Gulmarg : The land from Frozen
Updated: Mar 4, 2022
One place that is synonymous with Kashmir Valley - Gulmarg
Gulmarg is one of the top skiing destinations in India and hosts many international competitions. It is a must-see for everyone visiting Kashmir.
There are some divine places on earth and when you visit these places, you are left speechless. You spend a few minutes wondering “Is this real?” and then the chill in the air will bring you back to your senses. Gulmarg is nature’s way of making you believe in heaven. A place where you can sit back and watch a landscape unfold in front of your eyes.
There are high chances when you are here in January, you will experience snowfall and you observe snowflakes making their way into your hands and you observe closely those flakes slowly melting into one another. This soft snow and light crunch below your feet as you move is music to ears. You walk, run, and fall and you forget about time.
Gulmarg is approx. two, two, and a half-hour drive from Srinagar. If you have booked a cab from Srinagar, there is a hidden catch, a taxi from Srinagar will take you to Tanamarg first. Depending on the weather, if it is snowing, you will have to change taxi and get a new taxi which will take you from Tanamarg to Gulmarg. You can either opt for a private taxi, for which taxi driver will start from INR 2000 and it can be brought down by hard negotiations (and do negotiate) or you can collaborate with other couples/tourists. As time passes, crowd size will grow, and you will experience peak crowd around 1-2 PM. So, if you start early in the day around 7:30 AM – 8:00 AM you will find a thin crowd on the top. Also, at Tanamarg, some shops will provide you an extra layer of a jacket, and gumboots at around 200-350 INR (if you are paying INR 300 or above, negotiate). You will need an additional clothing layer only if there is too much snow in Gulmarg. Else you can just take boots, however, boots are recommended if your shoes are not waterproof as there are high chances that you will get snow inside your shoes and you will have a lot of traveling to do.
Challenges and having comfortable time in Gulmarg:
The story of Gulmarg is like sugar for ants. However, there are a few things you must know. Firstly, cab drivers will ask you to hire a guide that will help you have a good time in Gulmarg. Guide, at very basic, will fulfill the following responsibilities:
1. Get a gondola ticket for you by getting in line (Only getting ticket service, ticket prices will be borne by you)
2. Click pictures and videos for you
3. Tell you what sport and ride you can do
4. Stick with you on your entire stay in Gulmarg (if you are there for a day and returning by evening)
For this service, Guide will charge INR500-600. Guide services are not that essential however every other person will convince you that you should get one. In the end, it is your opinion to get a Guide or not.
Journey to Gulmarg
A taxi from Srinagar / Tanamarg will take you to a parking spot (let's call it Phase 0). As soon as you are outside the cab, you will be hoarded by sled owners, local photographers, street hawkers among others. You are proudly welcomed to land “Paradisio”. As you start walking towards the valley, you will find Gulmarg hotel chains on your left and a huge golf course on your right. As you walk for another 1-1.5 km you will reach the Gondola bookings counter. Gondola opens around 10:30 – 11:00 AM and its charge is around INR 750 it will take you to Phase I and Phase II. Phase II is not that frequently open, however, if you find it open then surely visit Phase II (charges are around INR 1000) as there is a thinner crowd and a better time for why you are visiting Kashmir. Also, if you get clear skies, you can see neighbors’ bunkers with help of binoculars.
From the parking lot to the Gondola ticketing center, you can travel by foot, sled or ATV. For sled, price ranges from 1000-3000 INR and ATV will cost around 2500-4500 INR (we recommend you to bargain heavily at every point)
On reaching Phase I, again local people will bombard you with different snow activities. Following are the activities which you will find at least:
Skiing (Hardly 100-150m skiing on flat land, with support for 10-15 min). Charges are around INR 800-INR 1000. Our rating: 6.5/10, and try out skiing at a location away from the crowd for a better experience, you may find your calling)
Sled ride: Same as Phase 0 and charges are around INR 400- INR 650.Our rating: 2/10, there is better sled experience in Sonamarg. If you are unable to walk then only go for this option
Snow bike ride: This will be a good experience as they allow you to drive as well, and you may not experience it in any other location in India. Charges are around INR 800 – INR 1600. Our rating: 8/10, one of the must-have experience
All three activities are within a 1-1.5km range, depending on the snow levels. One thing you must know for all three activities is the tactics of the service offeror. They are very seasoned and will ask for very steep prices. For example, in Snow bike ride there is one shorter and one longer route and they will show a standard rate chart of around INR 1000 and INR 2000. Do not ever agree to their first price as they are more than what you should pay. So negotiate and re-negotiate well
As far as Phase II goes, we were unlucky as Gondolas were non-operational for Phase II. However, we heard Phase II has a nice restaurant and an amazing ski destination.
Apart from these activities, you can enjoy Maggi and other limited menu items at countable outlets with sitting arrangements. And yes, there is a restroom available.
Apart from these things, find an undisturbed corner, relax and enjoy a beautiful view of your heart’s desire. If you have hired a guide he will keep pushing you to end the tour and head back, however it's your time and you should enjoy it.
If you reached around 11:00 AM then we believe you will be able to head back around 2:30 – 3:00 PM.
On reaching Tanamarg, you can cover one more destination that is Drang waterfall also known as Frozen waterfall which is in another direction from Gulmarg and takes about 15-20 min to reach. Drang waterfall is an amazing site (attach a photo here). During winters, it gives vibes of being in a distant land. And you just want to sit and watch the water turn into icicles and still manage to stay in liquid form at another place. You can do a little hike or you can just sit back, relax and have a photography session.
All the images that we have captured are from the first or second snowfall at the location. Just imagine how it will look like when Kashmir valley has experienced more snowfalls. Surreal!!
As you head back to Tanamarg, you can have a meal there or in Srinagar. If you are looking for food options in Srinagar, read more about it from our Srinagar blog and you will not be disappointed.
Read about what else to do when in Kashmir:
Have a great read. Travel, Mi Amor.