Staying on a houseboat in Kashmir is probably the best way to experience the Kashmiri hospitality. Sukoon Houseboat is definitely our favourite.
The Dal Lake and Houseboats
Every trip to Kashmir should start on the Dal Lake. Unless you come overland from Ladakh or from Jammu, you will land on the small Srinagar Airport. Although there are some luxury 4 and 5 star hotels in Srinagar, most people stay on a houseboat on the Dal Lake. It takes about 20 minutes to reach the Lake from the airport.
The houseboats are a part of the Kashmir history and were put there in colonial times by the British. As the British came every summer to Kashmir to escape the heath of the Indians plains, they were looking for a kind of permanent settlement. Local laws did not allow them to buy land and build houses, so they decided to stay on luxury boats they moored in the Dal Lake and on the banks of the neighbouring Jelum river. In the nineties when tourism was low due to the political problems in Kashmir, a great number of the boats was neglected. When tourism started reviving however, some entrepeneurs meticulously restored some of the houseboat and turned them into fancy boutique hotels.
A Houseboat is no Hotel
Staying on a houseboat is different than staying in a hotel. Most of the houseboats have 3 to 5 rooms, so you will have kind of a homestay feeling. There a different categories of houseboats, from very basic to top luxury. Also the location of the houseboat is important: some are anchored closer to the town and tend to be noisy. The more upmarket ones are moored in quieter areas of the Lake. Our top pick is Sukoon, moored at the so-called Golden Point.
Of all the houseboats on the Dal Lake, Sukoon is our favourite. This old boat has been in the hands of the Chapri family for decades and was beautifully redecorated some years ago. The whole old boat was stripped and was converted into an ecoluxury houseboat with 5 ensuite rooms. A perfect blend of Kashmiri tradition and modern comfort.
The 5 spacious rooms have attached bathrooms with rainshowers, private airconditioning and comfortable beds. From the upper sundeck you can enjoy watching daily life go past. It is a fine place to relax and watch the sunset on the mountains.
Sukoon is also a paradise for foodies. Blending Indian, Kashmiri and Westerns traditions, the cook and his team will surprise you with some of the best food you can get in the Himalayas.
Most people stay about 3 nights on Sukoon, exploring the Dal Lake, Srinagar, the famous Moghul Gardens and some of the other valleys. However it is a perfect place to unwind, stay longer and live on the gentle pace of the Lake.
For us, Sukoon is the perfect opener before crossing the Himalayas to Ladakh and Zanskar. Or a perfect way to end a trip in complete serenity.
Feel free to contact us for more information about how to include Sukoon in your tailormade India-trip.