The Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa in Gulmarg: The best pick for king-sized Kashmiri luxe

If you like lavish mega getaways that involve large-scale pampering, then The Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa is the perfect choice for you.

When the TravelDine team was putting together our itinerary for Kashmir, a common refrain we heard was ‘You have to stay at The Khyber!’ So, we dutifully pencilled that into the plan. It’s a tough job to spend a night in a fabulous luxury resort in one of the most gorgeous parts of our country, but someone’s got to do it!

After a comfortable and extremely scenic two-hour drive from Srinagar, we reached Gulmarg. Having only been here in the monotone winter of November and January before, I was spellbound by the sight of the meadows filled with purple blooms and shining ponies. Fresh greens, the bluest of skies, and the crisp, clean air, made for a heady cocktail.

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Blooms on the Gulmarg highland. Image: Priya Pathiyan.

Making an entrance

A relaxed check-in done at The Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa’s sophisticated tea lounge called Chaikash was followed by a property walk through with Duty Manager Mohammed Rafi, who sang praises about the destination and the resort’s many charms. As we walked around, I realised that although I had anticipated it being big, I hadn’t expected that it would feature 85 rooms and cottages across a seven-acre space! The cleverly built hotel makes the best use of its brilliant location with 20 of its balcony rooms, all its restaurants, and a mammoth Paradeez Garden and amphitheatre at the base, facing the mountains and coniferous forests.

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The Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa fuses wood, slate, and its natural location to best advantage. Image: Priya Pathiyan.

With a view as stunning as that, you don’t need much more. And yet, you get it. The long and beautiful covered corridors clad in pine feature intricate décor, a wooden lattice here, an ornate copper samovar there, and, in between, unbelievably beautiful photographs of Indian birds. The quizzical look on the face of my politer-than-polite butler Firdous seemed to wonder if I ever wanted to get to my room. But I’m getting to that part. Eventually.

Room shenanigans

What’s spacious, luxurious, and was featured in the Masaba Masaba series’ S2 finale? My Luxury Balcony Room at The Khyber! When I entered, I recognised it as the same one I had just seen pictured as fashion designer Masaba Gupta’s. The one where she has a midnight visit from a certain hunky Fateh (Armaan Khera). Fortunately, I enjoyed an undisturbed night’s rest unlike her, in a bed high on the comfort quotient.

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My Luxury Balcony Room was roomy, comfortable, clean, and well-appointed. It also had plenty of plug points, a flat-screen TV, and unlimited wi-fi. Image: Priya Pathiyan.

In the room, I liked the contemporary styling and creature comforts combined with Kashmiri wood craft, embroidered textiles, Basoli miniatures art, and decorative dishes holding dry fruit and nuts as well as fresh fruit.

The extensive bath area featured a dressing space, twin vanities, a shower cubicle, as well as a roomy recessed bathtub with a wonderful view. The big draw though was definitely the balcony, with a comfy lounger and sofa and that same spectacular view to soak in. I only wish I had time to just lie here for a whole day, doing a mental time lapse of the clouds, the sun rising and setting, and the light changing.

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An inviting balcony that lets you enjoy the outdoors indoors. All it needs is a charging point for a laptop and it would be a great spot for a digital nomad to work from. But I enjoyed the unplugged version. Image: Priya Pathiyan.
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With a sumptuous in-room breakfast in the balcony like this, who will ever want to step out?! Images: Priya Pathiyan.

Let’s get started

The Khyber does have a lot to offer, including a dedicated Activities Concierge to help you choose and arrange from the array available…. summer treks, winter skiing, nine holes of golfing at the world’s highest course, picnics in the meadows, and more. Indoors, there’s the famous heated pool with a magnificent view (everyone who’s ever been to The Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa gushes about it as though they built it!), a state-of-the-art gym, and a top-of-the-line L’Occitane Spa. The therapy rooms and treatments here are at par with any I’ve experienced in the world’s best hotels.

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The heated pool overlooking the coniferous forest. Be thrilled or be warned, though (depending on your taste). Loud Bollywood music was playing in this area. Image: Priya Pathiyan.

A resort for all seasons

While it was 40-degree weather when I visited in end-June and the heated wet areas were not all that appealing, I can imagine how welcome they’d be when the mercury hits the single digits and below in winter. The same for the rooms, which are not air-conditioned, considering it’s usually AC weather here!

No matter the month and the high number of rooms, The Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa is busy in most seasons and full in many. The resort, with a retinue of 300 and boasting 10,000 square feet of meeting, banquet and events space, is also a popular choice for destination weddings (as we saw in Masaba Masaba S2) as well as high-end corporate off-sites.

The high life

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BBQ with a view? Yes, please! You can never get enough of Nouf. Image: Priya Pathiyan.

Nouf, which means ‘the highest point on a mountain’ in Arabic, is the name of their restaurant situated on an open-air deck. It may not be at the top of the resort, but a meal here will definitely be a high point of anyone’s stay. I enjoyed a cool barbecue evening with soulful music and some sensational tandoor-baked Himalayan trout watching the sunset painting the sky in a palette of pretty hues. The twilight brought such a sense of timeless eternity that I sat there as though bewitched until the diamond-studded black velvet replaced it.

Let’s take it slow

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From morning coffee with nature to evening sheesha with music, The Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa helps you find ways to slow your pace. Images: Priya Pathiyan.

Like this one, The Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa has a zillion opportunities for you to slow down. Ponder the meaning of life over a hubble-bubble at Calabash, their sheesha lounge in winter. Read a book or listen to music as you soak in your bathtub with a refreshing glass of wine (it’s BYOB at the hotel, though). Meditate among the roses in the terraced garden in spring and summer. Have them pack you a picnic hamper and head outdoors, be it a small hike into the hills to get closer to the birds of the Pir Panjal range, or simply to relax on the lawn, connecting with nature, your loved ones, or even just yourself.

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Picnics at The Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa aren’t just for kids. Bring a hamper, add some bubbly, soak in the sunshine, find some joy. Image: Yash Sinde.

At a glance

Address: The Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa, Gulmarg 193403, Kashmir, India | Website: Khyber Hotels | Getting there: It’s 65 kms or a 90-minute drive from Srinagar Airport | Area: Seven acres | Tariff: Starts fromRs 37, 375 per room per night and goes up depending on room category and meal plan, plus 18 per cent GST | Keys: 85 | Room categories: Six | Restaurants: Four | Cuisines: Pan-Indian, local, middle-eastern, western | Staff: 300 |

Amenities: Heated swimming pools for adults as well as a special one for kids, gym, The Khyber spa by L’Occitane, snooker room, table tennis, kids’ play area called Igloo, amphitheatre, handicraft shops. Close by: The Gulmarg Gondola (the world’s highest ski lift) is only minutes away from the porch of The Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa. Some of their rooms look out to the first tee of the world’s highest golf course.

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