Gulmarg. Hasn’t enough been written and filmed of this lovely place?
Yes, that was the question we were asking when we started writing this post. Gulmarg is possibly the most popular Bollywood destination before situation in Kashmir became volatile. We could see why this place is a sought after destination when we visited two years back in spring. In fact we have visited this place thrice – in different seasons except in hard winter!
Gulmarg or Meadow of Flowers (Gul – flower Marg – Meadow) is an all year round destination. In winter it welcomes hordes of skiers and in summers visitors throng the place to enjoy the vistas, go for treks or just relax.
Unless you are an avid skier or want to learn skiing, the best time to visit Gulmarg is in spring. Weather is perfect. The wintry chill is slowly fading. There is still lot of snow. And last but not the least, there are no crowds!
We went there when we went to Srinagar to see the Tulips in bloom. (Check out more details on Tulip garden here – Srinagar Tulip Garden – Don’t miss it! ) Since we had few more days at our disposal, we planned to visit Gulmarg and Pahalgam.
Let us take you through a tour of gorgeous Gulmarg.
We leave our lovely hotel on the banks of Nigeen lake after breakfast. The weather is excellent. There is still chill in the air though it is April. Mustafa, our trusted driver is ready with his Scorpio. We hop in and soon we are out of the city.
Please click on the pictures to see them in larger size.
We start driving towards Gulmarg and could see a glimpse of what is in store. The snow-clad mountains in the horizon and poplar trees along the road make Kashmir picture perfect!
As we pass the village of Magam, we could see men at daily labour market. Waiting for odd jobs.
Kashmir in Spring is romantic. The snow has melted except in the hills. The mustard fields are in full bloom.
We stop at Tangmarg to pick up snow gear. We start climbing. The landscape turns beautiful. The cedars and pines welcome us. The green meadows are soothing to strained eyes.
First sight of the snow by the roadside. Isn’t it pretty? Is it a harbinger of what is going to come?
We reach Gulmarg. The main bus stand area is chaotic. Gulmarg is a small place and its economy is totally dependent on tourism. Few hotchpotch of shops, guides, Ghodawalas throng this place. All vehicles have to stop here. One has to either walk – one kilometre – to the Gondola station or hire a pony.
Since we had reservation in Khyber resort, we were allowed to take the car inside. The whole place look surreal and gorgeous. It is white and white. Notice the snow on either side of the road.
Opposite the bus stand is the lovely meadow of Gulmarg. It is used as a golf course in summer. On a raised platform sits the Rani ka Mandir.
This is our favourite picture. This quintessential Gulmarg! Snow, rows of cedars in the horizon, azure sky and lovely golf hut in the middle……and of course a cute little bridge!
We are lucky to capture this with no one wandering around on the road. This is the road to Gondola station.
We get into one of the gondolas and what a journey it is! We have taken ticket till the Phase 2.
Please take a look at next few pictures. It will provide you a glimpse of what we experienced when we travelled in Gondola. Our camera never stops. We go on clicking spree! First few minutes into the ride, you see many Cedar trees.
Then there are the villages of Gujjars – shepherds – who have migrated to plains below to avoid harsh winter. The roof of their houses are covered by thick snow!
This rope way – called chair lift – is for skiers. they are taken to the top and then they start skiing from there.
We are about to reach Phase 2 at height of 11,000 feet. It is white and nothing but white all around.
We see lovely snow clad peaks …..
We notice an army camp close to the gondola station. We walk towards it. We walk in soft snow which is ankle-deep.
As we come closer, we see Igloo shaped tent housing soldiers. Look at the harsh conditions these boys work. Hats off to them! Poorna shows his Amy ID card and we are welcomed inside the cozy tent. We sip hot lemon tea which is god sent!
Even as we bid good-bye, we see few dogs. These are guard dogs of the camp. Here is one giving us a pose!
We take the gondola and return to the Phase 1 which has all kinds of snow sports. Luckily there is not much of crowd.
Giving a shot at skiing. We fall. Get up. Fall again. It is like learning baby walk. Finally we make it. Ready. Steady. Go!
Here we are. Bond like. In our Snow Mobiles!
This is the white play ground. Where you play all the snow sports!
Men at work. This is the most cruel. Tourists are pulled uphill on a wooden sledge. Then they slide down. It is a tough job pulling men and women weighing 80 KGs up the hill in snow.
The last scenes as we come down to the first point. We shall be missing them…..
A lone papyrus tree amidst white snow.
Lovely Khyber resort….
View of the hills from the hotel.
We stop over at this iconic place on our way back – Peak View Cafe – for a lovely view and a cup of tea. Great view. Lovely tea.
A day well spent. In white washed environs. In unspoilt nature. Our next stop is Pahalgam. The drive is as lovely as the place is. We can’t wait to be there soon……
- Gulmarg is the most famous tourist destination in Kashmir. It is open all year round.
- The best time to visit is Spring. From mid March till end of April. Lots of snow. Less crowds. And you get a chance to see tulip garden in April.
- Gulmarg is one and half drive from Srinagar. A short lovely drive. Keep your windows and eyes open after Tangmarg to inhale mountain air and to enjoy beautiful vistas as the climb starts.
- The main attraction in Gulmarg is gondola ride. Please book ticket online at http://gulmarggondola.com/ It is easier and you don’t have to stand in long queues. Always book for both Phase 1 and Phase 2.
- If you have missed booking online. Take the help of a guide. They will help you in getting ticket and also guide you.
- Guides are many. These are educated young boys. They want to earn a living in a state where unemployment is high. They normally charge Rs 600 – 800 for full day. The guy will be with you. Employ them. It helps in the economy of the place.
- You will be met by many asking you to take a pony ride to gondola station from Bus stand which is a kilometre away. It is a nice walk. If you can’t walk, then hire a pony which will cost you Rs 200.
- There are eateries in the Phase 1. There is nothing in the Phase 2. During spring, you will find only one eatery at first stop in gondola station as everything else will be snow bound.
- The Phase 2 or the highest point is at high altitude at 12,900 feet. One should not exert too much. Make sure kids are taken care of. Elders who have breathing problems should be cautious.
- There is a guide counter and a regular counter where you exchange your online booking for tickets. Guide counter is quicker for which you need to employ a guide.
- If you are skier or want to learn skiing then winter is the best season. During summer and rainy season one can go for day treks to Alpather Lake, Khilanmarg, Baba Rishi. Your hotel will be able to organise these activities. The website for booking gondola tickets also has good details on places to see in Gulmarg.
- If you are an adventure junkie then there are opportunities for paragliding, heli skiing etc. If you are a golfer, then you can play in the “Highest golf course in the world” in Gulmarg in summer.
- Don’t ever be foolhardy and try to explore region during winter on your own. You may get lost.
- If you are going in summer vacation when schools are closed, be prepared for large crowds and long queues at gondola stations.
- Incidentally we were there in June last year. There was virtually no snow anywhere except for a patch of dirty snow in second point.
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