SUKOON, DAL LAKE, SRINAGAR, KASHMIR – OPENING 20 MARCH
Since the FCO lifted the ban on travel to Srinagar a couple of months ago, tourism is tentatively returning and there is huge interest in the area. Traditionally guests spend time on a houseboat relaxing or gently cruising the waterways on Shikaras (Kashmir’s alternative to a gondola, a low, canopied boat) – which is a very peaceful and relaxing pastime, known as water trekking. It was the Maharaja of Kashmir who first allowed nineteenth century British visitors to build and live in houseboats on the lake, having not allowed them to purchase land to build on. Currently, due to the enforced lack of business for decades, there are no really comfortable houseboats on either lake (Dal nor Nagin) but as from March 2013, there will be one sumptuous boat that will stand head and shoulders above all others.
Sukoon is a boat with a history and is one of the most exciting things to happen to Kashmir in many years. It was originally built in 1979, by the father of the two brothers who now own it, The well-known environmentalist, M. Yusuf Chapri. He named it Neil Armstrong as he was a great fan of the astronaut, and exchanged letters with him over the years (which will be visible on the houseboat). The boat was inaugurated by Heinrich Harrer (author of Seven years in Tibet), and it received many prominent ‘mountain men’, including Robert Filming and Sherpa Tenzin, during its former heyday. Today Sukoon promises to raise the level of houseboat accommodation on the lakes to an all new high. Even in Kashmir’s tourism peak of the 70’s and 80’s, there was not a boat on the water to rival the comforts that Sukoon now offers.
Each of the 5 spacious rooms has a large window facing onto the lake and a roomy bathroom with both a separate shower and bath tub and gallons of piping hot water to fill it! The original glass chandeliers have been polished up and are now gleaming and the cedar wood panelling has been retained and beautifully restored so that the intricate carving is clearly visible. The furniture throughout the boat is in keeping with the traditional style of ‘a houseboat’ but has been adapted to cater to the modern day traveller so that it ‘works’ and fulfils its purpose. Juxtaposed with the wood panelling are splashes of bright colour which brighten and contemporise the interiors giving them a fresh, modern feel. Needless to say, the mattresses and sofas are all deep and luxurious, and wherever you sit or lie on this boat, it will be a pleasure!
The bedrooms are lined up towards the rear of the boat with the front of the boat being home to an airy sitting room and cosy dining room which will tempt guests to chat and swap stories until late into the night. The front verandah is a lovely place to while away a few moments watching life on the lake quietly unfold before you. Unique to any boat on Dal Lake is Sukoon’s stunning roof terrace where guests will be able to relax and enjoy the views, either under a shamiana (canopy) or soaking up the full glory of the sun, gazing across the lake to the mighty Himalaya.
Sukoon (meaning ‘tranquillity’ or ‘relaxation’) is also a Sufi term referring to an elevated state of mind that combines peace, wisdom and contentment. This is what the inspired owners of Sukoon (one of whom also owns Neeleshwar and The Lotus) aim to achieve for their guests by bringing the traditional concept of a residential houseboat into the modern era (it will be fully wi-fi), whilst losing none of the charm of these boats’ historical past.
Perhaps the highlight of Sukoon, however, is its enviable position just one boat in from the end of the row (the last boat being of the same ownership and unused) so it is away from the ‘madding crowds’ which are massed together further down the line, and it feels ulimately peaceful, exclusive and private!
All meals can be served on board – in the dining room or roof terrace (weather permitting) and, after a memorable rooftop sundowner (Indian wine and beer will be available), dining here will be a treat and a feast. Kashmiri, Indian and limited continental dishes will be served by a team of friendly staff from both Kashmir and Kerala.
In keeping with the owners’ strong focus on environmental issues, Sukoon is fitted with a Bio tank, so no waste is discharged in the lake – the only Bio tank on the lake! They have a ‘no plastic policy, so do not serve water from plastic bottles. The boat has a highly efficient reverse osmosis system for water purification. Only re-cycled wood has been used in the renovation of the boat. Their motorboat is solar powered and by next season the houseboat will run on solar power.
Sukoon is reached by a 10 minute Shikhara ride across Dal Lake. It has its own Shikhara and motorboat which is at guests’ disposal for lake crossings. Shikhara rides and longer water treks can be arranged at extra cost.
As if all this isn’t enough, Sukoon is also extremely competitively priced and at 7500 rupees (approximately £95) per room per night, including breakfast, dinner, tea/coffee and lake crossings by b, it has to be the bargain of the century!
There’s nowhere better to holiday than in Kashmir, relaxing on the lakes in high summer, with a backdrop of snow-capped mountains and acres of green pastureland unfolding around you. Combine this with a magnificent 10 day journey in Ladakh, experiencing the incredible houses located in remote areas or the state, operated by the pioneering company, Shakti Himalaya. The perfect summer holiday for families, friends or just a couple wanting to get away from it all.
Images and brochures will be available in early April.
Further information: Mahout UK Ltd. E: email@example.com T: 01295 758150