Day 2: Srinagar - Local sightseeing 50 Kms
After breakfast, visit the Mughal Gardens, Chashmi-e Shahi, Nishat & Shalimar Bagh. In the afternoon enjoy a Shikara ride on the Dal Lake (at your own cost). O/N at the houseboat/hotel.
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
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 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.
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.
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.
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.