Sunday, September 29, 2013

India: Picturesque views in Gulmarg, Kashmir

Apahrwat Peak in Gulmarg, Kashmir, India
The heartland of winter sports in India, the hill station town of Gulmarg in Kashmir is a popular tourist destination among locals who want to escape the heat down south. In fact, it is said to host some of the longest and highest ski slopes as well as the highest gondola in Asia up the Afarwat Hills of the Pir Panjal Range of the Himalayas. I realized when I looked at a map, that it was just within miles of the border between India and Pakistan.

Downtown Gulmarg in Kashmir, India
We had arrived in Gulmarg after a scenic two-hour ride from Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir. We checked-in at the recently-opened Khyber Himalayan Resort before proceeding to Strawberry Valley to enjoy picturesque views of Gulmarg.

Sunset in Gulmarg, Kashmir, India
Sunset in Gulmarg, Kashmir, India
The sunset was spectacular and we were quite thankful the sun appeared despite having most of the day cloudy and at times drizzling. The charm of Gulmarg's quaint architecture with the Himalayas as a backdrop and the sun setting behind them was enough to elicit oohs and aahs.

Public transportation in Gulmarg, Kashmir, India
Kashmiri food in Gulmarg, Kashmir, India
The Kashmiri dinner that followed our sunset experience was memorable as well. We had Mughlai Chicken (chicken cooked in a thick and rich gravy made from ground almonds with cinnamon, cardamon, coriander, cumin, chili and garam masala), a Central Asian dish that was introduced to India during the time of the Mughals; and Vegetable Navratan Curry (Navratan means nine gems) which gets its name from the nine vegetables, fruit and nuts used to make the dish: cashew nuts, potatoes, beans, carrots, peas, bell pepper, cauliflower and pineapple (although it has garlic, onions and tomatoes as well).

Khyber Himalayan Resort in Gulmarg, Kashmir, India
Gulmarg Gondola in Gulmarg, Kashmir, India
The next day, the sun was out again. After breakfast amid views of evergreens (I could imagine this would look even prettier during winter), we proceeded to the Gulmarg Gondola, Asia's highest, and rode from Gulmarg (2,700m) up to Apharwat (3,980m).

Gulmarg Gondola in Gulmarg, Kashmir, India
Gulmarg Gondola in Gulmarg, Kashmir, India
There's actually a small military outpost on top. The military and police are actually everywhere in Kashmir. And seeing them is definitely part of the visitor experience. On top were different kinds of wild flowers. It's a reminder that Gulmarg literally means Meadow of Flowers.

After arriving back in Gulmarg, we drove down to Srinagar to continue our brief journey around Kashmir. You could actually go horseback riding around Gulmarg. But we saved that activity for Sonamarg where views are even more picturesque!

Jet Airways flies daily to Srinagar!
Jet Airways has twice daily flights from Delhi (DEL) to Srinagar (SXR). Jet Airways also connects to Delhi from Manila via Bangkok, Singapore or Hong Kong at least twice daily!

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