Jamia Masjid, built in 1400 AD, is considered as one of the oldest mosques in Srinagar. It is also commonly known as the Friday Mosque. The ancient mosque has been destroyed and restored numerous times over the years. It was last renovated under the reign of Maharaja Pratap Singh.
The design of the religious centre is a perfect blend of Muslim designs and Indian materials. This architectural style was developed by British architects and is known as Indo-Saracenic architecture; as a result, the new building of the mosque does not have a topped dome that is typical of the Muslim design.
A major attraction of this mosque is its prayer hall supported by 370 pillars, each made of deodar trunk. The contrast between the tranquillity inside the mosque and the bustle of markets surrounding it is also a feature much appreciated by visitors. The Jamia Masjid is quite a spacious mosque and has an accommodation capacity of 30,000 people at a time.
Dal Lake, popular as ‘Jewel in the crown of Kashmir’ or ‘Srinagar's Jewel’, is the second largest lake in the valley of Kashmir. This picturesque lake is spread over a large area of 26 sq km and is one of the major tourist attractions in Srinagar. The lake is set against the backdrop of the mighty Himalayas and is known for its houseboats and 'shikara' or wooden boat rides.
The houseboats at the Dal Lake take tourists around on smooth rides around the lake while the 'shikaras' offer ferry rides to and from the Dal Lake to the houseboats. The Dal Lake is separated by causeways into four major basins, namely Lokut Dal, Gagribal, Bod Dal and Nagin.
The unparallel natural beauty and scenic surroundings of the Dal Lake make it an ideal tourist destination. Travellers can enjoy beautiful sunsets here while taking rides on houseboats and 'shikaras'. Tourists can also enjoy several watersport activities organised here. Swimming, watersurfing, kayaking, angling and canoeing are some of the popular watersports that you can indulge in at the Dal Lake.
Indira Gandhi Tulip Garden, located at around 8 km from the city of Srinagar, is situated on the peaks of the Zabarwan Mountains near the banks of the Dal Lake. It is popular for the 7 day long Tulip Festival that takes place here annually. The garden is home to around 70 varieties of tulips of various colours and is also counted among the numerous gardens of Srinagar.
Sprawled over a large area of 90 acres, the garden has at least 1.3 million tulip bulbs at one time during the flowering season. It is situated in the vicinity of the Shalimar Garden, Chashm-e-Shahi Gardens, Nishat Garden and many other Mughal Gardens. The entry fee to this garden for adults is INR 50 and for children it is INR 20.
Chinar Bagh is the newest of all the famous gardens of Srinagar. It was recently constructed by the Tourism Department of Srinagar at a cost of around INR 3 crore. Also, known as Boene Bagh or Chinar Bagh Heritage Park, it was established with the objective of presenting the culture and traditions of Kashmir to tourists.
The park has three islands having swings, kiosks and musical fountains. An open air theatre where cultural programs are held during evenings is another attractive feature of the park. Travellers can also indulge in activities like fishing, camp fires, and swimming competitions that are organised in this park.
Badgam is a district situated some 14 km away from Srinagar. Previously, a part of Srinagar District, Badgam was transformed into an independent district in 1979. It is famous among tourists for its water streams and mountain peaks. Some of the major mountain peaks located in the region are Pehjan, Doodpather, Sang-e-Safed or white rocks, Nakwaer Pal and Yousmarg.
The popular water streams in the area are the Mount Tatakuti or Dood Ganga, Sut Haran, Nilnag, Gandhak Nag, Sukh Nag, Nara Nag and Pushkar Nag. Encircling Badgam District in the south is Pulwama, in the north is Srinagar and south-west is Baramullah and Poonch.
Other popular attractions of the district are Khag and Tosamaidan. Tourists from all over come here to see the picturesque little villages which are located at the foothills of the mountains.
Anchar Lake, nestled amidst mountains in Srinagar is close to becoming a dead lake due to illegal construction, encroachment and pollution in its surrounding area. The lake was once connected to the famous Dal Lake and was quite popular among tourists.
The drastic pollution of the lake has now increased the alkalinity of the water and has made navigating through it difficult as it is swamped with wild plants and flowers.
The Anchar Lake, however, is still considered ideal for birdwatching. Tourists can enjoy 'shikara' or wooden boat rides, which are available at the edges of the lake. During winters, water birds such as pochard, mallard, gadwall snipe and teal can easily be spotted here.
Hazratbal Mosque, situated on the western side of the Dal Lake, is an important place of worship for Muslims. This shrine is known by many names such as Madinat-us-Sani, Asar-e-Sharif and Dargah Sharif. The mosque is made up of white marble and looks on to a striking view of the lake with the Himalayan mountain range for a backdrop.
A perfect blend of Mughal and Kashmiri architectural styles has been incorporated in the construction of this mosque whose history dates back to the 17th century. The term ‘Hazrat’ stands for holy or majestic and ‘bal’ in the Kashmiri language means a place or an enclosed space.
The shrine is considered to be extremely sacred as it is said to contain the sacred hair of Prophet Muhammad known as the 'Moi-e-Muqaddas'. This hair is shown to the general public only on very special occasions.
Chashm-e-Shahi Gardens, an ancient garden established in 1632, is considered to be one of the smallest Mughal Gardens in Srinagar with a length of only 108 m and breadth of 38 m. Also, popular by the name of 'Royal Spring', this garden is divided into three different sections with an aqueduct, waterfalls and fountains.
The garden is situated in the vicinity of the Nehru Memorial Park and provides for a magnificent view of the Himalayas and the Dal Lake. A variety of fruits and flowers including some very rare species grow here. A freshwater spring flowing in the garden believed to have medicinal properties attracts tourists and locals alike.
Dastgir Sahib Shrine, located in Srinagar is known for the harmony and syncretism it has been able to uphold between the various communities of the region for centuries.
The exteriors of the shrine are coloured a delicate green and white while the interiors of the mosque are decorated with Papier-Mache scroll work, floral motifs and Arabic scriptures. The main features of this mosque are the Aytal Kursi that hangs at the door and the beautifully carved colourful panels. Pilgrims tie threads to a wooden ledge here, with offering prayers for the fulfilment of their wishes.
Dachigam Wildlife Sanctuary, located over an area having varying altitudes ranging from a minimum of 5500 and maximum of 14000 ft above sea level, is a popular tourist attraction in Srinagar. It was declared a National Park In 1951. Sprawled across a wide area of approximately 141 sq km, this sanctuary is home to the endangered red deer called Hangul.
Visitors can also spot the black and brown bear, leopards, musk deer and migratory birds in this sanctuary. This national park is separated into two segments, namely the upper Dachigam and the lower Dachigam. The flora of the sanctuary consists of a variety of vegetation including coniferous forests, grasslands, leaved woodlands and rain forests.
The Himalayan griffon, Himalayan weasel, yellow throated marten, leopards, long tailed blue magpie, hill fox and jackal are a few of the fauna that call this sanctuary home. This wild hub is also inhabited by various species of birds such as the blood pheasant, bearded vulture, golden eagle and crimson tapogan.
The Dachigam Wildlife Sanctuary is open all through the year but can only be entered with the permission of the Chief Wildlife Warden. The timings for visiting this park are from 5:30 am to 6:30 pm (Daily).
Imambara Hassanabad, built in 1857, is the second oldest shrine in Srinagar. Millions of Shia Muslims offer their prayers here annually. Situated in the south-west side of the city, this shrine sits in the middle of three other religious places that include the Chatti Padshahi Gurudwara, Hazratbal Mosque and Maa Sharda Devi Temple.
The architecture of the octagon-shaped Imambara Hassanabad showcases an Indo-Iranian style of construction. Around five main entry gates to the shrine are reserved entirely for women.The Baba Mazar, a Mughal graveyard, is also situated close to this shrine.
Famous Kashmiri luminaries such as Baba Ali, Hab Saheb Mulla, a renowned poet of Kashmiri Marsia, and Syed Mirza Shah, the great Persian poet of the 17th century, used this cemetery as their resting place.
Hari Parbat Fort is located to the west of the Dal Lake. The great Mughal Emperor Akbar constructed the surrounding walls of this fort during 1590 and later the fort was constructed by Atta Muhammad Khan, an Afghan Governor, during the 18th century.
According to a legend, Hari Parbat was once a big lake where a dreadful demon called Jalobhava lived. The terrified people of the area then prayed to Sati, the Hindu goddess of marital felicity and longevity, and sought Her help. It is believed that She then transformed Herself into a bird and dropped a pebble on the demon’s head. The pebble gradually grew as it fell towards the earth and crushed the demon to death.
The fort is currently looked after by the Archaeological Department of Jammu and Kashmir. Tourists looking to visit this place must first obtain permission from this department. Lal Mandi Square and the Sharika Devi Temple are some other prime attractions situated close to the Hari Parbat Fort.
Charar-i-Sharif, located at a distance of about 28 km from Srinagar is popularly known as Hazrat Sheikh Noor-ud-Din Wali. It was built in honour of the Muslim Sufi Saint Hazrat Sheikh Noor-ud-Din Wali, more than 600 years ago.
Hazrat Sheikh Noor-ud-Din Wali was born in 1377 to a woman called Salar Sanz and was known in the earlier part of his life as Nund Reshi or Sahazanand. It is said that just three days after his birth, Hazrat Sheikh refused to drink his mother's milk. He later accepted the milk of a female saint or 'yogini' known as Lal Ded who subsequently declared him her spiritual heir.
He was the first person to introduce Rishism in the valley. He preached non-violence, vegetarianism, tolerance and communal harmony. His followers knew him by different names such as Alamdar-e-Kashmir, Sheikh-ul-Alam, Sarkhel-e-Rishiya and Sheikh Noor-ud-Din Noorani.
Hazrat Sheikh also made several contributions in the field of philosophy and poetry. When he died in 1438, around nine lac followers assembled at this shrine within two days. His remains were buried at the Charar-i-Sharif. This shrine has been destroyed many times since, but it still holds great religious significance.
Harwan Gardens is a beautiful, expansive picnic spot, situated at a distance of about 15 km from Srinagar. A canal, known as Sarband, bordered with chinar trees and attractive flowerbeds, flowing through the middle of the garden, adds to its attraction. It is one of the oldest drinking water reservoirs in the area and receives its water from the Dachigam Nallah.
The Harwan Gardens, however, does not have canal fountains as in the case of other famous gardens of Srinagar. Visitors here like to indulge in nature walks in the large grassy lawns of the garden. Treks to the Mahadev Mountain, located in the vicinity, can be undertaken with the garden as a starting point.
Harwan Gardens is also considered as an ideal entry to the Dachigam Wildlife Sanctuary. Travellers on a trip to Srinagar must visit the Harwan Gardens as it is one of the most popular picnic spots in the city.
Burzahom is a major historical site of Kashmir carrying great archaeological importance and is located on the north-west side of the famous Shalimar Gardens. It was discovered that the area was occupied by a Neolithic settlement between 3000 and 1500 BC. The ancient houses found here were semi-subterranean pit houses, partially excavated into the ground.
After 2000 BC, houses here were made of mud-bricks and above ground level. The word Burzahom in the local language stands for 'place of birch'. The place was named so because burnt birch trees were discovered here in huge numbers during the excavation of this site. This proved that birch trees grew here in abundance during the Neolithic Age.
The excavation works on this site went on for almost six years, from 1961 to 1968, and ten human skeletons were found. Scientific experiments confirmed that the human skeletons belonged to different eras including Neolithic-Megalithic, Neolithic and few other historic periods. Some of the major archaeological artefacts collected from this site included pots, arrowheads, animal skeletons and tools.