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Dining in an igloo in Gulmarg

As domestic travel slowly picks up, a hotel in Kashmir opened an igloo cafe to welcome tourists

Tourists at the Igloo Cafe located in a ski resort in Gulmarg, Kashmir, January 28, 2021. REUTERS/Sanna Irshad Mattoo

In the wake of the Covid-19 vaccine roll-out, tourism is limping back to normalcy in India. Hotels and resorts in tourist destinations have adapted to the pandemic by not only putting safety measures in place, but also offering unconventional experiences to guests. While Goa seemed to be the most preferred destination for New Year revellers, this is the season for adventure seekers to make their way to the mountains. In keeping with the times, Kolahoi Green Heights hotel, a ski resort in Gulmarg, opened an igloo cafe last week. Their radical take on a cafe made headlines as domestic travel picks up.

The cafe, shaped like an igloo, has space for a small group of about 16 guests. The tables and seats are built with hard ice and covered with thick rugs. The space, about 15 feet in height with a diameter of 26 feet, is not too large. Perhaps it is a measure to restrict crowds. The all-white curved walls are carved with patterns to add an element of decor.

Kolahou Green Heights Hotel has properties in key tourist destinations of Kashmir such as Srinagar, Pahalgam and Gulmarg. It is peak ski season in Gulmarg and crowds are milling about on the bunny slopes. Towards the end of February, the snow will begin to melt and the tourists will dry out. The opening of the cafe has been timed to welcome tourists.

Tourism in Kashmir has been fraught with troubles before the pandemic began. In 2019, the abrogation of Article 370 caused an extended political upheaval which dissuaded tourists from visiting the state. But, now things seem to be looking up as the locals are enthused to revive the economy via the tourism route.

Hamid Masoodi, General Manager Kolahoi Green Heights Hotel, Gulmarg was quoted by ANI as saying that an igloo cafe might seem like a new concept in India, but they are popular in Arctic regions. “We have also claimed it in the Limca Book of Records,” he informed and added that they want to serve guests in a unique way driven by the idea of doing something dramatic. He said, “The Igloo cafe has become a selfie point in Gulmarg.”

The Igloo Cafe in Kashmir is not the first of its kind. An ice bar named 21 Fahrenheit Ice Lounge, which seemed like a high-tech igloo, had opened in suburban Mumbai just as the city was emerging from a global recession in 2009. While the novel concept drew in crowds at first, there were few return visitors and its days were numbered. Although Gulmarg’s Igloo Cafe has cashed in on the curiosity factor, one wonders whether it will survive beyond the pandemic.

With inputs from Reuters and ANI.

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