- Park and garden
I only stayed a few days at Srinagar, the summer capital of Kashmir, but they had to be the most relaxing of my time in India. It's worth noting that the roads to Srinagar are virtually impenetrable in winter, during which time Jammu, being further south, 'becomes' the capital.
Srinagar can be described using the words of an well-known Kashmiri poem - 'If there's a paradise on Earth, it's here, it's here, it's here'. Even if it's not the greatest poem ever written, it's true to its words and this town remains the perfect place for honeymoons and romantic getaways.
Protected by the Himalayan range, there's barely a whisper of wind disturbing the reflections of houseboats on the water. The temperature remains pleasant during summer, whilst the rest of India swelters in 50°C+ and the nights are far more comfortable than elsewhere. The sense of peace is even more pronounced the further you go from the town, as you leave the sound of car horns (an incessant noise, typical of Gandhi's homeland) behind you.
Take a ride along the banks of the lake in a shikara and pay a visit to the mughal gardens, filled with flowers, children and people taking a stroll. One of the people I met even offered me a place to stay, whilst I was debating whether to head up the Himalayas.
I have wonderful memories of my stay in Srinagar from when I lived in India. For me, this is an unremittingly charming city. Srinagar is built around the immense Dal Lake and surrounded by mountains. Daily life there takes place on the water.
I slept on one of the numerous houseboats at the lake's edge. What a joy it is to wake up on the water to such a view! Don't be afraid to haggle over the price of the room: tourist numbers are low compared to the amount of accommodation available.
The best piece of advice I can give to those traveling in India is to rent either an oar-equipped dugout canoe or a motorboat and head off to explore the floating markets, expanses of water lilies, and all the superb floating houses to be found on the lake.
Srinagar is a truly beautiful town, but it's had its fair share of problems. These stem from conflicts in Kashmir between militants seeking independence, others wanting the state to become part of Pakistan and, finally, those wishing it to remain Indian. These internal clashes can lead to strikes and curfews. You do feel the tension when you arrive in the town, due to the presence of military personnel. You'll be told to check out the situation before planning to go there during a tour of India, but, in truth, the town has been calm for several years now.
The old town, amazing Moghul gardens, mosques, Hindu temples, Sikhs...it's a great place to be. But best of all is the lake and this is where it all happens. A floating city of house boats that were first installed by foreigners who, at the time, were forbidden to buy land. You can buy vegetables from a floating market, gaze at the view of the Pir Panjal Range and watch breathtaking sunsets...just a few of the memorable moments you'll have here.