Situated on a high plateau, pastoral Gulmarg, which translates as ‘meadow of roses’ in Kashmiri, is home to a hill station that has few parallels in India. It boasts a picture-perfect Alpine landscape, with gardens, lakes, snow-covered mountains and (when not snowed in) lush-green vistas as far as the eye can see. Gulmarg also has the highest and longest cable car in Asia – a ride here can take your breath away, literally.
More to the point, Gulmarg is India’s top skiing destination, and consistently ranked as among the world’s best. It also hosts the country’s annual Winter Games. The slopes here, on the Apharwat Hills in the Pir Pinjal range of the Himalayas, are the highest, and the longest, in India. Though Gulmarg is popular during summers, it’s really in winter that this town comes alive, presenting a snowscape as pristine as any on the planet – and powder snow for that ideal skiing experience. And amid such grand mountain scenery, there’s also scope aplenty for trekking.
Earlier known as Gaurimarg (after Goddess Parvati, wife of Lord Shiva), this Kashmiri mountain resort was renamed Gulmarg by King Yusuf Shah Chak (16th century), the last of the local rulers.
Gulmarg had been a ‘pleasure retreat’ of former monarchs and entourages of royal families (Jahangir, the Mughal emperor, visited here), before becoming a summer getaway for British officers.
The Line of Control separating India and Pakistan is just a few miles from Gulmarg, though the area is pretty much incident-free nowadays, and is no longer the hotbed of militancy it was back in the 1990s.
Gulmarg is cocooned in the mighty Himalayas, encircled by majestic peaks (most topped by snow) all around.
Gulmarg experiences heavy snowfall in winters, when temperatures reach as low as -4C. In summers, however, the climate is agreeably balmy, with a high of 31C. Spring and autumn, too, offer pleasant weather.
How to reach
Gulmarg is conveniently accessible from Srinagar (52km); the journey takes just under two hours, in car or bus, or shared jeep. Jammu, the closest railhead to Gulmarg (304km), is connected to Delhi by the Jammu Rajdhani.
The nearest airport to Gulmarg is in Srinagar (56km west), which has daily flights to Delhi. Taxis and jeeps are available to Gulmarg from the airport.