His local knowledge of the areas we visited was very good and in
Jaipur he even took all my washing (five days for four people)
to a local dhobi (washer person) bringing it back, washed and
ironed, all for just 1,000 rupees (approximately 1,400 Kenya
Our port of entry was Delhi at 9.00a.m., and we
took a domestic flight to Srinagar just before mid-day.
Some domestic flights take off from the international airport
while others are housed at the domestic terminal.
So give yourself that time to travel between airports
depending on the airline you have booked, flight delays on the
domestic routes are also common so always give yourself enough
time to catch your connection.
Please note, that on domestic flights you are only allowed
15kg of checked in luggage and 7kg hand luggage, so make sure
you only take the very essentials or be ready to pay 250 Rupees
per kilogram for every kg over 15.
On arrival in Srinagar (one and a half hour flight) we were
picked up by the guide and driver and taken to Tanmarg, (45
minutes) about half way to Gulmarg (the place of roses).
At Tanmarg we were transferred into a jeep with a chainlink
on the back tyre so that we would not slip on the final ascent
to Gulmarg on icy and narrow roads going around hairpin bends,
We reached Gulmarg, 2,690 metres (8,825 feet) above sea
level, about 4p.m.
Kashmir, and in particular Gulmarg, has suffered immensely
with terrorist attacks and incursions by the Pakistani army
whose border is not too far from Gulmarg, consequently one could
not visit as a tourist and the area was all but closed for
almost twenty years.
This has left the province quite under-developed but with the
heavy presence of the Indian army all over Kashmir, things have
been under control for the last few years.
Gulmarg, at the base of Mount Afarwat, can be classified as a
small village with nothing but hotels, dhabas, shops and kiosks
that sell supposedly local handicraft (pashmina shawls and
carpet) to renting out winter clothes (jackets, gloves,
wellington boots, sweaters, scarfs, balaclavas).
Since Kashmiris do not like their women working you will
only see Kashmiri males in Gulmarg doing all the jobs in the
hotels, restaurants, driving the ‘taxi’, pulling the sleds,
These men make the journey every day from and to Tanmarg
(about 45 minutes) as there are no living quarters for
locals up here, except at large hotels which provide basic
accommodation for their staff.
While the local people can drive a hard bargain they are also
very trusting and will give you an item with the promise of
payment on return even though they do not know you from Adam.
I went to a little kiosk to hire boots and the guy charged me
100 rupees a day, telling me to pay him when I returned the
boots, no details taken – I don’t think he even knew which hotel
I was from.
Another amazing trait among the Kashmiris is that when
they are talking (their language is a mixture of Sanskrit
and Persian) you don’t know if they are angry with each
other or not.
A driver may get blocked or get stuck in the snow by
another car and you can hear a very loud and animated
conversation going on between the two, with, I am sure,
quite a few choice words thrown in.
The very next minute they will come out, help push the
stuck car out and hug as best friends, laughing away.
We stayed at the three to four-star Vintage Hotel which is
very nice but a twenty minute walk from the ski slopes.
Walking from the hotel to the ski slopes is nice but only if
you can keep your balance on slippery surfaces.
Otherwise you can hire one of the vehicles (taxis) that are
plying the route and bargain a rate.
There are also many young boys and men who make a living
pulling people on a sled all the way to the Gondola, but bargain
is a must.
I was surprised to see the pesky crows have even reached
these heights, but then India is not known for it’s cleanliness
and it is common to see overflowing garbage bins with so many
stray dogs foraging among them, on the way to the snowy slopes.
Winter hotel rates in Gulmarg are slightly lower than those
in summer, the latter being their peak tourist season.
During winter, you would spend 9,000 rupees a night for a
double on bed and breakfast at the Vintage, while the five star
Khyber Hotel would charge about 12,000 rupees (USD 200) for the
Khyber, located walking distance from the
base of the ski slope, is on the scale of the Taj group of
hotels. The entire hotel rooms including the gym and spa
face the beautiful snow-capped mountains and valleys.
There are also many back-packer hotels which are much
cheaper, like the Global Ski Village which is actually a
one-stop shop for skiers.
Here, you can hire all your skiing equipment and a skiing
coach in the basement, have a meal at the cafeteria on the first
level and stay in an en-suite room on the second level.
For a personal ski coach and equipment you can pay about
2,500 rupees a day.
The room, which is very basic but clean and has a timed
heater goes for about 2,500 rupees a day with breakfast.
Global Ski Village is located just off the beginner’s slope
and a short distance from the gondola (cable car) base that
takes you to the first level of the ski slope on the mountain.
Heating should be the primary factor when booking a hotel in
Gulmarg during winter, it gets very cold.
Locals wear Kashmiri coats made of wool and pull in their
arms out of the sleeves into their coats so it is a strange
sight watching a man walking with his sleeves flapping in the
Like all skiing trips, it is a must to have very warm but
lightweight (preferably thermals) and waterproof clothing, with
very good waterproof boots (proper ones for walking on snow and
ice otherwise be prepared to fall and injure yourself).
All these can be hired from the shops and kiosks that line up
the road to the ski slope.
The highest green golf course in the world is here at
Gulmarg as is the ’Gulmarg Gondola’, one of the highest
cable car in the world, reaching 3,979 metres while Afarwat
stands at 4,200 m (13,780 ft) earning itself the title of
the highest ski slope in Asia.
Due to Gulmarg’s steep terrain, the region is popular
among advanced and extreme skiers from around the world and
has been visited by a number of ski professionals and
featured in a number of ski films.
At the first level of Afarwat, is Kongdoori Station
(2,600 metre or 8,530 feet) where a small dhaba (cafeteria)
serves everything from tea, coffee, hot chocolate, snacks,
parothas, biryani, fried rice – the list goes on.
Sitting in the dhaba that is almost submerged in snow on
all sides sipping Kashmiri Kahwa (green tea infused with
saffron, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger and slivers of almonds)
- is this paradise ?
A word of caution though – the washrooms here are still the
Asian squat type and not heated so any water that is thrown on
the floor ends up becoming icy and slippery.
Gulmarg has been the location for many Hindi films which
include Bobby, Jab Tak Hain Jaan, Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani,
Highway and the famous mandir scene at the end of Yeh Vaada Raha
was shot at the Shiv Mandir bang in the centre of the village.
Gulmarg is by far the one of the most beautiful places I have
ever visited and I am told that summer here has it’s own kind of