Go Here: Kashmir’s Houseboat Paradise in India
Kashmir, for those of you who may be unaware, is more than a kickass Led Zeppelin song. Back in the day, Kashmir, and more specifically Dal Lake, located in the lush mountain city of Srinagar, in Northern India, was a Shangri-La of sorts for the Mughal rulers (Muslim descendants of the Mongolian warrior, Genghis Khan) of India, and later on, the British Raj (colonial government).
The stunningly beautiful Dal Lake, also known as “Srinagar's Jewel,” gave rise to an elaborate amassing of tricked out houseboats for summering royalty and government administrators, as well as floating flower and food markets and ornamental gardens, which taken all together created a vibrant lake-based culture that hasn't been duplicated anywhere else on the planet.
The good news is that most of this incredibly rich culture is still intact, despite years of conflict in the region. The bad news is that in order to set your eyes upon Srinagar’s many wonders, you’ll have to venture into Indian-administered Kashmir, where you might have to deal with the occasional bombing of government buildings, street demonstrations spiraling out of control (which means riots), or stray bullets flying your way from time to time. But hey, you’re an adventurer at heart, right? You could proabably use a little more action in your ho-hum life, à la the lifestyle choices of Indian(a) Jones.
Once you do manage to get your hiney into Kashmir, you should actually be pretty safe. Tourism isn’t what it used to be, and the folks running the various houseboats will want to keep you in their sights at all times, in order to squeeze as much cash out of you as they possible can. You might not like all of the extra attention (some folks do), but at least this means your hosts will try and keep you alive.
After you acclimatize to the situation on the ground and out on the water, you’ll get the chance to stay on some of the most opulent wooden houseboats ever made, while touring Dal and Nagin Lakes in style, inside of the small shikara ferry boats.
There are floating gardens and markets, shops that specialize in amazingly intricate papier-mâché, ancient shrines, gorgeous views of the surrounding mountains, river cruises and thousands of years of history to behold in this remote corner of the Earth. You can access most of these marvels from the comfort of your Raj style houseboat. Just make sure you plan ahead, and check for looming uprisings (yes, we know politics bore you), in order to avoid being caught up in a potential social storm.