Srinagar to Gulmarg - a drive to the beautiful valley


Please note this post is in continuation of my earlier post on the drive from Bangalore to Srinagar via Mughal Road. If you wish to read the same, please click here https://www.amitpahuja.com/single-post/2019/08/18/Is-Kashmir-safe-to-travel

This post contains our experiences of this road trip from Srinagar to Gulmarg only.

Stunning view of Gulmarg Valley

Day 7 - Srinagar Gulmarg, 56kms, 1:50 hrs (appx)

So today we wanted to keep it light for driving and decided to do Gulmarg which was not very far and the road to Gulmarg wasn’t very traffic heavy. We started early from the houseboat so that we can avoid the early morning city traffic. After saying goodbye to Javed and Basheer bhai, we continued our journey towards Gulmarg.

The drive to Gulmarg wasn’t that exciting to start with and we met with some morning traffic exiting the city. We also missed a turn and that lead to another route which was pretty narrow and lead us to a route that had a school in between and had a traffic blockage. This slowed us down and exiting Srinagar itself took us 40mins extra than planned time. After this we joined the state highway road which was ok..

The armour for today :)

The luggage waiting to be loaded while I was enjoying the Kashmiri Kahwa! (The Kashmiri Tea)

Kashmiri Kahwa TEa

Our beast waiting to be loaded..

Early morning drive through the Kasmiri galiyan

One of the main temples in Srinagar

Early morning drive through the Kashmiri galiyan

Look at the buildings here .. they have their own character

The sad part of every Indian city.. the garbage dumped on the road :(

Backwaters..

This then lead to National Highway and that was pretty empty, broad after a while it started getting interesting once we crossed Tangmarg.

Towards Gulmarg.. the roads were pretty wide and without much traffic at least early morning

Until this point one thing we observed is the presence of Indian Army on the roads .. I mean they were plenty and that makes you either secured or very uncomfortable and unsecured as sometimes it gives a feeling that there might be something wrong or sensitive in that area.. but we didn't face any issues while on this trip..

The diversion towards Gulmarg / Tangmarg

The route to Gulmarg

On The route to Gulmarg, we were stopped here to pay the toll/tax or entry fee to the Gulmarg valley. We paid the amount and moved forward!

We went to Tangmarg market to pickup some breakfast but couldn’t find much of our liking so we picked few samosas and continued to Gulmarg hoping to have the breakfast when we reach there.

We picked some Samosas and Farsaan from this shop just to fill or tummies a bit till we find a good place for breakfast. The samosas were real real good..

From Tangmarg the roads were very good, well maintained and had proper markings and road signs everywhere so it looked like it would be a good place with tourist amenities and we may find something to eat over there. We were right, as we reached the main parking lot of Gulmarg valley, there were a plenty of restaurants where we got something to eat, finally!

The route to Gulmarg

The roads were pretty good and well maintained. We loved the drive and the scenery around us..

The roads were literally empty and there were only very few tourist vehicle as well.. we thought maybe its because of we being early at this place ..

Beautiful drive to Gulmarg

Beautiful drive to Gulmarg

One of the viewing point we stopped for a quick photo break

Beautiful views of the valley

So here again we were stopped for a toll or entry ticket of 60Rs. We paid and continued..

Views from the top

As soon as we were about to reach the parking area, we saw some people coming to us and realised that these are the local folks who are either guides, horse men or salesmen of chocolates, snacks etc. which is the only source of income for these localites..

All the guides, horse men waiting for their customers for today

We were approached by a number of these folks and we told them that we would be having breakfast first and then decide on anything to be done at Gulmarg. So we had breakfast while these folks were waiting surrounding us. It was very annoying but we couldn’t do anything to get rid of them, hence we enjoyed our breakfast calmly.

Aloo paratha with Red Chilli Onions..

Yummy Omlette ..

And Pao Bhaji for Breakfast.. what else can you ask for on a holiday ...

After our breakfast we were then approached by the touts, guides and horse men again. They explained us all about the options of the valley, what to se, what to do and the costs etc. We listened to them and were really confused on what's to be done .. as one it was sounding too touristy stuff which we normally avoid and neither like it but as we already came here we thought rather cover it as we might not ever come back here willingly at-least.. So we agreed to do some stuff .. read below on whats a typical stuff you can do here at Gulmarg

So what can you do at Gulmarg if you're a tourist?

There are a number of options to do like

  • Horse ride of the valley

  • Horse ride to the Phase I of the Gondola and come back

  • On the way to the Gondola starting point, there were few points to see and visit like Strawberry Garden, Maharaja Palace, some Pond etc.

  • Gondola ride to Phase I and Phase II

  • Phase I Gondola ride takes you to some distance and views are OK till there and at time of the year there was no snow till phase I

  • Phase II Gondola ride takes you to the top of the mountain and the views are pretty good and the place is pretty nice as well. There was a lot of snow on phase II during our visit

  • There's some frozen lake as well on the top if you want to trek to that point (we didn't do it as its very tough and we weren't ready to risk the trip for it :))

Now the point to note here is that its not so simple to do all this and not cheap either. Like the Horse guys will ask for a huge amount even though the government rates are pretty good and controlled and affordable. But the association there for these service providers bump up the prices and expect the tourists to shell out big sums of money as they wouldn't have any option if they want to do it. Their point is also that since this is very seasonal business for them, they need to charge more to survive and feed their families. Even though they would negotiate on the prices but still they won't do it as per government prices.

We looked at their prices and it was like

  • Horse package - 3000Rs per head

  • Snow sports package - 3500 per head that included (sledge, minor skiing)

  • Guide - 1200

  • Gondola ride was separate for around Rs. 7500 for 4 pax

So we did not negotiate any of the prices as I was OK for them to charge more if that helped feed their families and make a little bit of money for that but was expecting a good service and attitude :)

Some initial shots of Gulmarg valley

Gulmarg Valley

Gulmarg Valley

so before we could start our journey, we were hit by a roadblock.. I and my beloved wifey both have slip disk and back ache problem and didn't want to risk siting on the horse till the Gondola station but as per the horse guys that was the only option as they don't allow people to walk to the point or drive there (even though there's a road till there) 'coz they won't be able to make money otherwise.. So we refused to sit on the horse and decided to cancel the whole program. Upon taking this decision, we were then suggested by one of the agents there to go to the tourist office and ask the officer for the permission to go to gondola point in our own car provided the Kids take the horse.. This sounded like a plan so we agreed to visit the JKTDC office and ask for the permit.

Government official Rates for various activities @ Gulmarg Valley

Permit issued to take our vehicle to the Gondola point by the officer