They said a visit to Kashmir could divide your life into two halves - before and after Kashmir. For needed, after a trip to this unforgettable land, you are never quite the same again. Nestling in the lap of the dazzling, Himalayas, the Kashmir valley is undoubtedly a jewel in India's crown. An inspiration for so much art, music and poetry, Kashmir is also a nature wonderland and a shopper's dreams come true. In 'this bountiful planet where beauty merge in everything there lies a place called (3ulmarg. Originally named Gaurimarg, it was renamed Gulmarg in the 16th century by Sultan Yasuf Shah, who inspired by the sight of its grassy slopes extolled with wild flowers. Gulmarg was a favorite haunt of Emperor Jehangir who once collected 21 different varieties of flowers.
A huge cup shaped pasture, lush and green, with slopes where the silence is broken only by the tinkle of cow- bells, Gulmarg looks like a fantasy set in a film, and not surprisingly, has been the venue of several films. All around are snow capped mountains, and on a clear day one can see all the way to Nanga Parbat in one direction and Srinagar in another. From Gulmarg, a pony track leads upwards to Khilanmarg, Kongdori and Seven Sppngs, a couple of hours by pony, longer on foot. Across the Apharwat - the peak that looms up from this point - is Alpather Lake, a picturesque alpine lake, frozen till late June. For horse riding afficionadoes, an Alpather lake makes exciting day's excursion, starting early morning and returning late evening. Slightly lower than Gulmarg is the shrine of Baba Reshi, a Muslim mystic saint whose shrines is visited by people of all faiths. Gulmarg also has one of the world's highest green courses; at the altitude of 2680 meters above sea level. It also has a clubhouse that is a historical building in its own right. The Gulmarg Golf Club has been in existence for a hundred years and there are records dating from that time, which make fascinating reading. The Clubhouse itself, with its quaintly sloping roof, reminiscent of a Swiss chalet, has rare old character and atmosphere and relaxing in the Clubhouse after a day's game is, to golfers, one of the highlights of Gulmarg.
Golfing holiday are so popular all through the summer months because of the cool climate resulting in longer playing hours. A number of national and state tournaments are played in Gulmarg during the year, details of which can be obtained from J&K Tourism who maintains the course. For the would - be golfer, there are golf sets on hire, pros to instruct one in the game, and temporary memberships and these facilities are available to players as well. For a fun filled ride of a most unusual kind, Gulmarg's constructed gondola car at Kongdor from high above Gulmarg, through pine- clad slopes, is exhilarating.
In winter, Gulmarg acquires a new persona that of the country's, premier skiing resorts. Skiing, to many who watch it on TV, seems like a very elitist sport, requiring a high level of training and expensive equipment. They are surprise when they visit Gulmarg for a day's expedition to "see the snow", that others with the same level of physical fitness and training are skiing down slopes. Not all tourists who visit in winter come for skiing - some simply watch the skiing or enjoy a holiday in the snow. Many of these are infected with the excitement of the skiers and have donned their first pair of skis within a short while of their arrival. Among the multitudes of slopes, there is a few which are serviced by ski lifts. Most of the skiing becomes centered on these slopes, which are specially suited to beginners and intermediate level skiers, with ski runs ranging from 200 to 900 meters. Instructors are available for both levels. `All ski equipment including jackets is available on hire from the Ski Shop, run by the Department of Tourism, Government of India.
Skiing can be as adventurous as the holidaymaker wants. There are a number of slopes, not serviced by ski lifts, of varying lengths and gradients. Each of these is quieter than the immensely popular ones with ski lifts.
Gulmarg's year round popularity reaches its peak at summer, when the highest temperature is 25 degree Celsius. Buses, taxes, even a helicopter ply between Tourist Reception Center, Srinagar, and Gulmarg, a distance of 56 km. J&K Tourism has one, two, three and four bedroom huts, cozy and inviting with their wood paneled interiors. These huts are fully furnished with attached kitchens, It is possible to hire a cylinder gas from the Tourist Office. In addition are several privately run hotels that range from the well appointed to the modest, all with dining facilities. For the walker there are several delightful walks around the resorts, the most popular being the meadow of Khilanrnarg four km away, Ningal nallah and Lienmarg are each ten km from Gulmarg, making them popular for day excursions and picnics. Tosa Maidan is a three-day trek away from Gulmarg. All these trips can be made on horseback as well.
Pony riding is the chief way of getting around Gulmarg, cars not being permitted beyond a certain point. One particularly popular ride is around the eleven km Circular Road, which runs right around the resorts. To reach Gulmarg there are three different ways. In summers one can opt for the road while taking the bus or hiring a car. If privileged enough one can also avail the facility of a helicopter service from Srinagar. The nearest airport is in Srinagar. In winters the complete path is laid with snow, hence it is advisable to take a jeep that only covers eight kms towards Gulmarg the rest is done in helicopters.
So, do visit this place to soak in a hundred miles of snow, ski down a mountain, walk on a cloud, ride a horse, sleep under the stars, and ride a ski- lift just If or the heck of it. Gulmarg the land where snow never melts and only corn ripens has more to offer; a good holiday.