The Himalayas have always been the most adventurous destination. From mountaineering expeditions to trekking, wildlife and eco-tours to just walking or biking, there is something for every one. In the northern region of India, in the state of Kashmir are two beautiful Hill stations, Gulmarg & Sonamarg, that have always been an attraction for both tourists and adventure seekers.
Gulmarg, which means the Meadow of Flowers, was discovered as a
tourist destination by the British in the 19th century. Prior to that,
Moghul emperors vacationed in the Gulmarg area. Today Gulmarg is reached by
bus or taxi from Srinagar. Lying some 31 miles west of Srinagar at 8,500
feet, Gulmarg is exquisitely situated in a pine surrounded basin of the Pir
Panjal range. It sports a Golf course, a nearby tourist office, and a Ski
hill with several Ski lifts and a rope tow.
Trekking In Gulmarg
Gulmarg makes an excellent base for trekking in the northern Pir Panjal
Range. Nanga Parbat can be seen to the north from several view points,
including Khilanmarg, west and over 1,500 feet up the forested hillside from
Gulmarg. From a distance, the Pir Panjal appears somewhat rounded, but when
you are actually walking up its slopes, you will find that its smoother
peaks rise above evergreen clad slopes that seem quite equal in steepness to
those of the main Himalayas.
West and slightly south of Gulmarg is the 13,592-feet peak of Apharwat.
This peak is, however, near the LOC, called the Line of Control, so check
with the tourist office in Gulmarg before you set out for it.
To the south of Gulmarg, a pleasant trek would be to walk up the Ferozepur
Nala and beyond to the hamlets of Danwas, Tejjan, and to Samaidan. For this
you will need a porter who knows the way because many stock trails intersect
the route. The walk from Gulmarg to Tosamaidan is considered to be three
stages long. You may return by way of Riyar and Khag villages or continue
south toward Sunset Peak and then walk into the foothills along the Romushi
Nala to Yusmarg, where a road and bus service connect with Srinagar.
Golf In Gulmarg
Situated at an altitude of 2,650 m, Gulamarg has got the highest green golf
course in the world. The layout of the courseis quiet striking and the
layout is similar to a normalgolf course with land slopes and inclines along
the complete area of the course, which has a par of 72. The golf club was
started by the British who used Gulmarg as a holiday resort, and opened it
for golf lovers in the year 1904. At present the J&K Tourism Development
Corporation manages the club.
Skiing In Gulmarg
Gulamarg is also counted among the best skiing resorts in India, but you
require a pretty good experince as well as training to ski down the slopes
over here.Gulmarg also make a good ski spot for starters, those who are new
to skiing. Ski enthusiasts can easily find out all required gear and
equipments as well as professional ski instructors in Gulmarg, to try out a
hand on skiing. The longest ski run in Gulmarg is provide by the Gondola
Cable Car, where skiers can swoosh down the slopes from the height of 2,
Sonamarg, which means the Golden Meadow also makes an excellent
base for trekking in Jammu & Kashmir. In the summer months this
hillstation area is visited for the day by many down country tourists from
the various parts of Northern India. Sonamarg has a small, tourist bazaar
and some seasonal restaurants, and the tourist center here is a well of
activity with people booking horseback rides or rest houses for the night.
The major importance of Sonamarg is that it is the last stoppage point of
Kashmir, when one is heading from Srinagar to Leh.
During daytime one can take the 3-mile horseback ride west, then south, to
the Thajiwas glacier. The tourist officer in Sonamarg is at the center
during the day and can be of excellent assistance if you have questions or
trekking equipment requirement for several days while you are trekking.
Trek From Sonamarg To The Vale Via Gangabal Lake
A fine walk west of Sonamarg is to cross the Nichinai pass to Gangabal
Lake. As always, you would do well to have a local to accompany you. To
reach the trailhead, go 2 miles down valley from Sonamarg toward Srinagar to
the bridge below the tightly clustered houses of Shitkari village, where the
road crosses the Sind River. Across the river from this small village, begin
walking on the true Right Bank to the lakes called Krishan Sar and Vishan
Sar, and beyond to Gangabal Lake near Haramukh, the highest peak in the
vicinity of the Kashmir valley.
From the Shitkari Bridge, follow the trail up the ridge into a pine forest
where you have you last views of Sonamarg. Keep climbing the ridge 5,000
feet up, mostly through forest, to the Nichinai pass. The western slopes of
the Nichinai pass will have patches of snow into July, attesting to kashmirs
heavy winter snowfall. Here you are at the head of a tributary of the
Kishanganga; to the south lie needle peaks and small glaciers. Walk
downward, then angle up to the west across the valley floor to reach two as
yet unseen lakes.
Vishan Sar is found at just over 12,000 feet and is slightly larger than
Krishan Sar at 12,500 feet. From Krishan Sar, the trail toward Gangabal
continues via a zigzag route northwest up the near ridge. Cross the ridge
northwest of Krishan Sar, descend to Gad Sar, cross a snow bridge, then rise
again to a high ridge that holds the Satsaran lake, where you have excellent
views northward. The trail goes south and crosses the Satsaran Bar pass and
then continues south, then west to Zajibal pass, where you have a clear view
of Gangabal Lake 2,000 feet below, 16,872-foot Haramukh above. For this
alpine trek over the Nichinai to Gangabal Lake and down the Wangat valley,
you will need about seven days.
Alternate Route To Haramukh
Alternate routes to haramukh can also be taken. One good approach route
begins by taking a bus from Srinagar to Bandipur. At Bandipur change
vehicles or walk to Erin village, and hike up the Erin valley. At Ishrantar
village the valley divides, and you must take either the northern fork,
keeping Haramukh to your right, or the southern valley to Sarbal Lake, south
of the Haramukh. Either way you can get around Haramukh peak to reach