A Complete Travel Guide to Gulmarg

Gulmarg is a famous tourist destination in Kashmir and one of the most popular honeymoon destinations in India. Gulmarg literally stands for “Valley of Flowers” and historically, was a famous summer retreat for various rulers and the Britishers. Currently Gulmarg is home to the world’s highest golf course, a world-class ski retreat and one of the highest and longest ropeways of Asia. One look at its snow-filled mountains and you’ll know why it’s called the Switzerland of India. Here’s a complete travel guide to Gulmarg based on my experience there.

Nearest Airport: Srinagar International Airport.

How to Reach Gulmarg

Gulmarg is located roughly 50kms from Srinagar and can be easily reached via car or bus. It takes 1.5 hrs from Srinagar if you hire a local taxi. There are also local buses from Srinagar to the nearest Tangmarg market.

The nearest airport is the Srinagar International Airport, from which one will have to hire a cab to get to Gulmarg.

The best and fastest option to reach Gulmarg is by cab.

Travel within Gulmarg

A path in the snow headed towards a snowy mountain posted in this travel guide to Gulmarg
Path to the Gulmarg Gondola station

Gulmarg is a small town and travel within can be easily done by foot, however local cabs are also available for hire. We wanted to avoid the additional logistics involved with hiring a cab, which is why it was important for us to choose a hotel near to the Gondola. That brings us to…

Where to stay in Gulmarg

A photo of the snow filled himalayan peaks
Himalayas as seen from the Apharwat Peak

There are many budget friendly as well luxury stays one can choose in Gulmarg. Being one of the top honeymoon destinations in India, Gulmarg sees a lot of crowd all year round so be sure to book your stays in advance.

Budget friendly Hotel options: Hotel GS Residency.

Midrange hotel options: The Vintage.

Luxury hotel options: The Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa.

We personally stayed at The Vintage and loved it.

Things to do in Gulmarg

Gulmarg is THE destination for Winter sports in India and one can find a lot of activities to do around here.

 

1. Ride the second highest & longest Gondola in the world

Did you know that Gulmarg has the world’s second highest and second longest Gondola?
It’s no wonder then that this Gondola experience is a must if you are visiting Gulmarg.

The Gondola has two phases – Phase 1 takes you to Kongdoori station and Phase 2 takes you from Kongdoori to Apharwat Peak at around 13700 ft.

While the phase 1 station has the eateries, snow activities and much of the crowd, phase 2 is much calmer and less crowded.

 

Gulmarg gondola price:

Phase 1 tickets will cost you around INR 700 while Phase 2 tickets will cost you around INR 900.

 Where to book the gondola tickets?
The tickets can be purchased beforehand online from the official site or purchased at the ticket booth. I would recommend to purchase the tickets online just to avoid getting hassled by the people there who will promise you “no queues” but will take you along for a ride longer than the Gondola ride.

Note that you will need to stand in the queue even if you purchase the tickets online.

How long does it take?

Phase 1 will take you around 9 mins while Phase 2 lasts around 12 mins.

What to wear while going on the gondola ride?

Be sure to dress in warm layers since it gets really cold and windy at the top especially on top of the Apharwat Peak. You will be thankful for gloves and a beanie and make sure you carry a good pair of sunglasses to avoid the glare from the snow. Snow boots can be rented at the base easily.

2. Snow Activities

There are plenty of snow activities to be enjoyed in Gulmarg. 

Skiing comes at the top of this list. There are ski instructors available along with ski lifts to take you to the top. Snowboarding, Sledding, Trekking are some of the other activities available and for the golf enthusiasts, there’s the world’s highest golf course to visit as well.

4.3 Build a snowman or two

A funny looking snowman wearing Raybans
A funky Snowman in Gulmarg

If you are not the one for adventurous sports, there are always a few sculptures you can leave around for the Snow Gods. Just saying.

3. Enjoy a plate of hot Maggi atop a mountain

Even if you spend the time just walking around in the snow, you will be hungry and what better to satiate that hunger than having a hot plate of butter Maggi with the Himalayas in the background? 

There are plenty of restaurants to choose from at Phase 1 where one can find a lot of vegetarian options as well.

A girl wearing a yellow jacket walks on the snow facing the majestic Himalayan peaks
Walking on the peaks of Gulmarg

4. Take in the majestic beauty of the Himalayas from the Apharwat Peak

If you ask me, Phase II which takes you to the Apharwat Peak of the Pir Panjal range, is a must do on any Gulmarg trip. Take a moment to walk out into the snow, sit and just enjoy the view of the majestic Himalayan Peaks.

A panoramic view of the Himalayan Peaks from Gulmarg
A Panoramic view in Gulmarg

How many days to spend in Gulmarg

One day is sufficient for most, unless you are there specifically to learn skiing, in which case you might want to stay longer. 

It’s also possible to do a day trip from Srinagar to Gulmarg which will also help you save on having to pay for return fare.

Best time to visit Gulmarg

Winter is the best time to visit Gulmarg to experience snowfall. However, the temperatures outside are really cold making it harder for snow activities. 
The best time to visit Gulmarg is during spring/summer months of April-June. Gulmarg in summer is pleasant and ideal for outdoor activities. 
Gulmarg experiences rainfall during the monsoon months from July-September making it not an ideal time for travelling.

 

Other places to visit in Gulmarg

One can choose to visit Drung Waterfall which is around 15 kms from Gulmarg. If you are visiting in winter, you might be lucky enough to see this waterfall frozen.The other two famous destinations near Gulmarg are Srinagar and Pahalgam.

Scams to look out for in Gulmarg

Like any city that relies mainly on tourism, Gulmarg attracts opportunistic people and the various scams tend leave a bitter taste in one’s mouth. I really don’t blame the locals, especially after the pandemic, since they are trying to make a living, but one too many bad experiences has left me a bit cynical. Here are a few tips for you so that you can avoid getting scammed here.

  • Do we need a guide in Gulmarg? The driver may tell you that you need to compulsorily take a guide with you to the top otherwise you won’t be allowed up. Our driver insisted so much before arriving at Tangmarg Market that even we were almost convinced that this was true. Thank Gods we said no, otherwise our experience of Gulmarg would have been way different. So to answer everyone’s question –  No, you do not need any guide to go to the top, even to Phase II.
  • Your driver will also insist on you renting winter accessories and boots at the Tangmarg Market where it always tends to be much pricier. You can easily rent the boots right at the entrance to the Gondola for a much cheaper price.
  • People will start hounding you literally every step of the way until you get into the gondola to hire a guide who will help you “skip the queue”. Basically these people cut lines and make you cut lines as well, much to the irritation of others already in the queue. I saw many a fight breakout and wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere near them. No, thank you. I repeat again, you do not need a guide just to experience the Gondola.
 
Be prepared to be hounded by people as soon as you enter Gulmarg (we had people literally falling on the car which was scary) and while walking to and fro to the Gondola station. You just need to be adamant and keeping saying no (or “nahi chahiye” which means “don’t want” in Hindi) repeatedly.
 

Notes/Tips

  • Buy the Gondola tickets beforehand  and buy it till Phase 2 since the views from the Apharwat Peak are not to be missed. 
  • You can easily rent your snow shoes near the market or near the station and you don’t need to pay a premium before just because your guide/cab driver says so.
  • Being a heavily tourist-reliant place, there are a lot of people who will start hounding your cab as soon as you enter Gulmarg.
  • The cabbies from Gulmarg will also not allow any cab from Srinagar to move around inside Gulmarg so that’s something one has to look out for, especially if you are planning to keep the cab around for local transport.
  • Due to the relatively low oxygen on the Apharwat Peak, caution is advised for those with breathing difficulties.
 

This post was last modified 1 month ago.

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