The heart of the Kashmir is known as Srinagar, the heart of the Srinagar is known as Dal Lakh, because of its own frame. The word ‘dal’ could have either come from ‘bal’, the Kashmir word for ‘lake’, or from the Tibetan word ‘dal’, which means ‘still’. It is believed that there used to be a vast plain called Vitalamarg, which was converted into the Dal Lake is not famous only in India but is famous through out world. Lying in the eastern side of Srinagar, at the foot of Zabarwan Mountain, with Shankaracharya hill in its south, and Hazratbal on its west; is the lake Par-excellence the Dal. There are three lakes in one – Gagribal, Lokut Dal and Bod Dal. Ringed by mountains its banks are shadowed by poplars and willows. The lotus flowers cover it in autumn. The Dal is the ideal site for magnificent Houseboats, while “Shikaras” skim about with the sails in the transparent waters of the Lake. The “floating gardens” is the distinctive features of the Lake. The beautiful “Nehru Park” in the Gagribal side is the star attraction for the tourists, while the Centaur Lake views Hotel, opposite Nehru Park, is the ideal place of accommodation in the Lake side. Another famous Hotel Oberoi Palace is situated close to the banks of the lake, at the base of Zabarwan Mountains. The water of the Dal Lake is coming from springs at mountains from deep with in the Himalayas. Also Dal Lake have own source of water at the bottom as springs in the Lake. The snow melted water from high range mountains also reach to the Dal Lakh. This is natural gift to the people of this land. There are private swimming boats in the middle and provides facilities for swimming, surf riding, boating, bathing, for water sports and water skiing. The darkening twilight transforms Dal Lakh into a shimmering fantasy of lights. The small area just below the Nehru Park is known as Golden Lake.
Among the plants to be found on the Dal are the white lily, the annesleya horrida called juwur by the local people, the delicious singharha also known as horned water nut, the lotus roots of which are called the nadroo, the kamal doda, reeds and rushes. Among the animals Grebes, moor hens, ducks, swans and bald coots are found near the lake. One can also find a large number of migratory birds in winter season.
One can also find a large number of “houseboats” in Dal Lake, Nageen Lake and river Jhelum also. A 19th century Englishman named Kennard is said to have built the first houseboat in Kashmir. A houseboat is a full-fledged house, with two to four bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen, drawing and dining rooms, a little ‘verandah’ and a large deck above. It is made entirely of wood walnut and is a boat that floats on a river or a lake. One can find the same kind of facilities as in a hotel, televisions and refrigerators in the living room, attached, bathrooms, running warm water, western style toilets etc. and that too in a same price tag ranging from Rs 500/- to Rs 5000/- per day. “Shikaras” are meant for ferrying passengers- from one bank of the river Jhelum to the other or from the road/Boulevard to the houseboat. One can also hire them for taking joy ride in lakes. Cloth awnings are used instead of matted roofs in ‘shikaras’, which have low, cushioned seats for six to nine passengers and they usually charge as per the duration for which you will hire them.
In all the swimming boats, the equipments for different water sports are available on hire along with motor boats. Even if one only sits in these swimming boats he has to pay charges. Here you need lot of bargain to deal.