Gulmarg in Kashmir - Skip some of main scams and experience this beautiful place by thinking beyond the popular scam-station Gandola ride

When we talk about some of the most popular tourist destinations in Kashmir, Gulmarg is one of those options but typically some standard things are sold to tourists in Gulmarg while you can enjoy it much better by cutting through the clutter and choosing unusual way of exploring this beautiful place, which is very rich in terms of natural beauty. In this blogpost, we shall talk about Gulmarg in details. We will talk about most popular activities in Gulmarg where lot of tourists go and indulge themselves in different kind of activities along with some standard scams run in these tourist places of Kashmir. and then we will share some other unsual things you can do in Gulmarg to feel special by ignoring the FOMO on obvious things everyone talks about Gulmarg.

When we talk about some of the most popular tourist destinations in Kashmir, Gulmarg is one of those options but typically some standard things are sold to tourists in Gulmarg while you can enjoy it much better by cutting through the clutter and choosing unusual way of exploring this beautiful place, which is very rich in terms of natural beauty. In this blogpost, we shall talk about Gulmarg in details. We will talk about most popular activities in Gulmarg where lot of tourists go and indulge themselves in different kind of activities along with some standard scams run in these tourist places of Kashmir. and then we will share some other unsual things you can do in Gulmarg to feel special by ignoring the FOMO on obvious things everyone talks about Gulmarg. 

Let's first understand some facts which have been misleading tourists and scams which are running in Gulmarg tourist station of Kashmir.   The moment you land in Srinagar, you will be made to believe that Gandola is the thing to experience in Gulmarg, but why? That's the question you always need to ask yourself about every marketed place in Kashmir and go beyond these obvious options. These are marketed well and then tourism are exploited through different scams.     If you go to Gulmarg, you will be dropped in front of a shop to get jackets and boots for snow, even in a season when there is hardly any snow in first phase of Gandola ride. It makes sense if you have ticket for 2nd phase in advance, otherwise you will carry more weight on your body with no benefit of it.

Let's first understand some facts which have been misleading tourists and scams which are running in Gulmarg tourist station of Kashmir. 

The moment you land in Srinagar, you will be made to believe that Gandola is the thing to experience in Gulmarg, but why? That's the question you always need to ask yourself about every marketed place in Kashmir and go beyond these obvious options. These are marketed well and then tourism are exploited through different scams. 


If you go to Gulmarg, you will be dropped in front of a shop to get jackets and boots for snow, even in a season when there is hardly any snow in first phase of Gandola ride. It makes sense if you have ticket for 2nd phase in advance, otherwise you will carry more weight on your body with no benefit of it. 

Let me share some details about Gulmarg scams along with it's remedy :  A. Gandola ride tickets are sold in black if you reach Gulmarg without ticket. So make sure you buy tickets online. Note that number of ticket issued for phase-2 are half of the number sold for phase-1 in a day. So please do ticket booking in much advance.

Let me share some details about Gulmarg scams along with it's remedy :

A. Gandola ride tickets are sold in black if you reach Gulmarg without ticket. So make sure you buy tickets online. Note that number of ticket issued for phase-2 are half of the number sold for phase-1 in a day. So please do ticket booking in much advance. 

B. Even if you don't get ticket, don't worry. Gandola is not the only thing in Gulmarg. If you like walking and little bit of hiking, you can reach phase-1 but why you need to chase specific place. Gulmarg is rich with natural beauty, so walk anywhere and don't get in FOMO of seeing those things which world tells you, especially Kashmiris tell you. If you are big fan of snow activities, then other option is to take a pony and reach snow points. You can certainly hike, if you like it and have stamina.

B. Even if you don't get ticket, don't worry. Gandola is not the only thing in Gulmarg. If you like walking and little bit of hiking, you can reach phase-1 but why you need to chase specific place. Gulmarg is rich with natural beauty, so walk anywhere and don't get in FOMO of seeing those things which world tells you, especially Kashmiris tell you. If you are big fan of snow activities, then other option is to take a pony and reach snow points. You can certainly hike, if you like it and have stamina. 

C. All taxis drop a km behind the Gandola station. By the time you reach Gulmarg, an aim will be imprinted in your mind that you have to do Gandola ride. You will ignore a huge beautiful meadow. Suddenly lot of pony owners will come to you for dropping you at Gandola station. This is another example of how car operators and these vendors do things with tourists. Anyways, if you are ok walking for 1 km, ignore these vendors unless you like pony rides. Please also remember to ask your taxi to drop you near gate from where road goes to Gandola station.     D. If you are these in season, I will simply suggest to avoid this Gandola thing as you may spend 1.5-2 hours in queue and that's not worth when you are visiting Gulmarg for few hours in a day. So why not hike yourself in those 2 hrs or take pony, although I don't even recommend this pony thing as Pony master decides everything for you and at times pushes to come down sooner as he may want to take another customer.     E. There is another scam in Gulmarg which is about guides. It's not all wrong. There are some good guides but it's very hard to find them. Administration has done nothing to normalise this. So everyone can be guide and will show you some random places around Gulmarg. We didn't have any guide and checked with folks who had one. Most of them were disappointed expect a few who were happy that they saw some places which they may have missed otherwise.

C. All taxis drop a km behind the Gandola station. By the time you reach Gulmarg, an aim will be imprinted in your mind that you have to do Gandola ride. You will ignore a huge beautiful meadow. Suddenly lot of pony owners will come to you for dropping you at Gandola station. This is another example of how car operators and these vendors do things with tourists. Anyways, if you are ok walking for 1 km, ignore these vendors unless you like pony rides. Please also remember to ask your taxi to drop you near gate from where road goes to Gandola station.  

D. If you are these in season, I will simply suggest to avoid this Gandola thing as you may spend 1.5-2 hours in queue and that's not worth when you are visiting Gulmarg for few hours in a day. So why not hike yourself in those 2 hrs or take pony, although I don't even recommend this pony thing as Pony master decides everything for you and at times pushes to come down sooner as he may want to take another customer. 


E. There is another scam in Gulmarg which is about guides. It's not all wrong. There are some good guides but it's very hard to find them. Administration has done nothing to normalise this. So everyone can be guide and will show you some random places around Gulmarg. We didn't have any guide and checked with folks who had one. Most of them were disappointed expect a few who were happy that they saw some places which they may have missed otherwise. 

Bottomline - Think how you want to spend your time in Gulmarg and also think about the crowd you need to deal with when you go with obvious options. Also be aware of the scams like pony rides which are forced upon you because you are new to the place. Don't get the jacket/boots when you are there in summers and pick when you are sure you are going to indulge in snow activities. Even then it's worth when there is lot of snow. Phase-1 doesn't have that much snow, so save your money and energy to carry this unnecessary stuff with you.

Bottomline - Think how you want to spend your time in Gulmarg and also think about the crowd you need to deal with when you go with obvious options. Also be aware of the scams like pony rides which are forced upon you because you are new to the place. Don't get the jacket/boots when you are there in summers and pick when you are sure you are going to indulge in snow activities. Even then it's worth when there is lot of snow. Phase-1 doesn't have that much snow, so save your money and energy to carry this unnecessary stuff with you.

Above section is more about awareness the ecosystem in Gulmarg and idea is to help you make your decisions better. Everyone has different choices, so information is shared to enable better and conscious choices. Now let's talk about some of the most popular places to explore or things to do in or around Gulmarg hill station of Kashmir.

Above section is more about awareness the ecosystem in Gulmarg and idea is to help you make your decisions better. Everyone has different choices, so information is shared to enable better and conscious choices. Now let's talk about some of the most popular places to explore or things to do in or around Gulmarg hill station of Kashmir. 

Gulmarg Gandola Ride :  Gulmarg Gandola is one of the most popular as well as most crowded place in Gulmarg. Please note that you should book tickets for Gandola online. There are 2 phases. It's usually easy to get online ticket for Phase-1 but if you also want to go to phase-2, do ticket booking in much advance. You get to see better snow in phase-2 if that's something you don't want to miss. Phase-1 also has some but not much.

Gulmarg Gandola Ride :

Gulmarg Gandola is one of the most popular as well as most crowded place in Gulmarg. Please note that you should book tickets for Gandola online. There are 2 phases. It's usually easy to get online ticket for Phase-1 but if you also want to go to phase-2, do ticket booking in much advance. You get to see better snow in phase-2 if that's something you don't want to miss. Phase-1 also has some but not much. 

Above photograph shows ropeway trolleys which is used by Skiing enthusiasts to reach slopes with their gear and mostly used in winters.   If you go to Phase-1, there are ponies available which take you to places to see decent snow but not like Phase-2.  These Gandola rides are pretty long and enjoyable.

Above photograph shows ropeway trolleys which is used by Skiing enthusiasts to reach slopes with their gear and mostly used in winters. 

If you go to Phase-1, there are ponies available which take you to places to see decent snow but not like Phase-2.

These Gandola rides are pretty long and enjoyable. 

....

If you surely want to go Phase-2 and couldn't get online ticket, you can try to get ticket near the Gandola station. There is no ticket counter but there are agents who will sell it in black with premium on top of it. Ticket price for Phase-1 is approx 1250 per person and for phase-2 is 1400. This price is for both ways. In this whole process, there is a loophole. When people come back to Gulmarg, ticket is not checked. So if anyone has went up by trekking or pony, can come down in Gandola. I am not sure if that's intentional by authorities or it's illegal. I am just sharing this as an observation. 

The Huge Green Meadow around Taxi Stand and main market of Gulmarg :  Unfortunately most of the folks pass by this green land in the middle of mountains full of deodars and head towards Gandola base & places beyond the places where Gandola drops. Above photograph gives a glimpse of these meadows on the right. Now since there are no trees, it may get hard to sit around this place on a sunny day during summers. During winters this place is full of snow and hence snow activities. In Summers, one can walk around the outer circle of this meadow which will be huge. In above photograph you see meadow on the right and on the left you see deodars. Why not get inside the forest and spend time enjoying the nature and beautiful weather of Gulmarg. Carry some stuff for the picnic and you can find a nice place inside the deodar forest. If you enjoy pony rides, you can take a round around this green meadow of Gulmarg.

The Huge Green Meadow around Taxi Stand and main market of Gulmarg :

Unfortunately most of the folks pass by this green land in the middle of mountains full of deodars and head towards Gandola base & places beyond the places where Gandola drops. Above photograph gives a glimpse of these meadows on the right. Now since there are no trees, it may get hard to sit around this place on a sunny day during summers. During winters this place is full of snow and hence snow activities. In Summers, one can walk around the outer circle of this meadow which will be huge. In above photograph you see meadow on the right and on the left you see deodars. Why not get inside the forest and spend time enjoying the nature and beautiful weather of Gulmarg. Carry some stuff for the picnic and you can find a nice place inside the deodar forest. If you enjoy pony rides, you can take a round around this green meadow of Gulmarg. 

Kungdoor Hill :  Kungdoor is one of the most popular hills around Gulmarg and it's approachable through Gandola phase-1. One can also go up to this hill on pony or even by hiking.

Kungdoor Hill :

Kungdoor is one of the most popular hills around Gulmarg and it's approachable through Gandola phase-1. One can also go up to this hill on pony or even by hiking.  

Above photograph shows hills around Kungdoor. This photograph is clicked during summers and still you see some snow around this place.

Above photograph shows hills around Kungdoor. This photograph is clicked during summers and still you see some snow around this place. 

This is a beautiful place with great panoramic views. We sat in shade of trees and enjoyed these views. Above photograph shows Gandola station at a distance and shops on the right og the photograph.    Apharwat Parvat :

This is a beautiful place with great panoramic views. We sat in shade of trees and enjoyed these views. Above photograph shows Gandola station at a distance and shops on the right og the photograph.  

Apharwat Parvat :

Apharwat hill is the place you reach by taking second Gandola from Phase-1 to phase-2. Even in Summers there is good amount of snow on this hill. When you are at Apharwat hill, you can plan a small hike to Alpather Lake. Please note that you should go early in the day to phase-2 and not guide is needed if you have decent sense of directions.

Apharwat hill is the place you reach by taking second Gandola from Phase-1 to phase-2. Even in Summers there is good amount of snow on this hill. When you are at Apharwat hill, you can plan a small hike to Alpather Lake. Please note that you should go early in the day to phase-2 and not guide is needed if you have decent sense of directions.  

Nigle Nallah (approx 10km from Gulmarg)  Ningle Nallah is just 10kms away from the Gulmarg town. Ningle Nallah is mountain stream that has become a popular tourist attraction of Gulmarg. Either side of the stream has green meadows with wildflowers. The gurgling sound of this stream is nothing less than therapeutic and healing to human soul.  The water is the result of the melted snow of the mighty Apharwat Peak. The Alpather Lake is the main reservoir of which Ningle Nallah is just an off-shoot. After twisting and turning at various locations, Ningle Nallah finally merges with the Jhelum river near Sopore.  Children are especially fond Ningle Nallah since there is a lot of play area in and around it.

Nigle Nallah (approx 10km from Gulmarg)

Ningle Nallah is just 10kms away from the Gulmarg town. Ningle Nallah is mountain stream that has become a popular tourist attraction of Gulmarg. Either side of the stream has green meadows with wildflowers. The gurgling sound of this stream is nothing less than therapeutic and healing to human soul.

The water is the result of the melted snow of the mighty Apharwat Peak. The Alpather Lake is the main reservoir of which Ningle Nallah is just an off-shoot. After twisting and turning at various locations, Ningle Nallah finally merges with the Jhelum river near Sopore.

Children are especially fond Ningle Nallah since there is a lot of play area in and around it.

Rani Temple in Gulmarg :  The Rani Temple was once a royal temple of Dogra dynasty of erstwhile princely state Jammu and Kashmir. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva and situated on a small hillock in the heart of Gulmarg town. The most interesting fact about this temple is that it can be seen from all nooks and corners of the town. The Rani Temple, also known as Maharani temple or Mohineshwar Shivalaya was built by Mohini Bai Sisodhia, the wife of Maharaja Hari Singh in 1915. When King Hari Singh was spending his time in royal palace in Gulmarg, his queen used to visit this temple to worship Lord Shiva.

Rani Temple in Gulmarg :

The Rani Temple was once a royal temple of Dogra dynasty of erstwhile princely state Jammu and Kashmir. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva and situated on a small hillock in the heart of Gulmarg town. The most interesting fact about this temple is that it can be seen from all nooks and corners of the town. The Rani Temple, also known as Maharani temple or Mohineshwar Shivalaya was built by Mohini Bai Sisodhia, the wife of Maharaja Hari Singh in 1915. When King Hari Singh was spending his time in royal palace in Gulmarg, his queen used to visit this temple to worship Lord Shiva. 

St. Mary's Church :   St. Mary's Church, built during the British reign in the year 1902, is located in proximity to Gulmarg. Constructed in the British architectural style, this church attracts tourists in large numbers. This 110-year-old church is one of the few Christian churches in the entire state and is considered as the heritage of the British Rule in India. The church is surrounded by several huts and hotels, designed in old architectural style, where tourists can stay. The alpine trees surrounding the area add up to the beauty of the place. A mosque, a temple, and gurdwara are also located in proximity to the church.

St. Mary's Church : 

St. Mary's Church, built during the British reign in the year 1902, is located in proximity to Gulmarg. Constructed in the British architectural style, this church attracts tourists in large numbers. This 110-year-old church is one of the few Christian churches in the entire state and is considered as the heritage of the British Rule in India. The church is surrounded by several huts and hotels, designed in old architectural style, where tourists can stay. The alpine trees surrounding the area add up to the beauty of the place. A mosque, a temple, and gurdwara are also located in proximity to the church.

After sharing all this, I feel that it doesn't make sense to follow any list of main places to see in Kashmir and rather drive around & spend time around nature. High Deodar forests, beautiful rivers, apples orchards, dry fruit orchards etc. Kashmir is full of interesting natural resources to enjoy. That was our takeaway and it was time to head back to Srinagar, which was our base.

After sharing all this, I feel that it doesn't make sense to follow any list of main places to see in Kashmir and rather drive around & spend time around nature. High Deodar forests, beautiful rivers, apples orchards, dry fruit orchards etc. Kashmir is full of interesting natural resources to enjoy. That was our takeaway and it was time to head back to Srinagar, which was our base. 

After having good time in Gulmarg, we reached back in Srinagar to appreciate this sight of colourful houseboats and Shikaras in Dal and Nageen Lake & city's beautiful gardens, which are full of variety of plants & flowers.

After having good time in Gulmarg, we reached back in Srinagar to appreciate this sight of colourful houseboats and Shikaras in Dal and Nageen Lake & city's beautiful gardens, which are full of variety of plants & flowers. 

If you liked this post and found it helpful, I would request you to follow these things when traveling -  - Manage your waste well and don’t litter - Use dustbins. Tell us if you went to a place and found it hard to locate a dustbin. - Avoid bottle waters in hills. Usually you get clean water in hills and water bottles create lot of mess in our ecosystem. - Say big no to plastic and avoid those unhealthy snacks packed in plastic bags. Rather buy fruits. - Don't play loud blaring music in forests of jungle camps. You are a guest in that ecosystem and disturbing the locals (humans and animals) is not polite

I want to conclude the post with a statement that I have seen lot of friends enjoying Gandola rides because certainly it takes you to snow slopes which are hard to find, so be aware that I have this bias about why so much snow is so important :), and not other things which can be equally enjoyed. At the same time, I have seen lot of snow since childhood and that can be another reason that you will not see much important is give to snow and other things are kept at par. 

If you liked this post and found it helpful, I would request you to follow these things when traveling -

- Manage your waste well and don’t litter
- Use dustbins. Tell us if you went to a place and found it hard to locate a dustbin.
- Avoid bottle waters in hills. Usually you get clean water in hills and water bottles create lot of mess in our ecosystem.
- Say big no to plastic and avoid those unhealthy snacks packed in plastic bags. Rather buy fruits.
- Don't play loud blaring music in forests of jungle camps. You are a guest in that ecosystem and disturbing the locals (humans and animals) is not polite 


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