A Shikara in Dal Lake Srinagar
A Shikara in Dal Lake Srinagar

Jammu and Kashmir, popularly known as the ‘Paradise on Earth’ is surrounded by natural wonders, including mountains and lakes. From alpine lakes originating from glaciers to lakes nestled in the heart of the capital city, there are many to explore and marvel at. A sense of calm and peace prevail while taking a boat ride across the lakes in Kashmir or simply sitting at the shore and gazing at the mesmerising waves.

With clear waters and many water activities to engage in, visiting these lakes on your Kashmir trip is the must-do thing on your bucket list. For the traveller in you, we’ve compiled a list of popular lakes in Kashmir that you must not miss while being in Jammu and Kashmir.

Dal Lake

Dal Lake lies in the heart of Srinagar – the capital city of Kashmir and is one of the most popular and beautiful lakes in Kashmir. Much of the historical old town surrounds Dal Lake, including the Mughal heritage gardens that overlook the beautiful Dal Lake and offer a picture viewpoint, especially at sunset. Huge wooden architectural masterpieces line Dal Lake known as houseboats, where tourists can stay and experience what it’s like to live on the water.

Dal Lake
Dal Lake | Photo: unsplash.com/@Muazam Mohi-ud-Din

Other than houseboat stays, Dal Lake offers many exciting activities to indulge in, such as taking a Shikara ride. Beautifully decorated and hand-painted, Shikaras are roofed canoe-styled boats that boatmen manually row across the Boulevard and inside a floating market in the middle of Dal Lake. Other than that, floating islands inside the Dal Lake, such as the famous Char Chinar Garden, support the Chinar trees indigenous to Kashmir – a tree much similar to the maple tree found in Canada.

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In autumn, these trees that line the Boulevard road all around Dal Lake turn into a bright orange, transforming the area into something straight out of a picture book. If you prefer to relax by the lake, you can enjoy fishing or ‘Makai Wet’ – a roasted corn cob as you sit and watch the sunset over the magnificent and historic lake. It’s a great place to take pictures from your iPhone, especially during the quiet evenings.

Gangabal Lake

The Gangabal Lake is one of the most stunning high-altitude alpine oligotrophic lakes in Kashmir, located at the foothills of the Harmukh Mountain range. To reach Gangabal Lake, adventurers and travellers must trek all the way up for two days through the valley of Sonamarg, located around 80km north of the capital city of Srinagar.

Gangabal Lake
Gangabal Lake | Photo: Shutterstock

This lake is also home to many species of fish, including the rare brown trout. Fishing, swimming and photography are some of the activities you can do after trekking up to this high-altitude lake. In the winter, the lake completely freezes over; hence, the best time to visit is July-August.

Wular Lake

One of the largest freshwater lakes in Asia, the Wular Lake is one of the most pristine and clear lakes in Jammu and Kashmir valley. It attracts tourists from many countries who visit the lake for its scenic view as well as boating activities, water skiing and other sports. Fishing is an important activity that sustains the residents living in and around Wular Lake, with a wide variety of species found in the lake waters.

Wular Lake
Wular Lake | Photo: Wikipedia

Other than that, wildlife lovers can also spot a rich population of rare birds such as the black-eared kite, Eurasian sparrowhawk, Himalayan golden eagles and other exotic wildlife around Wular Lake. In recent years, due to conservation efforts, there have been many sightings of the Whooper Swan – the rare national bird of Finland in Wular Lake. This species hasn’t been sighted in the Himalayan region for almost a century.

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Manasbal Lake

Located in the Ganderbal district of Jammu and Kashmir, Manasbal is one of the most charming and offbeat lakes to visit. A naturally protected haven for aquatic birds, this lake is one of the cleanest lakes out of all the lakes in Kashmir. The entire lake will be dotted with water lilies and bright pink lotus flowers if you visit during the spring-summer season, making it an instagrammable spot for social media fanatics.

Manasbal Lake
Manasbal Lake | Photo: Wikipedia

The lake also has two beautiful gardens for those wanting to set up camp to capture the starry skies at night or for ornithologists looking to spot rare migratory birds along the lake. Visitors can take a Shikara ride across the lake from one garden to another and enjoy a cup of Kashmiri tea sold by the small vendors along the lakeside. This place has a true other-worldly atmosphere that’s not to be missed in this beautiful part of the city.

These are some of the most awe-inspiring and serene lakes in Jammu and Kashmir. Although there are many more aquatic places to explore, including natural waterfalls, historic glacial rivers and rafting water canals, Kashmir’s lakes should be at the top of everyone’s bucket list when visiting this beautiful Himalayan valley.

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