Discover stunning Himalayans circuits with our destination expert Ms. Reetwika Banerjee (Top 3 Tourist destinations in gulmarg)
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After Pahalgam, we were heading to Gulmarg via Srinagar. Gulmarg, the ‘Valley of Flowers’ is no doubt one of the Top 3 Tourist destinations in gulmarg. Anywhere you see, you will find multiple Bollywood masala movie backdrops. It is located in the Baramulla district of Union Territory of Kashmir. Altitude is not very high, around 8700 feet; being guarded by lofty Pir Panjal range in the north, golden flower beds and frozen meadows at heart and lush greeneries on other sides, this cup shaped valley is often called the darling of Kashmir. Once here, Gulmarg will never let you forget its charm.
The valley finds mentions in Indian mythology where it is referred as ‘Gauri Marg’ as it was believed that Goddess Durga (alias Gauri) had resided here for a night on her way to Kailash. Later during 16th century, Sultan Yousuf Shah renamed it to Gulmarg in honour of his wife Habba Khatoon. Innumerable varieties of flowers unique to this place are found in Gulmarg even today and hence the catch phrase ‘valley of flowers’.
But during winters, Gulmarg gets totally covered under snow and thus sets the stage for skiing and polar golf. Very few Indian hill stations cater to high altitude sports infrastructure which makes Gulmarg one of the top winter sports destinations of India.
Here are some of the Top 3 Tourist destinations in gulmarg which are frequented by tourists.
Maharani Temple of Gulmarg
- Maharani Temple of Gulmarg: This temple was constructed by the Dogra Dynasty during medieval period and is situated at the heart of the valley, on top a small hillock. It is garlanded with a beautiful yellow coloured flower from which the valley gets its name. This is the temple which also features in the 1974 Bollywood blockbuster ‘Aap Ki Kasam’ movie’s Burman melody “Jay Jay Shiv Shankar/ Kaanta lagena kankar/ Ke pyaala tere naam ka piya…”
The valley wears different looks with the change is seasons but there is not a single day when Gulmarg loses its appeal. That is why natives often say, “Gulmarg ka mausam aur Bambai ka fashion ka koi bharosa nahi. Kabhi bhi badal sakta hain.” Meaning, Gulmarg’s weather and Mumbai’s fashion are so vulnerable that either can change anytime. There is a romantic intoxication in its air which will make you fall in love with this slice of paradise at your first step.
- Kongdoori: It is a snow laden high hill destination in the Kashmir valley with an altitude of 12,500 feet above sea level. There are two basecamps at Khillanmarg – Kongdoori and Mary’s Shoulder on way to the Apharwat Peak. Both are considered as the ultimate ski points of India which receive thousands of international footfalls during winter. Kongdoori can be easily visited from Gulmarg over a day’s trek or on horseback. We chose the latter. It took us exactly two hours to cover the 2000 feet gradual ascent from Gulmarg to the Gondola point along the mountain slopes. There were two stages of the Gondola – the first stage (approx. 600 meters) transfers from Gulmarg to Kongdoori station in about 9 minutes and the next stage to Mary’s Shoulder. We were at Kongdoori by quarter past twelve.
- Mary’s Shoulder: This is the second basecamp, approx. 1 kilometer up from Kongdoori and it can be reached in about 12 minutes by Gondola stage one. The area beyond line of control falls under Pakistan, locally popular as Azaad (independent) Kashmir. The initial operations had started way back in 1998 but the second stage was opened to public only in 2005. A medical test needs to be done to set for the final trail as many first time skiers require additional oxygen at the Apharwat Peak (approx. 14,000 feet).
We reached the summit at 1 o’ clock and our return time stamped by the army official was at two. Any delay leads to severe punishments by order. The heavenly view from the top made me wordless for a moment. It was a 360 degree canvas of Pir Panjal snow peaks at an eye level. I truly felt like on top of the world. Chilly winds pinned our skin like a sharp blade but I could not flaunt to take off my rented fur coat and pose for an achiever’s photograph.
Way back, we flew over the Gaddi huts when I saw a little girl waving at our Gondola cabin. As I waved back, her golden smile concluded our Khillanmarg trek with cherished memories. It took us almost the entire day to acclimatize to the high hill meteorological conditions. Evening temperature declined probably to sub-zero. Dinner was ordered by seven from the in-house restaurant. Early retirement was much needed to gear up for tomorrow’s return trip to Srinagar.
Reetwika’s Travel Tip: For detailed information about the Top 3 Tourist destinations in gulmarg, visit the individual articles available in Tours and Journeys under Jammu & Kashmir category.