Gulmarg: The Snow Paradise in India Baramulla District of Jammu and Kashmir, India (2021)
Gulmarg is a very popular town, a hill station, a popular skiing destination, and a notified area committee in the Baramulla district of Jammu and Kashmir, India. The Gulmarg town is situated in the Pir Paranjal Range in the Western Himalayas and lies within the boundaries of Gulmarg Wildlife Sanctuary. Gulmarg sits high on Mount Apharwat that is a ski and snowboard resort with over 1,330 vertical meters of skiable terrain. The resort claims to have the famous Gulmarg Gondola that is considered to be the highest ski lift in the world, ascending to an elevation of 3,980 meters. It is ranked among the best 7 ski destinations in Asia by CNN International. Gulmarg was established as a ski resort in 1927 by two British Army officers. It was originally a hill station for wealthy tourists who would visit Gulmarg during the summers to get rid of the brazen hot during Indian summers. It was also a favorite vacation spot for Mughal kings and later for the British elite during their Indian reign. Phase II of the Gulmarg gondola was added in 2005, which stops just below Mount Apharwat’s summit of 4,124 meters. This Gondola offers additional challenging runs to ski experts. You can also enjoy the mesmerizing view of the Kashmir valley and the beautiful landscape.
Gulmarg is located at a distance of 52 km from Srinagar which is the state capital. It is also situated at an elevation of 2,650 meters which makes Gulmarg a place that receives some of the heaviest snowfall in the Himalayas. This fact makes it even more appealing for the tourists to visit the place. Because of the unique flora and fauna in the area that includes beautiful pine trees and some of the unique flowers it is also named as “Meadow of Flowers”. Meadow of Flowers is translated to “Gulmarg” in the local language and hence the name of the place. Gulmarg is also home to the highest Golf Course in the world. It is also a popular spot for Bollywood movie shooting because of the beautiful scenery and mesmerizing landscape. You can also enjoy many adventure sports in Gulmarg.
Gulmarg is also the Heart of Winter sports in India because of the level of snow it receives. There are many hiking routes available in the area which makes it a unique attraction for adventure seekers and adrenaline junkies. A detailed guide for you to plan a trip to this winter heaven is given below:
Places to See and Things to do in Gulmarg
- Gulmarg Gondola: Gulmarg Gondola located in Kongdori is one of the top tourist destinations in Gulmarg. It is Asia’s largest and highest and world’s second-largest and second-highest cable car project. The fact that it is located at a height and in a beautiful landscape makes it the most visited place by tourists in Gulmarg. Gulmarg Gondola project is divided into two phases. It ferries almost 600 people per hour to and from the Apharwat Mountain. This mountain is the heart of Gulmarg where most of the winter sports the organized in Gulmarg. The ropeway project is a joint venture of the government of Jammu and Kashmir with a French firm Pomagalski. The first stage transfers from the Gulmarg resort at 2,600 m and a vertical height of 400 m to Kongdori Station in the bowl-shaped Kongdori valley. Every hour it ferries 1500 people to the height of 3100 m from where you can enjoy winter sports including skiing. The second stage of the ropeway, which has 36 cabins and 18 towers. It was also built in record time. It takes skiing enthusiasts to a height of 3,747 m on Kongdoori Mountain, a shoulder of nearby Afarwat Peak 4,200 m. After you reach the station, you will need to trek for another 30 minutes to reach the mountaintop. You can also see the Line of Control (LOC) from this place. The Gulmarg Gondola affords a magnificent view of Nanda Devi, LOC, and Pir Panjal range. Image Source
- Skiing: Gulmarg is a dream destination for skiing enthusiasts in India. Gulmarg receives the heaviest snowfall in the country and hence it is the top destination to practice and enjoy skiing. Many tourists come to Gulmarg especially to enjoy skiing here in winters. Gulmarg Resort is a big ski hill that is primarily serviced by two consecutive gondolas as mentioned above. Get prepared to work your lungs out while skiing here. The Ski terrain does not have a boundary and includes alpine bowls, chutes, cornices, glade skiing amongst ancient pines, etc. It is an ideal place to experience the thrill of speeding downhill on the beautiful snow-laden slopes. Gulmarg is an ideal place for beginners to learn skiing and also has some advanced sloped where the advanced practitioners can hone their skills. There are three ski lifts for beginners and intermediate skiers. You can hire ski equipment at the Government Ski Rental Shop right next to these lifts. You will also have an option to hire a ski instructor for the duration of your stay or a day depending upon your requirement.
- Alpather Lake: Alpather lake is a beautiful and picturesque small lake at the foot of the twin Apharwat Peaks. It is located at a height of 4,390 meters. Alpather Lake is also known as “Frozen Lake” by locals. It is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Gulmarg. This lake is surrounded by the Rocky Mountains and lush green meadows covered with beautiful and unique flowers. This is bliss and a fortune to be able to see and walk here. It is a sight to behold and a spot to be on your list to be visited once in a lifetime. The lake freezes completely during the months of winters especially in January and February especially. It makes it easy to walk over the surface of the lake. This is an activity enjoyed by many locals and tourists visiting this place. So much that you could easily walk over it. It starts to melt in March but has chunks of ice floating in it and this place is surrounded by plenty of snow until May. If you want to see the frozen lake, you must visit Gulmarg in the winters. You can also choose to trek to this lake if you are an adventure enthusiast. It is a long 14 km trek and requires the person to be physically fit to be able to trek to this place. Make sure you carry your food, water, and snacks if you are planning to trek to this lake as there are no eateries on the way to Alpather lake.
- Gulmarg Biosphere Reserve: It is located 26 kilometers from Baramulla and was declared a game reserve in 1981. Gulmarg Biosphere Reserve is spread over an area of 180 sq km, Gulmarg Biosphere Reserve is home to many common and rare species of fauna, flora, and avifauna. It is located at an altitude between 2400 and 4,300 meters above sea level. You can see rare species of animals in this area like the endangered Musk Deer that is the main attraction of the park. You can also get a chance to spot Hangul, Leopard, Brown Bear, Black Bear, and Red Fox. It is a paradise for ornithologists, and you would find people living here and doing their research. This area has a huge population of indigenous and migratory birds. Some of the species of the birds include Griffon Vulture, Blue Rock Pigeon Monal, Snow Cock, European Hoopoe, Koklas, Kashmir Roller, and the famous Jungle Crow. For mammal watching, the best time to visit this place is from September to March and for bird watching, the ideal time to visit this biosphere reserve is from March to May.
- Strawberry Valley: The place is as tempting and appealing as its name. It is one of the best places to visit in Gulmarg. This place is less known among the tourists which makes it even more beautiful since it has been away from human intervention till now. The place has a charm and the nascent beauty which will bewitch you as soon as you step here. The emerald meadows with budding red strawberries look like a picture straight out from the Garden of Eden. The summer season is the busiest time of the year as the strawberries are ripe and ready to be harvested. Tourists are allowed to take a walk amidst rows of the plantation. It is also a beautiful picnic spot enjoyed both by tourists and locals alike. The place is also famous in Bollywood as many movies have been shot here owing to the beauty and charm of this place.
- Gulmarg Golf Course: It is not just any Golf course in Gulmarg. It is one of the longest golf courses in India and is also listed among one of the 18 highest golf courses in the world. The view from this golf course is heart throbbing. This golf course is situated at an altitude of 8700 feet above sea level, this place was used to play golf by Britishers since 1911 and the golf course was inaugurated formally in 2011. The golf course is very beautiful and consists of a meadow with various varieties of beautiful and rare species of flowers. The flowers are in full bloom from June to September. Visitors are allowed to take their cars inside for a ride. It is a beautiful experience to enjoy the golf course in a car and the mesmerizing landscape of the city.
- Shopping in Gulmarg: Gulmarg is enriched with culture in all aspects. You will be able to see their culture in all things here starting from the buildings, food, handicrafts to other items that are manufactured here in Gulmarg and the neighboring cities around. You will find all sorts of shopping places here. From big shops to small vendors and temporary shops set up by sellers on the roadsides and vendors selling various things on the carts as well. Clothing especially Pashmina in Jammu and Kashmir is famous in the entire world and is bought by people vising from India and outside. Kashmiri Phirans are also popular among females and the often bought here. There are many shops in the Gulmarg market selling Phirans in all price ranges. You can also choose to buy Kashmiri spices, dry fruits, the best quality saffron, and Kashmiri Kahwa from the local market in Gulmarg.
Best Time to Visit Gulmarg
Gulmarg and its different seasons welcome you with a different landscape. There is no ideal time to visit this place as this is the heaven on earth in any season and any month of the year. However, a perfect time for you to visit Gulmarg could depend on your reason to visit.
If you live in the Northern part of India and want to visit a cold hill station all around the year but a little less during summers, Gulmarg is the place to be. You can visit Gulmarg between March and June if you want to beat the summer heat and enjoy the beautiful flowers in this meadow of flowers in their full bloom. The scenic view of the flora and fauna mesmerizes you with its beauty. Adventure seekers who love to hike would prefer to come to visit Gulmarg during this time as all trekking routes and hiking trails are adorned with lush greenery and beautiful flowers that will bewitch your heart in no time.
However, if you live winter sports and enjoy the snow in this beautiful place, the months between December to March are ideal to visit. Gulmarg boasts of the best ski resorts in Asia. You can enjoy skiing and other snow sports during your winter visit to this beautiful place.
How to Reach Gulmarg?
Gulmarg is well connected to the plains and all the nearby major cities. There are several means of transport available to travel to Gulmarg. You can choose from air travel, trains, buses, or taxis to reach this heavenly town in this beautiful valley.
Air Travel to Gulmarg: The Nearest railway station is Sri Nagar International airport which is connected to most of the major cities in India. The local airlines and carriers like Air India, Jet Airways, Indigo, Spice Jet, and others have direct flights from Delhi. You can take a taxi to Gulmarg which is 35 km from Sri Nagar airport. To teach Sri Nagar, you can also take connecting flights from other local airports in India. You can hire a taxi from the airport to reach go to your destination in Gulmarg or the nearby cities if you are planning to go anywhere else.
Rail Travel to Gulmarg: The Nearest railway station is Gulmarg is the very famous Jammu Tawi. There is a train specially named after the station. The railhead is connected to most of the major cities in India. Despite being the nearest railway station from Gulmarg, it is still around 290 km from Gulmarg, and you need to hire a taxi or take a pool taxi running from here to reach Gulmarg. Jammu Tawi or Udhampur railway station is directly connected to prime cities of the country, including Delhi, Bhatinda, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, and Jodhpur via several superfast, express, and mail trains. You can take a taxi or take a shared cab from outside the railway station to reach Gulmarg.
Road Travel to Gulmarg: This is the best way to reach Gulmarg as you will be able to enjoy the views on your way to the city while traveling by road. Gulmarg is Srinagar is connected by a network of roads to Chandigarh, Gulmarg, Jammu, Sonamarg, Delhi, and Pahalgam. Bus service is also available from all the nearby major cities in the north that connect to Gulmarg. You can also choose to hire a taxi if you want to travel at your own pace to this magnificent place.
Best Places to Stay in Gulmarg
Vising Gulmarg is the best way to unwind and relax in the lap of nature away from the city crowds. There are many warm and cozy places to stay in Gulmarg for all budgets. There are luxurious 5-star hotels, mid-range hotels, homestays, bed and breakfast, and other budget hotels in Gulmarg and nearby. Gulmarg has some of the best hotels and resorts in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Many hotels and resorts in Gulmarg are located amidst the scented forests of maple and apple orchards or the ones offering a view of the scenic and serene landscapes that increase the beauty and sophistication of the place tenfold. You can also find many homestays which are quite famous among families as well as young people and adventure seekers as you can have the entire area to yourself and enjoy there as per your comfort. And if you are staying with a landlord at your homestay, you get to enjoy the local and homecooked state food in addition to getting to know the local folk stories and hidden spots for you to see.
Some of the famous places in the area are The Khyber Himalayan Resort and Spa, Shaw Inn, Hotel Zahgeer Continental, The Pine Palace Resort, Gulmarg resorts, The Grand Kaisar. You can also choose to stay on houseboats. You can contact the local agencies to find the best houseboats and visit a few to find the best as per your requirements and budget.
Things to Eat in Gulmarg
You will get to eat the best dishes in Kashmiri cuisine here in Gulmarg. There are many big and small restaurants serving the local Kashmiri food. The most popular dishes include Rogan Josh, Dum Aloo, and Yakhni. Some lesser-known but tasty local dishes you must try are Qabargaah which is the fried rack of Lamb. It is also known as Tabakh maaz among the Muslim locals, Modur Pulaav which is Sweet Pulao, usually eaten as a dessert, and Muj Gaad which is Fish with Raddish.
Along with this, some preparations famous in the area that are worth trying are Raazma-Gogji which is kidney beans or Rajma with turnip, Sheer Chai which is salted pink tea with almonds, Kahwa, the famous sweet green tea with almonds and Kashmiri spices, and Sheekh Kabab made of spicy ground lamb on skewers.