Gulmarg literally means “Meadow of flowers”. Gulmarg is located 60 KMs away from Srinagar which is an hour and half journey by car. Gulmarg has attracted millions of tourists throughout its existence with the scenic beauty of the Himalayan Mountains in the back drop. One of the main attractions in Gulmarg is the Gulmarg Gondola, the Highest Cable Car in the world. The 1st phase of the Gondola takes tourists to the height of 8530 ft to Kongdori Station and the second stage of the Gondola goes up to the height of 12293 ft. Tourists can enjoy horse Riding and can go riding to the magnificent “Strawberry Valley” , Leopards Valley and ride up to “Kongdori” to see the frozen lake of “Al- Pathar”. Gulmarg in winter is a magnificent experience, fully covered in a white blanket of Snow which turns it into a skiers paradise. The natural slopes here are untouched and prove to be a challenge to ace skiers! Besides the scenic side to Gulmarg, winter time in Gulmarg is a season of festivities with celebrations of “White Christmas” and New Year parties.
Gulmarg has been a resort for the kings like Yousuf Shah Chak and Jahangir who used to visit frequently. The old name of Gulmarg was "Gaurimarg", the name of Lord Shiva's wife. Yousuf Shah Chak changed its name to Gulmarg, meaning the place of roses. During the early part of the 20th century the famous Central Asian explorer Sir Marc Aurel Stein (1862–1943), made his home here in a tent between his expeditions. It was a favourite summer holiday destination for the British stationed in India.
What to See
Gandola Cable Car
Gondola Lift is considered as one of the major attractions of Gulmarg. Designed in technical collaboration with a French Company PUMA, and managed by the Jammu and Kashmir Cable Car Corporation, it is the only cable car system in Asia that travels up an elevation of 13,500 ft above sea level.
It is located on the backdrop of the beautiful Himalayan Peaks in the Gondola Village of Gulmarg. The Gondola covers the distance from Gulmarg to Kongdoor and from Kongdoor to Apharwat.
This cable lift service comprises 2 stretches that travel a total distance of 5 km. Completed in May 2005, the second stage of the Gulmarg-Apharwat cable car project links Kongdoor station at 3,099 m with Apharwat at 3,979 m. Between Kongdoor and Apharwat, the vertical rise is 880 m.
It uses 19 towers to operate the Gulmarg-Kongdoor stretch and can handle 1,500 people at maximum per hour. The other stretch is Kongdoor to Apharwat, which uses 18 towers and can handle 600 people per hour. In 2005, a consortium of Indian and French companies completed this project.
Apharwat Peak, 13500 feet high, is a famous tourist destination located at thirteen km away from Gulmarg. This snow covered mountain lies close to the Line of Control (LOC) with Pakistan. Apharwat slopes are the longest and the highest ski slopes of Asia and is a destination of ski enthusiasts from all over the world.
To transport the visitors to the top there is a cable car service called Gondola which operates in two levels. First level takes one from Gulmarg to Kongdoor for INR 100/- and second level from Kongdoor to Apharwat for INR 250/- , all being one-way charges. A full day pass costs INR 1000/-. The Gondola with 36 six seat cabins lifts through 1330 m height and covers nearly 5 km distance to level two at 3980 m on Apharwat Peak. A thirty-minute walk will take one to the actual peak.
Skiing on the snow slopes is possible in north-west and southeast directions. For the less adventurous ones slopes from level one are gentler. There is facility for horse riding around Lake Alpather.
As the place is covered in snow even in summer visitors are advised to carry adequate winter protections, even though some items can be hired locally.
Khilanmarg is a small valley, which is the site for Gulmarg’s winter ski runs. Carpeted with flowers in the spring season, the meadow offers beautiful views the surrounding peaks and the Kashmir Valley. It can be reached by a 600-m ascent from the destination. From the peak, views of Himalayas, Nanga Parbat, and the twin 7,100-m peaks of Nun and Kun can be availed.
This is a place 10 km before Gulmarg where the driver would tell you to stop for hiring a guide and warm clothes. Remember, they are a must! A guide helps a lot in Gulmarg as he knows where to go, what to see and do plus he also helps in doing all sorts of things like standing in a queue for purchasing tickets, holding the bags, if any. The warm clothes suited perfectly for the weather can be hired from Tangmarg. There are several vendors to choose from, the driver knows the best and one must trust his judgement. The hiring costs INR350/person/day for a overcoat and boots. Other stuff like a woolen cap and gloves can be bought if not carrying already. These are a must.
One can also use this place for using an ATM machine as there aren't are lot of options in Gulmarg.
Alpather Lake, located beyond Khilanmarg, remains completely frozen until mid-June. Triangular in shape, the lake lies at the foot of the twin 4, 511 m Apharwat peaks. Located 13 km away from Gulmarg, the lake has a backdrop of scenic hilly snow-capped terrains.
In summer season, the lake comprises streams of clear water along with floating ice pieces. Pony track over the 3,810 mtr. Apharwat ridge and up the valley to the lake at 3,843 mtr. comprises the trekking path for reaching the site.
Gulmarg Biosphere Reserves
Gulmarg Biosphere Reserve is known for providing shelter to the endangered wildlife species like leopards, red foxes, serow, musk deer and many more. Furthermore, the reserve also houses various species of flora like cedrus deodara, pinus griffithii, aesculus indica, and abies pindrow.
Vegetation of the reserve also comprises dicotyledonus herbs, along with shrubs like Indigofera heterantha, sorbaria tomentosa, viburnum sp. and others. Apart from the flora and fauna, the reserve is renowned as a natural habitat of various species of birds like European hoopoe. Spread over an area of about 180 sq. km, it offers abode to both resident and migratory birds like European hoopoe, snow cock, jungle crow, koklas, blue rock pigeon, griffon vulture and Kashmir roller.
Having an altitude that ranges from 2,400 to 4,300 m above sea level, the reserve also has a population of pheasants and upland birds. Birds residing in the reserve also include crimson tagopan, monal pheasant, blood pheasant and many other species. In the reserve, birdwatchers can also spot griffon vulture, monal, snow cock, koklas and more.
What to do
Cable car riding to Khilanmarg
Snow Skiing during winter months (End Dec -Middle March)
How To Reach
The nearest airport to Gulmarg is in Srinagar which is 56 kilometres away. It is a domestic airport and is well connected to major cities in India by regular flights from Delhi, Mumbai and Amritsar. Outside the airport, you can hire a prepaid cab which will cost you around Rs. 1500 one-way. You can also hire a shared taxi which will cost less.
Gulmarg is well-connected with regular bus
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