If a person was to make a list of top visited hill stations of our country, then I am sure the name Gulmarg will definitely be among the top ones. Visiting Kashmir in general makes people a bit nervous but Gulmarg in my opinion is one place that does not get affected by this phobia. Such is the beauty of this tiny hamlet that it attracts people from all over the country and throughout the year. Quite rightly termed as the ‘Meadow of Flowers,’ and indeed a heavenly place to tread in; Gulmarg offers mesmerizing landscapes and an enthralling possibility of various adventure activities. But it is not just the scenic beauty that Gulmarg is all about. It is also a place that in many ways portrays the secular image of our country; away from all the politics and religious angles.
How? I will talk about this further in the article along with some other tips on how you can plan your trip here; including information on accommodation, mode of transport, things to see and do, weather and the best time to visit. If, after reading the article, you have any other questions; you may ask those in comments towards the bottom of this page.
Where is Gulmarg?
For a brief introduction, Gulmarg is a hill station located in the state of Jammu & Kashmir in India. The town is situated in the Pir Panjal Range in the western Himalayas at an altitude of 2,650 meters (8,690 ft). The name Gulmarg, literally translating into “meadow of flowers” was awarded by Sultan Yusuf Shah Chak who frequented the place with his wife Habba Khatoon in the 16th century. Gulmarg was also a favorite of Mughal Emperor Jahangir who is said to have collected as many as 21 wild flowers for his garden from here.
Also Read: The Life & Legend of Habba Khatoon
During the English rule, Gulmarg served as a retreat for British civil servants looking to escape the scorching summer heat of plains in North India; much like Shimla and Mussorie. Golf was one of the favorite pastime activity that they indulged in out here due to which three golf courses were established in Gulmarg; including one exclusively for women. Of the three, One of the golf courses still survive and at an altitude of 2,650 meters (8,690 ft), is now the world’s highest golf course.
Why to Visit
The first question that comes to mind, and I will begin the article with it, is why visit Gulmarg? What is it that you will find here and nowhere else? After all it is also just another hill station like numerous others in our country. The answer to the question is that Gulmarg has a little bit to offer for everyone in every season. It lush green meadows makes it look more like a picnic spot, perfect to bring your family and kids. The cable car ride known as Gulmarg Gondola is the second highest Gondola in the world and is an experience in its own. Trekking to Apharwat peak and Alpather Lake is something that adventurous kind can look forward to.
Come winter, the entire place gets buried deep under snow ; making it a feast for the eyes. It is a great place for people chasing snow and wanting to experience a live snowfall for the first time. It is also one of the most famous ski resort of India. Road connectivity to Gulmarg is great and from Srinagar, you can get here in a matter of 2 to 3 hours at most. There are no long hours of driving involved. There are ample amount of hotels here and your cell phones will remain connected. Internet too is available at almost all the hotels.
If you are a bit on the religious side then the shrine of Baba Reshi, Maharani Temple and St. Mary’s church of Gulmarg will definitely invoke your interest. There are plenty of other places nearby that you can visit in a day’s drive if you have a few more days in hand. In short, Gulmarg is a perfect place for a family vacation as well as a road trip with a bunch of friends.
Is Gulmarg Safe?
Next I will address the elephant in the room, the big question of whether or not it is safe to visit Gulmarg? The one line answer is that yes it is completely safe to visit Gulmarg. It remains populated with tourists throughout the year from all corners of India. It is rather one of the few places in Kashmir that does not get affected by the regular phobia about visiting this part of our country. If however, you were looking for a more detailed answer than I have covered it in a different topic. Please read Is it Safe for Tourists to Visit Kashmir?
How to Reach Gulmarg?
In order to get to Gulmarg, you will first have to reach Srinagar. For people coming by their own vehicle, you can just drive to Srinagar city by either the regular Jammu – Srinagar highway; or the Mughal road through Shopian. Once you arrive at Srinagar, you can then just continue driving towards Gulmarg via Tangmarg; which is a 2 to 3 hours drive covering a distance of about 60 kilometers.
If you were however not traveling by your own vehicle, then Srinagar is well connected to rest of the country by Air, Train and Bus service. No matter which part of the country you live in, you can easily reach the city by either flying or boarding a train.
How to Reach Gulmarg from Srinagar?
If you were driving a car or riding a bike, then the route to reach Gulmarg would be as below.
Srinagar – Magam – Tangmarg – Gulmarg = 60 Kilometers
From Srinagar to Tangmarg, it is mostly a straight drive on a flat road with little ascent. You will not even feel like driving in a hill station actually. It is after Tangmarg that the actual steep ascent starts and you climb up a winding road till Gulmarg. Another god part is that the road is smooth and in good condition for the entire 60 kilometers of journey.
If you arrived at Srinagar by either flight or train, then you can chose either of the following options to visit Gulmarg.
Srinagar to Gulmarg Taxi
The best, easiest and most convenient way would be to rent a private taxi for the trip. Depending on the type of cab you chose, taxi fare from Srinagar to Gulmarg would come out to be between Rs. 2000 to Rs. 2500 including fuel and driver. You can either look for a taxi at the airport itself or book one in advance and have the drive pick you from the airport or railway station. If you wanted to book in advance then talk to Faisal in Srinagar at 9596410670. He is a great guy and will be able to get you a cab for the lowest possible price.
Srinagar to Gulmarg Shared Taxi
For budget travelers, I would still recommend a private taxi if you were traveling in a group and can share the cost among 5 to 6 people. If you were however traveling solo then you can look for a shared cab as well; which in Kashmir is mostly a Sumo. Problem however is that it will not be most easy to find. Your best bet of finding a shared taxi is either from the Tourist taxi stand near Nehru park or the main Srinagar Bus stand. If you do not find a direct cab for Srinagar then look one for Magam or Tangmarg. From either of these places, you can then board a cab for Gulmarg.
From Srinagar to Tangmarg, fare per person for shared cab wold be about Rs. 100 per person. From Tangmarg to Gulmarg then, it would cost another Rs. 50 to Rs. 70 per person.
Also Read: How to Plan a Trip to Yusmarg?
How to reach Gulmarg from Srinagar by bus
Traveling by Bus, you have two choices. During summer season, there is a JKSRTC daily sightseeing Bus available in the morning from Tourist Reception Center. My advice however would be to not rely on this service. A better option would be the ordinary buses that the locals travel by. Problem however is that this bus is available only till Tangmarg. There is no direct bus from Srinagar to all the way till Gulmarg; which is actually a bit surprising considering the kind of major tourist spot that Gulmarg is.
So what you will have to do then is to board a bus from Srinagar to Tangmarg. From Tangmarg, wait for a shared Sumo cab for Gulmarg which you will easily find. Apart from the Sumo cabs, there are also mini private buses that ply between Tangmarg and Gulmarg.
Srinagar to Gulmarg bus fare in total would cost you about Rs. 200 per person; including the bus fare and shared cab charges from Tangmarg.
How to reach Gulmarg in Winter
Now all of the above was about reaching Gulmarg in Summer season. In winter however, it is an entirely different story. All of Gulmarg gets buried under several feet of snow and so does the road leading here. It then becomes impossible for a normal car to climb up the final stretch from Tangmarg to Gulmarg. During this time, only 4×4 vehicles ply on this route and that too with snow chains.
In winter, my advice would be that you do not bring your own vehicle. You can then just catch a cab from Srinagar to Tangmarg first and then another 4×4 cab from Tangmarg to Gulmarg. If you brought your own car or motorcycle, it will then become a problem about where to leave it parked because you may not be able to get it all the way to Gulmarg.
A 4×4 cab with snow chains from Tangmarg costs about Rs. 700 to Rs. 800.
Nearest Airport to Gulmarg
Srinagar Airport is the nearest airport to Gulmarg. It is located about 60 kilometers from Gulmarg and the journey can be completed in 2 to 3 hours. The major airlines operating regular flights to Srinagar are Air India, Jet Airways, Spice Jet, Air Asia, and IndiGo.
Also Read: How to Plan your Journey on Mughal Road?
Nearest Railway Station to Gulmarg
Srinagar railway station is the nearest railway line to Gulmarg. Problem however is that it is not yet fully operational and connected. At the time of writing this article, it will take at least another 18 months to 2 years for a full connectivity. Right now, you can reach till Udhampur by train. From Udhampur, you will then have to board a bus or taxi for Ramban. After reaching Ramban, you will then board another train from Ramban to Srinagar. An easier way thus would be to just board a bus or shared taxi directly from Udhampur to Srinagar.
Weather of Gulmarg
Due to its elevation of 2,690 meters, weather of Gulmarg either remains either cold or pleasant. Summer out here is short and even in months like June and July, you will still need a blanket to sleep in for the night. Summers in Gulmarg are usually very pleasant; though sometime the temperature may go as far as 37 Degrees Celsius at noon. The average temperature however ranges between 13℃ and 29℃ making it ideal retreat to escape the heat of the plains.
Monsoon arrives here in July turning the meadows and valleys of Gulmarg to full lush green. It doesn’t rain too heavy here though and the average rainfall is very moderate.
Cold starts to settle in towards mid September and temperature drops drastically. After mid December, it can snow here anytime but it is usually towards mid January that the snow starts to stick to the ground. For most of January and February, the entire town remains buried deep under snow and turns into one of the most famous ski resorts of our country. Average temperature in these months ranges between -5 to 10 Degrees Celsius.
For a more detailed version of this information, please read A Month by Month Breakdown of Weather.
Best Time to Visit Gulmarg
I have actually covered this topic in details in another article When is the Best time to Visit? But for a brief overview, best time to visit Gulmarg will really depend on what is it that you are looking for. Everyone’s reason for coming here is not always the same. Some people come here looking for snow and to catch their first snowfall; while a lot many others come seeking refuge from scorching summer. A Photography enthusiast will be looking forward to getting some great shots; whereas an adventure junkie will be focused on indulging in some snow sports.
Whatever your reason is, Gulmarg is one place that is definitely not going to disappoint you. If snow is what you seek then February will be the best time to visit. Spring season starts by late March and the months of April and May are great to bring your family around. Do note thought that it tends to get a bit crowded here during this time. If you are interested in photography then February, August and September will be best. For someone looking for green valleys all around, July, August and early September will do.
If you are looking for some solitude and want to get away from the crowd, then August will be suit you the best. You must then avoid being here between April till June.
Clothes for Gulmarg
Like best time to visit, this too will vary. What clothes you should pack for Gulmarg too will depend on what time you are visiting here. For January and February, heavy woolens, gloves, woolen socks, muffler, thermals and a good quality heavy and windproof jacket is must. If you are visiting in March, some light woolens with a heavy jacket will do. From April till August, pack plenty of cottons and a light jacket. The months of September and October will much be like March needing some light woolens and a heavy jacket. Your Gulmarg Clothing for November and December will be the same as for January and February; consisting of thermals, heavy woolens and a windproof warm jacket.
Places to Visit in Gulmarg
Gulmarg in itself is actually a tourist place. This small town tucked in beautiful green meadows is a sight in itself and everything here is worth seeing. The natural beauty and the calm all around is the biggest tourist attraction of Gulmarg. With that being said, there are a few places that can be called as cherry on the top; a few spots that can be termed as tourist places in Gulmarg. I will those down below. I am only providing the names of these places below in this article. A detailed explanation about these places is provided at A complete list of Tourist Attractions. I kept it on a separate article because otherwise this page would have gone too long and heavy.
What to see in Gulmarg
Natural beauty and tranquility of Gulmarg is it prime attraction. Beautiful lush green meadows all around and peaceful calm only broken of occasional whining of horses is what you should be visiting here for. Some other tourist attractions in Gulmarg are as mentioned below.
- Gulmarg Gondola
- Alpather Lake
- Apharwat Peak
- Maharani Temple
- Gulmarg Golf Course
- St. Mary’s Church
- Maharaja Palace
- Children’s Park
- Strawberry Valley
- Baba Reshi
- Ningle Nallah & Ferozpur Nallah
This is just a list of all the places. If you want to know more about these spots and their locations, please read A complete list of Tourist Attractions.
What to do in Gulmarg
Apart from enjoying the natural beauty of the place and spending some time in peace there are three major activities that you can indulge yourself in at Gulmarg. First one is Gondola ride which is the biggest attraction of Gulmarg. Second is trekking . A trek to Alpather lake from Gondola Phase 2 station is the shortest one. If you are in for more adventure and are physical fit, then you can trek to the lake all the way from Gulmarg itself. There are in fact several other trek routes from Gulmarg if you had the time.
If you arrived here in winter though, then the skiing is what you should be doing in Gulmarg. Options here are available for experts as well as someone completely new.
Where to stay in Gulmarg
Gulmarg is one of the major tourist attractions of our country. Come winter, this town turns into a major ski resort. In spring and during summer vacation in schools, families flock here to enjoy the famous gondola ride. Tourist continue to arrive post monsoon to enjoy the greenery of the place. It is in short a year round magnet for tourists. Due to this, hotels are available here in plenty. In fact, you will see more hotels here than houses. There is one called Hotel Affarwat that I can tell you is good. I stayed at this hotel for a couple of days and the service was good. There is another one called Pine View Resort that I know to be good from a friend.
Also Read: Hotel Affarwat – A Good Place to Stay
Finding a budget hotel is not really an option in Gulmarg. Overall, no hotel will charge you less than Rs. 2000 – Rs. 2500 for a room during off-season. During peak tourist season, these prices go even higher. The only budget hotel is Hotel Pine View where you can get a hotel for Rs. 1200 per day but it is located at Tangmarg, about 14 kilometers away from Gulmarg.
Whether or not to book in advance is completely your choice. In off-season you don’t have to book. Just arrive at the place, find a hotel per your liking and negotiate an on the spot deal. In peak tourist season however, in the months of January and February; April till June and then in October, I will recommend that you book your stay.
Bank / ATM in Gulmarg
J&K Bank and Baramulla Cooperative Bank have branches in Gulmarg and provide ATM services as well. Gulmarg is a famous tourist town so banks here remain open and ATMs functional always.
Hospital in Gulmarg
There is a small hospital in Gulmarg and you can also buy medicines from the local chemist shop. But for anything serious, the patient would have to be brought back to Srinagar.
Mobile Network in Gulmarg
Prepaid phones do not work anywhere in the state of J&K, including Gulmarg. So as long as you have a postpaid connection, no matter which network you are on, your phone will be working fine here. Data connectivity too will be good. If you have a prepaid connection however, your phone will be as good as a paperweight.
Also Read: How to Plan a Journey to Aharbal?
What to Buy in Gulmarg
Shopping in Gulmarg is all about buying Kashmiri handicrafts, decorative linens, brass, silverware, Pashmina Shawls, Carpets and Carved Furniture, stone jewelry, freshly plucked tea leaves and dry fruit. For all of this however, I will strongly recommend that you buy from Srinagar. There are no big shopping markets in Gulmarg and your choice of items will be a bit limited; and so will be your ability to negotiate. Pretty much everything in Gulmarg is expensive and you will end up overpaying a bit.
What to eat in Gulmarg
Not just Gulmarg but the moment you set foot anywhere in Kashmir, you should eat only Kashmiri dishes. Below is a list of some foods that you can try.
Non Vegetarian Dishes
- Mutton Roghan Josh
- Gushtaba (soft meat balls cooked in natural yoghurt, white curry)
- Rishta (Soft Meat Balls in delicious Gravy, Red Curry)
- Tabak maaz (Deep fried ribs of a lamb)
- Kanti(small chunks of meat cooked with a lot of onions)
- Seekh-Tuji – Marinated and freshly barbecued meat pieces eaten with chutney
- Grilled Mutton called Tilli or Tekh
- Marzunga Korma
- Shami Kabab
- Meeth Maaz
- Veg Dum Aaloo
- Tamatar Zaman (Paneer)
- Nundur Yakhin (Lotus Stem prepared in Yogurt)
- Haak (Kashmiri Saag)
One thing you got to remember is that Kashmiri people are not too high on Roti / Chapati. Rice is what usually gets served here and hence the gravy of all these items is not thick.
Where to eat in Gulmarg
There are plenty of restaurants in Gulmarg that you can eat at. Just walk up to the main market and you will find shops all around. You can also order at your hotel but I found going to the market and eating there a better choice.
Also Read: How to Plan a Trip to Doodhpathri?
- Gulmarg in general is an expensive place. Finding a hotel here for anywhere under Rs. 2000 per day is going to be a task impossible.
- Even the food here is expensive. You will be paying Rs. 20 for one single small tawa roti at a very OK type restaurant. Veg, Non-Veg, Rice everything here is expensive so keep that in mind while you plan a trip.
- Guides and Pony owners are a huge nuisance in Gulmarg. You cannot walk here 100 meters without someone offering you either a pony ride or to be your guide.
- Guides have absolutely nothing to offer. There is no place in Gulmarg that you cannot visit without a guide. They will charge you only for walking with you and nothing else. You will be just wasting money if you hired one.
- Pony owners are another nuisance. There is horse dung everywhere in the meadows courtesy these guys so watch where you step.
- The kind of nuisance these pony owners and guides create is so much that some time ago, there was even a police complaint filed against them for harassing the tourists.
Gulmarg is located at an altitude of 2,650 meters, 8,694 ft.
You can get some small fixes done and punctures repaired in Gulmarg but for any major fixes, you will have to tow your vehicle back to Tangmarg and then towards Srinagar.
There is no petrol pump in Gulmarg but there are several as you drive 60 kilometers from Srinagar to Gulmarg. The one closest is at Tangmarg. Just get a tank-full done at Srinagar and it will easily last the entire trip.
The entire stretch of road from Srinagar to Gulmarg is a smooth drive. It is a double lane road but traffic flows smoothly. Road from Srinagar to Tangmarg is a mix of average and good but from Tangmarg to Gulmarg, it remains in excellent condition.
I will be covering itineraries in later articles suggesting travel plan for covering all of Kashmir; and not just Gulmarg. For Gulmarg however, a minimum of 2 days is what I will recommend for sightseeing and enjoying other activities. It takes about 2 to 3 hours to reach from Srinagar to Gulmarg. So on Day 1, you can start early from Srinagar and arrive at Gulmarg at about 9 to 10 AM. Check into a hotel and spend some time visiting local places like Maharani temple, St. Mary’s church, Golf Course, Maharaja Palace etc. On Day 2, take a Gondola ride to the top of Apharwat peak. Trek to Alpather lake there and arrive back at Gulmarg; this will take an entire day. On Day 3, you can travel back to Srinagar.
I think that pretty much covers all there is to know about visiting Gulmarg. I hope the information posted was of help. If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask in the comments section below; or at Community Forum; and I will be glad to answer.