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An idyllic place to walk and picnic in warm weather, Gulmarg is coming into its own as India’s premier winter sports destination in the colder months.
In the 1500s, Gaurimarg (‘the fair one’) was renamed Gulmarg (‘meadow of flowers’) by Sultan Yusuf Shah. Both names are equally apt. Set among rolling hills and thickly carpeted with flowers throughout spring and into summer, it’s an idyllic place to walk and picnic when the weather is arm.
It’s in winter, however, that Gulmarg comes into its own: it’s India’s winter sports capital. The gondola is open year-round and from November to March transports skiers and snowboarders 5km up the mountainside to a height of 4,267m, and you can ski all the way down to Tangmarg. There are some excellent accommodation options (albeit all at the more expensive end of the spectrum) to choose from, and a lively crowd of youthful skiers (both Indians and foreigners) means you’ll have plenty of playmates with whom you can enjoy the après ski.
India’s premier sports destination, Gulmarg is ideal for skiiers who want an excellent après ski spot and a lively crowd © J&K Tourism
Easily accessible from Srinagar, Gulmarg has been a popular tourist spot ever since the medieval period. The Mughal emperor Jahangir came here to collect flowers for his garden, and the British found it a cool and pleasant playground where they could escape both the city and the heat of the plains. The British built the golf course and the Anglican church, and Gulmarg soon became a centre for golf competitions and general fun and frolics until its links with the outside world were severed by the militancy in 1989. Now on the road to recovery, its gondola was installed in two stages in 1998 and 2005, and the town hosted India’s National Winter Games in 1998, 2004 and 2008.
If you’re not interested in skiing or golf, or if you fancy a few days off, Gulmarg has a number of interesting sites to keep you entertained. St Mary’s Anglican Church stands proudly in the midst of the golf course. Dating from 1902, it certainly wouldn’t look out of place in an English village.
A little older is the Maharani Temple (also known as the Mohineshwar Shivalaya), a curious, cone-shaped shrine that was used by the Dogra rulers. The temple shot to fame in the Bollywood film Aap ki Kasam, as one of the main songs was recorded here.