Your Perfect Guide To Booking A Houseboat In Kashmir

Are you keen on renting a houseboat on Dal Lake but worried it might burn a hole in your pocket? Here's everything you need to know
Houseboats on Dal Lake
Houseboats on Dal LakeShutterstock

Kashmir is home to iconic and unique floating accommodations known as houseboats. These traditional wooden dwellings are found in serene waters such as Dal Lake and Nigeen Lake and other water bodies in the Kashmir Valley, located in northern India. They offer a distinct and enchanting way to experience the beauty of the region and its breathtaking landscapes. Travellers in a houseboat on the Dal Lake can enjoy the serene waters, the view of the Himalayan ranges, and the Mughal gardens nearby.

Shalimar Bagh
Shalimar BaghShutterstock

The houseboats that dot the lakes of Kashmir are widely recognised for their intricate craftsmanship that showcases the skill of Kashmiri artisans. These houseboats have ornate interiors, colourful rugs, and modern amenities, offering a charming and comfortable stay amidst the stunning mountains and floating gardens. Onboard, guests can savour authentic Kashmiri cuisine while enjoying the scenic beauty. Accessible by traditional wooden shikaras, these houseboats provide a unique opportunity to explore the region's culture and natural splendour, making them a memorable and tranquil retreat that is best visited during the spring and summer months.

However, with the wide range of options, it could be confusing for travellers to choose an ideal houseboat. Here are things to keep in mind before your rent one.

Location

Nigeen Lake
Nigeen LakeShutterstock

When choosing your accommodation, the most essential factor is whether you prefer a peaceful environment or easy access to bustling areas. With its numerous houseboats, Dal Lake is a popular destination with a lively atmosphere. Still, it can also feel crowded and commercial, with houseboats tightly packed along some canal areas. Because of its vast size, it's essential to determine the specific location on the lake before booking. On the other hand, Nigeen Lake, which is smaller and more picturesque, provides a quieter setting, although some people may find it too secluded. Ultimately, the decision depends on your personal preferences.

Accessibility

Traditional Kashmiri shikara
Traditional Kashmiri shikaraShutterstock

When choosing a houseboat in Srinagar, it's important to consider your desired level of mobility. Some houseboats can only be accessed by a shikara, which are smaller rowboats, while others have the added convenience of road access. Choosing a houseboat with road access is recommended if you value the ability to move around at your own pace.

These houseboats are different from the ones in Kerala as they are not mobile. They are permanently anchored to the lake. Houseboats parked along the length of the lake provide a view of the lake from their bedrooms. However, the balcony will still face the lake if the bedrooms face a neighbouring houseboat.

Price and Logistics

Inside a Kashmiri houseboat
Inside a Kashmiri houseboatShutterstock

Houseboats in Srinagar are of various sizes and are classified into different categories by the government tourism department. The categories range from Deluxe (the most popular) to D Grade, and fixed rates for each category can be obtained from the Kashmir Houseboat Owners’ Association, opposite the Tourist Reception Center in Srinagar.

If you plan to stay in a premium houseboat, expect to spend between INR 8,000 and INR 15,000 per night. The cost ranges from INR 4,000 to INR 7,000 per night for a budget-friendly option.

The largest houseboats have four or five bedrooms, ideal for large groups. However, if you prioritise privacy and tranquillity, a smaller boat would be preferable as the larger ones are noisy. The walls of the houseboats are not soundproof, which could disrupt your sleep.

Meals

Houseboats in Kashmir offer different pricing options depending on whether you choose room-only accommodation or inclusive meal packages. If you are staying in a more secluded houseboat, it is recommended that you include breakfast and dinner for convenience. Please note that the food quality on board these boats can vary, so it's best to ask about the available options, including whether they cater to vegetarian or non-vegetarian preferences.

Additional Details

When selecting a houseboat in Kashmir, it is crucial to consider the frequency of power outages. Do inquire about the availability of a generator. Additionally, it is advisable to check for amenities such as Wi-Fi, 24-hour hot water, and televisions. You must also confirm if the cost of shikara rides is included in the package.

Houseboats in Kashmir are typically family-owned and offer a combination of hotel and homestay experiences. Therefore, it is essential to read reviews and check the owners' reputation before booking. While arranging tours, it is advisable to be cautious and research the costs. For budget travellers, exploring by shikara is an option to find a houseboat.

Rates for houseboats decrease significantly in the winter season, so it is possible to negotiate. To get the best rates, especially during the high season from April to June, it is recommended to contact the owners directly.

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