Hot air balloon rides take flight in Kashmir to attract adventure tourists
Gulmarg (J-K), Feb.4 : The tourism department in Jammu and Kashmir and the Indian Institute of Ski and Mountaineering (IISM) have introduced hot air balloon rides to promote adventure tourism in the valley.
The efforts of IISM has yielded the desired result and Gulmarg has become one of the most popular ski destinations in South Asia.
According to historians, the ancient name of Gulmarg was "Gaurimarg", the name of Lord Shiva's wife.
Later, King Yousuf Shah Chak changed its name to Gulmarg, which implied 'the place of roses'.
The hill resort of Gulmarg has been summer retreat for the kings, including Yousuf Shah Chak and Mughal Emperor Jahangir.
The director of the Department of Tourism, Jammu and Kashmir, Talat Parvez, said that it would attract large number of tourists who would get an opportunity to enjoy the panoramic view of Gulmarg.
"In a bid to add new dimension to adventure tourism, we have started hot air ballooning. The successful demonstration took place and we are using it on a safety mode and it has been properly anchored. The pilot hails from Rajasthan and is well trained. The tourists by sitting in the hot air balloon will get to witness a panoramic view of Gulmarg from the sky. We hope that this becomes a regular feature for Gulmarg so that tourists who come for entertainment and who come to see snow should get an opportunity to see the snow covered valley. We are expecting large number of tourists," said Parvez.
Parvez said that the pilot of the balloon, who hails from Rajasthan, is well trained and experienced.
The operator, Rohit Bishwa, said that it is a safe adventure sport.
"It is the safest adventure and it is a sport which will attract all the tourists. The institute which has introduced this thing and the best part is that the tourists who visit Gulmarg will get to witness the beauty of Gulmarg from heights," said Bishwa.
Gulmarg, a popular snow sports hub attracts large number of domestic as well as tourists from western countries.
A tourist, Shakhti Singh, said that it was a great experience and Gulmarg was the best place for hot air ballooning.
"It was a great experience and the best part was that I enjoyed the view of Gulmarg from above. I think that the tourists will enjoy and this is the best place for hot air ballooning. I have come for the first time and I think that it is a good sport," said Singh.
Gulmarg, a meadow of flowers, is surrounded by forested hills and meadows, snow-capped peaks and deep valleys have made it a popular filming location for many Bollywood movies.
Another popular tourist destination, Baba Reshi Shrine, which is named after the renowned Muslim scholar and saint Baba Reshi, is situated at a distance of five kilometres from Gulmarg.
Gondola ride, which covers an aerial distance of five kilometres, connecting Gulmarg with Kangdoor in the first phase, and with Apharwat, in the second phase is popular among the tourists.
Gulmarg has been attracting more skiers from the west since the resort's cable car was extended in 2005, usually those of a more adventurous breed as the resort is in a militarised zone close to the disputed border with Pakistan.