Gulmarg, the meadow of flowers, is one of Asia’s premier hill resorts for its legendary beauty, prime location and the range of choices it offers to the visitors. Famous for its exquisite valleys, gorgeous streams, fascinating slopes for every sort of skiing and hiking, Gulmarg is also home to one of the highest golf courses in the world. Gulmarg is equally most sought after place in summers as well as in winters for, it offers myriad choices during summers like greenery and flower beds all around, with beautiful lakes, sublime valleys and Gulmarg Gandola. During winters, the place is thronged by the tourists for its snowy slopes where skiing is done.
Gulmarg is located 56 km north of Srinagar at an average altitude of 2650 m. The 3,5 long and 1 km wide valley was discovered in the 16th century by Sultan Yusuf Shah, who was inspired by the sight of its grassy slopes emblazoned with wild flowers. It was also a favourite resort of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir. Gulmarg was first established as a ski resort by the British who had set up the Ski Club of India here in 1927. Skiing at Gulmarg had become very popular during the pre-independence years. The resort used to host two major skiing events, one each during Christmas and Easter. The skiing season usually commences just before Christmas (mid December) and continues till early April. During 1998, Gulmarg hosted the first National Winter Games of India.
Gulmarg also offers a host of other snow sports at this time of the year. The most popular among the tourists is riding a sledge and being pulled along the snow covered roads or gentler slopes. Tobogganing also does not require any skill – a flat wooden board is taken up the hill and then allowed to slide downhill. Snowboarding, another exciting winter sport is also being introduced and promoted here. Making a snowman and holding camp fires around it amidst music and feasting is another popular activity indulged by the tourists.
Heli-skiing was introduced in Gulmarg, for the first time in India during the mid 1980s in collaboration with the world renowned French skier, Sylvain Saudan of Himalaya Heli-Ski Club of France. For this highly exciting sport, skiers are taken to the top of mountain ridges by helicopters from where they ski down the immense Himalayan slopes. Initially, the programme was started at Apharwat in Gulmarg. Subsequently, other sites in the Kashmir Himalayas were also used for the purpose.
The journey to Gulmarg is half the enchantment of reaching there. The roads bordered by rigid avenues of poplar give over to flat expanses of rice fields interspersed with picturesque villages. Depending on the season, nature’s colours could be the translucent green of spring, summer’s rich emerald, or autumn’s golden hues, when scarlet chillies festoon windows of village homes. After Tangmarg, the climb to Gulmarg begins through fir-covered hillsides. Gulmarg is a self sufficient place having hotels of all choices and pockets. A market is also there offering all a tourist could imagine. The place is open to tourists throughout the year. In case of any inconvenience, one can contact: Tourist Office Gulmarg: + 91 1954 254439,87 Gulmarg Gondola Lift: + 91 1954 244475, www.jksccc.com
PLACES OF INTEREST
SKIING BEYOND IMAGINATION
You can’t miss to visit a destination that has received an award for being best ski destination by CNN International – a destination beyond skier’s imagination.During winter months, it is all happening at the world famous ski resort 56 km South West of Srinagar.
You will watch heli-skiers sliding down from the mountain peaks, kids sloping it along on the baby slope, burly boys running in shorts for rugby thrill on the beaten snow while the artists turn the atmosphere musical under sub-zero temperature at the wonderful natural setting of sprawling snow meadows at Gulmarg.
The powder snow at an altitude of the above 14000-feet high on Pir Panjal range attracts adventure lovers from across the world.The resort is also famous because of its “Gulmarg Gondola” ropeway project.The ropeway stretching 2.5 km connects the bowl-shaped Kongdoori valley with Afarwat. It’s the world’s highest cable car using gondolas and the only one in the world that takes skiers and tourists to a height of 4,390 m.
Gulmarg is popular both during summer and winter seasons. During summers, you will be smitten by the undulating rolling lush green meadowns while in from November onwards till mid March, the snowfall turns the lush green meadows into a white carpet. The snow accumulates as high as 8-feet by January and February turning it one of the best skiing destination.
The extreme skiers board helicopter from the snow bowl and fly to peak of the mountain only to snake down mountain while negotiating hundreds of snow-burdened conifers down the hill. The thrill can only be imagined.the festive environment of the winter sports also attracts artists from the country who sing different musical notes to entertain tourists. Every year, Tourism Department Kashmir makes elaborate arrangements for the winter sports and musical events at this world’s most beautiful snow bowl.State of art facility for the skiers is also available.
Gulmarg receives good number of both domestic and foreign tourists who enjoy skiing while at least six sports bodies provide training to youth in skiing, snowboarding and ice-skating.The best part is that the skiing which is an expensive sport and hobby is very economical at Gulmarg.Not only this, Gulmarg is perhaps the only place in Kashmir which has given new dimensions to adventure sports by introducing snow cycling, snow rugby and snow baseball.
Available from Srinagar (Batmaloo bus stand) buses operate to Tangmarg which is just few miles away from Gulmarg. From Tangmarg there is a regular service of buses and taxi to Gulmarg.
Taxi / MUV / SUMO
Direct Taxi / MUV service is also available from Srinagar (Batmaloo bus stand). Prepaid Taxi / MUV is available from Srinagar International Airport and Tourist Reception Center.
Saint Mary’s Church in Gulmarg is also an attraction for tourist constructed in the early 20th century during British rule in line with British architecture. Its built is reminiscent of ancient Victorian Architecture.In 2003, its facade was improved and given brighter look of this ancient stricture.
The church in located in the middle of the meadow bowl near the 18th hole of Gulmarg Golf Club, a par five, golf course. The church which has walls thick grey stone looks adoring both in winter and summer. The snow carpet in snow and the lush green meadows in the summer give the church scintillating appearances.
Bota Pathri is another tourist spot in the vicinity of Gulmarg meadows which was recently thrown open for tourists and locals in May 2012 by the department of tourism.Bota Pathri is a trekking spot which has beautiful meadows and at a distance of 9 km from Gulmarg. Earlier, it was closed for the visitors due to army presence. However, due to the congestion at Gulmarg, the department of tourism with the help of army threw open the virgin tourist spot.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
The peak season starts with the snowfall in December and lasts until March (April if it is a good season). The charges for one night stay during peak season in a hotel range typically between Rs1500 to Rs6500+, however there is also accommodation available for Rs500 which is only for the hardcore. The pre-season and post-season rates may have a discount but this is not standard.