Gulmarg is the skiing capital of the country and is essentially one of the most beautiful locations in Jammu Kashmir. Towering at 2730 meters above sea level, Gulmarg is located at the Pir Panjal range. The palatial mountains, the splendid flower meadows, the deep ravine, and the lush green forests are all part of Gulmarg’s charm. With the highest Gondola ride in the world available, at Gulmarg, it is a must-visit place not just for skiing lovers but for anyone who is craving for a much-needed vacation.
REASONS TO VISIT
Gulmarg is also a top honeymoon spot by couples all over the country. The enchanting beauty of Manali and Shimla exemplifies the phrase “love in the air”. So if you are someone searching for a romantic spot to spend some time with your loved one, it doesn’t get better than the much alluring Gulmarg.
Gulmarg has also been developed as an adventure hub as the Indian Institute of Skiing and Mountaineering is located here. IISM offers a lot of courses on trekking, mountaineering, skiing, etc. If you are looking for the adrenaline rush that would rejuvenate you, there is no other place to be. However, if you are planning to do a course, it is advisable to book it well in advance. Several private operators are also available who provide similar services. You could engage in skiing, trekking, mountaineering, and yes, even snowboarding. Just engrossing in the picturesque setting itself is therapeutic. It is least surprising that Gulmarg has been a popular spot for shooting several Bollywood movies.
THINGS TO DO IN GULMARG
Gulmarg presents with a wide variety of opportunities to have a perfect vacation. In no particular order here are Gulmarg’s finest.
The quintessential feature of Gulmarg is of course the skiing experience. It is one of a kind and if you have the heart for it, you should not miss this experience.
During blizzards, beautifully characterized open spaces in the forest terrain can be skied below Gulmarg which may lead you to the local shrines. Apart from all the mesmerizing view, you may try skiing, use the Gulmarg gondola once, skin a few km along, hike the rest and take a cab for the remaining.. Having the mountain to oneself is a thing of the past, hence one should stay alert and pro-active.
Skiing in Gulmarg is fit for novices as well, which why many turn up to try it for the first time. Classes for beginners at available at a mere 1500 INR. How it is essential that the participants are medically fit and can handle altitude sickness. Many tour operators provide the required footwear and other essentials for a safe and enjoyable experience. Regular patrolling is also done at the course to prevent any accidents. However utmost caution is necessary to avoid any injuries. Mid-December to mid-April is the best time to hit the ski as the Kashmiri winter is at its finest. There are many ski resorts and hotels to elevate your experience. Gulmarg skiing experience is sublime and with a little caution, you can have an enriching experience. Also while you’re at, having some flue medicines might come in handy.
2. Gondola Ride
Home to the second-highest cable car in the world, Gulmarg attracts several tourists just by its gondola rides. Phase 1 of this cable car lift was made operational from May 1998 while the other phase came into running after 6 years in May 2005. An addition was made in the form of Chairlift or phase 3 in 2011. The 1st phase of Gondola takes you to Kongdori Station which is situated at the height of 8530 ft and the second stage goes up to the altitude of 12293 ft. It gives you a chance to have magnificent views of Nanda Devi, LOC, and Pir Panjal range. The first phase starts from 2,990 m and has a vertical rise of 400 m. Every hour it ferries 1500 people to the height of 3100 m from where several easy runs for skiing are accessible. The ways are through pines and snow-covered slopes. Next, phase 2 brings into the picture the enormous Himalayan Ranges as it goes to a level higher than before. The cable car ascends 1,330 vertical meters to a height of nearly 4,000m and reaches the Apharwat Mountain. It carries 600 people per hour. Phase 1 only costs 740 INR while phase 2 costs a mere 950 INR.
Also, the fact that the Line of Control(LOC) is visible from here is another attractive aspect of the gondola rides.
3. Visit Khilanmarg and Alpathar Lake
Khilanmarg is a miniature valley with panoramic views of the palatial Himalayan ranges. The place is an embodiment of heaven on earth. In spring the blossoming and aromatic flowers cover Khilanmarg and in winters it is a hotshot destination for skiing enthusiasts. To add to that, the extravagant Nanga Parbat peak and the twin peaks of Nun and Kun are also visible from Khilanmarg. However, the main attraction at Khilanmarg is the very beautiful and tranquil Alpather lake.
The lake nestled between the twin Apharwat peaks of Nun and Kun is a thing of beauty. The lake stays frozen during winters with striking scenic views. Ducks waddling and large chunks of ice floating are all common yet splendid views that you can see at this place. The summers however are the time to be here. The shores will be boasting an array of aromatic flowers, the scent that can soothe you. The trees will have the alluring lush greens striking a chord of solitude. It is no brainer that many photographers, philosophers, and poets visit this place often. And if you ever visit Gulmarg, a visit to Khilanmarg is a must.
4. Visit Strawberry Valley
Strawberry Valley, is undoubtedly one of the most charming uncovered treasures of Gulmarg. It is unexploited by tourism and still exudes nascent beauty and charm. The lush green meadows studded with budding red strawberries almost seems like a painting out of god’s canvas. A visit to the strawberry valley will instill a new-found appreciation of colors. The pristine blue skies, the meadows almost like a green carpet, and the luscious red strawberries are simply a delight to the eyes. Quaint houses in the distance and a salivating view of the strawberry gardens make you feel completely lost and yet so sure of oneself.
Besides being a picture-perfect setting, the juicy red strawberries are also a taste from heaven. You can take a walk amidst rows of scarlet and verdure plantations. Stroll along and simply bask in the captivating beauty of nature and while you’re at it, grab a basket of food and enjoy a wonderful picnic with your loved ones. The vibrancy, charisma, and the simple beauty of the great strawberry valley is all you need to have a stop when you’re in Gulmarg.
5. Visit Seven Springs
Seven Springs is a beautiful and majestic stream. It is undoubtedly one of its kind. The stream is famous as it has seven different outlets of water. Hence it is of no surprise that the stream attracts a lot of tourists all around the world. Located on a hillock near Kongdori, the springs offer a spectacular view of the valley of Gulmarg and Srinagar. A gondola cable ride from the base of the Apharwat mountain can take you to this enchanting place with sweeping vistas of snow-capped mountains and the blooming vale below. Never miss out on this unique view and experience if you ever make it to Gulmarg.
6. Visit Gulmarg Biosphere Reserve
Rich in numerous species of flora, fauna, & avifauna, the Gulmarg Biosphere Reserve is certainly one of the favorite spots for wildlife lovers. Biodiversity blooms here in its richest form. The conifers and green herbs paint the entire sanctuary a pristine and luscious green. The view is spellbinding, to say the least, and if you are lucky you get to spot a wide range of exotic animals.
The endangered Musk Deer is the quintessential aspect of the reserve. Other species of fauna include Hangul, Leopard, Brown Bear, Black Bear, and Red Fox. The biosphere reserve is a paradise for not just ornithologists but also shutterbugs. There would be plenty of visuals that would be etched eternally in your memory, but it doesn’t hurt to etch it in frames whatsoever.
The area has a large population of indigenous and migratory birds including, inter alia, Griffon Vulture, Blue Rock Pigeon Monal, Snow Cock, Kashmir Roller, and Jungle Crow. Also, it would be more fun to check this out during winter.
The timing of the visit is from 10 am to 4 pm.
7. Visit Apharwat Peak
Towering at a height. 4,200 meters above sea level, the Apharwat Peak is one of the most beautiful and majestic places to visit in and around Gulmarg. Take a gondola cable car ride in the second phase and you can see for real if the glimpse from afar was real after all. Yes, the view just makes you realize how you are just a speck in front of this towering pinnacle of beauty.
The beautiful summit remains covered with snow for most of the year and the snow-clad slopes are among the best ones for snowboarding and skiing in India. It is a bit ironic that the view which just exuberates a sense of calmness and peace is very near to the Line of Control (LOC) which is one of the most tensed regions in the Indo- Pak border.
8. Visit St. Mary’s Church
St. Mary’s Church is a popular stop in the Gulmarg sightseeing tours. Set in the beautiful backdrop of lush green meadows, huge alpine trees, and snow-kissed palatial mountains, the church built in the early 20th century boats of its Victorian-style architecture. Pulling off with a quaintness of a tiny countryside chapel, the church has gray stone walls and a steep green roof with wooden trimmings.
The rustic views of the wild landscape, the vast stretches of forests, the ancient church, and the hotels & huts serve as perfect backdrops for amazing photographs. This is essentially the reason why it is not a stop just for the religious but also for anyone who appreciated a harmonized existence of man’s creation in the backdrop of god’s creation. Picture perfect isn’t it?
9. Visit Ningle Nallah
Located 10 km from Gulmarg, Ningle Nallah is a beautiful mountain stream nestled between snow-capped mountains and lush green pastures from all four sides. The melted ice from Alpather lake and Apharwat peak is the main source of water for Ningle Nallah. This place is very suitable to have a picnic outdoors and enjoy, especially if you have kids. The place where Ningle Nallah reunites with river Jhelum is an especially beautiful spot that one shouldn’t miss for the world. The alluring sights offered is essentially the reason why everyone who visits Gulmarg should visit the very beautiful Ningle Nallah.
10. Golfing at Gulmarg Golf Course
Gulmarg golf course is the highest 18 hole golf course in the world. Located at a towering height of 8700 feet above sea level, it is also the longest of its kind in the world. The place was used by Britishers to play golf since 1911 but was only formally inaugurated and opened to the public 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 can also take their cars inside and enjoy the view as they ride about in the most beautiful golf courses in the country.
A SNEAK PEEK INTO HISTORY
Gulmarg has a unique history. The place got its current name in the 16th century from Sultan Yusuf Shah. Before this, it was called ‘Gaurimarg’ meaning ‘the fair one’ by the local shepherds and residents. And, it became more popular for the valleys and meadows after Emperor Jahangir visited for the summer retreat, Mughal kings ruled this place for decades before the colonial rule which marked this city for its beauty and charm. The Britishers established ski grounds and resorts for the holiday season during Christmas and Easter. After the end of colonial rule, Gulmarg became a part of the independent princely state of Jammu and Kashmir where now it is a top tourist destination. Hence, people make a point to serenade their beauty.
HOW TO REACH GULMARG
There are plenty of ways to reach Gulmarg. The nearest airport to Gulmarg is Srinagar airport, which lies 85 km away from Gulmarg. It is well-connected with all the major airports of the country. Therefore from the airport, you are required to hire a cab to reach Gulmarg. Moreover, Gulmarg is well-connected with the major cities of Jammu and Kashmir from few cities of Himachal Pradesh. Direct buses are available from Delhi to Gulmarg. And, the nearest railway station to Gulmarg is the Jammu railway station, which is 290 km away from Gulmarg. So, you can catch a bus from Jammu to Srinagar, or else you can hire a cab directly to Gulmarg. Many local cabs are also available at Gulmarg that take you around the place at a cheap price.
A FEW THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND
The best time to visit Gulmarg depends on what you want to do at Gulmarg. For skiing enthusiasts, the best time to visit is from mid-December to March. If you are a nature enthusiast who loves the heat, the months April, May, and June are the best months for a visit. Gulmarg is also known as the ‘meadow of flowers’ due to the fields of blooming flowers that cover the lands of the city in Summer. Make sure you must possess basic medicines for cold and flu, as the weather is predominantly cold. Make sure that the taxi drivers do drop at the location that you have mentioned for skiing. With a little preparation, the Gulmarg visit can be an enriching experience.
There is a reason why Gulmarg is located at the crown of the country. Moreover, the scenic beauty of the location is beyond words. I guess that all the more reason why you should visit the splendid Gulmarg.