One of the major attractions for adventure loving tourists is skiing in the Himalayas. Gulmarg, the best ski resort in the Himalayas, was first established by the British in 1927, when two British Army Officers, Maj. Metcarp and Maj. Hadow had setup the Ski Club of India at Gulmarg.
Skiing had become very popular during the pre-independence years and Gulmarg used to host two main events, one each during Christmas and Easter. In 1938-39 about 500 skiers are reported to have participated in the Christmas and Easter ski races. Gulmarg's atmosphere can generally be identified with 1940's and 50's European skiing‘the Alps of good old days’. It has good sunshine as well as good snow.
Gulmarg holds a position as one of the highest lift-served ski resorts in the world. This is due to setting-up of a Gandola Cable Car Lift from Gulmarg to Apharwat top. Presently, only the first section of the Gandola, from Gulmarg to Kongdori is operational, giving a downhill ski run of about 3 kms. In addition, three ski lifts and one chair lift also service the resort, which are suitable for beginners and intermediate-level skiing, respectively.The skiing season in Gulmarg usually commences before Christmas (around middle of December) and continues till middle of April. In January-February, 1998 the first National Winter Games of India were held at Gulmarg, for which the facilities were enormously improved and upgraded. The resort acquired two Kasse Bohrer snow beating machines used for preparing skiing slopes, and five snowmobiles, which can be made available for going up the mountain. Good quality equipment, including skis, boots, sticks, gloves and goggles are available on hire on the spot from the Government-run ski shop. There are also trained instructors available for guiding the tourists. Gulmarg is ideally suited for learning skiing, as it is probably the cheapest ski resort in the world.
Some time back, the famous French skier Sylvain Saudan, had started Heli-skiing in the Himalayas for European skiers. He would take the skiers by helicopter on top of Gulmarg mountain and other peaks in the area from where they would ski down the immense Himalayan slopes. This programme has been suspended for the time being.
The most enjoyable aspect of a winter sojourn in Gulmarg is the friendly atmosphere. It is like being in a family where everybody knows every one else.
Kashmir's two natural advantages are its mountains on the one hand, and lakes and rivers on the other. These waterways enhance the beauty of the land and are among the chief sources that attract tourists to its verdant valleys. But more than just a means of pleasure, the waterways are an activity-oriented way of discovering new leisure sports.
To those of you who are by nature passive, there is little more needed than a willing nod to a passing shikarawala before you are invited on board these narrow boats with their spring-cushion seats and chintz curtains. You can command a shikara on the Dal and Nagin Lakes in Srinagar for just a crossing, or for a whole day, and discover the tranquillity of being gently carried over water from one scenic spot to another. You can also stretch your time limit by actually staying aboard a houseboat so you wake to the sound of soft waves crashing beside your bedroom window.
A variation on this can be the hiring of a motorboat, if you prefer travelling faster over water. Or better still, when the summer days are balmy, go water skiing.
The Jhelum River has remained the lifeline of Srinagar, and there are people who live on the river in boats, called doongas. These water- people claim to be descendants of Noah. If you hire a slow boat from them, you can actually visit old parts of Srinagar where, because of narrow and winding roads, access by taxi is quite slow.
The advantage of going by boat is that you get to see numerous old mosques and temples, as well as attractive houses, that line the banks but cannot be viewed or photographed from land. Constructed of wood, and with carved and latticed balconies and verandas, they are well maintained and preserve the ancient heritage of Srinagar.
As you float past the houseboats moored along the riverfront, you also have the opportunity to observe the life of the people of Kashmir. In succession, the numerous bridges spanning the Jhelum pass by (and at places are ferry services for local travel). Srinagar city is located by the banks of river Jhelum, between Zero Bridge and Chattabal where a weir controls the water level on this stretch. A small lock on the west bank allows the movement of boats up or down stream. Once past Chattabal, the river changes character as it widens and meanders past villages in the valley and flows into the giant Wular Lake. The journey can be terminated at the picturesque Manasbal Lake.
Other places to visit in Kashmir
|Here is part 2 of a well written note (from GreaterKashmir) on Kashmir that gives a very good idea of what all is there to visit in Jammu and Kashmir:
If there is heaven on the earth it is Kashmir.
Mar 17, 06 Yasar Muhammad Baba takes a joyful journey across the valley of dreams, eulogizes its beauty and discusses the state of tourism
The tourism in the valley was not restricted to the Pahalgam and Gulmarg only but it had spread to other places like Kokernag, Yousmarg, Sonamarg, etc which are worth to see. Sonamarg is known as gate to moon land, and was an important tourist spot in northern Kashmir. Yousmarg, was an attraction for trekkers and climbers. Kokernag the heart of Briny valley (Kashmir) was attracting a large number of tourists every year. The water of the spring is very digestive. There was a proposal to export the water of this spring in bottles to other parts of the country. The area also includes Daksum, Achabal and Verinag. Manasbal a fresh water lake, 20 Kms from Srinagar city was an important tourist spot. It is elliptic in shape and its circumference measures about 5 miles. It is believed to be the deepest lake in Kashmir. The lake is fed by internal spring. Pahalgam with its Singing Lidder nullah and wonderful scenic beauty is a popular tourist attraction and during summers Pahalgam still records the highest tourist boom. It is also a gate-way to the holy Cave of Amarnath, as it serves as a base camp for thousands of pilgrims. Gulmarg an idyllic tourist spot is just 51 Kms from Srinagar City. It is like saucer-shaped bowl at the base of Khilanmarg in the Pirpanchal range, it is 2,653 meters above the sea level. Gulmarg is a tourist attraction since Mughal times. Its charm is worth seeing in any season be it simmer or winter. During simmer it is covered with plushy and green grass and in winter it is covered with a thick white blanket of Snow which provides a specific thrill to those interested in winter sports. Gulmarg has become a point of attraction during these days for skiing and Gondola ride. The well known places of Pilgrims are, Amarnath Cave in Kashmir and “the cave of Triquata-Bhagwati”, commonly known as Vaishnodevi in Jammu province is very popular with Indian tourists and pilgrims. Every year on the day of “Sawan Puranmashi (full moon night)” in the month of “Shravan” thousands of Hindu pilgrims gather before the Amarnath Shrine in the picturesque Lidder Valley in Kashmir to offer their prayers to Lord Shiva. And in Jammu lakhs of people from all over the country come for the darshan to world renowned holy cave commonly known as “Vaishnodevi”, inside which are the images of “Vaishnodevi”, Maha-Saraswati, Maha-Kali and Maha-Lakshmi.
A fleet of comfortable and luxurious cars and buses are available in the Jammu and Kashmir for the tourists on very reasonable rates besides visitors can reach Jammu through trains without any difficulty as Jammu rail head is connected to all the metropolitan cities of the country with direct trains arriving from Delhi, Kolkatta, Mumbai and Chennai. Besides this many Air-lines are now operating in the Jammu and Kashmir state making it much easier for the tourist to reach Kashmir valley within a shortest possible time from all over the world. A visit to Kashmir is now within the reach of middle class tourists and to those who travel on a budget if the valley would not have seen up’s and down’s due to the prevailing situation in Kashmir the development of Kashmir as a tourist resort would have been equivalent to that of Switzerland, Italy, and France. Kashmir has everything, for everybody and everywhere, sceneries for the Artists, Flowers for the Botanists, Luxurious golf courses for Golf lovers, Mountains for the Mountaineers, sports for the Sportsman, and for the laymen a peace of Soul and the cheapest holidays. The world has lauded its beauty especially writers have written in praise of this land. As has said by Earnest F. Neve, “Where is there anything more beautiful than the valley of Kashmir? Because every season, every month, and every day, has a different charm of its own. And, if there is a heaven on earth it is here; it is here and certainly it is here.”
J&K to bring more hamlets on tourist map
Press Trust Of India / Srinagar July 05, 2005
“We have identified a number of places like Changthang, Doothpathri, Bungus, Ahrabal, Yousmarg, Kungerwattan and Kouser Nag in the state to take Kashmir tourism to new heights,” a government official said.
Nearly three lakh tourists visited Kashmir till date and most of them preferred to visit the known tourist places, the official added. The number of tourists in the present season would cross five lakh for the first time in 15 years, the official said.
The new tourist attraction added included Changthang in the frontier region of Ladakh, generally referred to as the travellers’ dreamland, 5,000 metre above the sea level. Though opened for tourists since 1994, the tourist influx was comparatively less, the official said.
The place was well known for wetlands and wildlife animals, because of which, it was one of the worthwhile itineraries of tourists in Ladakh, the official added.
Another striking feature of Changthang was it’s being the summer home of hundreds of bird species migrating from across the world. Some of them were identified as globally endangered, including black neck crane and bar heeded goose.
Other tourist destinations in Chanthang included lakes such as Pangong, Tso-Kar and Tsomo-Riri. The Korzok village in the vicinity of the lakes was the highest cultivated land in the world, besides being a home to monasteries dating back to the third centuries and a treasure house of sculptures and ancient lamps.
Doothpathri, a scenic Hamlet in the Budgam district of central kashmir, was also being developed as a major resort with the help of the Mahindra group of companies, the official said.
The government was also exploring the possibility of taking up the cable car project on the pattern of Gulmarg Gondola and develop a golf course and treking track at the resort to further boost eco-tourism in the state, the official added.
The chairman of the Mahindra group of companies visited the place in May and assured the state government to help in making it a major tourist resort. Besides, the government was also planning to link the Shankaracharya hill temple in the city with ropeway to provide tourists as well as devotees with modern facilities, the official said.
Work on the Rs 18-crore ropeway project from Boulevard to the Shankaracharya temple would be completed in two years time, the official added. The unique pulse type design of the ropeway is expected to have a capacity of ferrying 400 people per hour.
This is a small village on the banks of the Sind river, twelve and a half miles from Srinagar. Gandherbal offers scenic locales with beautiful camping grounds. Gandherbal can be accssed by three routes -
a) Via Shadpur through the river Jhelum which has the Wular Lake in between.
b) Via Mar canal is the direct water route.
c) By road across Anchar lake.
This huge lake, 6 miles from Srinagar, offers beautiful locales with ample flora and fauna. The lake is marshy in parts and has huge clusters of lotus leaves floating on it. Chestnut and Chinar trees line the banks.
This small lake is regarded as the gem among all the Kashmir lakes. With abundant vegetation, beautiful lotus plants in bloom and surrounded by majestic hills, it is very difficult to not fall in love with this place. On the neighborhood are fruit gardens are large orchards. There are good campsites in the vicinity and a visit to this lake is a must.
22 miles from Srinagar this is perhaps the largest fresh water lake in Asia. Surrounded by the Harmukh mountains, this lake gets its water from the Jhelum which leaves it at Sopore. The lake is irregularly shaped and presents a spectacular sight that thrills the traveller. The lake has artificial islands, which have remains of temples and palaces scattered around. Wular can be accessed by road and by river. The river journey is advisable if a memorable adventure is on the mind. This has some good camping grounds along the way and some beautiful spots like Gandherbal, Khirbhawani and the Manasbal Lake enroute.
The site is known for its sulphur spring, which has healing powers. It is situated just before Pampur on a side road. Camping grounds are easily available.
14 miles from Srinagar Khru is a small village atop a hill. There is a temple of Jwaladevi, where a big fair is held annually some where in July.
This lush meadow overlooks the Wular Lake and is covered by dense pine forests. A small spring supplies water and the scenic beauty is breathtaking. Nagmarg is about 7 miles from Alsu village, which can be reached from Bandipur situated on the shores of the Wular Lake.