumeiere or sound and light show is put on here every evening during the May to October tourist season.

PARIMAHAL
The old Sufi college of Pari Mahal, the 'palace of the fairies', is only a short distance above the Chasma Shahi gardens. One can easily walk from the gardens up to the Pari Mahal then follow a footpath directly down the hill to the road that runs by the Oberoi Palace Hotel. The Pari Mahal consists of a series of arched terraces. Recently it has been turned into a very pleasant and well-kept garden with fine views over Dal Lake. It's attractively sited on a spur of the Zabarwan Mountains. The gardens are beautifully kept even today and a Son Et Lumiere show is put on here every evening during the May to October tourist season.

NISHAT BAGH
The Nishat Bagh is another lovely garden with its 12 terraces representing the 12 signs of the zodiac, which descend gradually and seem to almost merge into the lake. It is situated on the banks of world famous Dal Lake in the backdrop of Zabarwan hills. With its flowerbeds, trees, fountains, the Nishat presents a dramatic sight. The gardens were designed in 1633 by Asaf Khan, brother of Nur Jahan, and follow the same pattern as the Shalimar gardens with a polished stone channel running down the centre and a series of terraces.

It's the largest of the Mughal gardens measuring 548 metres by 338 metres, and often the most crowed. The walks beside the channel are bordered with lines of cypresses and Chinars. Also found within its vicinity are some remains of Mughal period buildings including a double storey pavilion enclosed on two sides latticed windows.

Directly behind the garden is the Gopi Tirth, a small spring gushing forth crystal clear water, which feeds the garden water.

CHASMA SHAHI
Cheshma Shahi is the first Mughal garden one will pass after Nehru Park. Built at a height above the city, its views are as stupendous as its layout. The smallest of Srinagar's Mughal gardens, Cheshma Shahi has only three terraces in addition to a natural spring of water enclosed in a stone pavilion.

Smallest of the Srinagar Mughal gardens, measuring just 108 metres by 38 metres, the Chasma Shahi, or 'Royal Spring', are well up the hillside, above the Nehru Memorial Park. The fresh water spring in these pleasant, quieter gardens is reputed to have medicinal properties.

The gardens were laid out in 1632 by Ali Mardan Khan and include three terraces, an aqueduct, waterfalls and fountains. The water from the spring supplies the fountains and then goes through the floor of the pavilion and falls to the lower terrace in a fine cascade of five metres, over a polished black stone chute.

Some extensions have recently been made to the gardens. Like all the gardens the Chasma Shahi is open from sunrise to sunset but unlike the other gardens this is the only one, which charges admission. There is a small shrine, the Chasma Sahibi, near the gardens, which also has a fresh water spring

Hazratbal Mosque

Hazratbal Mosque is located in a village of the same name on the banks of the Dal. Its pristine white marble elegance is reflected in the waters of the lake.

Hazratbal's special significance is derived from the fact that it houses a hair of the prophet Muhammad. This is displayed to the public on religious occasions, usually accompanied by fairs. Apart from these occasions, Friday prayers are offered at Hazratbal and attended by throngs of people. Hazratbal is remarkable for being the only domed mosque in Srinagar; the others having distinct pagoda like roofs. The shrine – mosque complex is situated on the western shore of the Dal Lake opposite Nishat Bagh and commands a grand view of the lake and the mountain beyond. 

Shankaracharya Temple

The sacred temple of Shankaracharya occupies the top of the hills known as Takht-I-Sulaiman in the south-east of Srinagar. The site dates back to 250BC. The philosopher Shankaracharya stayed at this place when he visited Kashmir ten centuries ago to revive Sanatan Dharma.

Before this date, the temple was known as Gopadri, as an earlier edifice on the same site was built by king Lalitaditya in the 6th century AD. In fact, the road below the hill, with residences of high- ranking State Government officials, is still known as Gupkar road. Built on a high octagonal plinth and approached by a flight of steps with side walls that once bore inscriptions, the main surviving shrine consists of a circular cell. It overlooks the Valley and can be approached by a motorable road. A modern ceiling covers the inner sanctum and an inscription in Persian traces its origin to the reign of Emperor Shah Jehan. The original ceiling was dome- shaped and the brick roof, it appears, is not more than a century old.

Khanqah of Shah Hamadan

Situated on the banks of the river Jhelum, between the third and fourth bridge, it is the first mosque ever built in Srinagar. The original one was built in 1395.

Shah Hamadan's full name was Mir Sayed Ali Hamadni, the surname being derived from the city of Hamadan in Persia. Shah-i-Hamdan, who came from Persia in the 13th century, was responsible for the spread of Islam in Kashmir. Khanqah-i-Mualla, on the banks of the Jhelum, was the very spot where Shah-i-Hamdan used to offer prayers.

After staying in Kashmir for many years, he left for Central Asia via Ladakh.A mosque established by him at Shey (near Leh) attracts devotees from far and wide.

The Khanqah is a wooden structure whose chief aesthetic feature is its beautifully carved eaves and hanging bells. The interiors are richly carved and painted, and the antique chandeliers give it an air of opulence.

Hari Parbat Fort & Temple of Sharika Devi

The Mughal emperor's fort crowns the top of Hari Parbat hill. There is little left of its former glory, but the ramparts are still impressive and the old apartments within the fort, even though in a state of ruin, still convey at least a little of the grandeur of the Mughals’ summer retreat in ‘paradise’. The fort was later developed in 18th century by an Afghan governor, Ata Mohammad Khan. The hill is considered sacred to the Hindus due to the presence of temple of Sharika, which is believed to be a form of goddess Durga or Shakti. The wall around the hill was built by Akbar in 1592-98 AD. The hill is surrounded by almond orchards, which make a lovely sight during April when the trees blossom, heralding the advent of spring in Kashmir

 

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