Kashmir is a gem. Clear blue water bodies and Leafless trees set against the backdrop of snow-capped mountains, Kashmir was exceeding my already high expectations.
The Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa by L’Occitane is one of the most luxurious properties in Gulmarg and took a massive seven years to complete. It is constructed from wooden logs and forest green roofs that were white with snow when I reached there.
The hotel is in the form of a semicircle that overlooks the Apharwat range on one side and the town of Gulmarg and forests on the other. I chose my view and settled for the popular choice of mountain-view rooms.
The room had a beautiful touch of Kashmir; there was handmade furniture carved from locally sourced wood, a Kashmiri silk carpet and bedding with traditional Kashmiri embroidery. My room remained warm and comfortable, despite the cold outside. The balcony, of course, had a mystical view of the snow-covered mountains.
Clove, the dining area of the hotel has a range of different cuisines like Chinese, Lebanese and of course Indian. It also includes Wazwan, local Kashmiri cuisine usually cooked at feasts and weddings. While Wazwan is predominantly mutton-based, there are some options of vegetarian dishes available too.
Another dining area is Nouf, which is out in the open, overlooking the mountains. Having a meal at Nouf is a unique experience and you must have at least one lunch here.
Chaikash is a great place to spend evenings; I tried ‘kahwa’ which is a special preparation of green tea with saffron, cinnamon bark and sometimes Kashmiri roses. It was delicious and heartening. Even if you aren’t a green tea fanatic, you should give kahwa a try. There is honey and plenty of aromatics and thus tastes different from the conventional boiled tea we are used to.
The heated indoor swimming pool was relaxing, and it is a nice way to spend time at the hotel.
Another thing I did here was visit the gym. Along with being well-equipped, it had floor length glass panels. A workout with the view of the mountains was truly refreshing.
There is also a spa which combines traditional techniques of different parts of the world with L’Occitane products. I tried their ‘Signature lemon balm body massage’ and ‘Almond firming paste scrub’-both of them were fantastic.
The Gulmarg Gondola was incredibly close to the hotel as well.
All in all, Khyber Himalayan Resort And Spa did meet my expectations. The beautiful surroundings were well imbibed into the resort, and there were hints of Kashmir in every nook and corner.