Saturday, March 7, 2009


Snow in the Meadows

What better name can do justice to the eclectic diaspora of multi-colored Bluebells, Daisies, Forget Me Not’s, Buttercups flaked all over the 3 sq-km valley than “Gulmarg”, meaning Meadow of Flowers. Roosted at an altitude of 2,730 m in Baramulla district of the Pir Panjal mountains (one of the six ranges which make up the Himalayas), some 51 km from Srinagar, is this saucer-shaped bowl overhanging the main valley of Kashmir. Come winters and snow carpets Gulmarg’s grassy slopes, the fir trees wear white scarves, welcoming tourists for a rejuvenating vacation. Golfers raise a toast here in the evenings after their day of golfing at world’s highest golf-course. The slopes invite sledges and skiing enthusiasts to partake in myriad adventure escapades in this sequestered snow-land. The Gondolas (cable cars) that whiz across the valley create hallucinations of looking back at an heaven from the sky.


Golf at 2,650m : Be prepared to witness a green spread with 18-hole course, with a par of 72 - something you will not see in the whole world at an altitude of 2,650 m above the sea-level. Gulmarg Golf Club was born way back in 1911 and the Clubhouse is a classic reminder of a Swiss chalet with its quaintly sloping roof. Tournaments of both amateurs and professionals, evening golfing and tourists scuttling by, make it a wonderful evening stoppage at Gulmarg .

Skiing & Heliskiing : All those skiers out there need not be informed about the enticing slopes of Gulmarg. As for the beginners, the white blanket of Gulmarg in December through January, serves as fine skiing slopes. In fact, Gulmarg is credited to have Asia’s most treacherous Heli-skiing slopes. And in case you are not sure about the difference between skiing and heliskiing --- the latter is actually the more adventurous version where you don’t use the ski-lift but a helicopter for downhill skiing. The descent from the Apharwat peak, that lasts for some 30 min, is one of its kind for advanced skiers. And good news is Gulmarg has well qualified instructors to teach the right techniques and excellent equipment for hire.

Gondola ride & Winter Sports : Gulmarg’s newly completed gondola, designed by France's Poma Group, ascends from the resort at 2650 meters, via a mid station and restaurant at 3050 meters, to an elevation of 3980 meters, providing lift served access to 1330 vertical meters of vast snow riding terrain. These Gondolas (cable car) pass across the hills from Gulmarg to Kongdor providing that unequaled sweeping glance of the entire valley. Sledging, Tobogganing, snow scooters, horse riding (horses can be hired directly or through the Tourist Office), and snow bobbing are other options that await at this famous hill resort.

Mighty treks : Gulmarg’s higest peak on the west called Affarwat is best for trekking. Treks to the alpine meadows of Khilanmarg (4km) are also wonderful. There is also a pony track from Gulmarg that leads upwards to Khilanmarg, Kongdori and seven springs - something you should check out if you have time.

Outer Circle Walk : Ask any local about this road circular 11-km road that runs around Gulmarg, from where you can have excellent scenic views of the massifs of Nanga Parbat (fourth highest peak on earth at 8,500 m), Harmukh, the rugged slopes of Ferozepur, Sunset Peak and Apharwat Ridge.

Pray close to the heaven : The Maharani Temple, St. Mary’s Church, shrine of Baba Reshi (Tangmarg) are the places to head for if you have somehow get this in your mind that prayers sent up from such great heights will reach the gods faster.

Shrine of Baba Reshi/Ziarat of Baba Reshi : On the slopes below Gulmarg, and surrounded by a courtyard of carved deodar is a tomb (Ziarat) of a well known Muslim saint, can be reached from either Gulmarg or Tangmarg. Every year thousands of devotees visit this shrine regardless of the faith they believe in.


Gulmarg is definitely not a place to be if you want to pick knick-knacks for home. The traditional crafts include cane and bamboo work, metal-crafts etc. And to shop them, and other Kashmiri local handicrafts, the markets at Srinagar are the best. Brass and Silverware, willow baskets, artifacts made of papier-mâché and woolen garments swell the Srinagar markets. Hunt for curios at Lal Chowk, Badshah Chowk and Polo View area. Cricket bats made of Kashmiri willow, wicker baskets, limestone mortar and pestles are interesting buys available around Dalgate. Dry fruits and the likes should be shopped in plenty and the collection should at least include honey, walnuts, almonds, saffron and dried apples.


Kashmiri cuisine’s trademark spices emanate from every Gulmarg kitchen -- cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, saffron etc. With rice as the staple diet, a typical Gulmarg table is laid with non-veg specialties like mutton, chicken or fish cooked with vegetables. Some popular combinations are mutton and turnips, chicken and spinach, fish and lotus root. Pure vegetarian dishes include dum-aloo (roasted potatoes in curd-based gravy), and chaman (fried paneer or cottage cheese in a thick sauce). Kashmiris do not care much for sweet dishes and desserts. For beverage, they have Kahva or green tea where a slush of spices and almonds exude that replenishing aroma. The traditional Rogan Josh (meat balls in gravy) is a recommended non-veg delight.


» Best winter: Gulmarg enjoyed one of its best winters on New Year Eve, 2004 when 3-m of snow (118 inches) fell in just four days beginning on 30th December.

» Is Kashmir Safe?: In spite of the terrorist brouhaha, Srinagar, the base for trips to Gulmarg, Sonamarg and Pahalgam, continues to attract thousands of tourists every year. Police checking points, frisking and questioning are a part of daily life and J&K is not like any other tourist spot of India. Walking about the dark should be avoided and be prepared that your cell-phones on roaming are not going to work there. Only after a complete sojourn in the Kashmir valley, you will realize why she has been the bone of contention between two great nations (India & Pakistan) for years. Kashmir is too paradisaical to be lost!


Khilanmarg (6km): About 40-min away from Gulmarg, at an ascent of 600-meter is the site of the much hyped winter ski-runs. The very journey en route the valley of wild flowers from Gulmarg to Khilanmarg, with classic views of the imposing peaks (Nanga Parbat to the twin 7,100-meter peaks of Nun and Kun) and their reflections in Wular and other lakes, is breathtakingly beautiful.

Alpather Lake (13 km): Beyond Khilanmarg and at the foot of the twin 4,511 meter Apharwat peaks, is this frozen lake (winters till mid-June). Ride a pony over the 3,810 meter Apharwat ridge and then up the valley to the lake at 3,843 meters or trek straight up the boulder-strewn slope of the ridge and descend the other side to the path.

The Ningli Nallah (8 km): The Apharwat and the Alpather Lake melts into a dazzling stream that stream continues down into the valley below to joins the Jhelum River near Sopur. Meadows beckon picnicking families and camping troupes.

Ferozpore Nallah: Another mountain stream that meets the Bahan River at a popular picnic spot known as ‘waters meet’, Ferozpore Nallah is reputed for its stock of trout fish is an angler’s favorite at Gulmarg. Reached from the Tangmarg road or from the Outer Circular Walk, trekking up to the source of the stream - the rugged peak Ferozpore or Shinmahinyu - very close to the ceasefire line with Pakistan, is both interesting and treacherous.

Pahalgam (153 km): At 8957 ft, this is a pristine shepherd’s village popular as the base camp for the pilgrimage jaunt to the Amarnath Cave during July-August. The ancient Mamleshwar Temple, the best amongst the valley’s other 7th century limestone temple, is the recent tourist rage.

Location :
At 8,694 ft SW of Sri Nagar, J&K;

Go there for :
Skiing, Golf, Treks, Alpather Lake


Climate :
Reaches (-)2°C in Winters and about 29°C (Sum)

When to Go:
May-Sep (Sum); Nov-Feb (Winter/good for Skiing)

Local Tongue:
Kashmiri, Hindi, Dogri

STD Code :
+91 - 1954

1 comment:

  1. Kashmir is aptly called the 'Paradise on earth' because of its staggering natural beauty and it goes without saying that Kashmir tourist destinations like Gulmarg are equally enchanting. Travel to Gulmarg for holidays high on beauty, adventure and relaxation. The gorgeous paddy fields, quaint villages, rolling hills, a variety of flowers and snow-capped mountains are some of the prime attractions of this place.
    Gulmarg attractions