Dal Lake is 11 km from Dharamshala and surrounded by deodar trees. The lake fills a mountain bowl. The words don't do half the justice to the real beauty of the lake. Dal lake is an enchanting and serene picnic spot where an annual fair is held in September. Apart from being thronged by photography enthusiasts, it really provided the elders with a lot of calm and peace.
Unlike its more popular counterpart Dal Lake, Nigeen Lake is a quieter, more peaceful & far less commercialized lake to stay on. Lined by some beautifully carved wooden houseboats, you could spot the occasional egret in the water & the many shikaras floating by, trying to sell their wares.Bashir ji, our very entertaining shikara guy, as instructed by Mr. Wangnu, decided to row us down all the way from Nigeen Lake to Dal Lake so that we could not only rest on the shikara post a very welcome ‘dal-chawal’ lunch at the houseboat, but also enjoy the serene beauty of the Kashmiri water bodies.We aimlessly floated for more than 2 hours through still waters, thick layers of algae & endless lengths of lilly gardens – to quickly realize that poor Bashir ji wasn’t being able to steer us through the floating vegetable garden because the wind was against us & refused to let us move ahead. Much to our amazement, totally undeterred Bashir ji broke into some popular Kashmiri songs & kept rowing, ably supported for sometime by one of us, who decided to row along & make the shikara move faster.
Bandipora is situated on the banks of the Wular, the largest freshwater lake in Asia which is home to a lot of migratory birds. Inadvertent dumping of the polluted river waters and sewage affluence has led to a pandemic growth of algae in the waters of the Wular which is threatening the lake and its supporting life itself. The main source of pollution to Wullar Lake is Jehlum river. Jehlum river carries all the wastes from Srinagar city and other surrounding areas and deposits it in Wullar Lake. Despite being the richest wetland of South Asia and largest freshwater lake in Asia, no steps have been taken to save Wullar Lake. Bandipora is also a stepping town to the higher reaches of Razdan, Gurez and Tragbal.
Some things that mesmerised me about Srinagar were the Houseboats and back waters of Dal Lake. A shikara ride till one of the houseboats in the lake is an experience that is a must in a lifetime. As the Shikara passed through the various channels, we passed many houseboats which were managed by sincere dexterity by the locals. Kingfishers and other birds become a frequent sight once past the house boats into the backwaters. The kingfishers sit on the tops of houseboats nonchalantly almost within the touching distance of humans who seem to be equally unmindful of the birds. We moved further into the calm waters of Anchar Lake where we were in a totally different world, no crowd of boats, no motor boat engines to be heard and the mood was different altogether. It felt almost like we actually were in Venice, just with a lot of fauna instead of architectural structures.
Nishat Garden is situated on the banks of the picturesque Dal Lake, with the Zabarwan Mountains forming its backdrop. Also known as the garden of bliss, it was laid out in 1633 by Asaf Khan, the elder brother of Nur Jahan. Designed in Persian style, this is a 12-terrace garden interspersed with fountains, colourful flowerbeds and lush green lawns.
A major part of Sringar and Kashmir in fact, has sprawling lush green gardens with the most beautifully landscaped flower beds and fountains amidst structures which date back to almost the late 16th century. I decided to see a few for myself and visited Shalimar Garden first. Situated 15 Kms from the city centre, it was built by Emperor Jahangir for his beloved wife, Nurjahan. Shalimar gets water from Harwan through a canal lined with fountains. These fountains were the main attraction for the tourists and children alike. Next I moved to Cheshma Shahi, or the Royal Spring was laid by Shah Jahan and Pari Mahal. The spring is famous for refreshing digestive water. After refreshing myself with water from the spring, I went 2kms uphill to reach Pari Mahal. The different views from the 7 terraces Srinagar felt surreal and I stood admiring the natural beauty for many a minutes.
Yousmarg is a land of rolling green hills. I went horse riding through these green meadows and explored the inner secrets of this forest. When I reached the river flowing through its heart, I wasn't disappointed at all. There are lush conifers all around and the silence is broken only by the persistent gurgling of the river rushing through the rocks. Sit back and enjoy Nature's beauty while you sip on some golden kahwa. Let me warn you though, the narrow trail leading to the river is not for the faint hearted. It requires quite some endurance and conquering over ones fear of heights.