Introduction: Gulmarg (or "Meadow of Flowers") is a town and a notified area committee in Baramula district in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. It is a hill station in Jammu and Kashmir.
History: British discovered the hill resort of Gulmarg in 1927 during their colonial rule in India. Originally called ‘Gaurimarg’ by shepherds, its present name was given in the 16th century by Sultan Yusuf Shah, who was inspired by the sight of its grassy slopes emblazoned with wild flowers. Gulmarg was a favourite haunt of Emperor Jehangir who once collected 21 different varieties of flowers from here. Today Gulmarg is not merely a mountain resort of exceptional beauty- it also has the highestgreen golf course in the world, and is the country's premier ski resort in the winter. 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. The surrounding areas were politically restive during the 1990s uprising in Kashmir, but after a ceasefire between India and Pakistan in 2003, the town is now enjoying a period of relative peace and quiet.
Description: With the abatement of militancy in the area, Gulmarg has quickly become one of the state's most visited destinations. The slopes of the Afarwat Hills of the Pir Panjal Range of the Himalaya Chain boast one of the longest and highest ski slopes in Asia. The total distance covered by ski lift is five kilometres and the resort peaks at an altitude of 3,747m/12,292ft, accessed by an aerial gondola (telecabine). The entire hill is guarded by the army at all times. The army, which is seen everywhere in the cities of Kashmir, is not in the town or the actual hilltop. Gulmarg does not have any permanent residents. All living in Gulmarg are hotel employees and guests. Everyone else is required to leave the village by sunset, as per curfew set by the army in 1990.
Gulmarg Quick facts
Gulmarg Geography and Climate
It is a large meadow located at 34.05° N 74.38° E. Gulmarg is located in the Baramulla district of Kashmir. It is about 3-sq-kms in area and has an average elevation of 2690 metres (8825 feet). It lies 56-kms south west of Srinagar.
The climatic conditions are pleasant throughout the year. In summer,one has to wear light woollen clothing,but in winter, heavy woollen clothing is required. The best season to visit the city is April-June.
Best time to visit Gulmarg
Gulmarg can be visited throughout the year, but is best during winters when the skiing season is at its peak.
One can as well reach Jammu by train or flight and hire vehicle to reach Gulmarg. From Srinagar, Gulmarg is connected via Tangmarg.
All sorts of transport are available to Gulmarg from Srinagar bus stand at Batmallo and from private transport operators. J&K SRTC operates regular deluxe and ordinary bus services from Srinagar. In winter,the buses operate up to Tangmarg (11 kms from Gulmarg), the remaining distance being covered with smaller vehicles. Tourist taxis also operate between Srinagar and Gulmarg. During winter, traveling by road to Gulmarg is not recommended as the roads can get blocked due to bad weather conditions.
How to reach Gulmarg by Rail
The nearest railway station is at Jammu which is well served by trains from many parts of India including Delhi, Mumbai and Calcutta.
Festivals like Christmas and Easter are occasions for organized skiing races here. Gulmarg snow festival was started in 2003 to promote winter sports and tourism here.
Languages spoken are Kashmiri and Hindi. An ancient culture still resides on both sides of an imaginary line where two countries have battled over this land; for over 150 years.This line, this vale and this identity has been disputed in one of the Earth`s most beautiful arenas.
Gulmarg Religious Places
St Mary's Church: The 110-year-old St Mary’s Church in Gulmarg was built during the British colonial rule and given a new look in 2003 with a renovated façade and the first Christmas mass was held in 14 years.
Shiva Temple: The Shiva temple was actually the royal temple of Dogra kings of Jammu and Kashmir. Also known as “Rani Temple” or “Maharani Temple”, this is situated on a small hillock in the centre of Gulmarg. The unique thing about this royal temple is the fact that it can be seen from all the corners of Gulmarg. The Maharani temple also known as Mohineshwar Shivalaya was built by Mohini Bai Sisodhia, the wife of the erstwhile ruler of Kashmir Maharaja Hari Singh (the last king of Kashmir) in 1915. Mohini Bai Sisodhia was the daughter of Maharaja Mohandev of Dharampur. When the last Dogra king was spending his time in Gulmarg in his royal palace, a couple of kilometers from the temple, his queen used to come here to worship Lord Shiva. Infact, she stayed here for months and worshiped Lord Shiva in this temple. The temple remains open everyday from 6am to 9pm. Aarti is performed twice a day for deities.
Shrine Of Baba Reshi / Ziarat Of Baba Reshi : This Muslim shrine is on the slopes below Gulmarg and can be reached from either Gulmarg or Tangmarg. The Ziarat, or tomb, of a well-known Muslim saint who died here in 1480. Before renouncing worldly ways he was a courtier of the Kashmir King Zain-ul-Abidin. Every year thousands of devotees visit this shrine regardless of the faith they believe in.
Trekking: There are the Nanga Parbat and the Haramukh that you may explore. Gulmarg also offers some excellent opportunities for long walks. In case you take up the outer circle walk,you can enjoy the pine forests and wonderful vistas. The beauty of the Kashmir valley will not fail to mesmerize you.
The Kongdori Restaurant at the Gondola mid-station appears oddly Western.The food is passably good. Try the sweet Kashmiri tea kahwa with its nuts and spices.
Kidding around Gulmarg
Khilanmarg : Khilanmarg offers an unparalleled view of the great Himalayan range. This smaller valley is about a 6-km walk from the Gulmarg bus stop and car park. The meadow,carpeted with flowers in the spring,is the site for Gulmarg's winter ski runs and offers a fine view of the surrounding peaks over the Kashmir Valley. It is a 600-metre ascent from Gulmarg to Khilanmarg and during the early spring, as the snow melts, it can be a very muddy hour's climb up the hill. The effort is rewarded,if it's clear,with a sweeping view of the great Himalayas from Nanga Parbat to the twin 7,100-metre peaks of Nun and Kun to the southeast.
A Cable Car(Gandola) is also installed which is a great hit with tourists and it takes tourists upto Kongdori.
There are many shopping joints in Srinagar, which would substitute for the lack of good shopping in Gulmarg. Hang out at Lal Chowk, BadshahChowk andPolo View area. Explore the great variety the shops offer. Do not mind a little bit of bargaining. You may also find some Tibetian handicrafts here. If you are comfortable with a little bargaining with the roadside vendors, you may shop from them.
Gardens and Parks at Gulmarg
There is a small park next to the cable car station at Gulmarg, where you can sit around and enjoy the slow pace of life here. During winter, there are many people here waiting for the cable car and playing with the snow.
Lake at Gulmarg
Alpather Lake: Beyond Khilanmarg,13-kms from Gulmarg, at the foot of the twin 4,511 metre Apharwat peaks, lies Alpather Lake, a picturesque alpine lake which remains frozen until mid-June and even later in the year one can see lumps of ice floating in its cold water. The walk from Gulmarg follows a well-graded Pony track over the 3,810 metre Apharwat ridge, separating it from Khilanmarg, and then up the valley to the lake at 3,843 metres. The more adventurous trekkers can climb straight up the boulder-strewn slope of the ridge and descend the other side to the path. For horse riding aficionados, Alpather Lake makes an exciting day's excursion, starting early morning and returning late evening.
Sledging: There are a host of snow sports held at Gulmarg every year during snow-time. Tobogganing, the most popular among them requires no skill. A flat wooden board is taken up the hill and is allowed to descend downhill. There are also snow scooters and snow bobbing, neither requiring special skills. Sledges as well as sledge-pullers are always available on hire.
Skiing & Winter Sports: Come December, and the verdant green slopes of Gulmarg are blanketed with snow, forming some of the finest natural slopes for ski runs of all levels. It is during this time that Gulmarg acquires a new persona — the country’s premier skiing resort. Gulmarg is the ultimate beginner’s ski resort. Instructors & skiing equipments are available on hire. Among the multitudes of slopes, there are a few which are serviced by ski lifts. The longest ski run in Gulmarg is provided by the Gondola Cable Car lift, where skiers can swoosh down the slopes from the height of 2,213ms. The slopes in Gulmarg varying between 8,700 and 10,500 feet make the ski runs the highest in India. It is noteworthy that Gulmarg is theonly heli-skiing resort in Asia.The skiing season at Gulmarg is from November to February.
If you are going to Gulmarg in winter, the snow can be very thick and it is advisable to rent the rubber boots at a shop along the mountain slope as you make your way up the Afarwat Mountains to Gulmarg. The boot rental shop is very popular and your driver and guide will definitely know where is it. The boot rental is very cheap, about 20 rupees per day. The rubber boots will ensure that you feet and pants will not get wet.
In winter, the roads are generally blocked due to heavy snow. Hence, it is better you travel by train or by air.
There are some monkeys on the streets of Gulmarg, So be careful not to feed them or disturb them as they can be aggressive.
Gulmarg Tourist Offices
Tourist Reception Centre
Tel.2456670, 2457930, 2472644, 2457927
There are two ATMs, one in Gulmarg and one in Tangmarg. Withdrawals of up to 20,000 Indian rupees can be made there with credit or Master cards.
Must do at Gulmarg
With regard to cash management it is recommended to carry sufficient Indian rupees to cover their personal expenses. Hotels and the Gondola operation bascically accept only cash payment. Some hotels change English pounds and US dollars. The use of credit cards is advertised as possible,but in reality it becomes problematic. Also traveller cheques are not accepted.