x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Beautiful houseboats with a Himalayan view

A reader looking to take a side trip from New Delhi to Srinagar is looking for the quickest route and cost-effective accommodation.

My wife and I are going to be in New Delhi in November and want to visit Kashmir for a weekend stay in a houseboat on Dal Lake in Srinagar. Can you suggest travel companies that arrange inexpensive accommodation? What's the quickest way to travel between New Delhi and Srinagar?

November is one of the best months to visit Srinagar. Expect colourful autumnal landscapes and cool weather - temperatures average around 15°C during the day and drop at night, so pack a few warm clothes. Whichever houseboat you pick on Dal Lake - the second-largest in Kashmir - you'll inevitably have glorious views of the Himalayas and surrounding valleys (make it a point to wake early to catch the sun rise over the snowcapped mountains).

Several travel operators have basic, inexpensive houseboat tour packages but the best way to see Srinagar is to go exploring on your own. Things to do in the city include renting a shikara (gondola) for a cruise around Dal Lake (about 500 rupees; Dh37) to see the floating village and vegetable market, and visits to the 18th century Hari Parbat Fort and Pari Mahal, an astronomical observatory that dates to the Mughal era. The town of Pahalgam, or the valley of shepherds, is a three-hour drive from Srinagar. The picturesque resort is situated at an altitude of 2,130m and, besides offering skiing and other sports during winter, is famous for its golden saffron fields; the plants will be in full bloom around the time of your visit.

Travel Venture India arranges various tours around Srinagar. Its three-day houseboat package costs from 3,800 rupees (Dh284) for two, and includes accommodation in a deluxe houseboat, breakfast and dinner, airport transfers from Srinagar airport, a short city tour that includes stops at Shankaracharya temple, the Mughal Gardens, a day trip by car to Gulmarg or Pahalgam, a ride in a shikara on Dal Lake, and taxes. For information and to book, visit www.srinagartourism.com.

Srinagar Houseboats has all kinds of accommodation (with 24-hour room service and internet access), from cosy twin rooms to large, well-appointed suites complete with walnut panelling, silk drapes and crystal chandeliers. Double rooms cost from 5,000 rupees (Dh374) per night, full board, including taxes. The front desk also organises city tours, lake cruises, day trips to nearby tourist sites and trekking and fishing expeditions. For more information and to book, visit www.srinagarhouseboats.com or call 00 91 981 0303 951.

Lotus Retreat has houseboats in the middle of Dal Lake with double rooms from 3,800 rupees (Dh284), based on two sharing, full board, including taxes and shikara transfers from the lake shore. Visit www.lotus-retreat.com or call 00 91 124 4073 072.

The fastest way to get to Srinagar from New Delhi is to fly (Srinagar lies about 900km to the north of New Delhi). The low-cost airline IndiGo (www.goindigo.in) has daily flights between the Indian capital and Srinagar from 4,233 rupees (Dh317) return, including taxes.

Do you have travel questions or queries? Email them to us at travel@thenational.ae