“Floating Palace”: Houseboats in Srinagar

For many travelers who visit Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir in Northern India, the travel experience is not complete, until you have spent at least a night in a houseboat.

A tourist admiring the beauty of houseboats in the Dal Lake. Srinagar, India, July 2014.

A tourist on a shikara boat ride, admiring the beauty of houseboats in the Dal Lake. Srinagar, India, July 2014.

The houseboats in Srinagar originated during the British Raj period. During that time, the Kashmir king, Gulab Singh, did not allow foreigners to own land in the Kashmir valley. So, they had to convert cargo boats into houseboats, which were decorated beautifully with carved wooden panels (khatamband). Nowadays, many houseboats are furnished lavishly with elegant furniture, chandeliers, grand dining and living rooms, bringing nostalgia for the 1930s Raj era. Most houseboats offer very personalized service, both from houseboys and the owners and their families, who live close by.

Therefore, the charming boathouses in Srinagar are sometimes nicknamed as “floating palaces”, where you can get everything you need on board.

Charming houseboats of the Shelter Group near a footbridge crossing the Jhelum River. Srinagar, India, July 2014.

Charming houseboats of the Shelter Group near a footbridge crossing the Jhelum River. Srinagar, India, July 2014.

The houseboat usually has a front deck, a living room, a dining room, two or three double bedrooms and a back deck. Most guestrooms have bathrooms en suite. Some boats are more than 30 years old.

Front deck of the Shelter Group’s houseboat with carved wooden panels. Srinagar, India, July 2014.

Front deck of the Shelter Group’s houseboat with carved wooden panels. Srinagar, India, July 2014.

Inside the living room of the Shelter Group’s houseboat. Srinagar, India, July 2014.

Inside the living room of the Shelter Group’s houseboat. Srinagar, India, July 2014.

Inside the dining room of the Shelter Group’s houseboat. Srinagar, India, July 2014.

Inside the dining room of the Shelter Group’s houseboat. Srinagar, India, July 2014.

A cozy sofa in the living room at the back of the Shelter Group’s houseboat. Srinagar, India, July 2014.

A cozy sofa in the living room at the back of the Shelter Group’s houseboat. Srinagar, India, July 2014.

Unlike moving houseboats in Kerala, Southern India, the houseboats in Srinagar are usually stationary. They are anchored individually along the western part of Dal Lake, close to the lakeside Boulevard.

Houseboats in a quiet corner of the Dal Lake, reflecting on the lake’s mirror-like surface at sunrise. Srinagar, India, July 2014.

Houseboats in a quiet corner of the Dal Lake, reflecting on the lake’s mirror-like surface at sunrise. Srinagar, India, July 2014.

There is a vast selection of houseboats to choose for every budget. During my trip to Srinagar with my friends in July 2014, we chose to stay at Shelter Group of Houseboats, which has several houseboats along Jhelum River. Though the location is a bit far from Dal Lake and the Boulevard where most houseboats are located, but you can really enjoy peaceful atmosphere and cool fresh air around the houseboats.

In addition, since the houseboats are located in a flowing river, you will not have put up with polluted and stinky water of the Dal Lake, which is a turn-off for many visitor. Moreover, since the houseboats are connected to the shore by small bridges, you do not have to haggle with shikara (gondola-like boat) boatmen when you cross to the houseboats too. (See details of the Shelter Houseboats below.)

Tree-lined shore of the Jhelum River and a footbridge connecting to the shopping and business district near the Clock Tower. View from the Shelter Group’s houseboat. Srinagar, India, July 2014.

Tree-lined shore of the Jhelum River and a footbridge connecting to the shopping and business district near the Clock Tower. View from the Shelter Group’s houseboat. Srinagar, India, July 2014.

Houseboats are an important source of incomes for local people in Srinagar. Not only for the owners, but also for shikara boatmen, flower and souvenir sellers, who sail around on their boats with heart-shaped paddles. Since the region is affected by ongoing internal conflicts between nationalist Muslims and Jammu Hindus, staying at houseboats is one way to support local tourism.

A group of tourists on a shikara crossing to their houseboat facing the Boulevard. Srinagar, India, July 2014.

A group of tourists on a shikara crossing to their houseboat facing the Boulevard. Srinagar, India, July 2014.

For more information about the Shelter Group of Houseboats, please visit its website: http://www.houseboatsinsrinagar.co.in/

PS – This post was written in order to give an overview of houseboats in Srinagar. I was not paid for it by the Shelter Group. 🙂

Advertisements

One thought on ““Floating Palace”: Houseboats in Srinagar

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s