After numerous failed attempts to visit the most talked about state in India, Kashmir, I finally managed to land at Srinagar airport. My wondering eyes were floating around as I couldn’t believe that I was actually in Kashmir. I had to travel another one hour to reach my destination. I buckled up after settling in the passenger’s seat as I was about to embark on a journey which I had been dreaming for so long.
Is it safe to travel to Kashmir?
This was an unavoidable reaction which I had encountered from my family and friends before my trip. But, the reality is that IT IS ABSOLUTELY SAFE TO TRAVEL TO KASHMIR. Life in the valley seems normal. The streets are busy. Markets are buzzing. There is no heavy Indian Army presence on the road. Our car was not even stopped for once from Srinagar airport to Gulmarg. People are living their daily life normally.
In the recent published article on DNAIndia, The director of the Kashmir’s Department of Tourism, Nasser Muhamad, said, “We are ready to welcome any number of tourists. Gulmarg was fully packed. With hope, we are looking forward to bringing more tourists here and convey that Kashmir is completely safe.”
The landscapes started changing as I crossed Tangmarg. The distant villages on my left started appearing. The temperature dipped slowly. The winding road was gaining height as we were approaching Gulmarg. The snow covered forest, white high mounts of snow on both sides of the road, the chilling air and the smell made me excited as I was approaching the winter wonderland of India. With each turn, the excitement was soaring high. It was my very first time in Kashmir.
Welcome to Gulmarg-the sign-board says. Men clad in pheran were sitting at the bus stop, waiting to return to their home. Local skiers were returning from the bunny slopes. The sun almost left its last rays. I rolled down the window to see the beauty with my naked eyes. Before I could get lost in the atmosphere completely, the car door was opened for me and I was welcomed to the best luxury resort, The Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa.
The Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa
The Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa in Gulmarg is one of the most stunningly located luxury hotels in India. Known for its excellent location and warm hospitality, the resort is Gulmarg’s first luxury Resort. The Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa is also considered as one of the Top Ski Resorts in India.The award winning resort is on everyone’s wish list whenever there is a mention of Gulmarg in Kashmir. The Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa is not just another luxury resort; it is an experience in itself. Let’s find out what makes this resort extraordinary in nature.
If I have to mention the best thing about the Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa, then it has to be the awe-inspiring location. Encircled by the Pir Panjal range of the majestic Himalayas, at an elevation of 8,825 ft, the resort has the most stunning views of the snow-clad mountains and thick pine forest. The uninterrupted views of jaw-dropping mountains make all the difference. It looks magical in winter.
The flickering sun rays peeping through the forest, shining mountain peaks, and the snow covered resort, look like a painting. The best part of the location is that the property promises exclusive views without any hindrances because of its exclusivity.
Room with a view
I have stayed in numerous luxury hotels & resorts across the globe, but there are only a handful of them which live up to their title “Room With A View”. The Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa is surely one of them. It is rare that I would spend most of my time in any resort’s room, but while staying at Khyber Resort, I wished to come back to my room and spend maximum time in the balcony. Leave everything aside, if there is anything that caught my attention immediately was the view from the room. The snow covered pine forest, blanket of snow on the ground and the shining Affarwat peaks can literally make you stand and stare at them for hours.
Imagine waking up to this view every day in the pristine valley, sitting and enjoying Kahwah on the balcony and soaking in the aura of nature for hours. I did it all. I spent most of my time on the balcony.
I got lucky with the weather in Gulmarg this winter. The dramatic weather in Gulmarg surely put up a great show during my stay. I had experienced snowfall, cloud-laden gloomy day and also bright sunshine in the valley. I got excited to see the bright sunny day on the first day, which turned cloudy soon, leaving the valley wrapped in fog. As I woke up, I experienced snowfall, which turned Gulmarg into a white paradise.
I really appreciate when a resort goes beyond the obvious and incorporates local distinct cultural influences in the décor. The ceiling-height windows, teakwood floors, and especially the papier-mâché accents, draw upon Kashmir’s rich heritage of craftsmanship. The interior of the premium room is designed with traditional material and has the traditional embroidery done on the cushion and pillow covers which showcases fine Kashmiri craft beautifully.
All 80 rooms, 4 luxury cottages and one presidential cottage offers the most luxurious stay at the resort with a panoramic view of the valley and a spectacular scenic view of the mountain.
It is not just a room with a view; the plush bathroom, has the sunken bathtub with a large window to enjoy the unremitting view of the mountains while soaking you in warm water.The bathroom also has a separate dressing area along with a luggage corner.
The Presidential Cottage is a grand site comprising of a large master bedroom, with a luxurious bathroom, a private heated plunge pool with a Jacuzzi, a living room, dining room, a full kitchen and a spacious private garden. The cottage offers outstanding views of the Affarwat range and the verdant valley.
The Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa offers ample dining options to their guests. Cloves, the main dining option which is always buzzing with guests at breakfast, lunch and dinner, offers world cuisines.
Cloves, the main dining restaurant at The Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa
Whether you want to relish South Indian cuisine, North Indian delicacies to Italian Pizza or Chinese noodles, you will be offered everything as per your demand. I really enjoyed well spread breakfast menu which offered a wide range of delectable breakfast items to choose from to satiate your taste buds.
Chaikash Tea Lounge of The Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa
The Chaikash Tea Lounge, named after the Kashmiri word for soaked tea leaves, is a beautiful corner in the huge lobby. The tea lounge offers tea, coffee, pastries, cakes, etc., along with the irresistible views of the pine forest and the mountains. I absolutely loved spending time there. I had numerous cups of Kahwah at Chaikash during my stay, only to enjoy the scenery in the warmest corner. I loved sitting by the window there to see snow-covered pine forest, especially during snowfall when Gulmarg bathes in snow and turns into a magical land.
The Calabash is a Sheesha Lounge, where you get an assortment of flavored tobaccos in the Sheesha. Calabash is a cosy nook in which one can share travel tales with your travel buddies while lounging for hours. The resort also has a terrace restaurant named Nouf for casual dining.
Relish Wazwan Cuisine
Don’t forget to relish the authentic Wazwan cuisine at the resort. The wazwan is a multi-course meal (going up to 36 courses) in Kashmiri cuisine. Waz stands for chef and Wan means a shop selling delicacies. Traditionally, a Vasta Waaza (single skilled chef) looks after the planning, preparation and serving of Wazwan with several Waz (Chef) under his guidance. It is usually served at weddings and formal banquets. It is an integral part of Kashmiri culture. Most of the dishes are meat based with a few vegetarian options. The entire meal is served on a beaten copper dish called Tarami. The Tarami arrives covered under a copper lid called Sarposh.
This was for the first time I was having Kashmiri cuisine and each dish was delectable. I was served Tabakmaaz, Seekh Kebab, Rogan Josh, Gustaba, Rista, Tamatar Chaman or Ruwangan Chhaman, Haaq, Onion Chutney or Gande Chetin, and Radish Chutney or Muji Chetin.
The Khyber Spa by L’OCCITANE
Located within The Khyber Wellness Block, Khyber Spa by L’OCCITANE is a luxurious Mediterranean themed Spa, a great place to get pampered after a long day in Gulmarg valley. Whether you are a skier or snowboarder or a traveler, after an eventful day in the most gorgeous valley in Kashmir, you surely need to unwind and relax. With three single treatment rooms and a couple suite, each room has its private steam chamber. It offers a gamut of over 50 rejuvenating treatments from aroma therapies to concentrated deep massages, body scrubs to body wraps. Khyber Spa by L’OCCITANE offers the complete wellness treatment to the guests.
I had a great time relaxing at the spa. I opted for Head, Neck and Body massage. It was so rejuvenating that I didn’t realize when I fell asleep during the treatment. The therapist was a well-trained professional who helped me to unwind in a great way.
In the wellness block, you can also experience the in-house well equipped Gym. And, if you like to spend sometime in the pool, the temperature controlled swimming pool of The Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa is another facility which you need to experience. The swimming pool of the resort has to be one of the most picturesque indoor pools with dramatic scenic view in India for sure.
Whether it was walking on the snow, experiencing the highest rope-way, relishing Kashmiri Wazwan, sipping endless cups of Kahwah in the most gorgeous resort, admiring the spectacular scenery, and getting soaked into the aura for hours, everything was Dreamlike.
If you are planning a winter getaway in the Kashmir valley and want to enjoy your vacation in a Winter Wonderland, I would recommend you to plan a trip to Gulmarg right away.
Moreover, if you are a skier & snowboarder, Gulmarg is the best Ski Destination in India.
With Snow, Sky and Sun, this valley is the Paradise on Earth, quite literally.
How to reach
There are direct flights daily to Srinagar from Delhi (an hour’s duration) and Mumbai (2 hours and 45 minutes). The Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa lies 65 kilometres away from Srinagar Airport. It takes ninety-minute transfer from Srinagar airport by car to the resort, through breathtaking meadows and forested slopes.
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