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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrGulmarg is a pristine hill station situated about 32 miles from the city of Srinagar in the state of Jammu and Kashmir in India. Being one of the most splendid locations in the Kashmir Valley, Gulmarg attracts thousands of tourists throughout the year, from all parts of the globe. The legendary beauty of this place makes Gulmarg the shooting ground for many famous Bollywood movies such as Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, Highway, Bobby etc.
Perched in the Himalayas at an altitude of 7,776 feet, the valley of Gulmarg has been a popular tourist destination in India right from the colonial times. Unlike other tourist spots in the Kashmir Valley, Gulmarg remains open throughout the year since the heavy winter snow makes this valley an important ski destination in India. CNN refers to this place as the “heartland of winter sports in India’’ and has been ranked by CNN International as the seventh best ski destination in Asia. Urdu and Kashmiri language are spoken here just like it is in the rest of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Nevertheless, since it’s an important tourist place, most people in this area can communicate in English and Hindi.
HistoryGulmarg has been mentioned in the ancient Hindu text Shivapuraan as Gaurimarg. Parvati, Lord Shiva’s consort is also referred to as Gauri and the word Marg means meadow. Hence it can be literally translated as the meadow of Gauri Devi. The present name is a combination of two Sanskrit words, “gul’’ meaning flower, and “marg” meaning meadow, and therefore the name can be translated into English as ‘meadow of flowers’.
The name Gaurimarg had been changed to Gulmarg by Yousuf Shah Chak a Muslim sultan who was delighted to see the magnificent sight of its grassy meadows filled with flowers during the Islamic reign in India.
Since medieval times Gulmarg has acted as a retreat for Kings. The Mughal Emperor Jahangir is said to have collected more than 21 different species of flowers from this region.
In the early 20th century, Sir Marc Aurel Stein, a British Hungarian explorer and archaeologist made this place his home and lived in a tent here for a very long time. The place was rediscovered by the British in 1927 who promptly turned it into their favorite summer holiday destination in India. Since 2004, Gulmarg has also emerged as one of the primary ski destinations in India.
What to ExpectThe road from Srinagar to Gulmarg is a visual delight, bordered by far stretching avenues of fir and poplar interspersed with pretty mountain villages. After reaching the town of Tangmarg, the road rises up steeply through the pine and fir covered slopes. There is a vantage point known as View Point where travelers stop to get a spectacular view of snow covered peaks in the backdrop of a perfect cerulean sky. Nestled amidst the glorious peaks of the Himalayas, the beautiful town of Gulmarg is one of the prettiest hill stations of the country. The majestic snow covered slopes of the Pir Panjal Range and the Afarwat Hills are some of the highest ski slopes in Asia.
Perched atop high mountains, Gulmarg doesn't have much of a population as most of its residents who work in the tourism sector. Nearly 40 hotels are scattered about within this valley, ranging from budget huts to chic 5 star resorts. Prices of hotels shoot up during busy season, though seasoned travelers will be able to get a ₨ 600 ($9.60) room in any of the budget hotel in and around this location. One can also take a look around Gulmarg by hiring a pony. However, it is always suggested that you travel this place on foot along the circular path, from where you can get an amazing view of the Nanga Parbat and the entire Kashmir Valley.
Things to do
Winter sports and SkiingGulmarg boasts of the highest and longest skiing slopes of Asia and the height of the slopes varies between 8,700 to 10,500 feet. All skiing equipment like sticks, woolens, jackets, windcheaters, goggles, snow boots etc. can be hired from the ski shops at Gulmarg. Even a beginner can enjoy the thrills of skiing with the help of chair lifts and ski lifts. However, not all slopes has a ski lift service, but the ones without the ski lifts are more tranquil and therefore more convenient for hardcore skiing enthusiasts. While in Gulmarg, any hardened skier would prefer to climb the steep slopes of the Afarwat Hills to make a 30 minutes descent.
The cable car service has made this valley all the more popular since it helps in the lifting of novice skiers up to the high slopes of Kongdori, from where one can get a fairly good descent.
The Gulmarg Gondola or the rope way ride runs from Gulmarg to Kongdori and then from Kondori to Afarwat and passes through lush green alpine forests which offers a stunning view of the majestic Himalayan mountain peaks.
Gulmarg houses the highest golf course in the world. The beautiful club house with its quaintly sloping roof which comes with a Swiss chalet gives this place a very European look. Short term memberships are offered by this club, so any golf enthusiast visiting this place must try a game at this spectacular golf course in the Himalayas.
Khilanmarg, which can be reached in a few hours on horseback from Gulmarg, is a famous skiing ground from where one can get a marvelous view of the Kashmir Valley and the surrounding mountain peaks.
The Alpather Lake is an Alpine lake of stunning beauty which remains covered in ice till June. Situated on the way to the Afarwat Hills, experienced trekkers can make a one day trip to this lake which lies 8 miles away, from the town of Gulmarg.
The Wular Lake which lies on the route between Gulmarg and Srinagar at Sangrama is the second largest fresh water lake in India. During the hours of sunset, when the Haramuk Mountains are beautifully reflected on the crystal clear water of this lake, one is often reminded of the scenic beauties of Switzerland.
The lotus covered Mansabal Lake is another tourist destination which lies only a few kilometers from the Wular Lake.
EventsThe Kashmir Snow festival in Gulmarg is organized every year by the tourism department of the state, which attracts a lot of tourists from across the world.
Winter sports like ice skating, skiing, snowboarding, snow rugby, snow cycling, and snow baseball are held during this three day festival in the month of January. No entry fee is required for participation and one can hire skiing equipment at a very cheap rate during the time of the festival. One can also taste the delectable Kashmiri cuisine after a hard day of sporting activity during this time.
The Gulmarg Winter Music and Adventure Festival has been celebrated since 2012 with music, movies, food, dance, and sporting events in order to promote tourism in this area.
How to reach thereThe nearest airport to this location lies at the capital city of Srinagar which is about 35 miles from Gulmarg. One can hire a car or take a bus from Srinagar to Gulmarg during any time of the day. Srinagar Airport is connected to most major Indian cities by regular flights. The nearest railway station from Gulmarg lies in Jammu and provides regular train service to other important Indian cities.
Similar Landmarks nearbyVisitors to Gulmarg must explore the enchanting valley of Sonamarg which is about 54 miles from Srinagar. Ardent trekking enthusiasts might also like to visit the mountain desert of Ladakh , which is the starting point for some of the toughest treks inside the Himalayas.
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Author: SubhasishMitra. Last updated: Jan 24, 2015