Gulmarg is an all weather tourist destination and a premier skiing destination of Kashmir, nestled within the imposing Himalayan peaks. Gulmarg is the land of white powdery snow which makes it one of the best places in the world for skiing and snowboarding. Apart from its heart stopping beauty and a world-class skiing destination, Gulmarg is also famous for the “Gulmarg Gondola,” one of the highest cable car in the world, reaching 3,979 metres. May to October is the peak tourist season, while adventure sports lovers from around the world flock at Gulmarg during the winter months of December to March, when everything here is painted with snow.
Where is Gulmarg
The hill station of Gulmarg is in the Baramula district of the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir. This spectacular hill resort is situated at a distance of about 52 Km from Srinagar and around 25 Km from India’s Line of Control (LOC) with Pakistan.
Nestled at an average elevation of 2,690 m (8,825 ft), Gulmarg is known for its heart stopping beauty. Gulmarg literally meaning “the meadow of flowers”, has attracted tourists since long. The snow-clad peaks and the lovely landscapes of Gulmarg have provided background for several Bollywood movies. Potentiality of Gulmarg to become an ideal ski resort was first identified by the British, who as a first step, set up the Ski Club of India here in 1927. However, Gulmarg became a tourist hot spot and a sought after skiing destination only after, the establishment of the first phase of the Gondola Cable Car in May, 1998.
The globally acclaimed news agency, CNN has aptly crowned Gulmarg as the “heartland of winter sports in India,” and has rated it as Asia’s seventh best ski destination. At Gulmarg, the slopes of the Afarwat Hills of the Pir Panjal Range of the Himalaya mountain chain boast one of the longest and highest ski slopes in Asia. With the setting up of the Gondola Cable Car, Gulmarg has become the highest lift-served ski resort in the world providing a downhill ski run of 5.2 km from a height of 14,000 ft in the Apharwat range. It is also the longest gondola served ski-lift in Asia. With its gondola accessible ski area on Mt. Apharwat, reaching to a height of 4124 m it offers many varied and steep possibilities for descents up to 1800 vertical meters.
For the adventure lovers, Gulmarg is the ultimate destination. Snowboarding, another exciting winter sport is an equally popular and favourite sport here. Many foreigners have described Gulmarg to be the best places in the world to snowboard. Gulmarg’s relatively poor infrastructure as compared to European and American winter resorts has made it one of the cheapest places in the world for adventure sports. As the destination itself is still undeveloped, skiers and riders never have to suffer the long queues that are so prevalent in other international winter sports destinations. It is not uncommon to get up to 10 runs in a day from the top of the gondola and to be carving fresh lines in unstacked snow for the best part of a day. However, what it lacks in facilities it makes up in offering the mesmerizing beauty and charm of the Himalayan mountain range in the backdrop. Recently, with the introduction of heli-skiing at Gulmarg, it has become the only heli-skiing destination of Asia.
While adventure seekers and winter sports fanatics visit Gulmarg during the winter months of December to March, tourists prefer to visit Gulmarg during the summer months of May to October when temperatures are not too harsh and unbearable. However there are tourists who visit Gulmarg during winter months as well as the white line of snow everywhere is spectacle to the eye. Many of them infected with the excitement of the skiers don their first pair of skis. During summer, tourists rush reach its peak as tourists from around the world heads to Gulmarg to witness its legendary beauty. The green carpeted grassy meadows, snow-clad mountain peaks, bright sun shine and blooming flowers makes a rare and irresistible combination to get mesmerized. Thus Gulmarg is aptly called an all weather tourist destination.
The pristine and mesmerizing beauty of Gulmarg symbolizes the beauty of the “Heaven on Earth”, Kashmir. Apart from its awesome natural beauty, Gulmarg has earned the reputation of being a ski resort and also a high altitude world class golfing destination. However, it is the Gondola Cable Car which has made Gulmarg so popular among tourists and adventure sports lovers.
Gondola Cable Car
The Gulmarg Gondola, Asia’s highest and longest cable car project provides a thrilling ride from the Gulmarg Meadow (2650m) through pine-clad slopes to Apharwat (3980m) in two stages. The ropeway project is a joint venture of the Jammu and Kashmir government and French firm Pomagalski. However after continuous persuasion and assurance of the government of Jammu and Kashmir, M/S Pomagalski resumed work and the Phase I of the project running from Gulmarg to Kongdoor was put to commercial operation from May, 1998. The Phase II running from Kongdoor to Apharwat at an altitude of 13400 ft was completed in a record time of about two years at a cost of Rs11 crore and opened on May 28, 2005.
In 2011, French firm Pomagalski in collaboration with Jammu and Kashmir Cable Car Corporation (JKCCC) completed the installation of the Phase III ( Chair Lift ) which was inaugurated by Horn able Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on 17th of September 2011. The Phase III has been basically designed and built for booming winter sports specifically skiing and snow-boarding and runs from Kongdoor to Marry Shoulder covering a distance of 1601 m.. Costing Rs 18 crore, the chair lift has been designed in such a way so that the skiers can travel with their gear including skies on. Chair Lift has 90 chairs each having capacity to accommodate four passengers. 1000 passengers can be ferried per hour at a fixed speed of 2.5meters per second and the ride gets completed in 11 minutes. One very fascinating aspect of this Gondola cable Car is that it has been so designed and built that it runs throughout the year. However, extreme hash weather condition and mechanical fault may at times keep it out-of-order temporarily.
Gulmarg Golf Course
The golf course of Gulmarg is another major attraction of this picturesque hill station. The origin of Gulmarg Golf Course goes back to the late 19th century when a 6-hole course was made in 1890-91 by Colonel Neville Chamberlain, who was the Military Secretary of the British to the Kashmir Government. At an altitude of 8700 ft located in the heart of the world famous ski resort, the historic Gulmarg Golf Club was started in 1911 by the British who used the place as a holiday resort. The first Golf championship was played at Gulmarg in 1922. Since then it has almost 100 years of golf tournaments of both amateurs & professionals.
Recently, this historic golf course has been redesigned at the behest of the Kashmir Government. The redesigned Gulmarg Golf Course was formally inaugurated on 18th of September, 2011 by the Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir, Mr. Omar Abdullah. This is now an 18 hole, par 72 course with a yardage of 7505 yard, making it currently India’s longest and highest green golf course. There is a large practice green at the Clubhouse too. A golf academy with 3 learning holes is also there. The greens on the course are large, undulating and very quick. The grass on the greens is A-4 Creeping Bent imported from the United States. It is potentially one of the finest summer golfing destinations in the world. There are a number of bunkers on the course that have been designed to ‘fit’ into the natural character of the course.
Thus in a nut-shell, Gulmarg is now diversifying from a skiing and adventure sports destination to a golfing destination during summer months to attract more and more tourists round the year. The green carpeted grass of the golf course which every tourist has to cross while going for a Gondola ride is indeed a treat to the eye. Hardly matters whether you are a golfer or not, you can always try your hand at this golf course as the adjoining Gulmarg Golf Club offers golf training for beginners as well, with options of hiring the necessary kits.
The enchanting meadows of Khilanmarg is at a trekking distance of about 6 Km from Gulmarg bust stand. Lying about 600 m above Gulmarg, the place gives a panoramic view of the majestic Himalayan peaks. From Khilanmarg, the Himalayas look greater, closer and mightier. The twin, mighty peaks of Nun and Kun in the southeast and the Nanga Parbat is visible from Khilanmarg. During summer months, the meadow of Khilanmarg remains carpeted with flowers of all colours and in the winter it changes in to a dream destination for the skiing lovers, snowboarders and para gliders.
One can go on a trekking trail at Khilanmarg and get drenched in the splendid beauty of nature. Others who don’t love to trek can visit Khilanmarg on a pony. However it is just about 2.5 km walk from Gondola Phase II top of Apharwat.
The beauty of Khilanmarg is something which can’t be missed out while visiting Gulmarg. The Alpather Lake, located further sway from Khilanmarg, is yet another tourist attraction. You can also visit the Ferozpur Nallah, which is a major destination frequented by families in the region, who come here to picnic and have fun. The River Bahan also runs through this region, and is extremely popular among anglers for trout fishing. The
Situated at the foot of the Alpather Mountains the immensely beautiful Alpather Lake is a must-visit destinationof Gulmarg. Situated with a scenic backdrop of snow covered mountains, lush green landscapes and colorful flowers all around, the lake remains frozen during winter months till mid- June. This triangular-shaped alpine lake situated at an altitude of around 4,511 meters above sea level is 13 Km from Gulmarg and is one-day trek from Gulmarg via Khilanmarg. However it is just 1.5km walk from Gondola Phase II top of Apharwat. A very striking and unique thing about the lake is that ducks are seen walking on the lake instead of swimming.
Those who find it difficult to trek can opt for Pony ride to reach the lake. Those interested in horse riding can make a day’s trip, starting early in the morning. Adventure enthusiasts can climb the ridge of the Apharwat Peak that ascends straight up and then hike down to the other side.
Baba Reshi Shrine (Ziarat)
The holy and sacred Shrine (Ziarat) of Baba Reshi, dedicated to Muslim scholar and saint Baba Reshi, is a sacred mosque in the valley of Gulmarg. Located on mountain slopes, between Gulmarg and Tanmarg at a distance of 5 Km from Gulmarg and at an altitude of 2,133 m, the shrine was built in the Mughal and Persian style of architecture with beautiful wooden art works inside the tomb. The mosque stands amidst a big and beautiful garden. Saint Baba Reshi was a Muslim scholar, who served as a major courtier during the reign of King Zain-ul-Abidin, King of Kashmir.
This sacred tomb built in 1480 is a highly revered religious attraction and thousands of devotees visit this shrine every year. Every year thousands of devotees visit this shrine regardless of the faith they believe in. The shrine has now become a major tourist attraction of Gulmarg.
Popularly known as Maharani temple or Rani temple, this temple of Lord Shiva is located almost in the centre of Gulmarg. Built in 1915 by Mohini Bai Sisodhia, wife of the last king of Kashmir Hari Singh, the temple is strategically located on a small hillock and is visible from every part of Gulmarg. The Dagger Division, headquartered at Baramulla renovated the temple in 1998. Now this is being managed by the Jammu and Kashmir Dharmarth Trust headed by Dr Karan Singh, son of Maharaja Hari Singh.
A very fascinating and unique aspect of the temple is that for the last 17 years, the priestly duties in this Hindu temple have been performed by a single Muslim priest – Ghulam Mohammad Shiekh – epitomizing the communal harmony between Hindus and Muslims in the Kashmir Valley. The local and visiting communities have gracefully accepted Muslim performing Hindu temple rituals like puja, aarti and distributing Prasad among the devotees. Aarti is performed twice a day and the temple remains open every day from 6am to 9pm. And being a Muslim, he also performs Namaz every day.
How to reach Gulmarg?
Usually Gulmarg is accessed from the state capital, Srinagar.
The hill town of Gulmarg does not have its own airport. The nearest airport to Gulmarg is Srinagar Airport (SXR) at a distance of about 55 Km. The Srinagar airport is well connected with all the major airports of the country, mostly by indirect flights via national capital Delhi.
From the airport tourists can either opt for private vehicles or State-run buses to reach the hill station of Gulmarg at a distance of 56 Km. Pre-paid taxis are the best option but other private vehicles and shared taxis can also be hired to reach the picaresque hill town of Gulmarg within 3 hours. However, during extreme winter months, when the region remains covered with ice, vehicles from Srinagar will take you to Tanmarg only. From Tanmarg, you will probably need to hire 4-wheel-drive vehicle to reach ice-covered Gulmarg.
Gulmarg does no have its own railway station. The closest railhead to Gulmarg is the Jammu Tawi Railway Station at a distance of about 330 Km. Jammu is well connected to other parts of country. One can reach Jammu overnight from New Delhi. Just outside the Jammu Tawi Railway Station, State-run buses, private buses and taxis are available in plenty to transport tourists to Gulmarg. It takes about 8 to 9 hours travel time between to reach Gulmarg from Jammu.
Gulmarg is well connected to the all the major cities of Jammu and Kashmir by good road. All sorts of transport are available to Gulmarg from Srinagar bus stand at Batmallo and from private transport operators. Visitors can easily avail state transport and private buses to the destination, as per their convenience. One can also hire private vehicles to reach Gulmarg from Srinagar, Jammu and other parts of the state.
J&K SRTC operates regular deluxe and ordinary bus services from Srinagar. In winter, the buses operate up to Tangmarg, 11 Km away from Gulmarg. From Tangmarg, driving on a 2-wheel drive vehicle becomes risky and unsafe. So you need to hire a 4-wheel-drive vehicle for better grip and maneuverability on the road and reach the icy Gulmarg safely.
Where to stay at Gulmarg?
A major chunk of the tourists visiting Gulmarg prefer to visit the hill station on a day trip from Srinagar. But adventure sports fanatics’ form around the world stays at Gulmarg for days and even for months. However, staying at Gulmarg for at least 2 to 3 days is advisable to cherish the immense natural beauty of the place and plunge in its indescribable beauty. The hill town of Gulmarg does provide a wide variety of staying options to suit the budget of every individual. Following are some of the best staying options at Gulmarg:
Hotel Highland Park
This star category hotel is indeed an attraction in itself. It is a heritage property spread over 8 acres of flower-carpeted and pine-forested hillsides. The hotel has the distinction of hosting Presidents, Prime Ministers and visiting royalty.
For booking, contact at: 01954-254430/254491 and 09419413355 (Mobile). To know more and to avail online booking, just click HERE.
Hotel Heevan Retreat
As per as amenities and luxury is concerned, Hotel Heevan Retreat is in no way inferior to Hotel Highland Park. Located in an idyllic surrounding, this star category hotel offers you the best views of Gulmarg. Five minutes drive from where the Gulmarg Gondola begins, en-route to Khilanmarg, Heevan Retreat, offers scintillating views of the Apharwat range of mountains.
With 30 double bedded rooms and 5 suits, Hotel Heevna Retreat offers all the luxuries to make your stay a memorable one.
For booking, contact at – 0194- 2501323/2500299/2501395. For further detailed queries and room availability and booking, just click HERE.
Pine Palace Resort
Another luxurious and star category staying options of Gulmarg is the Pine Palace Resort. The resort offers a cozy abode filled with latest amenities amidst the most scintillating surroundings. The picturesque location, personalized service and comfort sets us apart form the other hotels. With views to Mt Apharwat and the upper half of the Gondola, The hotel offers 31 exotic double/twin rooms including 4 suites. The addition of the SANSHA SPA, the First Spa in Kashmir has added another feather to its already crowning glory.
For booking, contact at: 01954-254466, 01954-254504, 09906444898, 09419509709. For online booking and further query, just click HERE.
Hotel Alpine Ridge
Extremely popular among ski lovers, Hotel Alpine Ridge is just five minutes’ walk from where the Gulmarg Gondola begins. Alpine Ridge provides the right environment to enjoy the beauty of Gulmarg. The hotel rooms provide impressive views of the Apharwat Mountains and the meadows of Gulmarg. With comfortable centrally-heated and exclusively furnished 30 double bedded rooms, 3 suites and a presidential suite, this hotel is among the best of Gulmarg.
For booking rooms in this hotel, contact at: 01954-254527, 09419008200, 09796111013. For further details query and online checking of room availability and booking, just click HERE.
Established in 1888 by Micheal Adam Nedou, who many people say actually discovered Gulmarg is a perfect blend of European heritage with an Indian welcome. Spread over 50 acres of sprawling land with majestic mountains behind and a well maintained Golf course in front, the Hotel with over 120 years of excellence in hospitality is a perfect place to stay at Gulmarg.
For booking, contact at: Phone 01954-254428, 2473301. For online query and booking related questions, just click HERE.
Some other well known hotels of Gulmarg are:
Hotel Hill Top (Category A). Contact telephone number: 01954 – 254477, 254559-60.
Hotel Highland’s Park (Category A). Contact telephone number: 01954 – 254430, 254491,254407.
Hotel Pine Palace (Category A). Contact telephone number: 01954 – 254466, 254504
Hotel Welcome(Category A). Contact telephone number: 01954 – 254412, 2453290-94.
Hotel Kingsley (Category A). Contact telephone number: 01954 -254415-16.
Hotel Gulmarg Inn (Category B). Contact telephone number: 01954 -254501.
Hotel Green Heights (Category B). Contact telephone number: 01954 – 254404.
Hotel Yamberzal (Category B). Contact telephone number: 01954 – 254447.
Hotel Zam Zam (Category B). Contact telephone number: 01954 – 254465.
Hotel Shanu Lodge (Category B). Contact telephone number: 01954 – 254483.
About the Author: Hi! friends, travelling is my passion and my only hobby. High mountains to deep seas, lush green forests to barren deserts, holy places to sites of historical importance, - every beautiful place attracts me the same way. I want everyone to feel the same and so through my writing I intend to take you all to a virtual trip to all those lovely places that I have visited.