We promised to post more about our Kashmir Trip in our post on Dal Lake Srinagar here.
The Gulmarg experience was undoubtedly the highlight of our Kashmir trip.The Gulmarg Gondola (Cable Car) was one experience that will remain in our cherished memories till eternity.
Srinagar > Tanmarg > Gulmarg > Cable car Phase1 > Cable Car to Phase 2
Gulmarg is a sufficient day trip from Srinagar unless you want to explore the place in detail.
The Gulmarg Gondola located in the Gulmarg town of the Kashmir Valley is located around two and half hours from Srinagar. (We learnt in Kashmir that In hilly areas it is always wise to calculate distance in time instead of kilometres!)
At phase one as well as two, we found agents trying to break the queue. We hurled a mouthful to a couple of them lol! We encouraged others to maintain queue throughout. It was half past one in the afternoon by the time we boarded the gondola for phase 2!
We finally boarded the return gondola around 3.30 p.m. and reached base by 4 pm. At the base, you can hire a pony for some local sightseeing - there is a small church here too. We skipped that and walked our way to the car park. We'd gotten really tired by now but we'd collected memories of a lifetime! We were glad we did it. It was worth every penny! We are thankful to Mr. Hilal our guide for his timely advices. He even hesitated to take a small tip from our side at the end of the journey and we had to force him too!
|Gondola, Gulmarg-phase 2 is at a breathtaking height of 14000 ft (Approx Half of Mt. Everest)|
Srinagar > Tanmarg > Gulmarg > Cable car Phase1 > Cable Car to Phase 2
We started our journey from our hotel in Srinagar at around 8 in the morning. It was on the 14th of June 2016. We reached Tanmarg, the small town at the foothill of Gulmarg at around 10 am. At Tanmarg, our driver stopped at one the numerous shops which rent gumboots and jackets. Of course these drivers get their own commission at these shops. After some hard bargaining and haggling, we managed to bring down the price for five of us from Rs. 2500/- to Rs. 700/- (five pairs of gumboots and five knee-length jackets)!! Great deal we suppose!
It was at this shop where we met our guide Mr. Hilal who over the day proved to be an excellent guide. The previous day Mr. Hilal had already arranged for our tickets for Phase 1 as well as Phase 2 for a small commission although tickets were unavailable online. We are thankful to our driver for arranging our guide Mr. Hilal.
We would suggest anyone to book online tickets a few days beforehand via the official government website. The prices for one-way phase 1 and phase 2 tickets are 300/- and 500/- Rs respectively. Hence a return trip till the top and back would cost Rs.1600/- per person. A bit on the expensive side but it was worth it!
From Tanmarg, it is an extremely scenic climb up til Gulmarg. The green valleys, colourful flowers and the perfect weather gave a great feel! After around 20 minutes we reached the entrance of Gulmarg. Here, we had to disembark from our car since only those cars having a valid hotel booking at one of the hotels in Gulmarg are allowed inside.
Those going for a day trip like us without a hotel booking can walk their way to the base. It is a comfortable 15 minute trek on a straight path. Ponies are available but again your bargaining skills come into the picture! We and everyone else were pestered by the pony owners to hire a pony but we stood our stance that we would walk! It is possible to get a pony for as little as 100-200 Rs. although they ask for around 1000-2000 Rs. It is all up to how well you can negotiate! We preferred to walk through the scenic path - hills one one side and a majestic green golf ground on the other. We were informed this entire golf course gets covered in snow during the winter and it is used as a ski training centre!
Since our tickets were already booked, we proceeded directly through to the boarding gate which had a huge queue! Wonder what would have happened if we hadn't booked tickets earlier since there is a separate ticket counter with a long queue again!
After around an hour of waiting in the queue, we could finally board a gondola! The gondola doesn't stop - it keeps moving albeit very slowly and one has to manage entering the gondola in that limited time frame while the gondola passes through the platform. No tough task though!
|Entrance of Gondola Cable Car. See you at seventh heaven!|
The first gondola took us up, up and higher through the pines and greens to phase 1. At phase one, we enjoyed the beautiful green scenes and cherished the snow clad mountains from a distance as we waited for our turn to board for phase 2! This was again a long one hour wait. Food and drinks are available here though a bit expensive. One can enjoy a pony ride at Phase 1 and get lost in the surroundings. But we were more excited about phase 2 as we were keen to see snow, so we skipped that. At phase one we also subtly filled up our tummies with some light snacks as we knew there is nothing available at phase 2!
Tip: The boarding for Phase 2 closes by 3 pm so plan accordingly!
|Phase 2 -cable car-Gondola, Gulmarg|
|Ourtravelcravings.com Exclusive! The info-board at the boarding of Phase 2!|
For a moment we thought we disappeared into the clouds. It is not joke to reach 14000 ft above sea level! Well, in other words that is 4200 mts. - half the Mt. Everest. We finally crossed the fog/clouds and after a 15 minute ride found ourselves reaching phase 2 station!
|On top of the world!! Clicked from within cable car for Phase 2 Gondola,Gulmarg|
Phase 2 was breath-taking! It felt like we had conquered the highest peak in the world. Everywhere, we could see only peaks and patches of snow cladding the Himalayas. We had to do a small climb through the rocks and muddy-dirty snow to reach our destination - the snow clad peak. It was covered in pure white snow! Nothing except snow was visible at all sides. We were blessed with some great a weather too. It was a perfectly sunny day.
|Clicked from cable car for phase 2 Gondola,Gulmarg|
Tip: A high SPF sun-screen is a must here!
We spend a good one and half hours at phase 2. We experienced manual sledging for the first time (human-pulled sledges). Again bargaining is a must! The more adventurous can reach the top and try skiing! The view was all snow and all sun - it just couldn't get any better! We played with the snow to our heart's content. It was slippery but it was fun.
Tip: There is nothing to eat or drink at Phase 2 so one has to plan accordingly. Also, there is no place to cover yourself in case there is rough weather. It is all open sky at a mountain peak.
|Skiing at Phase 2 Gulmarg|
|Human Sledge at Gulmarg Phase 2|
|A panoramic glimpse of phase 2 Gulmarg. 14000 ft above sea level!|
We were informed by our guide that the weather here changes more frequently than fashion in Mumbai! There could be rains/snow/storm anytime. We were lucky to not witness such adverse scenario! Also we noticed that after 3 pm it was starting to get chillier.
One definitely must experience the Gulmarg Gondola once in lifetime!
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P.S: All photos exclusively clicked on our Nikon D5300.