Sukoon

Dal Lake, Kashmir, India Book from

A tranquil floating hotel on glorious Dal Lake, with 360-degree views and the chance to soak up local life through boat trips and guided hikes
There’s something immensely peaceful about staying on water, and this elegant houseboat has one of the most serene settings we’ve come across to date. Moored on Dal Lake just outside Srinagar in Indian Kashmir (increasingly stable and no longer off limits to tourists), it’s surrounded by lotus flowers and water lilies, lush meadows, and forested slopes that rise up towards the mighty snow-topped Himalayas.

Originally built in 1979 and now restored to its gleaming former glory, the boat has 5 guest rooms, all with cedar-panelled walls, richly coloured silks and modern ensuites. A speedboat is on hand to whizz you to and from the shore, and there’s a team of staff to take care of meals and excursions. Days revolve around gentle cruises along pristine backwaters, on traditional flat-bottomed boats known as shikaras; you’ll pass floating flower markets, stilted villages, hilltop forts, and kingfishers diving in and out of the water. The more adventurous can head into the mountains to visit nomadic Gujar tribes, whose way of life has barely changed in centuries. Return for drinks on Sukoon’s rooftop deck in the soft light of the setting sun, followed by multi-course feasts as the lake laps gently around you.

Highs

  • An unrivalled position in a beautiful and unspoilt corner of northern India, with exceptional views all around
  • A luxurious and private feel, yet it's excellent value
  • Fascinating excursions by boat and foot, including the chance to camp overnight in a Himalayan valley
  • Delicious food (rates are half-board), with influences from Kashmir, Kerala and further afield
  • Easier to reach than you'd think - nearby Srinagar is served by regular flights from Delhi and Mumbai

Lows

  • The situation in Kashmir has improved vastly, but restrictions remain. Do check the latest advice before you book, and expect tight security at Srinagar airport (no hand baggage on flights)
  • Staff are gentle and friendly but need time to settle into their roles; you need a little patience
  • The sound-proofing between rooms isn’t the best, and the electricity supply can be erratic
  • Expect some hassle from hawkers on the lake, though it’s generally good-natured
  • Full prepayment required before arrival

Best time to go

Kashmir is lovely for 9 months of the year. The blossoms of spring (March-May) are particularly beautiful, as are the clear, crisp days of autumn (September-November). June, July and August are hotter (25-35C) and bring stunning displays of lotus flowers. December to February see rain and snow, and Sukoon tends to close for maintenance. Bear in mind that early mornings, evenings and nights can be chilly at any time of year - the boat has effective heating and air-conditioning, but you may need to wrap up for excursions.

Our top tips

We recommend booking a stay of 4 or 5 nights, giving you time to unwind, explore and settle into the area’s laid-back pace; this will also allow you to camp in the hills if you want (May to September only). A few days here work brilliantly as a precursor to a visit to mountainous Ladakh, which can be reached by air from Srinagar.

Great for...

Cheap & Chic
Great Outdoors
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Houseboat Hotel
  • 5
  • Half-board (breakfast + dinner)
  • All ages welcome, but best for older children
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Rooftop deck
Room:

Rooms

Set in a row towards the back of the boat, the 5 rooms are spacious and entirely clad in wood, with intricately carved cedar panels covering the walls and ceilings. Kingsize or twin beds are dressed in crisp white linens and topped with silk cushions in jewel-like hues; you also get a desk, a chair and a table. The surprisingly snazzy ensuites all have bathtubs and separate showers, with a good supply of hot water and heaps of fluffy white towels.

Four of the rooms are near-identical; they have a picture window onto the lake, though they face a neighbouring boat (there are blinds for privacy). The sole suite is larger, with windows on each side; it sits at the end of the row so it’s a little quieter than the others, and it has better views.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Central heating
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Hairdryer
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi

Eating

Sukoon’s half-board rates include breakfast, dinner and afternoon tea, all served at individual tables in the cosy panelled dining room or under the sun or stars on the rooftop deck. The delicious cuisine mixes dishes from Kashmir, southern India (the chef came from Sukoon’s sister hotel, Neeleshwar Hermitage, in Kerala) and elsewhere; there are some Western options, too.

Breakfast starts with morning tea delivered to your room, and continues with the likes of fresh fruit, apple juice, yoghurt, toast and eggs; local specialities such as harissa (minced lamb cooked overnight with herbs and spices) can also be prepared on request for a small supplement. Dinner is a multi-course affair - perhaps a chicken and saffron broth or mushroom and almond soup, followed by spiced lake fish, traditional curries or lamb with a yoghurt and mint sauce.

Lunch is also available on board but charged extra, and picnics can be arranged for excursions. There’s a limited selection of wines, beers and spirits, too.

Features include:

  • Half-board
  • Lunch by arrangement
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Board a shikara for a relaxing pootle around the lake’s quiet backwaters, stilted villages and floating markets (particularly idyllic early in the morning as the area comes to life around you). Motorboat excursions to other lakes can also be arranged
  • Head up to the 16th-century hilltop fort nearby (visible from Sukoon) for sweeping views over the watery landscape below
  • Explore the old city of Srinagar (just across the lake), with its canals, bustling markets, ornate mosques and 17th-century Mughal gardens
  • Head off on a guided hike into the Himalayas (suitable for most fitness levels). You’ll visit ruined temples, walk through flower-filled pastures, and meet people from the nomadic Gujar tribes
  • From May to September, you can also spend a couple of nights camping in the lush Aru Valley, which is surrounded by paddy fields and saffron meadows. You’ll stay in tents with proper beds and toilets - a comfortable way to experience the wilderness

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Boat trips
  • Camping
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Private guided tours
  • Shopping / markets
  • Traditional cultures
  • Trekking
  • Wildlife

Kids

Children of all ages are welcome, but we feel it’s best for older kids who will be able to make the most of the various excursions on offer. The serene ambiance and the proximity of the water means it’s not suitable for roving toddlers.

Best for:

Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

All rooms can accommodate a rollaway bed, though no baby cots are available.

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

10/
Rooms
10/
Food
10/
Service
10/
Value
10/
Overall

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Rates for Sukoon