This post is in continuation with a previous one detailing our arrival to Srinagar from Delhi. We reached Srinagar by flight and then took a cab for our journey from Srinagar to Gulmarg. Details in this article are of our 1st day in the beautiful town of Gulmarg. Please take a look at the link below to read previous part of this travelogue.
Journey So Far: Delhi to Srinagar – The Delayed Flight
Srinagar to Tangmarg
Third entry in the list of surprises for the day came in the form of driving skills of the good people of Srinagar. I am from Delhi and I hate the roads there and the fact that how people drive like idiots. But once I spent some time on the roads of Srinagar city, people of Delhi started to look well behaved. That is how crazy it is in Srinagar.
Everyone was driving like a maniac and I was shocked at how they were managing to not hit anyone going at such a speed; driving in such a manner. Pedestrians were completely ignorant of the oncoming vehicles. They were walking as if they were all deaf and blind, unable to see any vehicle or listen to the horns. So word of advice, if you are driving to Kashmir then please be very careful and slow down. It doesn’t actually apply just in Srinagar city but everywhere in Kashmir.
We traveled through the crowded town of Magam and then the first stop came at Tangmarg where we stopped for much needed refreshments.
Hotel Pine View – Gulmarg
The following happened a day before the trip. I was looking for a budget hotel in Gulmarg and while Googling for it, the name of Hotel Pine View came up. This hotel was offering the lowest price of all and by the pictures posted, it looked like a decent enough stay. I called the number listed and the guy who answered the phone told me that the hotel was not exactly within Gulmarg; but about 10 kilometers downhill from main town.
At that time I did not understand where he meant but when we stopped at Tangmarg, I immediately noticed Hotel Pine view there. So if you too came across this name then do not check in here. This hotel comes up in Google as a budget hotel in Gulmarg; but actually is located at Tangmarg which is on the way from Srinagar; about 14 kilometers before Gulmarg.
Also Read: How to Plan a Trip to Gulmarg?
Hotel Affarwat in Gulmarg
The owner of this hotel however was a very friendly and helpful guy. They have a branch in Gulmarg as well by the name of Pine View Resort; fare of which is slightly higher at around Rs. 2500. This however is the off season price and I am sure it will go up even further during tourist season. I asked the guy if he could book my stay here at Pine View Resort; but they were completely booked for the day we were reaching Gulmarg. I asked him if there was any other good hotel he would recommend and he suggested Hotel Affarwat. I checked google, saw a few pics and it looked decent enough. So I gave my nod and he confirmed my booking in Hotel Affarwat.
I have provided more details and some pictures of this hotel at Hotel Affarwat – A good place to stay in Gulmarg. Overall our experience was satisfactory. It was a good hotel that I will recommend staying at. Budget hotels anyways are a rare breed in Gulmarg so don’t go searching for those.
Tangmarg to Gulmarg
Until Tangmarg, the entire journey from Srinagar looks much like driving in plains. It don’t even feel like you are actually at a hill station. It is after Tangmarg that the road turns into a steep ascent and climbs up rapidly for last 14 kilometers to Gulmarg. The vistas change drastically and you get your first taste of why Gulmarg is such a famous tourist spot. Back at Srinagar and even at Tangmarg, temperature was a bit hot but the air turned colder as we got closer to Gulmarg. Before we could finally make it there however, there was one more stop that I wanted to make; at the shrine of Baba Reshi.
Baba Reshi, Gulmarg
I have posted detailed information about this shrine at a different post, The Life and Legend of Baba Reshi. But for a brief overview, Baba Reshi is one of the most famous and visited Dargah or mazar in all of Kashmir. Not many people know about it though; and even I found out about the place while I was googling for a list of places to visit around Gulmarg. This shrine falls kind on the way; and a road bifurcates about 5 kilometers before Gulmarg as you start to drive up from Tangmarg.
It is a very peaceful and serene place sitting amid the dense forest all around. If you are planning to visit Gulmarg, I will highly recommend a short trip to Baba Reshi. It won’t take you more than an hour to visit here and then get back on the road to Gulmarg which was exactly what we did.
Baba Reshi to Gulmarg
After another short break at a view point en route and we drove straight to Gulmarg; arriving there a little after 3 PM. I had already booked my stay at Hotel Affarwat so we reached straight there. Now at this point, our travel plan took a major turn. As per the initial itinerary that I planned, we were to stay at Gulmarg for the night and be on our way to Doodhpathri the next day after visiting some local attractions.
The biggest attraction of Gulmarg however is the Gondola ride which I was not too keen on doing for two reasons. First was that almost every review that I read about it on the net mentioned that it involves hours of waiting in long queues as it is always over crowded. And second was that because it is overcrowded, it means spending an entire day in Gulmarg itself.
Generally too, a Gondola ride did not sound too tempting to me so we had no intentions of getting on it. A couple of other tourist attractions like Apharwat Peak and Alpather Lake too remained out because of the time factor. Trekking to both these places again requires an entire day as per my initial research. So our plan was to arrive at Gulmarg, see whatever we can cover in a few hours and then head towards Doodhpathri. All this however changed the moment we reached Hotel Affarwat.
Also Read: How to Plan a Gulmarg Gondola Ride
The Guide in Gulmarg
While I was checking into the hotel and signing up in their register, a guide sitting at the reception approached me. We did not need a guide so I said no. I was in fact a bit surprised to find a guide here because I thought that was a breed specific to Agra and Taj Mahal. Nonetheless, he did not back down and kept trying to talk me into it, offering his services. I still said no to him but a few things that he said invoked my interest, specifically about a certain “frozen lake”.
He offered to be our guide for the Gondola ride and then take us for a trek to the frozen lake. I started to inquire more about this frozen lake and found out three new things.
- Frozen lake is in fact Alpather Lake; though I had my own doubts on whether or not it will actually be frozen in August.
- The last point of Phase 2 of Gondola ride is in fact Apharwat Peak. The Gondola ride is actually all about ferrying tourists from Gulmarg to the top of Apharwat peak.
- The trek to Alpather Lake from Phase 2 of Gondola can easily be done in about 2 hours.
Change in the Plan
So it meant that if we stayed for a day in Gulmarg and took a Gondola ride, we can cover Apharwat peak and Alpather Lake as well. It was actually the phrase “trekking to a frozen lake” that got all three of us interested. We discussed among ourselves and decided that since we were at Gulmarg anyway, why rush and not cover all of it. So the plan was then changed and we decided to extend our day at Gulmarg by another day. Gondola ride too was added to the itinerary. I had a day of stay planned in Srinagar city as per initial itinerary which I gave up in favor of staying at Gulmarg.
Also Read: When is the Best time to visit Gulmarg?
Now the first thing to do was to let Faisal know about the change since he was to hand us over the bikes the next day. I called him and informed about the new itinerary. Second thing was to decide what to do with the driver because if we were staying at Gulmarg, then he was going to just sit there the entire day doing nothing. Faisal suggested that we let him go. Our driver, Gulzar, was from Kupwara district so that way, he could just go home today and then come back to Gulmarg the day after to pick us up again. This would save him an idle day of doing nothing and us the cost of it.
This sounded reasonable and I told Gulzar that he could go today; and then come pick us up a day after as early as he could. He said he would be here by 10 AM and went on his way.
Sightseeing in Gulmarg
We checked into a hotel, freshened up and then it was time for some local sightseeing. First we stopped for some tea, mutton kababs; and then took a full circle around Gulmarg town and Polo ground.
View from our Hotel
Selfie Time. Sun was shining directly in our faces, forcing my one eye shut.
Golf Course of Gulmarg
St. Mary’s Church
We arrived at our hotel after dark and fourth surprise of the day awaited us. We were in the mood of having some great Kashmiri non-vegetarian but were told by the hotel staff that they only serve vegetarian. Surprise # 5 was when we were told that most of the hotels in Gulmarg are vegetarian only. We asked where we could go for some non-veg and were routed towards a hotel called Yemberzal; stating that they serve the best non-veg in Gulmarg. We stepped out of our hotel, and started to walk towards the said hotel while asking the local for directions. It took us about 15 minutes to get there.
Also Read: Tourist Attractions in Gulmarg
Gulmarg is Expensive
This is where the final surprise of the day came into picture and I realized how expensive Gulmarg actually is. When we sat down to have our dinner and were offered the menus to look at, what we were holding in our hands was a pamphlet asking us to pay Rs. 20 for one “Tawa Roti”; which too turned out to be quite small, like a phulka when we started to eat. The prices of the non-veg dishes were over the roof. You get charged this kind of money at a five start hotel restaurant, not at a place like Yemberzal. Little however we could do. We were already there and hungry so decided to eat anyway. When we were handed the final bill, it consisted of Rs. 500 just for a plate of rice and Rotis. The bill for some Roghan Josh, Rista and Gushtaba was separate.
I have never ever paid Rs. 500 only for a few Rotis and Rice. Our dinner for 3 in a very average kind of restaurant went close to Rs. 1,300. As we were to learn the next day that this price is standard in all of Gulmarg. Even the small dhabas have this kind of prices on their menus.
Also Read: How to Trek to Alpather Lake
Srinagar to Gulmarg – End of Day 1
After having dinner, we took a small late night walk in Gulmarg and arrived back at the hotel. By now we were all tired and just wanted to catch some sleep. And hence came to an end an amazing eventful day of travel; and one that was indeed full of surprises. Next day, our plan was to catch a Gondola ride and then trek to Alpather Lake.
Today’s distance chart was as below.
- Srinagar to Gulmarg – About 60 kilometers, 2 to 3 hours of travel
- Srinagar to Tangmarg – About 40 kilometers, 1 hour of travel
- Tangmarg to Gulmarg – 14 kilometers, 1 hour of travel
- Tangmarg to Baba Reshi – 5 kilometers, 15 minutes of travel
- Gulmarg to Baba Reshi – 10 kilometers, about 40 to 45 minutes of travel
Please read Sightseeing in Gulmarg – Exploring the Paradise for next part of this travelogue. I hope the information posted above was of use and can help in planning your trip to Gulmarg. If you have any further questions; please feel free to ask in the comments section below; or at our Community Forum; and I will be glad to answer