Gulmarg – Meadow of Flowers
Gulmarg’s acclaimed beauty, classic location, nearness to Srinagar genuinely makes it one of the top notch hill resorts in Asia. Used to be called “Gaurimarg” until the 16th century, when Sultan Yusuf Shah influenced by the sight of the grassy slopes decorated with wild flowers changed it. Also known as the “Meadow of Flowers”, Gulmarg was the favourite resort of the Emperor Jahangir. Gulmarg is peculiar in its Mountains and hills filled with dense forests of innumerous Gymnosperms which include conifers, firs, and pine trees. On a sunny day, the meadows offer a scintillating view of its snow laden peaks, shiny lush green forests, fields of rice, catchy hills and carpet like grass fields. Gulmarg is not merely a mountain resort of exceptional beauty but also the country’s premier ski resort in winter when it is covered in snow and takes on the appearance of a picture postcard.
The British were the first to establish Gulmarg as a ski resort. Gulmarg’s atmosphere was identified with European ski resorts of the 1940’s and 50’s – the ‘Alps of good old days’. It has bright sunshine as well as good soft snow. The skiing season usually commences just before Christmas (mid December) and continues till early April. However, not all tourists who visit Gulmarg in winter come for skiing – some are simply there to watch the skiing or to enjoy a holiday in the snow. Many of them infected with the excitement of the skiers put on their first pair of skis within a short while of their arrival.
Horse riding is one of the best activity by which all the sites of Gulmarg can be seen. Horses can be hired directly or through the Tourist Office. 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. Set at an altitude of 8700 feet, is a spectacular Golf Course, one of the highest in the world, with bent grass greens which is a unique experience – you literally feel you are on top of the world.
Gulmarg boasts world’s 2nd highest and longest cable car project, the Gulmarg Gondola. The two-stage ropeway ferries about 600 people per hour to and from Kongdoori Mountain, a shoulder of nearby Afarwat Peak. The ropeway project is a joint venture of the Jammu and Kashmir government and French firm Pomagalski. The first stage transfers from the Gulmarg resort at 2,600 meters to Kongdoori Station in the bowl-shaped Kongdori valley. The second stage of the ropeway takes visitors to a height of 3,747 meters on Kongdoori Mountain, a shoulder of nearby Afarwat Peak.
A 40-minute journey through valleys of wild flowers from Gulmarg to Khilanmarg offers a breathtaking view of the majestic peaks with their reflections in Wular and other lakes. Beyond Khilanmarg 13-km from Gulmarg at the foot of the twin 4,511 metre Apharwat peaks, lies Alpather Lake, a picturesque alpine lake which remanins frozen until mid-June and even later in the year one can see lumps of ice floating in its cold waters. A well-graded pony track joins Apharwat Ridge with Gulmarg. Flowing from the snow bed, the Ningle Nallah springs from near the Apharwat Ridge, cutting through thick pine forests along the way. Besides, there is the Nanga Parbat and the Haramukh that proves a delight for the trekkers to 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 Gulmarg will not fail to mesmerize you.