As you wind your way up from the Srinagar valley towards Gulmarg, the snow lies thicker and thicker on the ground. The road weaves through pine forest until you round a corner, and Gulmarg is laid out before you — a smooth ceramic bowl of white edged with trees, backed by a dramatic panorama of mountain peaks. The sharp winter sun sets everything sparkling.

Gulmarg, a huge meadow ringed by fir trees and snowy peaks, bestows on you wide open spaces, mountain-fresh air, nature walks, birdwatching, skiing in winter, pony rides, rides on the gondola cable car…. The meadow’s cup-like shape means that from any one point you can see the rest of the expanse with its softly undulating slopes. Even so, Gulmarg’s claims to fame are skiing and the cable car meant to take skiers up the slopes, but equally popular with non-skiers.

Gulmarg — the perfect base for skiing, snowman-building or snowboarding
Gulmarg — the perfect base for skiing, snowman-building or snowboarding
Courtesy J&K Tourism

Once known as ‘Gaurimarg’ (in honour of Gauri, or Parvati) by the shepherds who’d graze their sheep here, this hill station was first ‘discovered’ as a resort town by the 16th-century Kashmiri ruler Yusuf Shah Chak, who was so impressed with the flowercarpeted meadow that he named it Gulmarg, or ‘meadow of flowers’. Gulmarg was also the preferred getaway for Mughal Emperor Jehangir, no stranger to the charms of Kashmir. Then came the British, homesick for the glens of Scotland and seeking to escape the scorching heat of the northern plains. Much later, Bollywood too discovered Gulmarg’s blue skies and pristine slopes as the perfect location for dancing around trees. Name a star from the 60s or 70s — Dev Anand, Rajesh Khanna, Shammi and Shashi Kapoor, Amitabh Bachchan, Hema Malini, Rakhee, Rekha — and they’ll have pranced around trees in Gulmarg. Even if you haven’t been here, it’ll be surprising if you haven’t already seen it — on the big screen. In the 80s and 90s, militancy reared its ugly head, pushing Gulmarg off the map. But with peace returning to the Valley, Bollywood’s back (Gulmarg was used as a stand-in for Manali in 2013’s Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani), and so are the tourists.


Driving in from Srinagar, a short distance ahead of the Tangmarg Bus Stand, the road to Gulmarg forks. The right goes to the Baba Reshi shrine; follow the left, a typically picturesque winding mountain road, into Gulmarg. The main tourist area is a high-altitude meadow with forests and peaks around. The Sumo Stand is located as you enter the town; most hotels will help you organise a taxi as well. The Apharwat Peak is to the southwest and the Alpathar Lake is below the summit. The famous Gondola takes you up towards Apharwat via Kongdori. Most of the high-end hotels are located near the Kongdori Gondola station.

A huge meadow ringed by fir trees and snowy peaks
A huge meadow ringed by fir trees and snowy peaks

You can get around Gulmarg on foot. There’s a 7-km walk called the Inner Ring Road that you can wander along at your own pace if the pony-wallahs leave you alone, and the 11-km Outer Ring Road which takes you through stands of pine.


Skiing, golfing, snowman-building, trekking or snowboarding — whatever your heart fancies, Gulmarg has some action for you. Gulmarg is also quite a child-friendly place. With wide open spaces, nature walks, birdwatching, and Gondola and pony rides, your kids may have an even better time than you.

Gulmarg is located within the Gulmarg Biosphere Reserve under the North Kashmir Wildlife Division, which is headquartered in Sopore (Mobile: 09419038961). The reserve is the natural habitat of the musk deer, red fox, flying squirrel and black and brown bear. It also happens to be a birdwatchers’ paradise.

Skiing and snowboarding

If there’s one single reason for Gulmarg’s global fame, it’s the skiing and snowboarding. Regarded as one of the best ski destinations in Asia, Gulmarg’s gentle slopes are perfect for first-timers; the more advanced skiers also have the option of slaloming down from higher points accessible thanks to the Gondola Cable Car, which takes you up to either the first stage at Kongdori (a 3.5-km run from 10,500 ft) or Affarwat (a 5.2 km run from a height of 13,450 ft).

Beginners need not splurge on expensive equipment. There’s a wealth of ski gear on hire at pretty affordable rates (₹ 500 for boots, skis and sticks) from the many ski shops. Gulmarg’s world-class slopes also make it the favoured venue for the National Winter Games (Website: And March sees the annual Gulmarg Global Derby, a downhill ski and snowboard race.

The Gulmarg course is the world’s highest and India’s longest golf course
The Gulmarg course is the world’s highest and India’s longest golf course
Courtesy J&K Tourism

But what’s a ski resort trip without the après ski experience? Gulmarg does make the perfect spot for a winter or music fest. In February comes the Snow Festival, a winter carnival that should appeal to anyone interested in winter sports like skiing or snowboarding. Apart from this, there are plenty of cultural performances to keep you occupied. The 2012 edition of the fest — a music-and-wilderness event named the Gulmarg Winter Festival (Website: gulmarg — was a grand experiment in raising Gulmarg’s international profile and saw performances by leading bands like The Raghu Dixit Project and Half Step Down. Other attractions included a food mela, photography workshops and shopping.

Take a ride on the cable car

The ski slopes might not be all that crowded but what does attract a frenetic rush is the cable car from Gulmarg to Kongdori and Apharwat. The Gondola Cable Car (Web: makes Gulmarg the highest lift-accessible ski destination in the world. So it’s pretty much inevitable that pakora and tea stalls have cropped up here. Most tourists and skiers go up for the view, as the first stage Kongdori overlooks both Gulmarg and the Srinagar valley. If you want to avoid the crowds, walk up to Khilanmarg (4 km away), the alpine meadow towering above the golf course. Hike through wooded fir forests along the pony track, from where you’ll see Nanga Parbat. The second phase takes you up to the Apharwat Peak from where, apart from spectacular views, you can spot the LoC.

Gondola cable car tickets Non-skiers: Phase 1 ₹ 400, phase 2 ₹ 600, full trip ₹ 1,000; Skiers: Phase 1 ₹ 150, phase 2 ₹ 250; full day phase 1 ₹ 500, phase 2 ₹ 1,200 Timings Summer 9 am-6 pm, winter 8 am-4 pm

TIP Every visitor heads for the cable car so get in the queue early. If you want to avoid the queues you can pay any local guide or ponywallah to queue up and get a ticket for you. The Gondola does not operate on bad weather days

The British-era St Mary’s Catholic Church has beautiful stained glass windows
The British-era St Mary’s Catholic Church has beautiful stained glass windows

Strawberry Valley pony ride

About half an hour into the pony ride on the Outer Ring Road, you reach a ‘Kashmir Valley View’ from where you can see all the elements of the Kashmir Valley “jaise thali main alag alag khana rakha ho”. In another half an hour, you reach the Strawberry Valley, now immortalised by Shah Rukh Khan having shot there for Jab Tak Hai Jaan. You get more than panoramic views of the valleys, Apharwat Peak, local villages, and the Army area with the Ningli Nallah stream, gurgling below. And you can see all this surrounded by peaceful sheep. Camping in JKTDC tents is possible here. If you come in April or May, the flowers are spread like a carpet through the forest. The ride costs ₹ 800 for a pony and ₹ 600 for a guide (optional) who can tell you about the local flora and fauna.

Children’s Park

The Children’s Park is a short distance northwest from the entrance to Gulmarg. It has the same smooth grassy meadowland that Gulmarg abounds in but for a change liberally sprinkles it with swings, rides, an artificial pond and activities like zorbing.

Entry fee ₹ 10 Timings 8 am-7 pm

Icicles decorate windows in winter
Icicles decorate windows in winter

Tee off at the golf course

Gulmarg also boasts the world’s highest and India’s longest golf course, first set up by the British in the early 20th century. The scenery, location and the weather all make it an irresistible place to tee off. Even amateurs can rent a set of golf clubs here and take instruction from the pros. For green fees and equipment rental, contact the tourist office.

Go Trekking

The Affarwat Range is a popular trekking destination, but in an atmosphere of high security. High up in the massif lies a seldom-visited mountain lake, half frozen even in summer, called Alpathar. Almost 4,921 ft up steep slopes, you reach it on foot or by pony (₹ 300/1 hr, ₹ 600/3 hrs). Every extra hour costs ₹ 100. Permission to trek up to Alpathar can be obtained from the Army Checkpost in Apharwat.

More to See

There’s more to Gulmarg than just skiing, cable car rides and photo ops on the slopes. Drive to the Ziarat of Baba Reshi, a well-known Muslim saint and courtier of the Kashmir Sultan Zainul- Abidin. It’s chiefly for the daily life around the shrine that you might want to visit: newborn babies are brought here for their mundans and langar is supplied by devotees. The Maharani Temple, seen peeping out of 1960s Hindi film songs, is one of the distinctive rooftops in Gulmarg. St Mary’s Church, built during British rule, is supposed to have a caretaker, but he’s usually absent. Within are some gorgeous stained glass windows.

The Ski boots
The Ski boots


The Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa (Tel: 01954-254666; Tariff: ₹ 15,000-20,500, including breakfast and taxes) is a massive new property, with 85 rooms, in Gulmarg. This posh establishment (centrally heated in winter) is a magnet for a stream of visitors thanks to its glorious setting near the Kongdori snowfields (1st phase of the Gondola) and the Apharwat range peaks and its excellent facilities. In the high season, you need to book well ahead. The food in their coffee shop is excellent and the tea lounge keeps you well supplied with fragrant kahwa as you go through the process of checking in, while enjoying views of the snowfields of Gulmarg from the great picture windows. Hotel Highlands Park (Tel: 254430/ 07; Tariff: ₹ 10,000 with breakfast), which used to be Gulmarg’s hotel of choice since 1965, when its 39 rooms were built, is now undergoing renovation. It is located on top of the beginner ski slopes. Bollywood fans will love this place as this was where the iconic ‘Hum Tum Ek Kamre Mein Band’ song from Bobby was filmed.

A number of hotels are clustered around the Gondola base, including Grand Mumtaz Resort (Mobile: 09013527195; Tariff: ₹ 9,000-13,000), Heevan Retreat (Tel: 254455; Tariff: ₹ 10,000-12,500, with meals), Hotel Pine Spring (Tel: 254537-38; Tariff: ₹ 8,500-16,500), Hill Top Hotel (Tel: 254486, Mob: 09419066804; Tariff: ₹ 7,500-9,600) and Khaleel Palace (Tel: 254572-73; Tariff: ₹ 5,200-10,100).

Pine Palace (Tel: 254466; Tariff: ₹ 7,000-10,500 with breakfast and dinner) is in a quiet corner overlooking the gondola base and the forests. Hotel Nedous (Tel: 254428; Tariff: ₹ 6,500-26,000) is centrally located while Hotel Royal Park (Tel: 254561-62; Tariff: ₹ 5,800-10,000) is on the Outer Ring Road. JKTDC’s (Tel: 254424, 254507; Tariff: ₹ 4,000-15,000) one- to three-bedroom cottages with kitchens are a comfortable option in summer, but not in winter as they lack running water. Green Heights used to be a good budget property but has changed hands and is currently under construction. It’s expected to re-open as a more upmarket hotel.

The Ski boots
The Ski boots

There are also many private cottages. These usually cost ₹ 1,800-3,500 (winter/summer) for a room; book through Kashmir Alpine Ski Shop (Tel: 254638, Mobile: 09419525606).

As for your meals, there aren’t any fancy standalone restaurants, so the hotels are your best bet. Dine at Highlands Park and The Khyber for the views and atmosphere. Otherwise, the rash of dhabas, such as Bakshi and Global, in the market is what constitutes eating out in Gulmarg.


Tangmarg (13 km)

Inputs by Juhi Saklani

The First Slip

The ski boots fitted into their stays with a satisfying clunk. And I immediately stood up straight and keeled over sideways. I was obviously missing something. “Weight forward,” Arif, our instructor, prompted. “Lean into your shins. Eyes front. Crouch down. Whatever you do,” he said, as I straightened and leaned back, “don’t lean back.” My skis shot up in front and I fell backwards on to my (thankfully well-padded) stern.

Heaved up again by a helpful assistant, and feeling distinctly wobbly, I clutched my ski poles like stabiliser wheels on a toddler’s bike. “No sticks,” Arif said sternly, and aimed me down the gentle slope. With nothing to hold on to, I felt like I was in free-fall. I accelerated gently, glided down, and keeled over sideways again. It seemed as good a way as any to stop, and the snow was not too hard. He taught us the ‘snowplough’ — angling the tips of the skis together to make a triangle — done in order to control your speed, and bringing them together in order to stop. The next hour or so was bliss. I gradually got more and more vertical and less and less inclined to keel over sideways. Although I was far from ready to try the steeper slopes that more practised skiers were whooshing down nearby, by the end of the lesson I had managed at least one descent without mishap!

For skiers and trekkers, Yaseen Khan is a most useful contact in Gulmarg. His store, the Kashmir Alpine Ski Shop (Tel: 01954-254638, Mobile: 09419525606 Website: kashmiralpine. com), has the best and latest gear, including avalanche gear and helmets. Plus, you can get all sorts of tips from him. He charges ₹ 500 per day for a standard rental package (skis, boots, sticks). He can also provide you a guide, and since his shop also doubles up as a travel agency, arrange your hotel bookings or accommodation at private cottages for about ₹ 1,800-3,500 a night. Yaseen also runs a gift shop stocking Kashmiri handicrafts.

But Yaseen’s no mere businessman — skiing runs in his family. His son Arif, who was my guide on the slopes, is a national champion and has skied around the world at ski resorts in Switzerland, New Zealand, Scotland and Japan. As an eight-year-old, well before the first stage of the gondola was built in 1998 — Arif used to carry his skis and walk up the mountain in order to ski down: a 3- to 4-hr climb for a 10-min ride down the slopes!

Anita Roy


When to go Round the year. Though winter is freezing, it’s also ski season

Tourist Offices

J&K Tourism, Assistant Director, Near Golf Course, Gulmarg, Tel: 01954-254487, 254439, Mobile: 09419708180

Gulmarg Development Authority, Chief Executive Officer, Gulmarg, Tel: 254625, JKTDC, Near Golf Course, Gulmarg, Tel: 254424, 254507

J&K Tourism, Director General, TRC, Srinagar, Tel: 0194-2479548, 2472449, Website:

JKTDC, TRC, Srinagar; Tel: 2472644, 2457930, Website:, STD code 01954


Location At an altitude of 8,694 ft, below Affarwat Peak on the edge of PoK, within the Gulmarg Biosphere Reserve in Baramulla District

Distance 51 km W of Srinagar JOURNEY TIME By Road 1½ hrs

Route from Srinagar NH1A to Narbal; Srinagar-Gulmarg Road to Gulmarg via Magam, Dhobiwan, Kunzer and Tangmarg

Air Nearest airport: Sheikh-ul-Alam Airport, Srinagar (62 km/2 hrs/ Tel: 0194-2303000/ 31, 2303635), connected to Delhi, Mumbai, Leh and Jammu by Air India, SpiceJet, Indigo and Go Air. A prepaid taxi to Gulmarg costs ₹ 1,800

Rail Nearest railhead: Jammu Tawi (349 km/11 hrs). Taxi to Srinagar costs ₹ 4,500; shared taxi is ₹ 600 per seat. JKSRTC deluxe bus from Jammu to Srinagar is ₹ 500 per head. Onward journey to Gulmarg by taxi from Srinagar is ₹ 1,800 for a drop

Road From Pantha Chowk on the outskirts of Srinagar, turn onto the NH1A Srinagar Bypass passing Nowgam, Hyderpora Chowk, Bemina, Parimpora and Lawaypora to reach the Narbal crossing. From the crossing, turn left onto the Narbal-Tangmarg Road (also called Srinagar-Gulmarg Road), across a bridge over the Hokersar Nallah and past Narbal, Magam and Druroo to Tangmarg. Continue straight from Tangmarg till a fork in the road. The left fork climbs uphill to Gulmarg; the right climbs up the Baba Reshi shrine. A taxi from Taxi Stand No. 1 (Tel: 0194-2452527) near the TRC in Srinagar charges ₹ 1,800 for a drop to Gulmarg. To roam around in Gulmarg, you can use ponies or a local taxi (rates are negotiable for both, and depend on distance) as taxis from Srinagar are not allowed to operate in Gulmarg. Charges for taxi for a day in Gulmarg ranges between ₹ 2,000-2,500. JKSRTC (Tel: 0194-2455107) runs deluxe buses (₹ 230) to Gulmarg in the morning during season. At other times, buses operate on alternate days, depending on demand