Houseboats are more mobile than you think. They are fitted with everything you need and they come with all kinds of luxuries. Houseboat accommodation offers a unique aspect of adventure and luxury at the same time.
There are around 3,000 to 4,000 houseboats on Dal Lake. The sight of them lined along the Boulevard Lane is more of chaos than serenity but the experience of staying on a houseboat is what lures many tourists to Jammu and Kashmir.
Unlike popular belief, houseboats are static but give you a certain sense of freedom. In Srinagar, almost every river and lake has houseboats floating on it. There is a community that lives on houseboats alone. Houseboats give the poorer sections of the state a place to call home.
Finding the right houseboat for your stay can be an intimidating task. As you walk along Boulevard Lane, you’ll be interrupted by people claiming to be houseboat owners. They’ll choke the lane and call out ‘sir’ to get your attention and show you their cards, then point out to some boats anchored nearby. These houseboats are heavily overpriced; almost 200-300% during peak season in the summer. The right thing is to check out the houseboats and then bargain it down to an acceptable price. Most houseboats include free shikara rides to the shore; if not, it is something to be bargained, as shikara rides can be quite expensive too.
Most of these house boats exude a grand look. The exterior and the interior are finely done with delicate woodwork. Kashmir has a rich tradition of carpentry work and it is best put to use on houseboats. I’ve grown in love with the Kashmiri decors - their grandeur and the comfort are unparalleled. Each houseboat has a small porch and seating arrangement outside, which is an ultimate afternoon tea spot. It also has a small but well-arranged sitting room with a grand chandelier hanging from the walnut ceiling. The arrangements of the rooms are different from each other, depending on the prices.
During summer, the room tariff soars up to Rs.800 for a basic room with shared bathrooms and the houseboats have just enough space to accommodate a bed. The mid range rooms have attached rooms and toilets and even bathtubs. The higher range begins at Rs.4,500 per night. The rooms are luxurious and grand but not as spacious as one would imagine. There’s a certain limit to the size of the boats and the rooms can only be as big as the houseboats.
Houseboats are spread throughout; even deep into the lake. Dal Lake is a world of its own. There are shops, restaurants, gardens, etc. inside the lake. Houseboats deeper into the lake are more peaceful and serene than the ones close to the Boulevard Lane, which is one of the most crowded places in Srinagar.
These houseboats are all fitted with clean water (not from the lake) and proper drainage system (not into the lake). Best care is being taken to keep the lake clean and pollution free.