The Floating Vegetable Market at Dal Lake, Srinagar: A Unique Experience
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The Floating Vegetable Market at Dal Lake, Srinagar: A Unique Experience

May 18th, 2024


Kashmir's Dal Lake is famous for its beauty, but there is a hidden gem – the floating market! It is not just a place to shop but a whole experience in itself. The floating market or bazaar is small but a visual treat for your senses! Be prepared for anything: shikara boats overflowing with flowers, the call to prayer echoing across the water, or even a kingfisher bird perched nearby.  Local vegetable, fruit & flower vendors come via boat from various parts of the vast 22 sq. km. lake early morning at a designated place to trade vegetables for vegetable or fruit & vise versa & very rarely money amongst themselves.
All the items that are sold on the boats are grown in the very same lake. The farmers and suppliers step out of their homes at 4 am and head towards the floating gardens to reap the harvest of the veggie. After that, all the vegetables are taken to the floating market which is located in the center of the lake. 
Keep an open mind when you visit the floating market and enjoy the unique atmosphere while lounging in your shikara. You have to depart early around 4:30 am and try and be there at the market by 5 am or 5:30 am in the morning.


A Feast for Your Senses:

The floating vegetable market is a colorful explosion! Imagine fresh fruits, fresh green vegetables, Kashmiri saffron, dry fruits, shawls, local jewelry and the air filled with the smell of yummy spices. With the fresh morning breeze and slow sound of the lake, the ambience is straight out of a black and white movie, digitally enhanced ! Don't be afraid to ask the vendors about their produce – they're happy to chat and might even give you a taste!

An Interesting Barter system amongst the locals !!

An interesting trivia about the Dal lake's Floating Market is that it is one of the few places where the barter system is still practiced in India. Partially adopting the traditional exchange system with the local traders, it also accepts the modern currency system for tourists and vendors.  The locals here grow vegetables in small lands near the house. Every morning, they stock up their shikharas with their homegrowns and exchange them here. At the end of one hour, they all go back home with a mixed bag of vegetables.


Beautiful Handmade Crafts:

You will be impressed by the multitude of amazing hand-made products that are sold on the shikaras. From soft pashmina shawls, clothes with intricate stitching, to gorgeous rugs – all made with skill passed down for generations. Look for unique pieces that show the local style which can be souvenirs for your home & your loved ones.


Friendly and very experienced local Kashmiri Salesman!

The best part of the market isn't the items on sale, it's the people! The vendors are friendly and love to converse with tourists. Ask them about their products or life in Kashmir, and they'll be happy to chat. You might even get invited for a cup of kahwa (local tea) – a delicious way to experience their warm hospitality. Ofcourse, by the end of the conversation, there is a good chance that you feel obliged to lighten your purse or digital wallet and buy something even if you don’t really need the item.


Here are some tips that helped us during our visit to the Floating Market at Dal Lake, Kashmir. To make it easier for you to understand we have curated it in a Q&A format

Q: What's the best time to visit Dal Lake?

A: The best time to visit Dal Lake is generally
●    Spring (May-August) offers pleasant weather, perfect for shikara rides and exploring the Mughal Gardens in bloom.
●    Autumn (September-November) brings beautiful fall foliage and comfortable temperatures for enjoying the lake's beauty.

Q: What are the timings for Dal Lake?

A: For the floating vegetable market it is advisable to start early in the morning (4:30 am) as the Vegetable market closes by 8 am. For Shikara rides in Dal Lake, during summers one can go for a ride at any time of the day from 10 am. However, evening makes it more pleasurable due to pleasant weather & watching the sunset is an experience like no other.


Q: How long is a shikara ride at Dal Lake?

A: A ride usually lasts 30 to 45 minutes at most. You can do it for a longer period of time as well at additional costs. The shikara ride is a leisurely activity where one can relax, indulge in some photography, and enjoy the stunning views as the boatman rows.

Q: What is the cost of a shikara ride at Dal Lake?

A: The official rate for a shikara ride is decided by the J&K Tourism authorities and amounts to about Rs. 600 per hour. However, these rates are rarely followed, and the minimum amount quoted to tourists is between Rs. 1500 to Rs. 3000, at any of the ghats. After some bargaining, you could be able to drop the price to perhaps about Rs. 1000 to Rs. 1200 per hour and in rare cases to an amount lesser than Rs. 1000. Also, make sure to clarify that the price you have agreed to is per Shikara and not per person.

Q: What is the tip culture at Dal Lake Kashmir?

A: Tipping is quite common in all tourist spots in Kashmir and most people have a tendency to ask for high tips at the end of their service, so beware of that. Even in the floating market at Dal Lake, the Shikara owners have a tendency to ask for a couple of hundred rupees more as tip at the end of the ride.

Q: What are some things to do on Dal Lake?

A: Dal Lake offers a variety of experiences:
●    Shikara rides: Take a traditional wooden boat ride on the lake and soak up the scenery.
●    Houseboat stay: Experience a unique stay on a houseboat on the lake.
●    Floating market: Visit the early morning floating market to see vendors selling fresh produce on their boats.
●    Island exploration: Explore the various islands on the lake, like Char Chinar Island or Sona Lank Island.
●    Mughal Gardens: Visit the beautiful Mughal Gardens located near the lake.
●    Local Food: Sample delicious Kashmiri cuisine at lakeside eateries.

Q: Are there any bargaining tips for a Shikara ride?

A: Absolutely! Here are some tips:

●    Agree on a price beforehand: Discuss the duration and destination of your ride before setting off, and settle on a price you're comfortable with.
●    Don't be afraid to negotiate: Negotiation is common in Kashmir. Be polite but firm in your offer.
●    Consider group rates: If you're traveling with others, you might get a better price per person.

Q: Are there any safety precautions to take on Dal Lake?

A: While Dal Lake is generally safe, here are some things to keep in mind:

●    Be cautious with valuables: Don't leave your belongings unattended on the shikara, especially if you're getting off to explore an island.
●    Bring warm clothes: Even in summer, the evenings can be cool, so pack a light jacket or shawl.
●    Choose a reputable houseboat: If you plan to stay on a houseboat, do your research and book through a trusted source.

Q: What else should I know before visiting Dal Lake?

A: Here are some additional tips:

●    The fastest way to reach would be a motor boat ride 30 mins from Srinagar 
●    Carry cash (INR): While some places may accept cards, it's always good to have cash on hand for smaller purchases and tips.
●    Respect the local culture: Dress modestly, especially when visiting religious sites.
●    Bargaining with a Smile: Forget about intense haggling! Here, it's more like a friendly dance. Vendors give you a price, you can offer a bit less politely, and everyone smiles. It's fun, but do some research first so you know what's fair.
●    Also on our visit to the Vegetable Market, we bought some flower seeds. Later on they didn’t really germinate. It may be a good idea perhaps to skip buying flower seeds in the market. There is no way to actually determine whether the seeds will germinate to become the flowers that are shown in the photo albums.

More Than Just Shopping:

The Dal Lake floating market is a one-of-a-kind experience. It connects you with fresh local produce, beautiful crafts, and the friendly Kashmiri people. So, next time you're in Kashmir, don't miss your chance to explore this amazing place!
Also, please do not throw anything inside the lake. It is a good idea to carry a garbage bag with you incase you are carrying any eateries with you.

You can also watch our Youtube Video if you require more information about the Floating vegetable market at Dal Lake.

Take a Kashmir Tour with OurGuest:

OurGuest arranges and manages tours in Kashmir  and also takes care of permit documents. Guests can also book homestays and houseboats in Kashmir through the website. For customized holiday planning and room bookings, contact us at 7669503993 or 9734813101, or email us at contact@ourguest.in.

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