Gulmarg is a city in the Kashmir Valley and is noted for having one of the world's highest gondolas (cable car).
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.
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.
- Baba Reshi Shrine.
- 2 Cable Car to Kongdori. Highest and longest cable car in Asia.
- 3 Gulmarg Golf Course.
- Maharani Temple.
- Shiva Temple. A temple that was previously a royal temple for Dogras
- St. Mary's Church.
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 8:30 to 3:30 daily. However, ski rentals are not available before about 10:00, and the equipment is very low quality, so if you are an excellent/off piste skiier who wants to ski all day, bring your own equipment. The beginners area is open from 10:00-13:00, then closes for lunch until 14:30. Lifts reopen 14:30-16:00
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 skipoles.
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.
- Bakshi's Green Punjabi Dhaba (Vegetarian) - Said to have good food and friendly service.
- 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 style food.
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 balconey to every room, with heating facility. Its a fine budget resort to stay. Tel: +91-9906604786
You can also stay at private cottages in Gulmarg. It is a great and homely experience.
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.