If you want to see great views of the Himalayan Mountains, you should visit the middle slope or top slope of the Afarwat Mountains via the cable car (sometimes known as gondola).
On a clear day, you can see the snow-capped Himalayan Mountains from a distance beyond the flat valley where Srinagar is located. If you are lucky, you can even see the mountain Nanga Parbat (above 8000 metres above sea level, 10th highest mountain in the world) to the north. Ths mountain is located in the Pakistan occupied areas of Kashmir.
Although Gulmarg is a small town, there are a few religious attractions here as follows:
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 Shivalalaya 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 devotees.
When you are taking the cable car from Gulmarg up to the Afarwat Mountains, you will see the sheperd huts on the slopes of the Afarwat Mountains. These huts act as temporary shelters for the nomadic sheperds of this region.
If you want a closer look at the huts, there are trekking/hiking trails from Gulmarg up to the Afarwat Mountains and some of these trails will pass by the sherperd huts. This is best done during the warmer summer months.
Besides Gulmarg, there are good attractions in the surrounding areas of Kashmir. They are as follows:
- Srinagar: This is a beautiful lake city and the gateway to Kashmir. More tips and photos are at my VT Srinagar page.
- Pahargam: "The Valley of Shepherds" (with hills, valleys, rivers etc)
- Sonamarg: "The Meadow of Gold" (with Himalayan Mountains, valleys, rivers etc)
- Ladakh: This is a vast and remote area within the Himalayan Mountains many kilometres east of Srinagar. The landscape consists of barren snow mountains dotted with villages and farmland of Tibetan people. The biggest town in Ladakh is Leh.
- Zanskar: This is one of the most remote region in the world occupied by the traditional Zanskar people.
Note that Somamarg, Ladakh and Zanskar have very old and harsh winters, and these places can only be visited during the summer months when the weather is warmer and the mountain passes are free of snow.
Gulmarg is a small alpine town and popular resort in both winter and summer. This town is mainly catering to tourism and there are no people living here. The name Gulmarg means "The Meadow of Flowers" because of the many wildflowers blooming here during summer which forms a colourful carpet surrounding the town.
It is easy to move around Gulmarg as it is a very small town. The houses here are mainly resorts, sports/skiing facilities etc. The alpine wooden houses, less crowded streets and mountains surrounding Gulmarg give a feel that you are in Europe or Canada, rather than in India.
There is a great viewpoint along the road up to Gulmarg and it is worthwhile to stop here for a while to take some photographs.
From the viewpoint, you can see the Afarwat Mountains, the flat valley below and mountains and on a clear day, you can see the far away Himalayan Mountains. However, you cannot see Gulmarg from this viewpoint as the town is blocked by the mountain slopes.
Because of the influx of tourists back to Gulmarg, you can see a lot of constructions going on, building new accomodation, sports facilities etc.
Essentially the buildings in Gulmarg are mainly made of wood, and there are of alpine architecture very different from the normal Indian architecture you see elsewhere. The town is mainly catered for tourism and there are no locals permanently staying here.
When you are in Gulmarg, it seems that you are in Europe or North America because of the architecture of the buildings and surrounding mountain landscapes. This is a good getaway from the busy city life as well as other parts of India where it is very crowded and chaotic.
I shall strongly recommend all my friends to get at least one Pony ride as there are 20000 Ponies and Horses in Gulmarg, whose livelihood is directly dependent on tourists. These days the road goes up to all the hotels and up to the Gondola Station. Most of the vehicles are directly going up to Gondola station, the last point human can go by road. This the main reason of resentment among the pony owners, who are out of business, which they are operating since ages. Since then, the taxi owners have come to an agreement that they will allow only those vehicles to enter Gulmarg, whose passengers are going to stay at night at any of the Gulmarg hotel. But, actually this does not happen, like in case of our vehicle, we were on a package from Grand Mumtaz Group of hotels via Cox & Kings, who usually take only lunch at Grand Mumtaz but don't spend the night.
We were stopped at the entry point by the Pony owners association as they knew we are not going to spend the night there but only will have lunch after our visit. The altercation went on for about half an hour in Kashmiri, which I could not understand. But , when I realised that it was for their bread, I asked our tour operator to stop the vehicle at the gate and take their ponies, we had to pay only Rs.400/- ( USD$8 ) to them, which we gladly paid. They waited for us till we returned from Khilanmarg and had lunch at Grand Mumtaz. All went well, we saved our day!!
Please keep your cameras ready to capture the breathtaking beauty of Gulmarg. As you keep on climbing the beauty of Gulmarg unfurled every moment, which you will surely like to cherish later on. Please take as many pictures as possible as you may not come again to this place.
Gulmarg Gondola in Gulmarg, Jammu and Kashmir is the world's second highest operating cable car since the closure in 2008 of the Mérida cable car in Venezuela.
Visit to Gulmarg without a Gondola ride is just incomplete. It takes you to the views of breathtaking beauty of Gulmarg Valley. It is built in two stages , the first one is used mostly by the tourists and the second one by the Skiers. The ride to stage one costs Rs.300/- ( US$6) and the second Rs.500/- ( US$10) per ride to & fro. The Gondola has automatic door closing , opening system.
Gulmarg boasts Asia's 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 (4,200 m (13,780 ft)). 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 m (8,530 ft) to Kongdoori Station in the bowl-shaped Kongdori valley. The second stage of the ropeway, which has 36 cabins and 18 towers, takes skiers to a height of 3,747 m (12,293 ft) on Kongdoori Mountain, a shoulder of nearby Afarwat Peak (4,200 m (13,780 ft)). The second stage was completed in a record time of about two years at a cost of 110,000,000 Indian Rupees (ie some US$2.3 million) and opened on May 28, 2005. The French company had also built the first phase of the gondola project, connecting Gulmarg to Kongdoori, in 1998.