It’s not for nothing that poets and writers call this part of the country paradise on Earth. Towering mountains, pretty lakes, and gardens that could well be from Eden, Srinagar has it all.
Best time to visit While it is an all-year destination, you will have to decide when to visit: in spring, when tulips come alive and the Dal Lake turns into a flower market, summer when the orchards are rich with apples or winter when snow drapes a silent blanket all over the town. Regardless of when you go, this guide to Srinagar will have you covered.
How to reach
By Air: Srinagar International Airport or Sheikh-ul-Alam Airport is the main airport, located 12km away from the city. IndiGo operates more than 50 weekly flights between Srinagar and other key locations in the country.
By Train: Srinagar Railway station serves the city, however it connects only to Anantnag, Qazigund and Baramulla. The nearest railway station is Jammu Tawi Railway station in Jammu that is well-connected to all major parts of the country through various trains.
By Bus: Jammu and Kashmir State Road Transport Corporation (JKSRTC) and private operators provide bus services, connecting the city to other towns and regions.
Getting around: Auto-rickshaws and buses by JKSRTC as well as private operators are the most popular means of transportation in the city.
The trick is to eat light during the day, and then get primed for an expansive and meaty banquet during dinner time. Wazwans are prepared by chefs, called wazas, who are descendants of culinary masters from past royal courts. It is a difficult task, with 36 dishes in all. The grand finale is gushtaba (spiced meatballs dipped in yoghurt) if you can make it to the end of the meal. Ahdoo’s on Residency Road serves an elaborate and authentic wazwan.
For street food, a stroll around Dal Lake will throw up a medley of Kashmiri nibbles and snacks. Lotus stems, fried potatoes are on offer. And don’t miss the fragrant concoction of hot green tea, cardamom and saffron called kahwa. A beautiful, healthy and happy ending.
If you wish, The Vivanta by Taj – Dal View on Kralsangri can set up the ultimate romantic meal experience for you at Char Chinar Island—a spot right in the middle of Dal Lake where four chinar trees rise on a small island, and you can reach by shikara.
Enjoy a delicious breakfast as you get a 360-degree view of the Zabarwan Mountains, the old city, the Mughal gardens and the lotus carpets.
While you sip Oolong tea in a Cotswolds-inspired tearoom housed above the iconic Mahatta & Co. photography studio, there’s a mix of culture brewing in the air. That’s precisely what Chai Jhai on The Bund, Residency Road is a tea lover's abode which also doubles as a space for conversations about arts, literature, and music. Serving around eight different varieties of tea from Kashmir and 25 from across the globe, the elaborate menu also includes local treats such as shirmal and kulcha, in addition to fresh bakery products sourced from the valley’s popular French patisserie Le Delice.
Whether it’s ethnic fabrics or exotic spices, Srinagar’s markets have plenty, provided you know where to look:
M Shah, Polo View Road: Famous for designing Nargis Fakhri’s outfits in the movie Rockstar, this store is frequented by locals looking for stylish Kashmiri fashion. It specialises in hand embroidery on wool, cotton and silk.
Saklain’s Coterie, Polo View Road: Rashid Ahmad Kawos’s store sells gorgeous-smelling essential oils made from local produce such as lavender and walnut, and handmade soaps such as almond honey and royal saffron. You’ll also find saffron, dry fruit and a powdered version of Kashmiri kahwa for those who want to take this local aromatic tea back home.
M Sadiq & Sons, Polo View Road: Among the numerous papier-mâché and handicraft stores on Polo View street, this one stands out for its quality and design.
Amin-Bin-Khaliq, Polo View Road: Kashmir has long been famous for its dry fruits, and this store is known for selling high-quality ones. From smoked almonds, walnuts and saffron to dried cranberries, dates and prunes, the array of produce here is endless.
Kashmir Loom, The Bund: Jenny Housego, a textile historian (and former member of the textile department at The Victoria and Albert Museum in London), started this company along with locals Hamid, Zahid and Asaf Ali. Immersed in reviving the Kashmir shawl and Sozni traditions by creating collections in cashmere, silk and cotton, a visit to their studio is a must, but be warned—it’s by appointment only.
Kashmir Government Arts Emporium, Boulevard Road: This is a great place to buy Kashmiri products, as it ensures the artisans get their fair share of the profits. You’ll find apparel, handicrafts and woven carpets, as well as walnut wood furniture, which can be shipped all over the world.
Andraab, Humhama Chowk: Producing Pashmina pieces woven and embroidered by hand, its clientele includes celebrities such as Richard Gere and Judi Dench. The store is on the way to the airport, near Humhama Chowk, the perfect way to end your holiday.
Vivanta by Taj – Dal View, Kralsangri Hill Perched on a hill, the views from this hotel present Dal Lake in all its splendour, this one is for the hopelessly romantic. Feast on dazzling views: carpets of colourful tulips in spring, the snow-capped peaks of the Zabarwan range during winter and the golden chinars in autumn.
The Lalit Grand Palace, Gupkar Road In its former avatar as a lavish palace, The Lalit hosted an excellent list of famous personalities, Lord Mountbatten being just one. It’s your turn now to live like a royal, with the Dal Lake and the mighty Himalayas around you.
Butt's Clermont Houseboats, Dal Lake Moored in a sheltered corner of the lake, the houseboats are built with cedar wood and furnished with Kashmiri objets d’art. Legend has it that this is one of the places Ravi Shankar taught George Harrison how to play the sitar. When you’ve had your fill of the unparalleled views—placid waters and surrounding snow-covered peaks—step directly onto Naseem Bagh from your houseboat–a beautiful Mughal garden where you can spot chinar trees that are over 400 years old.
WelcomHeritage Gurkha Houseboats, Nagin Lake A stay on these exquisitely carved wooden houseboats is a must, especially to kick-start your holiday. Spend your evenings with a hot cup of kahwa and watch locals sell their Kashmiri crafts right in the middle of the lake.
Srinagar Walks: When you get over with history, take a step forward and discover how the best of Kashmir’s handicrafts are crafted. Go on a guided walk through the old city with Srinagar Walks where you can see artisans at work, in their homes, and even enjoy a cup of kahwa with their families after buying a pashmina shawl or two at prices that are substantially lower than at the shops.
Rozabal: At the north end of the Sufi shrine of Pir Dastgir Sahib in Khaniyar is another small, green shrine known as Rozabal. A highly controversial theory claims that the shrine’s crypt holds the grave of Jesus Christ. Tourists are actively discouraged from approaching, but the mere existence of this little place poses some intriguing questions.
Indira Gandhi Memorial Tulip Garden: It is among the recently added tourist attraction in Srinagar, attracting a lot of tourists since its inception. Sprawling across 29.6 acres, it is the largest tulips garden in Asia. With 20 lakh flowers of several varieties of tulips, the place looks magical as a painting. Its scenic backdrop filled with beautiful Dal Lake and majestic Zabarwan enhance its beauty further.
Sonmarg: A must get away from Srinagar, you will be awestruck to see this mesmerising scenic place. Surrounded by glaciers and lakes, the place looks ethereal and an ideal destination for nature lovers.
Gulmarg: Crowned as the 7th best skiing destination in Asia, it is a hub for winter sports in India. Along with enjoying the enchanting beauty of this place, you can satisfy your sports bug with various sports like tobogganing, snowboarding and heli-skiing. While visiting Gulmarg, you must try Gulmarg Gondola, world’s highest ropeway connecting Gulmarg to Mount Apharwat.
Patnitop: A beautiful hill station famous for its scenic surroundings, it’s another great getaway from Srinagar. Located in the Udhampur district, near Pir Panjal range, this place boats of beautiful locations and landmarks attracting many tourists every year.
There’s more to Srinagar than just gardens, lakes and shikaras. Contemplate a visit to The Lalit Grand Palace, to have a gin and tonic under the courtyard’s chinar tree: this spot was once the meeting site between Gandhi and the erstwhile ruler of Kashmir, Maharaja Hari Singh, who formally joined Kashmir to the Indian union back in 1947. Could anything be more historical?