Holiday Destination – Gulmarg

 

My favorite mountain resort in India is most definitely Gulmarg. Like Barney from HIMYM would say… Gulmarg’s beauty is LEGENDARY.

Srinagar, the capital of Jammu and Kashmir is the nearest Airport and Gulmarg is about 2 hours from Srinagar.

It’s proximity to Srinagar makes it easily accessible and visitors flock from far and near to take in its splendor. The journey to Gulmarg is half the attraction of reaching there, in any season. In the summer the sight of the rolling hills sprinkled with wild flowers makes Gulmarg look like a Van Gogh painting and in the winter it’s like a clip from Dr Zhivago with snow covered fields and houses.

My love affaire started with Gulmarg started about 20 years ago when I went there to visit my dad, who was posted there, during my summer vacation. I have the fondest childhood memories of the place. Horse-riding, picnics next to the streams and non-stop games … something I’ll remember forever. I even tried learning golf and have a scar on the left eyebrow to prove it (the golf club flew from my friend’s hands … ;).

From what I’ve heard, Gulmarg does not have any permanent residents. All people living in Gulmarg are hotel employees and guests. Everyone else is required to leave the village by sunset, as per the curfew rule set in 1990.

I am probably among the lucky few to have visited Gulmarg twice in the same year 🙂 My most recent trips were in March & August this year.

Gulmarg is not merely a mountain resort of exceptional beauty- it also has the highest green golf course in the world, at an altitude of 2,650 metres ASL, and is the country’s premier ski resort in the winter. Jan to March is the tourist season for skiing and June to Sept for golfing/ getting away from the heat of the plains. 

If you go to Gulmarg and don’t go for the Gondola ride you really have missed something. And make sure you go up to the second phase of the ride. You’ll get to see ultimate views of the Srinagar valley. As everywhere in the mountains, the weather changes in minutes & sunny Florida can turn into gloomy London. So, you definitely need luck on your side.

Another must do while at Gulmarg – Lunch at the Hotel Highland Park. It is a heritage Hotel overlooking the Golf Course and is one of the oldest hotels in Gulmarg. We had a mini wazawan (a full wazawan is a 36-course wedding banquet ) on our last visit.

I can still smell the roganjosh (a rich red coloured gravy with a generous doze of Kashmiri chillies), Yakhni (a curd based, cream coloured preparation) & Gushtaba (meatballs moulded from pounded mutton like large-sized Rista but cooked in thick gravy of fresh curd base) and the vegetarian delights like Dam-Aaloo and Guhchi (local mushrooms). The flavors of Kashmiri food are unlike anything else you’ll taste elsewhere in India.

Shiv Mandir at Gulmarg

A reminder of the excellent time we had at Gulmarg last month.

The red building in the picture is a Shiva temple, probably the only one in the country with a Muslim priest.

This temple has been featured in a number of bollywood movies and the guides around the place will happily fill you in with the names even if you aren’t interested 🙂

Gulmarg is also the venue for the most famous winter festival in India in which hordes of international tourists also participate. Gulmarg is covered with snow during that time and the slopes are fit for skiing and other winter sports. The festival is probably the only time the locals make some decent money and it can be quite hard to find hotel rooms, so if you’re planning to visit around that time, book early.

It is a pity that such a beautiful place has been all but ruined by the ongoing militancy in the valley.