Why you’ll love Dar Es Salam
Located on the banks of Nageen Lake, the ancestral home of Musadiq and Huma Hussain occupies one of the most serene spots in all of Srinagar. It’s not surprising then, that they chose to call their hotel ‘Dar-es-Salam meaning ‘abode of peace’ in Persian.
The family-friendly hotel originally opened for business in the 1970s but after decades of armed conflict in the region they closed the doors and left only to return 15 years later to try again. Today, the hotel is a wonderful step back in time to an era when dinner served on the family silverware and starched linen napkins were the norm.
Although the hotel has been updated it still remains very much a home, where guests mingle together around the fireplaces in the living rooms or take kahwa tea (traditional Kashmiri tea) on the front lawn. It’s very cosy with just 14 rooms, some with sublime lake views, and the staff could not be more charming.
Why the kids will love Dar Es Salam
A family home in the truest sense, this is a wonderful place to bring children of all ages. Kids are free to run around the property and there’s plenty of space for little ones to play inside (in the winter) and outside (during the summer months). Parents with very young kids should note that the hotel is on the lakeshore and so mini globetotters should be closely supervised.
The staff are fantastic and seem to really love having children to stay. The bedrooms are large and the hotel is refreshingly relaxed about the number of extra beds allowed per room. Meals are held in the family dining room and even though there’s no kids’ menu the kitchen could not be more helpful when it comes to feeding fussier eaters. Most fascinating of all for kids, however, is the ancient tiger rug complete with head that lives in one of the living rooms.
Shikaras, the traditional wooden boats of the region, pull up at the bottom of the garden and from here you can set off on an adventure around the city lakes. It’s a fantastic introduction to Srinagar and another way of life. If you get up very early you can even visit the morning floating markets where vegetables, fruits and more are bought and sold across dozens and dozens of boats.
The hotel has 14 double bedrooms including a Premium Suite and a Presidential Suite. A handful of the rooms are rented out permanently to long-stay guests meaning that there are nine available for visitors. All rooms have central heating.
The house is divided into two parts; there’s the front of the main house that includes the dining room, two living rooms and six bedrooms. These bedrooms do not have AC. Room 1 is located downstairs and the remaining rooms are upstairs. The rear building houses the remaining bedrooms and some of these have beautiful lake views. This part of the hotel can only be access via the garden or service area. These rooms have AC.
There’s a definite ski chalet feel to the bedrooms, the walls and ceiling are clad in pine and the floors are either carpeted or have wooden floorboards. Thick Kashmiri curtains frame the windows and heavy embroidered bedspreads cover the equally floral beds.
All rooms come with ensuite bathrooms (showers, no baths), some more modern than others.
Best rooms for families: All rooms can fit two extra beds (three at a squeeze).
The rooms located in the main house (Rooms 1, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8) are best suited to families with young children owing to their proximity to the communal and dining areas. Room 5 is very large although it does not have a lake view and Room 4 is only marginally smaller. On the ground floor Room 1 has views over the garden and the lake.
In the second building Rooms 10 and 12 have the best views in the house and recently renovated bathrooms. These rooms are best suited for families with older children (or those not requiring an early bed time) as they are not in monitor reach.
There are no inter-connecting rooms, however you may request adjacent rooms.
The family dining room overlooks the garden and lake. There is one central dining table and a handful of other smaller tables that surround it. All meals are served in this space.
Breakfast The breakfast buffet includes cereals, toast, porridge and eggs cooked to order. Simple Indian breakfast dishes are also available.
Lunch & Dinner For lunch and dinner choose from the fixed menu of Kashmiri dishes or the a la carte menu that includes some international and Chinese options as well as local ones. The fixed menu is highly recommended and the food is very good. Soups, murg musallam (chicken in masala), gushtaba/rista (meatballs), kofta paneer all feature on the menu as well as our personal favourite the nadroo ki yakhni (lotus stem curry), which is absolutely delicious. Kheer, a type of Kashmiri rice pudding, is a popular desert, particularly with little kids.
For Kids: Although there is no dedicated kids’ menu, the kitchen will happily adapt their menus for children and particular eaters. Simple options such as chicken noodles, dal, omelettes and chicken or vegetables with rice are available.
Kahwah, traditional Kashmiri tea, is served in the afternoons along with delicious homemade walnut pastries.
Activities for Parents:
Take a tour of the city by shikara, one of the traditional wooden boats that float along the city lakes. Get up early to witness the floating market when fruit, vegetables and more are bought and sold between boats.
Visit the beautiful wooden mosques in the Old City being sure not to miss Khanqah Shah-i-Hamadan, an ancient Muslim meeting hall dating back to the 1730s.
Wander the streets of Srinagar; the city is home to old forts, ancient observatories, fanciful Sufi shrines, medieval cemeteries and several stunning Mughal gardens.
Go shopping! There are some beautiful things to buy here including stunning Pashmina and cashmere shawls, elegantly carved papier-mâché boxes, carpets and furniture carved from walnut wood.
Relax in the gardens or in one of the living rooms with a good book and watch life on the lake drift by.
Activities for Kids:
Take a ride in a shikara and experience life on Dal Lake the Kashmiri way.
Visit the geometric Mughal gardens spread across the city including the Chashma Shahi (royal fountains), Nishat Bagh (the garden of spring) and the whimsically titled Pari Mahal (the palace of the fairies).
Go for a dip in Nageen Lake or borrow a fishing rod and head out to catch dinner.
Wander the streets around Lal Chowk where vendors hawk saffron, almonds, and dried fruit and cricket bats. Buy one and enjoy an over or two on the hotel’s front lawn.
Play in the gardens, swing on the swing and enjoy another homemade walnut pastry.
Air-conditioning available in some rooms, central heating, common rooms, doctor on call, the nearest hospital is 10 km away, extra beds allowed, laundry service, pushchair friendly.
When to go:
Srinagar enjoys two distinct seasons, pleasant summers and very cold winters.
Summers run from April to September and these months are an ideal time to visit with maximum daytime temperatures rarely exceeding 30C. This is also the peak tourist season.
Winters run from October to March with daytime temperatures reaching a maximum of 15C. The heavy winter snowfalls make sightseeing tricky and road blockages are not uncommon but the surrounding winter snow scene is incredibly beautiful.
Security in Kashmir is extremely changeable; make sure to thoroughly check the situation before travelling. There is a continued military presence in the area and police checks are a regular occurrence.
Location & Travel:
Srinagar’s airport, Sheikh ul Alam Airport, is located approximately 33 km from the Dar-es-Salam. There are regular daily flights to and from Delhi, Mumbai and Jammu. Domestic airlines servicing Srinagar Airport include Go Air, IndiGo, Spice Jet and Jet Airways. Security is extremely tight flying to and from Srinagar so make sure to allow plenty of check-in time. Be aware that hand baggage is restricted.
The nearest major train station is Jammu Tawi in Jammu, 300km from Srinagar. Overnight trains run from Delhi to Jammu Tawi.
It is possible to drive to Srinagar in the summer but driving in winter is impossible, as many of the roads will be closed.
There is a long history of conflict within the state of Jammu & Kashmir. Remember to consult your own government’s travel advisory for safety advice such as www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/india
1) Bring plenty of warm clothing during the winter months including hats, scarves and waterproof boots or shoes. Make sure you bring warm gloves to avoid cold little hands.
2) Make sure to bring cash with you; there are plenty of ATMs in town but they don’t all work!
3) If you’re travelling with young children and / or babies then it’s worth brining all kiddie paraphernalia with you; nappies, formula, wet wipes and any necessary medications.