The Travel Advisory
Where to stay, where to eat, and what to do in Kashmir
Where to stay
Far and away the most luxurious and atmospheric choice in Srinagar is Butt’s Clermont Houseboats (buttsclermonthouseboats.com), located on Dal Lake about half a mile down the road from the Hazratbal mosque. A butler will bring meals and afternoon tea to your dining room, and the shikara wallah (or his son) will take you on predawn or late-afternoon cruises on the lake. The cost of staying on a boat, including meals, is $75 per night for a single and $115 for a double; for a shikara cruise, add $10 to $15. Dozens of cheaper houseboats can be found in the Golden Lake area, a channel running along the main lakefront boulevard.
If you prefer dry land, your best bet is the Grand Palace Srinagar (www.ichotelsgroup.com/intercontinental/en/gb/locations/overview/srinagar), a lavish 1910 villa built for the maharaja of Kashmir in the Himalayan foothills above Dal Lake. The hotel, now part of the InterContinental chain, has 115 rooms, suites, and cottages set on lovely grounds that sweep toward the water. Rates start at about $275 a night for a standard room, $475 for a cottage, and $1,140 for the Presidential Suite.
In Gulmarg, the hotel of choice is the colonial-era Highland Park (firstname.lastname@example.org). Rooms start at $140 a night, including meals.
Where to eat
Most tourists staying on houseboats prefer to eat on board, and the food has a deliberately Raj-like feel: multiple courses and heavy on the mutton. But if you’re feeling adventurous, numerous small restaurants scattered throughout the city serve the traditional wazwan, an elaborate Kashmiri dinner consisting of meat dishes, vegetables, rice, and dessert. The restaurant at the Grand Palace hotel is pricey, but one of the best in town. For lunches ranging from hummus and falafel to tuna croissants, and the best cappuccino in Srinagar, try the recently opened Coffea Arabica in the downtown Broadway Hotel.
What to do
Most mornings, beginning just before dawn, Srinagar plays host to a floating market on Dal Lake, a lively spectacle with hundreds of vendors selling fruit and vegetables from their slender shikaras. Rising above the lake is the biggest tourist draw in Kashmir: the Shalimar Gardens, a magnificent arrangement of flower beds, pools, and fountains laid out 400 years ago by the Mogul emperor Jehangir for his wife. The gardens at Nishat Bagh, though smaller, are perhaps even more spectacular, with their towering plane trees imported from Persia.