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Dal Lake

Over 15km around, Dal Lake is Srinagar's jewel, a vast, mirror-flat sheet of water reflecting the carved wooden balconies of the houseboats and the misty peaks of the Pir Panjal mountains. Flotillas of gaily painted shikaras (gondola-like taxi boats) skiff around the lake, transporting goods to market, children to school and travellers from houseboat to shore.

Most visitors to Srinagar stay out on Dal Lake in one of the delightful houseboats left behind from the Raj, but landlubbers can hire shikaras for tours around the lake, visiting floating gardens and the floating flower and vegetable market. It's a colourful spectacle, but expect plenty of attention from souvenir vendors.

Shikaras can be hired from boat stations all along the lakeshore and official rates are displayed on noticeboards. You can commission a shuttle from the Boulevard to your houseboat, and an hour paddling around the backwaters will cost a fee as well, either on shore or at your houseboat.

Note that detours to commission-paying souvenir shops are routine – be firm if you don't want to spend half your day being bombarded with trinkets.

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