Sunday, May 4, 2014

Hotel Review: The Khyber Himalayan Resort


White luxury in Gulmarg

Snowflakes playfully twirl outside my window. They seem akin to little artists at work and it’s mesmerising seeing them paint the landscape white. I’m watching this poetry in motion from a room filled with the subtle fragrance of essential oils.

The capable hands of a massage therapist are gently easing the knots in my body. She’s been diligently at work, and the almond firming paste scrub I’ve opted for promises to leave me sparkling. Sparkle or not, I’m immersed in the twin pleasures of spa and snowfall in this wellness wing with a view at a hotel in Gulmarg. It seems surreal.

Has the thought of a stimulating spa therapy amidst snow-clad mountains been your idea of indulgence? Think no further and head to Gulmarg, in the alluring Kashmir valley, to fulfil this cherished desire. What’s more, you can still make a quick dash and return refreshed, for though the summer winds have started heating up the country, here snow is still cladding the hills ice-cream white and regaling visitors.

Many firsts
Of Kashmir it’s said, if you have seen it once you’ve not seen it all. Every season has its own colours. In spring, almond and cherry trees are laden with dainty pink or white flowers, myriad wild blossoms as well as cultivated lavender colour the vistas in summer, and come autumn the chinars begin turning auburn while the saffron fields become lilac. Finally arrives winter and dresses it all in regal white.
That is when Gulmarg too takes on a new hue. The name of the town literally means meadow (or marg from the Persian tern margh) of flowers (gul). Snow erases that meaning, as it softly but scintillatingly goes about its business of texturing the alpine town all white. This is the time skiers descend from around the world to glide down its perfect powder-snow slopes. Tourists also rush in to build the mandatory snowman, excitedly fire snowballs at each other, go snowboarding and enjoy being shoved around on sledges or speeding on snow-scooters. I’m doing neither. Rejuvenation is my only agenda.

Snow and more 
It’s still snowing when I walk out from the spa, the almond scrub having worked its magic on me. I plan to soak in the outside from the warm interiors of the aesthetically-designed chaikash, the tea lounge, and settle myself near the window with a steaming hot cup of fragrant kahwa. Other guests have the same idea and soon there is quite a crowd in raptures over what they are witnessing. Enthusiasm at viewing a fairy-tale setting prompts comparisons with foreign locales and conversation gets peppered with star destinations from around the world.

All that comes to a hush when a foreign traveller, who’s returned from a successful ski outing, zealously announces, “Gulmarg is incomparable!” Everyone tunes into his ode to the town and they feel quite pleased on being at the right place at the right time. Some guests corroborate what he says about the region’s beauty with their own stunning experiences of visiting Mt Apharwat Peak (13,780 ft) that’s connected to Gulmarg via the Gondola or cable car, which reportedly is the highest and longest in Asia.

The cable car is one of the biggest attractions of Gulmarg and tourists have the option of taking a ride up to the first stage, Kongdoori, or going further — almost up above the world — to Apharwat, the second and final level. Apart from the breathtaking views at the summit, it’s known for the 1.5-km trek to the frozen Alpather Lake, something that’s for the adventurous alone.

I’m charmed by Gulmarg. It’s small and beautiful. And complete. It has always been recognised as the winter capital of India. In summers, it’s a golfing haven with its century-old golf club boasting of the longest course in the country. Its newest attribute, the all-weather spa, has ensured it’s become a wellness destination too.

Getting here: Daily flights from all metros to Srinagar (65 km/2 hrs from Gulmarg)  
Stay: The Khyber (
Activities: Ride in the cable car, hiking, golf 
Must eat/drink: Kehwa, Gushtaba (meat balls in curd curry), haak (aromatic local spinach)

Published in Deccan Herald


Hotelasia ladakh said... really needs a lot of determination and strength of mind to go for such rides :-)

Wonderful pictures and wish you many more happy rides ....
Hotel asia ladakh

sneha sri said...
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