Gulmarg is a city of about 2,000 people (2011) in the Kashmir Valley. It is noted for lush green meadows and wildflowers in summer and endless snow fields during winter. It is a hub for winter sports activities. It also houses a high-altitude cable car, popularly known as gondola.
You can reach Gulmarg by car or bus from Srinagar (summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir) in 1.5 hours. In summer the SRTC daily sightseeing coaches are available in the morning at Tourist Reception Center (₹351). Local buses are available only up to the Tangmarg market from where the mini coaches can be hired up to Gulmarg. Taxis can be hired from any taxi stand at fixed one way or return journey charges. During winter, a Jeep-type vehicle (Scorpio, Qualis or Sumo) is recommended as the regular snowfall and below zero temperatures make the Tangmarg-Gulmarg road portion highly slippery with narrow passage. A travel agent's assistance can be useful.
A number of informal checkpoints exist along the road to Gulmarg, which appear to be staffed by armed volunteers. Tipping may be necessary to pass any given checkpoint.
A not so well-known(albeit quite economical and reliable) option is to get to Gulmarg by bus. You can get a bus to Gulmarg at least every 30 mins, from 7 am to 5 pm, from Tangmarg. These buses are available from the Tangmarg Bus station which is very close to the Taxi stand. Just ask for the bus station to any local (apart from the taxi drivers, who will pretend that buses never ply to Gulmarg) and they will show the directions (barely 500 metres from the taxi stand). The bus fare is pretty cheap (INR 40 to get from Tangmarg to Gulmarg) and the buses are similarly old. Don't expect push-back and other comforts, however the buses will be good enough for the short trip. It takes about 40-60 mins to travel by bus from Tangmarg to Gulmarg. The route is incredibly scenic (in both summers and winters). You will get space to sit in the bus and an overhead rack to keep your baggage.
- 1 Gulmarg Bus Stand.
Getting around Gulmarg is done mostly by foot. No need for a car as there is one road that does a loop around the whole area. Walking around it would take about an hour. You can even sightsee around Gulmarg in sledges driven by locals which cost around ₹200 in off season.
The main attraction is the gondola. Finished in 2004, it runs up to 3,995 meters. A sight-seeing trip to the top of the gondola will cost you ₹740 for Stage One (Gulmarg to Kungdoor) and ₹950 for Stage Two (Kungdoor to Apparwath) for a return trip; singles (for skiers, for example) are half the price, with a day pass available for ₹1,200. You can decide whether you wish to go to Stage Two when you have reached Stage One. Stage Two is at a much higher elevation, right on the hill top, and is clearly visible from the Gulmarg taxi stand. The hills visible from the top are said to be LOC and Pakistan-administered Kashmir (specifically Nanga Parbat and (supposedly) the very tip of K2).
Major tourist attractions are:
- 1 Alpather Lake. Popularly known as the frozen lake the Alpather Lake is situated at an altitude of 4390 m and is located at the foot of the twin Apharwat Peaks. The lake is surrounded by rocky mountains and lush green meadows, complete with blooming wild flowers. It is located very near the Line of Control (LOC) between India and Pakistan and camping is not allowed on the banks of the lake. The lake is connected to Gulmarg by road however the road is for military purposes and civilians are not allowed on the road. The lake is at a distance of 14 km from Gulmarg and is best reached by cable car (Gondola). The lake is about 3 km from the last cable stop beneath the Afarwat Peak. Ponies and guides are available but in snow free condition the path is well marked.
- 2 Baba Reshi Shrine. It is the resting place of Sufi saint Baba Payam uddin Reshi. The original structure dates back to 1840 but it has been modified over the years. The shrine and its surrounding garden is a tourist attraction and a destination for pilgrims visiting the shrine. It is situated at a height of 7,000 feet (2,133 meters) on the road to Tanmarg.
- 3 Cable Car to Kongdori. The two-stage high altitude cable car is popularly known as Gondola. The first phase operates from Gulmarg to Kongdori. The second phase starts from Kongdori and goes up to the shoulder of Afarwat Peak. Kongdori is connected to the beautiful meadows of Khilanmarg (3 km one way). The second and the higher stops connect to Alpathar Lake, an high altitude lake, which remains frozen for most part of the year.
- 4 Gulmarg Golf Club. The golf course sits at a height of 2,650 metres (8,690 ft) above sea level, is the highest golf course in the world. It started as a-6 hole golf course in 1890. Over the years the course has been extended and modified several times. It now has an 18-hole golf course. The golf club is housed in a beautiful, cottage-style wooden building.
- 5 Maharani Temple. The Siva temple is located atop a small hillock and is visible from all over Gulmarg. The temple dates back to 1915 and was built by Mohini Bai Sisodhia, wife of the last king of Kashmir Hari Singh. Since built by the queen it is known as the Maharani Temple.
- 6 St. Mary's Church. The St Mary's Church is located in the valley of Shepherds in Gulmarg. The church dates back to 1902. The brick built structure is topped with a green metallic thached roof. The interiors are complete with wood panels and a beautiful stained glass window.
Take care if you are considering hiring a guide - they tend to work on a commission basis. Their initial price might be attractive, but your guide may be reluctant to take you to places which don't pay commission and you'll be paying inflated prices for the duration of your trip.
Gulmarg has some of the world's amazing treks.
You can do mountain biking from June to September and enjoy some of the best downhill mountain biking in the world.
The main activity for tourists is skiing (December till early April). One can enjoy skiing in the long and high slopes of the snowy mountain ranges and experience a difference. Snow conditions are really good and you can get deep powder in Gulmarg ski resort every winter. The skiing infrastructure is generally lacking. There are no proshops and most of the rentals are of incredibly shoddy quality. There is no map available.
There are two areas for skiing: the high mountain/off piste areas served by the gondola; and a beginner's area near the hotels on the hills of the Gulmarg golf course. The high mountain ski lift is open from approximately 8:30AM to 3:30PM daily. However, ski rentals are not available before about 10AM, and the equipment is very low quality, so if you are an excellent/off piste skier who wants to ski all day, bring your own equipment. The beginners area is open from 10AM-1PM, then closes for lunch until 2:30PM. Lifts reopen 2:30-4PM
Skis and snowboards are available for rent from a government-owned shop for ₹300 per day. The equipment is shoddy and there is a lack of ski poles.
Ski lift ticket prices for Gulmarg are as follows:
- ₹600 (Jan 2016) per first stage gondola ticket,
- ₹250 (Jan 2012) per second stage gondola ticket,
- ₹1250 (Jan 2012) for an unlimited gondola day pass.
With its gondola accessible ski area on Mount Apharwat, 4,124 m it offers many possibilities for descents of up to 1,800 m.
Heli-skiing is available, which opens up far more off-piste opportunities than the one-lift resort that Gulmarg otherwise offers. The heliski operators are Australian and qualified. They offer rental of good quality deep powder skis but you must have your own boots.
Sound skiing skills and good health are prerequisites for skiing in Gulmarg. Note that only the main bowl to the skier's left of the gondola is avalanche-blasted and patrolled - all other areas are considered out-of-bounds.
Golfing, sledging, and horse riding are other activities (best enjoyed in the summer).
There are various stores in town that sell carpets, clothing, etc. Expect prices to be higher than in Srinagar.
- Global Hotel/Restaurant - excellent eating if you're after some western food, 200 metres in the direction of the Gondola from the Bus Station.
- There - a relatively new pop-up bar situated in the basement of Alpine Ridge hotel. Serves delicious western-style comfort food in a cool, après-ski atmosphere with good indie music and great Australian hosts.
- Pine View Resort and Restaurant - Pine view restaurant in Gulmarg as well as in Tangmarg have a nice option for Indian food.
- 1 Bakshi's Green Punjabi Dhaba (Vegetarian). Serves excellent veg food and have a friendly service.
Alcohol is available legally from the 'Highland Park Hotel' (carry on down the road past the gondola and you will eventually reach it on your right) and not-so-legally from 'other vendors' (ask the locals for hints, if you want to risk it).
No trip to Kashmir is complete without sampling the two kinds of Kashmiri tea. One has bicarbonate of soda and salt and is said to aid digestion. The other is green tea infused with cardamom, saffron and cinnamon, with not a large helping of sugar.
- Fluorescence Hotel and Restaurant
- Global Hotel - ₹1200 night, hot water, gas heaters and a western restaurant, 200m from the bus stop in the direction of the gondola.
- Green Heights - ₹750 night, no hot water, each room has its own bukhari (fireplace).
- Hill Top - Central heating, in house restaurant, closest to Gondola.
- Hotel Highlands Park - is also a good option to stay for a night.
- Hotel Pine Palace - Ski In Ski Out Hotel on the Gondola's Ski slope. Multiple restaurants. ₹3500 per night at Pine Palace Heritage, and ₹5500 at Pine Palace Platinum.
- Hotel Raja, Parvaiz Ahmad, ☏ . One of the cheapest within walking distance of the Gondola.
- The Nedous Hotel - a family-run establishment that was built in 1888 by an Austrian family and now run by their great grandson. Has dining room. All rooms have telephones, cable TV. ₹500+ Tel: +91 1-954 254428 Email:email@example.com
- New Zam Zam - ₹600 night for double room.
- Raja's Hotel - ₹500 a night for dorm bed in basically unheated room, but raja is the coolest ex mujahadeen on the mountain.
- The Ski Lounge - Lounge has majestic views, live music on weekends, and DJ.
- Pine View Resort - Pineview resort have breathtaking location in Gulmarg, with a small balcony to every room, with heating facility. It's a fine budget resort to stay. Tel: ☏
You can also stay at private cottages in Gulmarg. It is a great and homely experience.
- The Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa Gulmarg (Khyber Hotel Gulmarg), Hotel Khyber Rd, Forest Block (29RP+R2), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. A ski resort based in a pine valley in the heart of the Pir Panjal Range in the Himalayas at a elevation of nearly 9,000 feet. For guests of all ages, it provides a beautiful view of the Himalayas.
The weather is cold and it is necessary for the tourist to wear woollen clothes. Temperatures in Gulmarg remain well below zero for most of the year. Keep well covered with gloves, boots, and overcoats to prevent frostbite. On the way to Gulmarg, there are small shops where you can buy heavy woolens and boots for rent. These are strongly recommend as, at that altitude, you'll need them. If possible, hire a guide (preferably someone who knows English). A place like Gulmarg, visiting which is like once-a-lifetime, needs proper resources to make your excursion more enjoyable and meaningful. Skiers and snowboarders who plan to ride in the backcountry should expect significant avalanche danger and plan accordingly. A non-profit avalanche information centre provides daily advisories from avalanche experts. The advisory is posted at the common access points of the gondola.
Gondola ticket bookings are available in advance from TRC in Srinagar ahead of Lal Chowk and next to JK Bank Headquarters office. It is next to TRC (Tourist Reception Centre) and then one can book morning to evening bus service to and from Gulmarg from TRC Srinagar. Check with TRC for reservations and timings.
There are incredibly persistent touts that will follow you offering guides, sled rides, ski rentals and clothes rentals. Be careful with the guides since they may mislead you, telling you the gondola is somewhere else.
The town of Uri on the Jhelum River is close by.