Islamic gardens are designed for rest and contemplation, which makes them peaceful havens in some of the world’s busiest cities. So — in search of some quiet reflection in stunning surroundings — we’ve rounded up five of the world’s most stunning Islamic gardens.
Nishat Bagh in Jammu and Kashmir, India
A fountain in the Nishat Bagh
The Mughal Empire brought Persian influences into Islamic garden design and India’s Nishat Bagh is a beautifully tended example of this. Sitting on the east side of the Dal Lake in India's Jammu and Kashmir state, the name Nishat Bagh translates as ‘Garden of Joy’ or ‘Garden of Delight’.
A central canal runs through Nishat Bagh, over a series of cascading terraces and stone ramps which cause the water to glitter in the sunlight and fills the garden with a soft, splashing murmur.
Water is a key feature of Mughal gardens (a subset of Islamic garden design) and benches are placed around the Nishat Bagh water features to encourage quiet contemplation.
Shalimar Bagh in Srinagar, India
Walking through the Shalimar Bagh
The Shalimar Bagh is another intricately designed oasis near the Dal Lake. It is bigger and better known than the Nishat Bagh, but the slightly different locations mean that both gardens are worth their own visit.
While the Nishat makes good use of its lakeside position to play with canal and flowing water features, the Shalimar is considered to be the most significant site of Mughal horticulture.
Visitors wandering along the sycamore lined vistas are treated to a near-panoramic view of the Dal Lake and some of the most skillfully sculpted marble pavilions in India. Stay within a day's travel of both these gardens by checking into the LaLit Grand Palace Srinagar.
Shalimar Gardens in Lahore, Pakistan
Shalimar Gardens in Lahore at sunset
Just like the secret gardens from children’s literature, the intricately carved high walls surrounding the Shalimar Gardens in Lahore make the visitor feel like they are entering a hidden world.
Inside the walls the rectangle-shaped gardens were designed to recreate the Persian concept of a paradise garden. The gardens are laid out in three descending terraces, from north to south, and the symmetry present in Islamic architecture can also be seen in the 410 fountains and carefully cultivated fruit trees that sweetly scent the air.
Spend your time in Lahore at Luxus Grand Hotel, a building almost as beautiful and serene as the gardens themselves.
Alcázar of Seville in Seville, Spain
The Alcázar of Seville in Spain
The Islamic fortress of the Alhambra in Granada includes some of Europe’s best known Islamic gardens, but the less-well-known gardens at Alcázar of Seville are mesmerising in their own right. Built by the Moorish Muslim kings, today the Alcázar of Seville is considered to be one of the world’s most impressive examples of Mudéjar architecture.
The palace’s pleasure gardens replicate many of the architectural flourishes seen inside the structure, with the interior’s highly detailed mosaics mimicked by the carefully designed flower bed and cascading fountains.
And it’s not quite a royal residence but you can wake up with a view of the equally impressive Seville Cathedral by checking into the Puerta Catedral Suites.
Lalbagh Fort in Dhaka, Bangladesh
The Mausoleum of Pari Bibi and surrounding garden of Lalbagh Fort in Dhaka
The stories swirling around the incomplete Lalbagh Fort in Dhaka include tales of lost loves, thwarted dreams, and underground tunnels that swallowed a troop of British soldiers, some dogs and an elephant before being sealed for good.
While there’s more than enough to entertain history fans, the fort’s intricately mosaiced paths, verdant lawns, beautiful roof-top garden and elaborate water fountains have been attracting aesthetes for centuries.
There are plenty of places to stay near the fort but many visitors choose to stay at the Lakeshore Banani, in the North of Dhaka, and to drive to Lalbagh Fort along the Hatir Jheel river.