It had been a savage experience for the tourists in Kashmir this year. They were made direct targets of grenade attacks, leaving 15 of them dead and over 60 others wounded. Just two weeks ago, nine tourists, besides six civilians, were injured when a hand grenade was lobbed on them at Tangmarg near Gulmarg on their way back to Srinagar on November 28.
But this hill resort of legendary beauty is still a favorite destination of a large number of domestic and foreign tourists. Hundreds of visitors are flocking backing to this "meadow of flowers" (as the Gulmarg stands for) daily. Covered under a white blanket of thick snow, the scene is more of a festive with immense beauty and adventure activities.
"It is out of the world", shouted in excitement teenaged Anuradha of Mumbai tossing a ball of snow on her friend Seema. "We can't believe ourselves that we are here. It is so beautiful and lovely", they said. Most of the tourists were seen enjoying skiing, many taking joyrides on snow-bikes and snow-cycles adding a new persona to the surrounding.
The officials of state tourism department are reluctant to reveal the number of tourists thronging this location of prime beauty daily but say, "tourists are making up for the lost time with a vengeance." The advance bookings in hotels and huts, full occupancy of hotels only but substantiates the officials claim.
The heavy inflow of visitors has resulted in hike in hotel rent as well. The rooms usually rented out at Rs.2000 are now available between Rs.3500 to 4500. "We have not inflated the rates. We charge for the additional facilities provided due to severe cold", says manage of a hotel.
Snow is the major attraction for the tourists here. The valley's higher reaches witnessed a heavy snowfall, last week. Gulmarg has accumulated 3-4 feet snow while Kangdoori and Aphrvat, the highest points of Gulmarg recorded 6-7 feet snow. The state tourism department is holding a weeklong snow festival-Kashmir Snow festival-from December 24 to 30 to attract more and more tourists here. "There would be several cultural and adventure programmes during the festival", said Farooq Ahmad Shah, Director Tourism. Skiing and ice-skating would be the major highlight of the festival, said Shah. The Tourism department is also holding a grand function on Christmas here on December 25.
A skiing championship is already scheduled here from Friday. National Snow boarding championship would be held next month. The authorities, say that they would do all that would make Gulmarg international winter games venue.
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