Dal Lake, India

Photo: Alistair Shearer
Photo: Alistair Shearer

You can’t remember the last time you slept so well. Usually, between the street noise outside of your apartment building and your snoring husband sleeping next to you, you only get a few uninterrupted hours of shut-eye each night. But last night, you were completely relaxed. You stared at the endlessly starry sky while gently rocking on an Indian houseboat. At some point, you fell into a very deep sleep.

Almost nine hours later—certainly a record—you’re just starting to open your eyes. You’re surrounded by white linens and colorful pillows on your comfortable bed. Pine floors, intricately carved furniture, chandeliers, and a modern bathroom fill the rest of the room. Huge windows overlook a lotus-covered lake and extensive gardens. Shikaras glide silently over the water. Plus, the Zabarwan Hills and the snowcapped Pir Panjal Range stand in the distance.

You’re on Dal Lake in the Kashmir Valley. This beautiful area of North India sits in the Himalayas. It’s known as the summer capital of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The Maharaja of Kashmir was strict about houses being built in the valley, though. The British worked around this by building lavish houseboats on the lake during the British Raj. The houseboats remained when the British left.

Photo: McKay Savage from London, UK [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: McKay Savage from London, UK [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
One of these, Sukoon, is the eco-houseboat on which you’re staying. The moored houseboat has five spacious bedrooms, communal dining and living areas, and a rooftop sun deck. Sip steaming tea that was delivered, along with flowers, to your room after you woke up. Eat breakfast on the sun deck while you watch the rest of the lake come to life. Then decide what you want to the explore the rest of the day.

Ride a canopied boat around Dal Lake. Visit the vegetable markets along the edge of the water. Stroll through the Mughal gardens, where the emperors once held lavish parties. They have terraced lawns, cascading fountains, and brightly painted flowerbeds. Hike to the Shankaracharya Temple, which dates back to 200 BC, or Hari Parbat, a fort from 1590. Trek through the woods in nearby Dachigam National Park and keep an eye out for leopards. Or stay right at Sukoon with a good book, the gorgeous views, and cardamom-scented afternoon tea. You might even take a mid-afternoon nap. It seems like you’ve found the most-relaxing spot on this beautiful lake.

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