‘World’s Largest’ Igloo Cafe Draws Visitors in Kashmir

GULMARG, INDIA — For a unique dining experience, travelers will want to visit the world’s largest igloo cafe in Jammu and Kashmir. But they had better hurry, because the 40-seat cafe is expected to melt away sometime next month.

Owned and operated by the hotel Kolahoi Green Heights, the Snoglu Cafe sits at an altitude of 2,500 meters in the Himalayan ski resort of Gulmarg, 50 kilometers southwest of Srinagar.  Its creator, Syed Wasim Shah, says he was inspired by an igloo village that he saw during a visit to Zermatt, Switzerland, a couple of years ago.

With a height of 11.43 meters and a diameter of 13.56 meters, the ice-and-snow structure is easily larger than that listed by the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest of its kind. That one, located in Switzerland, is 10.5 meters tall, with an internal diameter of 12.9 meters. 

“We have already written to Guinness Book of World Records to certify our record and they will do it in due course of time,” Shah told VOA. 

The cafe has two sections — one for seating where it serves coffee, chocolate and snacks, and the other for artwork. 

“It took us 64 days, precisely 1,700 man-days to complete: We started on the 3rd December and completed on the 4th of February,” Shah said. “We employed all locals to construct it and the snow art was all done by me.” 

The cafe has become an instant hit with visitors, attracting overflow crowds from among visitors to the ski resort. “We are catering to 300 to 400 guests every day,” Shah said. “The numbers could have been much higher, but we charge INR 200 (about 3 USD) for entry to control the flow of people visiting us.”

One of those customers was Dr. Vaishnavi, a first-time visitor to Kashmir from the eastern Indian state of Orissa, who dined with her husband, Dr. Indrajeetm.

Vaishnavi told VOA that she was attracted by the unique concept and impressed by the ambience of the Snoglu Cafe, where guests remain wrapped in their winter woolens and sit on sheepskin seat cushions for warmth.

Hamid Masoodi, general manager of the Hotel Kolahoi Green Heights, says this is the second year that the hotel has maintained an igloo cafe, which is only possible during the winter season from early December until about the middle of March.

“We had built one last year with a capacity of 16 people inside the cafe,” he said. During a full season with the larger igloo dimensions, he estimates the cafe could serve almost 20,000 guests.

Shah, meanwhile, has even more ambitious plans for next year.

“As for our future plans regarding the Snoglu we would create a full-fledged igloo village next year where we would offer sleeping facilities also, apart from our signature Snoglu Cafe,” he said. 

Hibha Bhat contributed to the report.  

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