Summer is approaching at a quick pace, and with the travel restrictions slowly loosening, many of us are eager to escape our daily lives and get into vacation mode. The Igloo café in Gulmarg is one such place that gets me excited for a vacation. The January of this year saw the inauguration of India’s first Igloo café; in the beautiful town of Gulmarg which is situated in the Baramulla district of Jammu and Kashmir. The town is one of India’s most popular skiing destinations. But, because of this newly built attraction, this year, it has been making headlines for a completely different reason.
The igloo café is a project created by the Kolahoi Ski resort and has become a wonderful addition to all the other services they offer. The igloo café is nearly fifteen feet in height and twenty-six feet around, it can easily hold sixteen guests all at once. The café has four tables, and four seats at each table. The tables and the stools are carved out of ice, while the seats are covered with an authentic sheepskin rug, for comfort and warmth.
Speaking about warmth, Igloos originate from the arctic; they are traditional houses of the Inuit tribe. Igloo became so widely built in the cold Arctic regions because of its insulating properties. Data suggest that even if the temperature outside might be leaning as low as -45°C, the temperature inside the igloo can be -7°C to 16°C, with the help of body heat alone. And the closed shape of the igloo keeps the biting wind at bay. So, if you plan to visit the igloo café, you don’t have to be worried about being colder than what you would usually expect from Kashmiri indoors.
Although igloos’ are not traditionally Indian, the makers of the igloo café have put small touches to make it seem slightly more traditional. There are mock windows carved out of ice reminiscent of Mughal architecture and another that resembles the honeycomb style windows of the western palaces.
The reactions and reviews from the tourists who have visited the igloo café of Gulmarg have been extremely positive. People enjoyed the food as much as they enjoyed the ambiance. Part of the fascination is of course the igloo itself, for a lot of Indians it is a thing of textbooks, and overseas travel documentaries come to life. Because of that, even adults indulge in this fascination with childlike joy.
While the igloo café of Gulmarg as an individual unit is extremely amazing, where does it stand in the ecosystem of Kashmir tourism?Igloo Cafe & the Question of Kashmir Tourism
The Kashmir tourism industry is the lungs of the Kashmiri economy, and in the past few years, it has suffered hits after hits. The industry has been stagnant for a while, and the people employed by it are struggling to make ends meet. But that is the tip of the iceberg.
The political and communal tension in this region is as infamous as it is persistent. Devastating terror attacks, and controversial and bloody Government shutdown, have not helped the case. The lives and livelihood of Kashmiri people are still in the process of being pieced together. The media blackout and curfews imposed on Jammu and Kashmir made the state that thrived on tourism, a source of anxiety and fear. Tourism was practically shut.
And when the situation seemed to be moving towards some resolution, the pandemic hit. Now, Kashmiri tourism and economy were not the only ones stumbling. The impact of COVID-19 on the world economy is something we might never fully recover from, in our lifetimes.
So, even before COVID-19, in Kashmir, businesses have been shutting down, people have lost their jobs, and establishments have been unable to hire. And the fear and hesitation surrounding visiting Kashmir had been steadily increasing.
While this might seem like counting the chickens way before they hatch, but with the vaccine in the market, we as a society seem to be on the way to recovery from COVID-19. Kashmir and Kashmiri tourism too is in the process of healing and one such sign of healing is the Gulmarg igloo café.
To some, it might sound like an exaggeration, but what the igloo café represents is extremely important to us as a society. It represents the desire to evolve, to adapt, and find ways to survive. It represents the desire for the business associated with Kashmir Tourism, to move past the huge (and horrific) setbacks of the past years and actively start to build back the economy.
The igloo café of Gulmarg, as it pops up in our search result, signals that Kashmiri tourism is eager to reopen; to fit snugly in your travel diaries and your Instagram hashtags & to be part of your vlogs and your travel albums.
Tourism was one of the main ways that Kashmir connected with the world, it helped show that Kashmir is beyond all the tragedy associated with it. The igloo café is a small sign of its resilience and grit.Top 3 Must Visit Places in Gulmarg Kashmir
If you’re here while dreaming of a Kashmir trip or in the process of planning one here are a few things that you should do, and places you must visit while in Gulmarg, Kashmir.
- Alpather Lake: If you are visiting in summer this is one of the destinations you must visit. Situated at the foot of the Apharwat twin peaks, this lovely lake is a popular picnic spot.
- Gulmarg Gondola: It has one of the longest cable cars in Asia, and is an essential companion to the Skiing adventure you must undertake in Gulmarg.
- Gulmarg Biosphere Reserve: Sprawling across over 200 square kilometers this reserve is an absolute treat for nature and animal lovers. You will have guides take you around viewing spots, and guests have been lucky enough to spot rare animals like red foxes, bears, and musk deers.
For people interested in religious spots and architecture, the Maharani temple, and St. Mary’s Church are great places to visit.