All gondola rides start at one place and end at another but they are always full of surprises. When it comes to the aerial view of clouds, picturesque valleys, and the sunset, they offer an unmatchable experience. They promise enchanting views of the vistas along with loads of adventure and thrill. And most importantly, they save us from walking miles or driving through the mountains, while taking us through shorter routes over stunning locations. This 12-minute adventure ride at Skyview by Empyrean has not only reduced the carbon footprint of Sanget valley but also changed the face of tourism there. The ropeway takes people to new heights, above the breathtaking pine trees and the green lush meadows. It is one of the longest in Asia (2.8 kilometers on either side), put up by POMA, the world leader in ropeway. In terms of ground clearance, it is India’s highest gondola. The views around are amazing. For all this while, if you have been under the impression that Skyview Patnitop is just a ‘thing-to-do’ on the checklist of Jammu and Kashmir, you must brush away the amateur thought right away. This serene and picturesque location has lots to offer. And the latest addition of signature rooms & suites qualifies ‘Skyview by Empyrean‘ as a complete destination where one can not only holiday but also try out new things and make memories for a lifetime.
Skyview in Sanget-Patnitop not only stands synonymous with India’s highest ropeway but it is also a one-of-its-kind destination where adventure enthusiasts can indulge in a wide variety of soft adventure activities. Earlier people did not have much to do in Patnitop but with gondola rides, luxury stays, nature walks, food festivals, soft adventure activities, and shopping fests, in the last few years, it has been thriving as a weekend getaway. From being a highway stop to being the hub of adventure activities (ziplining, tubing, and magic carpet), the transformation has been amazing. Also, when it comes to sustainable tourism, the PPP model has been exemplary in making it a successful project. I had a great experience at Skyview By Empyrean. And in my view, it is different and unique in its approach to tourism and hospitality. Do read to know about my overall experience, the food festival, “Paradise on a Platter”, day picnic, and more.
How do you reach Skyview by Empyrean?
A one and a half hours journey through a flight from Delhi to Jammu, followed by a two hours road trip to Sanget valley is the quickest way to be there. Otherwise, it is always a great idea to do a road trip from Delhi and the surrounding states. If you are driving from Delhi, it will take 10 hours to reach Jammu by your vehicle inclusive of food breaks. You must keep 2 hours for the lovely drive from Jammu to Sanget Valley where Skyview is located. The lower terminal of the Skyview Gondola is nestled between Sanget and Patnitop and it is a perfect place to be lost in the lovely mountains as well as the countryside of the northern most state of India.
Do spare some time for a quick snack break for ‘Kulhad wali chai’ and ‘Paneer pakodas’. You have to try these out on the Jammu to Patnitop road.
The lounge is the first place where you are guided when you reach Skyview. This is where you are made to feel at home, almost immediately. The check-in process is smooth but what impresses is the warm hospitality that meets at the lounge. I loved the grandness of the place. It is decked up with local artifacts from Jammu and Kashmir. Don’t forget to look for some Paper Mache work. There is a small library on one side and a variety of seating arrangements. You are greeted with Kehwa, locals drinks to acquaint you with the homeland of aromatic saffron and delicious almonds. After a long day due to the delayed flight, Skyview Lounge offered the much-needed cozy vibes. I quite liked it.
High end luxury stays
From the lounge, I was guided to my room. A year ago, Skyview did not have stay arrangements but now it has some stunning rooms and suites. The accommodation may have come up late but it has been worth the wait. The warmth and artistic touch of the room reach the eyes and the heart. The moment I entered my room, I had a smile on my face. I love bright colours, wooden elements, artistic pictures, dressing area, spacious room and washroom, a touch of local art, and state-of-the-art amenities. My room had it all. The coziness of the room was contagious and the views from the windows and the balcony were unending.
Skyview has come up with 5 categories of rooms, giving different views. They are Gondola View Deluxe Rooms, Mountain View Premium Rooms, Mountain View Suite, Gondola View Premium Rooms and Gondala View Suite. Some of the rooms are dome shaped and they add to the uniqueness of this place.
Sustainable Tourism and Adventure go hand in hand at Skyview Patnitop
Within an hour of being there, I couldn’t wait to try the gondola ride. And I did it too. It was a superfun ride from Sanget to Patnitop. The curious travellers can also peep into the control room and learn about the technicalities. Do you know that Union Ministry has set certain sustainable and responsible tourism standards for travel destinations? Growth in tourism at the cost of environment is not a great idea and thus sustainability is extremely important. Skyview By Empyrean, Patnitop, is India’s first Sustainable Tourism Destination, certified by the Responsible Tourism Society of India (RTSOI). It also meets the responsible tourism standards set by the ministry and has been appreciated for all the sustainable eco-friendly tourism practices.
How has the carbon footprint reduced in this area? The gondola ride has reduced the time from Sanget to Patnitop to less than 15 mins which used to be a 45-60 mins road drive.
This is the only place that I know that offers zigzag ziplining, tubing, and magic carpet. The best part is that if you are staying here, you don’t have to go looking for things to do. They are right there outside your room. Adults and kids, both live to come for ziplining and other adventure activities. Tubing and magic carpet is for everyone and they are super fun. With ziplining, you need to be confident enough to be able to do a set of 10 zip lines in one go.
Jammu and Kashmir Food Festival
Local experiences are a must and Skyview by Empyrean never leaves an opportunity to offer something new to its visitors. During my visit, it had become a gastronomical haven. I had a chance to savor some great food. Last month, Skyview by Empyrean and Celebrity Masterchef Sanjay Raina, together had showcased a treasure trove of cuisine from J&K. This food festival was received very well as it gave a sensory experience of Wazwan, Kashmiri Pandit, and Dogra cuisine, highlighting the cultural moorings behind the cuisines of Jammu and Kashmir. The holidayers not only had an opportunity to relish Dogri, Jammu, and Kashmiri Pandit cuisines but also learn about the three cultures from the best. I couldn’t have asked for a better way of indulging in the rich cultural and gastronomic legacy of the state.
When it comes to the food of this beautiful state of India, there is still a lot to discover. Mr. Sanjay Raina is the person to go to for all the queries. He is truly the culinary ambassador of Kashmir. During the dinner sessions at Banana Leaf restaurant, I never missed an opportunity to learn from him. From Kaladhi to Kehwa to Kashimiri cuisine, we never missed our conversations over food. I am a vegetarian but there was enough for me. From Rajma Chawal to Nadru palak, to haak to daal to Kashmiri aloo dum, I was spoilt for choices.
Gateway to Patnitop, Nathatop and Sanasar Lake
Skyview is rightly called the gateway to Patnitop and beyond. When you are an in-house guest at Skyview, you not only have the luxury of indulging in numerous rides of the ropeway but can also seek help in planning a sightseeing itinerary for a day. In my experience, the locals always know it better. They can arrange vehicles, etc. Within the premises, don’t miss the bird watching session in the morning.
What are the things to do? There are local temples, valley views, and trendy cafes in Patnitop. But don’t spend the day here as there is more to see as you head towards Nathatop. In the summers, one must also take a trip to Sanasar Lake as well. This road trip promises exciting views. On the way, there are many spots where you can have lunch with your bunch.
Skyview had arranged a picnic camp for us and it turned out to be a super fun experience. I will share more about it in my follow up blog. Also, don’t forget to buy sweets from Kud (the town known for its best Patissas from the 97-year-old shop, Prem sweets). For the history lovers, there is more. You must also visit the Krimchi temples in Udhampur and recently inaugurated Chenani-Nashri Tunnel, also known as Patnitop Tunnel and Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee Tunnel.
I had a great trip and if you are charmed by valleys and the mountains and love quaint places, far away from the maddening crowd, this is the place to go. The views around and nearby are soothing to the eyes and soul.
Skyview by Empyrean is only 90 kilometers from Mata Vaishni Devi in Katra. Shuttle services are available from Katra! Do explore the option.
If you have visited Skyview by Empyrean, do share your experience in the comments below. And if not, you must add it to your list. Keep exploring new places and do follow my updates on Instagram and twitter!