If one were to look for a single event or person to pin Gulmarg‚s enchantment on, it would perhaps be the stay of the Aurel Stein (nullNovember 1862 ‚ October 1943) on these long grassy downs. Stein was an explorer and scholar of repute. He had traveled through much of Central Asia and his discoveries were able to add significantly to the corpus of knowledge of that relatively unknown area and to the study of Buddhism. In between his travels, Stein, who had seen some of the most spectacular landscapes in the world, would camp for months on end at Gulmarg. He was not alone in his admiration of the beauty of the place and many of the British posted in India would holiday here.
Today‚s Gulmarg has gone several steps beyond being a temporary home for those few holiday makers and convalescents ‚ and this is, arguably, the finest mountain resort in India. The landscape has an unparalleled beauty, it has one of the finest golf courses in India and its ski slopes are considered at par with the best in the world. The word 'Gulmarg' means 'Meadow of Flowers' and the undulating downs are covered with a variety of wildflowers in late spring and summer. Most of the architecture is unaggressive and blends well with the terrain - and attractive wooden houses predominate with languid curves and easy dips and rises along the inner and outer circular roads that encircle Gulmarg. A walk right round the outer one, at an easy pace, will take a couple of hours.
Gulmarg rests on an edge of the Pir Panjal mountains. Clearly visible is the western marker of the Himalaya mountains, the 8,126 meters (null,660 feet) high Nanga Parbat. Several other peaks also ring the area. The ski club dates back to 1927. A fresh dimension was added when a gondola car became operational ‚ the second phase was completed in 2005. This is able to carry serious skiers almost to the top of the 4,100 meters (null,451.4 feet) Mount Apharwat from where long runs over varied faces, bowls and ridges have become available on good powder snow.
Indian - Indian food is available at practically every restaurant and hotel in Gulmarg. Many of the smaller places are around or close to the main parking lot -like Yamberzal. Bakshi‚s little restaurant serves good north Indian vegetarian food. Practically all the restaurants are in the hotels. In the mid-range some are the Global hotel, Heevan, the Fluorescence and the Zam Zam. In the upper end, the Pine Palace has the ‚Bistro by the Greens‚ and there is excellent food at the Hotel Highlands Park. The Hilltop has the Dastarkhan restaurant and Nedou's also serves Indian food. The Kong Posh Restaurant at the Gondola also serves Indian food.
Chinese - Unless noodles qualify as Chinese food (nullthey are available at every small place too), the choice of Chinese food places in Gulmarg is limited. The Pine Palace and the Hotel Highlands Park serve this.
European/Continental - Western and continental food is served at the Global Hotel, the Hill Top, the Pine Palace (nullwhich has the restaurant called ‚The Snob‚), at Nedou's and the Hotel Highlands Park.
Regional Specialty - Good Kashmiri food is available at practically every place and if you are fond of lamb, the choice is substantial. Dishes like Rogan-josh (nullpieces of mutton in a spicy gravy) or Tabak-Maz (nullspare ribs), Gushtaba and Rishta are available in practically all hotels and restaurants. Some typically local vegetarian dishes are ‚Dum-aalu‚, potatoes in gravy and ‚Chaman‚, paneer (nullfresh-cheese) in thick gravy. Do try the local tea, ‚Kehava‚ ‚ it‚s full of dry fruit like almonds and raisins and has a touch of saffron; depending on your palette, you could ask the sugar to your taste ‚ this can get a bit much.
One of the oldest golf clubs in the country, the Gulmarg Golf Club also has the distinction of being one of the (nullif not the), highest in the world. This is an 18 hole, par 72 course with a yardage of 6,985. The club was started in the early twentieth century by the numerous British officers who holidayed in Gulmarg. This was redesigned in the nineteen-seventies by the Australian golf champion, Peter Thomson. The Gulmarg course has one substantial advantage over others and this is the pleasant climate and the cool breeze that allow players to remain on the course for longer periods of time.
Gulmarg has large open, grass-covered interlinked downs or meadows that are interspersed with pockets of habitation (nullmostly hotels) and numerous clusters of wildflowers. The glade is at an average altitude of 2,690 meters (null.4 feet) above sea level and is an extension of the snow clad Pir Panjal ranges, a sub-system of the Himalaya. The result is that while day temperatures in the sunshine can be very pleasant, night temperatures can be fairly low and fall well below freezing point in winter. Fallen snow can stand at a few feet. The wind-chill factor is also fairly high. With delightful cool breezes, summer is mild and bracing.
Surface - Gulmarg is well connected to Srinagar and the rest of the country by road. From Srinagar, the direction is south-west. The distance between Srinagar and Gulmarg is 56 kilometers (null.7 miles) and the drive, if uninterrupted, takes between one and a half and two hours. The timing by bus is slightly longer. The road distance to Jammu is 345 kilometers (null.3 miles), to Chandigarh is 630 kilometers (null.4 miles) and to Delhi is 880 kilometers (null 546.8 miles). From both Jammu and Delhi, taxis, deluxe, Volvo and regular buses are available for Srinagar or Gulmarg.
Train - A railway project that will link Srinagar and Baramulla (nullthe headquarters of the district where Gulmarg is situated) to Jammu and the rest of the country is underway. Srinagar is connected to Baramulla by train on the Quazigund ‚ Baramulla line. Otherwise Udhampur is the closest railhead to Gulmarg and is 284 kilometers (null.4 miles) away. While the distance is somewhat more, a better option is to take the train only up to Jammu (nullTawi) as better road connections are available ‚ both in terms of buses and taxis. The distance from Jammu to Gulmarg is 345 kilometers (null.3 miles).
Air - The closest airport to Gulmarg is the one at Srinagar at a distance of 55 kilometers (null miles). Several domestic airlines operate to Srinagar from Jammu, Delhi and other places. Kingfisher, GoAir, Spicejet, Jet Airways, Jet Lite and Indian Airlines link the area to the rest of the country. Flights to Jeddah are available for Haj.
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