Often given the epithet 'meadow of flowers', Gulmarg situated 51 km from Srinagar. Gulmarg's legendary beauty, prime location and proximity to Srinagar naturally make it one of the premier hill resorts in the country. Originally called 'Gaurimarg' by shepherds, its present name was given in the 16th century by Sultan Yusuf Shah, who was inspired by the sight of its grassy slopes emblazoned with wild flowers. Gulmarg was a favourite haunt of Emperor Jehangir who once collected 21 different varieties of flowers from here. Today Gulmarg is not merely a mountain resort of exceptional beauty- it also has the highest green golf course in the world, at an altitude of 2,650 m, and is the country's premier ski resort in the winter. The journey to Gulmarg is half the enchantment of reaching there- roads bordered by rigid avenues of poplar gives over to flat expanses of rice fields interspersed with picturesque villages. Depending on the season, nature's colours could be the translucent green of spring, summer's rich emerald, or autumn's golden hues, when scarlet chillies festoon windows of village homes. After Tangmarg, the climb to Gulmarg begins through fir-covered hillsides. At one point, known simply as View Point, travellers generally stop their vehicles for a few minutes and look out a spectacle of snow-covered mountains, almost within touching distance.
PAHALGAM - The Valley of Shepherds
Situated at the confluence of the streams flowing from Sheshnag Lake and the Lidder river, Pahalgam (2,130 m) was once a humble shepherd's village with breathtaking views. Around Pahalgam are many places of interest, and because the resort is set between fairly steep hills, it is worth hiring a pony rather than walking. Pony fares are posted at prominent locations. The most beautiful of these is the huge, undulating meadow of Baisaran, surrounded by thickly wooded forests of pine. Hajan, on the way to Chandanwari, is an idyllic spot for a picnic.Pahalgam has within it no fewer than eight tiny villages, one of which is Mamal. There is a Shiva temple here, generally considered to be Kashmir's oldest existing temple, dating to the 5th century. Pahalgam is also associated with the annual Amarnath Yatra. Chandanwari (2,895 m), 16 kms from Pahalgam, is the starting point of the yatra that takes place every year in the month of Sawan (July to August). The road from Pahalgam to Chandanwari is on fairly flat terrain and can be undertaken by car. From Chandanwari onwards the track becomes much steeper, and is accessible on foot or by pony. About 11 kms from Chandanwari is the mountain lake of Sheshnag (3,574 m), after which, 13 kms away is the last stop, Panchtarni. The Amarnath cave is 6 kms away from there. During the month of Sawan, an ice stalagmite forms a natural shivling in the Amarnath cave, which waxes and wanes with the moon.