There have been houseboats on Kashmir’s rivers and lakes since colonial times, and the floating dwellings, some of which emphasize luxury, are big tourist attractions. The boats were originally built to house British officials of the East India Company. The maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir did not allow the British to buy property here. The first recorded houseboat in Kashmir was registered in the late 1880s. It was only the foreigners who lived in the houseboats on river Jhelum. British rule in India ended in 1947, but the culture of living in houseboats continued and grew as more tourists came to Kashmir. Before the 1970s, records indicate there were around 200 houseboats on the Jhelum River and Dal Lake.Around 1,300 houseboats where registered in four lakes and rivers in Kashmir Valley in 2015. All houseboats, whether used for personal or tourism purposes, have to be registered with the Department of Tourism. Dal Lake had the highest number of houseboats, with 740 in 2015.
Almost all houseboats are stationary. They receive electricity from the mainland through wires on fixed poles in the water, and water from pipes laid on the lake bed, but there is no sewage disposal system. Since 1991, the government has placed a ban on making new houseboats, because the rivers and lakes have become polluted by them. A multi-tier categorization system, begun for the houseboats during the colonial period, continues today for the tourism houseboats and is administered by the Department of Tourism. Houseboats that are homes to people are not categorized.
Many houseboat owners work as fishermen or as “shikarawallas,” the local term for workers who transport people and goods in boats across the lake. Some houseboat owners manage other houseboats that are rented to tourists. Many families also cultivate vegetables on the lake, using a traditional system of mats woven from weeds that can grow cabbage, spinach, pumpkin and others.
Many of the floating dwellings have been passed down in families from generation to generation. The houseboat community is tight-knit. Residents often intermarry, and they celebrate holidays and festivals together. Now, many families who for decades have lived on houseboats are moving to dry land. It’s not clear how many are leaving, because the houseboats are often kept and rented to tourists. But those left behind are working to preserve traditional houseboat culture.The nicer houseboats have updated interiors with the most exquisite walnut-wood carvings and Kashmiri rugs lining the interiors. But above all, nothing can beat the location! Being able to sit on the porch of these marooned boats, gazing at the serenely floating shikharas or the buzzing streets of Srinagar is an unforgettable experience! There’s no way one can experience Srinagar in its true sense by staying in the dull hotels that have sprouted up everywhere else.
The houseboats come in various sizes and are graded by the government tourism department. The categories range from Deluxe (most boats are in this category) to D Grade. Set rates for each category are available. The largest houseboats have four or five bedrooms, and are great for large groups traveling together.
If you're a couple, you'll be better off choosing to stay in a smaller boat as you'll have more privacy and less disruption. The houseboats are very popular with Indian families. The walls of the houseboats are not sound proof either, so mind your business accordingly.
The houseboats generally have separate dining and lounge rooms, as well as a balcony at the front facing the lake. Quite a few houseboats have rooftops that are accessible. Some have gardens. These additional areas are appealing as they provide more space for guests.
Unlike houseboats in Kerala, these houseboats don't move. They're permanently docked on the lake. Houseboats docked length ways along the lake will usually offer lake views from their bedrooms. Otherwise bedrooms will have a view of the neighboring houseboat but their balconies will be fronting the lake.
The power supply does go off frequently in winters but many houseboats have inverters installed but you must check with houseboat if they have the facility. Other things to consider (depending on importance to you) are whether the houseboat provides wireless Internet, 24 hour hot water, and televisions. Also check whether the cost of shikara rides to and from the boat are included in the rate.
The houseboats are usually family owned and operated. Being on a houseboat is like a cross between a hotel and a home-stay. While the accommodations are independent, many houseboat owners give their guests personalized attention. This can be very valuable during your stay as you'll be privy to plenty of local knowledge. Read reviews and check the Internet for information before booking to verify that the owner has a good reputation.
|Plan||Deluxe Room||Extra Bed||Child without bed|
|AP||Rs. 6500||Rs. 2000||Complimentary|
|MAP||Rs. 5500||Rs. 1500||Complimentry|
|EP||Rs. 45000||Rs. 1000||Complimentary|
|CP||Rs. 3500||Rs. 500||Complimentary|
Rates Valid till August 2019
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