Gulmarg Gondola is one of the world’s highest operating cable cars, ferrying tourists from Gulmarg town to the top of nearby Apharwat Peak. A joint venture between the J&K government and a French firm Poma, this two-stage ropeway is capable of ferrying about 600 people per hour.
It is divided into two stages, more popularly known as two Phases. What these phases are and how you can plan for this cable car ride is what I will explain in the article below. For other details on visiting Gulmarg, you can also take a look at How to Plan your Trip to Gulmarg?
A Gondola ride is one of the biggest attractions that Gulmarg has to offer. There are plenty of other places to see as well but Gondola is what really draws thousands of tourists here each year, both local and also from other parts of the country.
In the peak tourist season, you may have to get in line and wait for hours before you will be able to board a Gondola. Not just the tourists but it is also a star attraction even for the local families of Kashmir.
What is Gulmarg Gondola?
Gulmarg Gondola is a cable car system that ferries tourists from Gulmarg town to the top of the nearby mountains of Kongdori and Apharwat.
The word Gondola is not the name of any company as some people believe. A gondola is actually a traditional, flat-bottomed rowing boat that they use to ferry passengers in Venice.
The same name then got used for several other means of transport like Rail, Balloon, Airplane, Ferris wheel, etc. In the case of a cable car, the word used is ‘Gondola Lift’ because this is what it actually is.
Like a regular lift in a building that takes you up and down between floors, a Gondola in Gulmarg is also a lift that will take you up and down a mountain. It is a word that actually means boat but is also used for all cable cars across the world.
About Gulmarg Gondola
There are two phases of Gulmarg Gondola, or in simpler words, there are two stops of Gondola. Gulmarg town is the starting point of the ride and the top of Apharwat peak is the endpoint. Kungdoor is the center point in between. Let me post a picture of it.
In the above picture, the spot where I have written # 1 is the starting point of the Gondola ride. This is where the booking station is and the ride starts from. The entire mountain that you see in the picture is the Apharwat peak.
Number 2 is the middle spot, the Kungdoor station where Phase 1 ends. A lot of people just prefer to go till this point. There are some dhabas there where you can get something to eat, relax, have fun and return.
Number 3 is the finishing point of the Gondola ride, the end of Phase 2. It is the top of the Apharwat peak. If you want to go all the way to the top, you will have to buy another ticket for Phase 2.
Number 4 is actually where Alpather Lake is located at the top. It is a small lake that you can trek to from the Gondola station.
How to reach Gulmarg Gondola
The gondola station is located on the main market road, at the far end of it. If you are sitting somewhere near the Maharani temple, then you are at the other end of the road and need to start walking in the other direction.
So while planning a ride, the first thing you will have to do is to reach the Gondola boarding point. Depending on where you are staying in Gulmarg, you may have to do a bit of walking to get here. From Maharani temple, it is about 2 kilometers of a walk. If you did not want to walk that much, you can also hire a pony to take you there.
Just ask anyone for directions and you will get pointed towards where to go. If you are here during peak tourist season then just follow the crowd. In the end, you will arrive at this building.
It looks like a hotel but is actually the entry gate of Gulmarg Gondola. They have the entire setup inside including the huge waiting hall and the boarding point. I will post a few pictures again.
This is the waiting room.
This is the spot where you jump on the Gondola. It is inside the building. The Gondola actually continues to remain in motion and never stop. So yes, you will actually have to get in while it remains in motion. It will not halt and wait for you to get on board.
The ticket counter however is outside so make sure you buy the tickets first before getting inside the building. This is the booking window.
So once you have the tickets in hand, you will board the Gondola for phase 1. If you were there during the off-season, there will be no waiting time involved.
I for example was there in mid-August and we were the only ones buying tickets. In tourist season though, I have heard that people had to wait in long queues both while buying tickets and then at the boarding point.
Once you get on board, it will take about 10-12 minutes at most and you will arrive at the Kungdoor station, the endpoint of Phase 1. Yes I know, it is too short but that is all there is to it.
At Kungdoor station, you will get off the Gondola and step out. This is what will be waiting for you outside.
The ride may be short but the view is what makes it all worth it. There are a lot of small teas stalls, restaurants as well so you can step out, walk around, enjoy the vistas and have something to eat.
There is also a small waterfall nearby at about 2 kilometers of walk. Do note though that it is actually a very small one and nothing too great. The 2 kilometers of the walk however is quite steep and will definitely take it out of you.
A lot of people and most families travel only till Phase 1 and go back from here. If you however want to go further then you board another Gondola to the top of nearby Apharwat peak. This is Phase 2.
You will have to buy tickets for both Phase 1 and 2 from the booking counter at Gulmarg only so keep that in mind. There is no booking counter at Kungdoor.
For people going to Phase 2, do not step out at Kungdoor station. Get off the 1st Gondola and right next to it is the boarding point for the 2nd one. Phase 2 is also a 10 – 12 minutes ride and will bring you to the top of Apharwat peak.
The vistas however will improve tremendously and you will really enjoy the natural beauty around you. There are no eating points here.
If you are a bit adventurous type, then you can trek to the nearby Alpather Lake; about 4-5 kilometers of walk away. Do remember though that this is another steep climb and is a bit difficult. I have explained this trek in another post How to Plan a Trek to Alpather Lake.
This is the place where you catch a Gondola for Phase 2. As you can see, it is a different lift but like the previous one, this one too remains moving while you will step inside.
This is where Phase 2 ends. The green building is the Gondola station. Once you step out, you can then start walking to your right for Alpather Lake, as we did.
How to Plan Your Ride
A better way of doing the trip would be that you come straight to Phase 2 from Gulmarg first. Walk around and enjoy the beauty at top of the mountain. Trek to Alpather lake if you wish to.
Then on your way back, get off at Phase 1 and step out. See the meadows here, eat around and then take the Phase 1 Gondola back to Gulmarg.
Good to know information is that the end of Phase 2 is not really the top of the Apharwat peak. It actually is at Kongdoori Mountain, a shoulder of nearby Apharwat Peak.
The top of Apharwat is again 5 kilometers of trekking towards Alpather Lake, to your right as you will notice in the first picture I posted on this page. Standing up here, you can see the actual line of Control and Pakistan administered Kashmir.
Also Read: How to Plan a Journey to Aharbal?
And that is pretty much it. That is your Gulmarg Gondola ride which by the time it ends will definitely leave you wanting for more.
Sitting in a small cabin at such great height with nothing beneath for several hundred feet is quite a thrill. Views you get from the Gondola and then from Kungdoor and Apharwat will blow your mind away.
Gulmarg Gondola Online Booking
There are two ways that you can buy tickets for the Gondola ride. You can either get it in person upon arriving at the counter. Or you can buy it online from the official Gondola Website.
The price is the same either way and ironically enough, buying online is actually more of a hassle. It doesn’t really give you a ticket that you can just print and go board the Gondola. Once you make payment and buy the ticket online, you will still have to get in a line at the booking counter and collect your boarding pass.
Not many people know this and almost everyone ends up buying online. Due to this, often, the cash counter will only have a handful of people buying while there would be a long queue at the online counter.
So my advice would be to avoid buying online and get the ticket in cash from the counter itself. You will have to get in a line anyway so why bother with the entire online thing.
Also, you will have to produce a valid photo ID so don’t forget to bring one. Without it, you will not get the tickets. Aadhar Card, driving license, voter’s ID or PAN Card, any government-issued ID card will do.
Gulmarg Gondola Ticket Price
The ticket price for Phase 1, from Gulmarg to Kungdoor, is Rs. 740 per person. Fare for the second phase, from Kungdoor to Apharwat peak is Rs. 950 per person.
The fare of Gulmarg Gondola is different for both phases. You will be buying from the same counter but in fact, will receive two different tickets.
Gulmarg Gondola Opening Time
During summer, the Gondola ride for Phase 1 starts at 9 AM and at 10 AM for Phase 2. During the winter season, the ride starts at 10 AM for Phase 1 and at 10:30 AM for Phase 2.
Gulmarg Gondola Closing Time
During summer, the ride is closed at 5 PM for Phase 1 and at 4 PM for Phase 2. During winter, this time is changed to 4 PM for Phase 1 and 3:30 PM for Phase 2.
For phase 1, you will start from Gulmarg at an altitude of 2,650 meters and arrive at Kungdoor station, at a height of 3,100 meters.
For Phase 2, you will then climb up to a height of 3,980 meters at the top of Kongdori mountain. From here, if you are up for it, you can then trek to the top of the Apharwat peak at 4,200 meters.
Also Read: The Life & Legend of Habba Khatoon
There are plenty of hotels in Gulmarg and you can easily find a hotel nearby. The entire town to be honest is not that big and no matter where you were staying, you can easily just walk to the entry point of the Gondola ride. Or else, you could just catch a Pony ride which is available here in plenty.
Is Gulmarg Gondola Safe?
This question actually now gets asked after the accident that claimed 7 lives including 4 tourists and 3 local guides. A tree nearby uprooted, fell on the cable, and swung it so hard that everyone inside the gondola fell out to their deaths.
Yes I know that sounds scary. The fact however is that it was an unfortunate accident, but the tourist rush for Gondola is still the same. I am inclined to say that yes it is completely safe, but I know the families of the deceased will never agree to this.
Best Time to Visit Gulmarg Gondola
If snow is what you seek then the best time would be the month of February when the entire region is buried under a thick sheet of snow. For green valleys, you can visit either in April or August.
I will however not recommend a Gondola ride in the months of April, May, and June because it tends to get too crowded at this time. You will end up waiting in long queues, will spend an entire day, and will get more frustrated than enjoying the ride.
Gulmarg Gondola in January
It is really the time for skiing and you will see plenty of skiers around. Gulmarg is known as one of the best skiing spots in our country.
The Chair car is specially built to take skiers to heights with all the equipment so they could then Ski down. There will be plenty of snow and the weather too can sometimes turn unpredictable closing the ride temporarily.
Gulmarg Gondola in February
It will be pretty much the same deal as January except for the fact that the amount of snow would be far much greater in February. February is the best time for a winter trip to Gulmarg. The chances of a blizzard and gondola getting closed due to bad weather will also be very less.
Gulmarg Gondola in March
The snow would start to melt from the ground and would mostly be limited to upper areas by end of the month. Very little chance of the ride closing due to bad weather. This is when the snow in Gulmarg usually gets limited to Phase 1 or 2 of Gondola.
Gulmarg Gondola in April
There will be plenty of greenery around and snow will be limited to upper areas like Phase 2. The views at this time will be a mix of green and white. The weather will also be pleasant will moderately warm days and cold nights.
Gulmarg Gondola in May
It is not really a good time because visiting in May means hours of waiting in lines. A Gondola ride of just about 20 to 25 minutes will see you spending the entire day waiting in line to get on a lift. But in terms of visiting Gulmarg with family, it is also one of the best times.
Gulmarg Gondola in June
June sees a bit of a dry season in Gulmarg. Greenery will be limited just to the golf course and the views will not be that great. But with that being said, the weather at this time will be just about perfect.
Gulmarg Gondola in July
The monsoon season hits the region by the end of June. It will start to be less crowded in July. It will start raining in July and if the weather turned bad, the ride may be closed temporarily. The Gondola accident that killed 7 people in Gulmarg happened towards the end of June.
Gulmarg Gondola in August
This is the month when the ride is least crowded. When I was there in August, we were the only ones buying tickets. As a matter of fact, we were the only tourists in the entire Gulmarg I think. There was hardly anyone around.
Gulmarg Gondola in September
It is one of the best times to enjoy a Gondola ride. The weather will not be that bad and the views will be lush green. If you were in luck, phase 2 may even receive some snow towards the end of the month.
Gulmarg Gondola in October
Autumn is here and the vistas will turn to more Orange. However, It tends to get a little crowded again in October. The weather will get colder with a high chance of a light spell of snow.
Gulmarg Gondola in November
There will not be much snow but the weather will be too cold. It won’t be too crowded at this time though. It is a good time to plan a budget trip to Gulmarg.
Gulmarg Gondola in December
December will again be a dry month, same as November, except for the fact that after Mid-December, it can snow in Gulmarg anytime.
Other Tips & FAQs
Mentioned below are some other tips that can be of help in planning a gondola ride in Gulmarg.
Gulmarg Gondola Guide
The entire town of Gulmarg is infested with guides and pony owners. They will attach themselves to you and won’t give up no matter how many times you say no. You cannot walk here 100 meters without a pony owner offering you a ride.
The same is the case with guides. The moment you enter a hotel, they will be waiting for you there. There are two problems basically. The first is that they have absolutely nothing to offer.
There is nothing in Gulmarg that they can show you that you can’t see it on your own. For the Gondola ride as well, a guide will just tag along, walk with you and charge you money for it. There is no huge history here that they can tell you. No hidden place that only the guide will know about. He will just be walking with you and that is pretty much it.
The second problem is that they ask for way too much money. I mean I don’t mind giving a small amount of money to a local guide and letting him accompany me just in order to help someone in need.
But I am not going to pay Rs. 1,000 to someone just to let him walk with me for no reason. These guys will lie between their teeth; telling tall tales about places they can show you, viewpoints that only they know about. The truth however is that they got nothing.
This one guide asked me Rs. 2,500 to show me the way from Phase 2 to Alpather Lake, which they call ‘Frozen Lake’. I realized later on that there was no need for a guide.
You just need to stay walking to your right from the Gondola station and you will reach the lake anyway which even I did on my own. If I had paid him Rs. 2,500 then I would have cursed myself for being a fool that big.
Also Read: How to Plan a Trip to Doodhpathri?
Arguments & Fights with Local Guides
And then they have the audacity to even argue and fight with you. There have been incidents of fights among tourists and guides here because they asked too much money and lied about what they were going to offer.
The tourist, unaware of the reality, agreed only to realize later on that he was being cheated and getting overcharged. When they refused to pay the agreed amount, it resulted in all the guides ganging up on the tourist.
My advice is to avoid them at all costs. Just walk your way and act like you can’t see or hear them around. They will be all-around at the booking counter but just ignore.
When to Hire a Guide
The only time when you can hire a guide is if you are there in peak tourist season. When it gets too crowded, they can then go stand in the queue on your behalf and arrange the ticket.
I have heard that they can even manage to let you bypass other waiting tourists and get your ride done quicker. But this again is a hassle for the tourist who refused to pay money; because then he is going to have to wait even longer because guides will keep breaking the queue and bring people to the front.
When is Gulmarg Gondola Closed?
The Gondola ride remains open throughout the year except for the times when the weather is a bit extreme; especially during winter and monsoon season. If it is snowing a bit too much or raining with high winds then the ride is closed for safety reasons.
Frozen Lake is what the guides call it; even in the months of July and August. The fact is that this lake is frozen only in winter; not in summer.
In order to get to the lake, after you arrive at the Phase 2 Gondola station, just start walking to your right and you will get there. The fun fact is that there is actually a motorable road up here to the lake that Army uses.
So you don’t even need to climb anywhere. Just keep walking to your right on the road and it will bring you to the lake. I have posted a step-by-step trek guide with pictures at How to Trek to Alpather Lake on Your Own Easily?
How to Book Gulmarg Gondola Tickets?
The tickets for Gulmarg Gondola can be booked at the online portal. I have found this portal to be non-operational a lot of times. If the link tells that the website is down, it means that the portal is down and you will have to check back later. But as I mentioned previously in the post, it is better to buy tickets from the counter only.
I hope the information above on planning a ride on Gulmarg Gondola was of help. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments section below and I will be happy to answer. You can also follow me on Instagram and chat with me live there or subscribe to my YouTube channel and ask a question there.