Houseboat is the main part of Kashmir tourism. Trip to Kashmir valley is not complete without a stay in a houseboat. These Houseboats are anchored to one side of the lake and they don't move in water. All basic facilities like electricity, toilets, hot & cold water are available. Each houseboat will have either three or four double bed rooms. There are around 700 houseboats around Srinagar with total capacity of 2750 rooms.
Staying in houseboat
There are three areas where houseboats are available in Srinagar. On river Sutlej, Dal Lake and on Nigeen Lake. ( Which location is best ? , see the review below and post your experience )
Like star rating of hotels, houseboats are also rated staring from most luxurious ones called Deluxe houseboats. Then the rating goes down starting best one as A Grade and then the lowest grade is D. You can expect more personalized service compared to hotels as houseboat owner family will be always there with you to assist you in other activities. One member of the owners family can be your trekking guide or arrange a family trip to nearby village. Houseboats are anchored to one side or it will have Shikara for dropping and pickup from the main road.
You can plan your total package trip to Srinagar and nearby places by staying in houseboat. Tour Packages can be prepared with any type of offers ( AP, MAP, CP, EP).
History of Houseboat in Srinagar
The history of houseboats in Srinagar is linked with British period when the king of Kashmir Sri Gulab Sing didn't allow British people to buy land or do any construction activity in the valley. Then small house boats were constructed to keep on Dal lake and those days these small house boats were moving in water. British people were staying along with locals in the same houseboat. Subsequently independent houseboats were constructed and design and construction of the houseboats changed a lot to present houseboats.
Construction and Interior of Houseboats
At today price cost of one houseboat will be one core ( 10 Million rupees ) mainly because of high cost of wood. Considering the price as 4500/ per sq.feet, the requirement will be around 400 sqft of wood. Bigger size and width of wood is also required. Length of the house boat is 60 ft to 100 ft and 14 ft wide. At present Houseboats are 60 years old and some are 90 years old. In some places it is 3rd generation of owner who is managing the houseboats. All the houseboats of Srinagar are old ones. Now construction of house boat is not economical as the return is not much. Houseboat demands will remain during two to three months of tourist seasons.
The front part of the houseboat is used as deck, you can relax here and enjoy the beauty of the lake. Next is the living room with antique furniture like sofas chairs, a small library is maintained with old books mostly English novels. These are kept keeping test of guests who want to relax here in a peaceful atmosphere.
Next is dinning room with wood dining table and furniture. Chandeliers lighting are kept inside the room giving a high antique look to the room. After this all guest rooms. Usually there are two bed rooms for couples and one three bed room at the end. All furniture inside the rooms are of wood and nicely carving done to give a elegant look. Magnificently stitched traditional crewelwork window curtains are used in all rooms. Each room have attached bathroom & toilet.
Throughout the houseboat it is wall to wall Kashmiri carpet is used. Tiles are used in toilets.
You will find wood carvings in doors, windows and ceilings also. With traditional Kashmiri style Jharoka and furniture are kept inside. Guests are requested not to put water in floor of toilet so bath tub with screens around are provided. Antique decorative lights are provided throughout.