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Gulmarg

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Gulmarg

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Gulmarg is a city in Kashmir and is noted for having one of the worlds highest Gondola (cable car)

Get in[edit]

Gulmarg

Taxi from the Airport to Gulmarg or Srinagar to Gulmarg should be 1800 - 2000 Rs (Feb 2015), but if the roads are icy, you will probably only be able to catch the taxi to Tangmarg, at which point you will need to hire a four wheel drive with chains for around 700 Rs. This can end up costing more than it should. Alternatively, hotels can often organise transport in 4wd all the way from Srinagar to Gulmarg without changes, even in the snow, for around 2000 Rs. The journey takes around 2-2.5 hours depending on weather, or longer if some idiot causes an accident on the road to Gulmarg because they don't respect the icy conditions. For those travelling from Srinagar, shared taxis (Sumos) are available from Buttmal to Tangmarg for Rs. 100 per person (Feb 2015). From there, you can catch a onward shared sumo to Gulmarg for Rs. 50 - 70 (Feb 2015). The whole journey takes 2 to 3 hrs.

Get around[edit]

Getting around Gulmarg is done mostly by foot or by flagging down a "taxi" 4wd. If you are staying close to the market and need to get to the Gondola, expect to pay around 100-150Rs for one person, 200Rs for 2 people and 250 Rs for the whole taxi to the gondola (Feb 2015). If you ride on the outside of the 4wd by holding on for dear life, or by getting pulled on your skis, then thats free (with tip). If you can't find a taxi, then they tend to hang around by the market or bus stand, and outside the gondola or by the junction near Big Bite/Hotel Hilltop. There is one road that does a loop around the whole area. Walking around it would take about an hour in summer (much longer in the winter). You can go for a ride around Gulmarg in sledges driven by locals which seem to cost around Rs. 100-200Rs (Feb 2015). Its not a quick means of transport though, but it does support the local community. All prices are dependent on demand and your negotiation skills. The gondola is around 1.5 km from the local hotels and you can take a taxi there. You might be told by the locals that it is a very long que to buy tickets and need to take a guide which is complete nonsense. You are asked to take a pony and are expected to pay Rs. 600 per head. If you don't agree to take a pony your guide will try to take you in a convoluted way to force you to take a pony. So just use google map rather than a guide.

See[edit]

Gondola

Gulmarg has some of most amazing treks in world (accessible in the summer). Skiing season starts from December till Early April. Snow Conditions are fantastic and you can get deep powder in Gulmarg ski resort every winter. The main attraction in Gulmarg is the Gondola. Finished in 2004, it runs up to 3995 meters, and is the highest "ski lift" in the world. A sight seeing trip to the top of the gondola will cost you Rs. 300 for Stage one and Rs. 800 for stage two(inclusive of the cost of Stage one) for a return trip. A "skiing/snowboarding" trip costs 300Rs for a single ride on Phase I or 1000Rs for a Phase I day pass, 400Rs for a single ride on Phase II (when its open) and 200Rs for single ride on the Chair lift from midstation to Marry's Shoulder (Feb 2015). You pay for Phase I at the bottom of the Gondola and Phase II at the Kangdoori midstation when you have reached the top of Phase I, and you pay for the Chairlift at the booth at the bottom of the chairlift (walk out of the opposite side of the gondola midstation to get to the chairlift). Stage two is at a much higher elevation, right on the mountain top and is clearly visible from the Gulmarg taxi stand. The views are breathtaking, which isn't surprising given how little oxygen is at 4000m! The mountains visible from the top are said to be LOC and Pakistan administered Kashmir (specifically Nanga Parbat and (supposedly) the very tip of K2). You can do Mountain Biking from June till September and enjoy some of the best downhill Mountain biking in world.

Do[edit]

The main activity for a tourist in Gulmarg is skiing and snowboarding. The skiing season starts on the 25th of December and runs through to March. The snow is generally deep and powdery! Theres a huge number of opportunities for skiing from each of the gondola stations and the chairlift on predominantly ungroomed powder runs. Gulmarg is comparable to the higher areas of Whistler/Blackcomb.

There are two areas for skiing: the high mountain/off piste areas served by the gondola; and a beginner's area near the hotels sited on the hills of the Gulmarg golf course.

The beginners area is open from 10-1, then closes for lunch until 2:30. Lifts reopen 2:30-4.

High mountain area: With its gondola accessible ski area on Mt. Apharwat, 4'124m it offers many possibilities for descents of up to 1'800 vertical meters. The Phase I Gondola is open from approximately 8:30 to 3:30 daily. The Chairlift is open from around 9.30am to 3pm depending on avalanche risk. The Phase II Gondola opens later in the day after the main bowl has been made avalanche safe by blasting. However, Phase II is highly dependent on snow conditions and is often closed for the whole day. Avalanche risk and gondola opening is posted on Facebook here

Sound skiing skills and good health are prerequisites to enjoy ski vacations in Gulmarg. Note that only the main bowl to the skier's left of the gondola is avalanche-blasted and patrolled - all other areas are considered out-of-bounds.It is very easy to exit the ski area boundary into the wild terrain where no avalanche control has been done by the ski patrol. A non-profit avalanche center puts out a daily bulletin and teaches avalanche courses. Some are free, like the avalanche awareness talk which is really helpful. The web page for the center is gulmargavalanche.org

Heli-skiing is available, which opens up far more off-piste opportunities than the one-lift resort that Gulmarg otherwise offers [1]. But its very expensive and weather dependent (around 800USD for half day and 1300 dollars for a full day per person, Feb 2015). The heliski operators are Australian and qualified. They also offer equipment rental including skis, boards, boots and avalanche survival kits (beacon, shovel, probe).

Ski rentals are available in many places in town but quality and prices vary considerably (up to 1000 Rs per day) (Feb 2015). A good bet for quality snowboards (even girls boots and boards) is the Attic board shop at Mount View Hostel in Gulmarg village near the post office [2]. Prices 600-750Rs per day total (Feb 2015). They'll even put a fresh coat of wax on:) A good bet for quality powder skis (Atomic) up to 186, poles and decent boots is the Government shop by the baby slopes (750Rs per day total) (Feb 2015).

Take care if considering hiring a guide - they are everywhere, persuasive, of variable quality and use and tend to work on a commission basis. Initial price might be attractive but your guide may be reluctant to take you to places which don't pay commission and you'll be paying inflated prices for ski hire, food etc for the duration of your trip. If you want reliable guides, properly trained in avalanche awareness you can contact the part western owned Di5 adventures[3], or enquire at the Mount View Hostel[4].

The weather can be cold and it is necessary for tourists to wear warm clothes. Golfing, Sledging, and horse riding are other activities (best enjoyed in the summer). Major Tourist Attractions of Gulmarg are Alpather Lake , Baba Reshi Shrine , Gondola, Cable Car to Kongdor, Gulmarg Gold Golf Course, Khilanmarg, Maharani Temple, Skiing ,St Marys church,

A number of informal checkpoints exist along the road to Gulmarg, which appear to be staffed by armed volunteers. Tipping may be necessary to pass any given checkpoint.

Buy[edit]

Prices in Gulmarg can be much higher than Srinagar for similar goods. Theres one jewellery shop in the main market run by a friendly and english speaking local that is worth a look for something special. There are pashmina shops everywhere. Theres a tourist shop at the base of the gondola which does a nice line of I heart Gulmarg, and I heart Kashmir t-shirts and clothes, amongst other stuff. Theres a J+K bank ATM located near the bus stand in the village.

Eat[edit]

All hotels can arrange food, even if their kitchens are closed.

Meals in the small local Dhabas around Gulmarg are around 200-250Rs per person depending on appetite. Dishes are very tasty!

'There', a new pop-up bar situated in the basement of Alpine Ridge hotel. Serves delicious western-style comfort food in a cool, après-ski atmosphere with good indie music and great Australian hosts.

The Dhaba around the main market in the village are all similar and cheap. Mamas Dhaba is a good choice if you can't make up your mind, but be careful that they don't give you dishes you didn't order, they will make you pay for them.

Bakshi's Green Punjabi Dhaba (Vegetarian). Best food and friendliest folks in Gulmarg.

Big Bite at Hotel Hilltop is a good choice for reliable western style fast food. Service is quick and generally food is decent. Pizzas are a good bet.

Global Hotel/Restaurant, excellent eating if you're after some western food, 200mtrs in the direction of the Gondola from the Bus Station.

Theres a group of Dhabas near the Gondola Midstation and Kangdoori. Sofi Sunshine is a good choice. They even have beer.

Drink[edit]

There is no real Apres Ski scene in Gulmarg. But one of the charms of the place is its contrast to the flashy d-bag filled resorts of the west. Its peaceful and tranquil at night and you'll get a good nights sleep and be up at dawn ready for more powder!

If you want to find a nice place to hang out and meet the locals, any of the Dhabas in town are good choices. There you'll find locals sitting around the Bukhari drinking tea and eager to talk to somebody new. No trip to Kashmir is complete without sampling the two kinds of Kashmiri tea. One has bicarbonate of soda and salt and is said to aid digestion. The other is green tea infused with cardamoms, saffron and cinnamon, with not a small helping of sugar!

If you want to find a place to hang out with ski bums from around the world, then Hotel New Mount View always has a range of characters in it[5].

You are highly recommended to bring alcohol with you (buy in Srinagar or duty free) if you want to drink as even if you can find alcohol in Gulmarg its going to be expensive!

That being said, alcohol is available legally from the 'Highland Park Hotel' (carry on down the road past the gondola and you will eventually reach it on your right) and not-so-legally from 'other vendors' (ask the locals for hints!)

Kingfisher beer is also available on the mountain from the Dhabas near midstation (Kangdoor) when you want to congratulate yourself after shredding Phase II. Sofi sunshine is a good choice. Around 300Rs per can (feb 2015).

Although drink is not available in Gulmarg, hashish is everywhere and seems tolerated. Locals and ski bums alike smoke openly in Gulmarg and on the mountain. Wonder around the market or bus stand and you'll be approached...

Sleep[edit]

Hotels in Gulmarg may not have central heating or round-the-clock hot water. Check with the hotel if these are a necessity for you. Prices listed here seem out of date and were deleted as they were misleading (Feb 2015) unless marked otherwise. In general, prices are variable depending on the season. Summer is very popular and therefore hotels can be full. In winter, you can get many discounts if you turn up and a hotel is not full.

Hotel New Mount View[6]. <2000Rs a night for a double room for 2 people. The closest thing that Gulmarg has to a backpackers hostel. Run by very friendly guys (Tariq). Near to the post office in the Gulmarg Village. Theres always people from all around the world hanging out in the restaurant/living room in the hostel so if you want to meet new people and socialise this is your best choice. Theres a full restaurant, and a Snowboard shop in the attic upstairs.

Welcome Hotel - 3000Rs for a double room for 2 people including breakfast (Feb 2015) but negotiable if you turn up and they are not full. A good choice in the village close to the market and Dhabas. Cosy rooms with electric blankets, electric heaters and wood Bukharis (but some have terrible chimneys that fill the room with smoke). The views across to the mountain are fantastic! Theres a restaurant in house although its a little chilly in the deep winter. Friendly staff.

Global Hotel - hot water, gas heaters and a western restaurant, 200m from the bus stop in the direction of the gondola.

Green Heights - no hot water, each room has its own bahari (fireplace).

Hill Top - Central heating, in house restaurant, closest to Gondola.

Hotel Pine Palace - Ski In Ski Out Hotel on the Gondola's Ski slope. Multiple restaurants. 3500 per night at Pine Palace Heritage, and 5500 at Pine Palace Platinum.

The Nedous Hotel - a family-run establishment that was built in 1888 by an Austrian family and now run by their great grandson. Has dining room. All rooms have telephones, cable TV. Tel: +911-954 254428 Email:nedousreservations@gmail.com

Hotel Highlands Park is also a good option to stay for a night.

New Zam Zam

Raja's Hotel- a night for dorm bed in basically unheated room, but raja is the coolest ex mujahadeen on the mountain.

Fluorescence Hotel and Restaurant The Ski Lounge: Lounge majestic views, live music on weekends, and DJ.

You can also stay at private cottages in Gulmarg. It is a great and homely experience.

  • Hotel Raja, Parvaiz Ahmad, 9797008107. One of the cheapest within walking distance of the Gondola. Close to other places with nightlife.  edit

Stay safe[edit]

Temperatures in Gulmarg remain well below zero for major part of the year. Keep your body well covered with gloves, boots, overcoats to keep warm. On the way to Gulmarg, there are small shops where you can rent heavy woolens and boots. Be careful as the guys renting them are very annoying. Snow Boots are not really required unless you are walking on the mountain instead of skiing. A stong pair of hiking boots will suffice for the rest of the town.

If you want to ski or ride the backcountry then a knowledgable guide with proper avalanche training is essential. Contact the part western owned Di5 adventures [7] for more information or enquire at Mount View Hostel [8]. Despite the thousand annoying guys trying to sell their services as guides, in the main bowl of the mountain, guides are not necessary as long as you are a competent skiier/snowboarder and are skiing in a group. Have fun exploring the many possible runs you can find, they will all pop out near the gondola station anyway.

Skiers and snowboarders who plan to ride Phase II or in the backcountry should expect significant avalanche danger and plan accordingly. It is advisable to carry an avalanche beacon and be aware of the dangers. A non-profit avalanche information center provides daily advisories from avalanche experts. The advisory is posted at the common access points of the gondola and at Gulmagavalanche.org[9].

Crime (apart from some light scamming and overcharging) is very low in Gulmarg and the locals are generally respectful and friendly even to lone foreign female travellers. But it can get very dark at night even along the main road in the village, so be sensible.

Get out[edit]

Theres generally no need to leave Gulmarg the night before for flights the next day. The road to Tangmarg is plowed but if there is a big storm, then it may take several hours to clear the snow so check the weather carefully.

Prices are similar to getting in to Gulmarg (see above) and transfers can be arranged by hotels.

Even if the weather is good plan DOUBLE the time to get back to the airport as it took to get to Gulmarg (5+ hours). This is because firstly, various things can go wrong on the way back to Srinagar - the small road to Tangmarg can have an accident on it or the main road to Srinagar may have traffic jams, especially if there is fog. Secondly, there is a frankly ridiculous amount of security at Srinagar airport with multiple checkpoints, even on the road before you get to the airport and then when getting into the airport, and then security check after security check in the airport itself. It takes forever! Also, flights have been known to leave early....

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