Winter holidays are the best time to cosy up and relax. Winter is also the best time to have a fun-filled holiday in a tropical country like India. What better way to feel the chill than to visit a beautiful snow laden mountain peak? Here are some of the country’s best winter retreats for the adventure lovers and also for those looking to relax with a hot cuppa in an icy heaven. The upside to visit these places in the winter is less crowds and lower prices. Get in touch with international group tour packages and get going!
Sonamarg and the Thajiwas Glacier, Jammu and Kashmir
About three hours from Srinagar in Kashmir is Sonmarg, the hill station from where one can see the great Himalayan glaciers and mountains: the Kolhoi Glacier, the Machoi Glacier, the Sirbal Peak, the Kolhoi Peak, the Amarnath Peak and the Machoi Peak. Sonmarg was once a gateway along the ancient silk route along with Gilgit connecting Kashmir with Tibet. The nearby Zoji La Pass is still a base camp for the India Army that protects Ladakh.
Sonamarg is also the base for going up the Thajiwas Glacier which offers an amazing trekking adventure. With some breath-taking views of the surrounding mountains, lush green valleys and meadows and the frozen lake along the way, the Thajiwas glacier, which is about 3000 meter above sea level, is said to be covered in snow throughout the year but the best time is in the winter.
Manali, Himachal Pradesh
Manali is one of the most popular summer destinations but winters are awesome too! Between the majestic Pir Panjal and the Dhauladha ranges of mountains lies this breathtakingly beautiful heaven on earth. Lust green meadows with flowers of all colours, amazing views of the mountains around, green forests and a misty atmosphere, Manali retains its serenity despite the tourists that throng this place throughout the year. The place is filled with guided city tour delights such as temples, museums, quaint little shops that sell trinkets, trekking trails and river adventures. The nearby Solang Valley is popular for skiing and paragliding as well as zorbing, mountain biking and horse-riding while the Rohtang Pass is a haven for photography enthusiasts looking to capture the brilliance of nature for eternity.
The nearest airport from Manali is Bhuntar, about 50 kilometers away. Manali can also be reached from Leh, Shimla, Dharamshala, Kulu and New Delhi via state-run as well as private buses.
Dalhousie, Himachal Pradesh
Dalhousie is a quaint little hill station in the Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh. Named after Lord Dalhousie, the British Governor-General, this town has a rich colonial past as it was a favourite summer retreat for the British. Some of the best places to visit in and around Dalhousie are: Khajjiar Lake, Kalatop Wildlife Reserve, Daikund Peak, Ganji Pahari, St. Francis Church, Panchpula, Chamera Lake, Garam Sadak, and the Sach Pass.
The nearest railway station to Dalhousie is Pathankot, which is about 80 kilometers away, and then reach Dalhousie either by bus or by taxi.
Shimla, Himachal Pradesh
The capital or Himachal Pradesh and the biggest town in the state, Shimla hasn’t failed to retain its charm despite being the summer favourite for several decades. Well-planned and clean, Shimla is a traveller’s dream with the cool weather, the amazing views of the mountains and valleys, the colonial architecture and the shopping areas. The best places to visit in Shimla are the Mall Road, the Jakhu temple, the Ridge, Christ church, Rashtrapathi Niwas, Kali Bari Temple, and Scandal Point. Kufri, Chail, Mashobra, Narkanda, Tattapani, Kasauli, Solan, Manali, Shojha, Parwanoo, Shoghi, Nahan, Tirthan valley, Mcleodganj and Chandigarh can all be reached from Shimla.
Auli is one of the few skiing destinations in India. With its pristine peaks and glittering slopes Auli has numerous skiing and trekking resorts. Beautiful apple orchards, dense oak forests and pine trees dot the landscape vying for attention with the majestic Himalayan snow-covered peaks. Located 2800 meters above sea level, Auli is home to the mountain ranges of Nanda Devi, Kamat Kamet and Mana Parvat ranges. Auli can be reached from Dehradun, which is the nearest airport about 300 kilometers away. The nearest railway station is in Rishikesh, about 235 kilometers away. There are regular buses plying from Delhi, Dehradun, Haridwar, and Rishikesh to Joshimath, which is 16 kilometers away from Auli.
Chopta is a part of the Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary in Uttrakhand state. It offers an imposing view of the Himalayan mountains such as the Trishul, Chaukhamba and Nanda Devi. One can reach Chopta from Rishikesh via Rudraprayag. The Chopta-Tungnath-Chandrashila trekking route is one of the most scenic with views of snow covered mountains and lush green grasslands. This is one of the best places to visit for a weekend.
Binsar is a small hamlet located amongst the Kumaon Himalayan mountains. Once a summer capital of the Chand Kings that ruled between 7th and 18th centuries, Binsar is about 95 kilometers from Nainital. The Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary is home to many rare birds, animals and wild flowers. Despite the chill, the meadows are green and fresh all around and one can spot wild flowers growing from every nook and corner of the hillsides. The Jageshwar temple is considered one of the twelve Jyothirlingas.
Mukteshwar is most popular for the ancient 350-year-old Mukteshwar Dham temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. The 360-degree view of the Himalayan range from atop this 2200-feet high mountain is unmatched. Mukteshwar is about 46 kilometres from Nainital which takes about 1.5 hours.
Leh is a popular summer destination but winters in Leh are just magical! With the surrounding mountains covered in snow and the lakes are frozen. This is the time of the Chadar Trek, one of the most challenging treks in India, which involves the crossing of the frozen Zanskar River in Ladakh.
Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir
Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, is as pretty as a picture. Lying on the banks of the river Jhelum, Srinagar sees an influx of tourists throughout the year yet never loses its beauty or its freshness. The Dal Lake, a beautiful lake reflecting the mighty mountains around, is the main attraction in Srinagar. There are small boats on the Dal Lake known as Shikaras which take group tour operators for a ride around while one can spend a night in the houseboats and wake up to a spectacular sunrise. Other places to visit in and around Srinagar are the Mughal Gardens, Shalimar Bagh, Nishat Bagh, Char Chinar, Badamwari Garden, Shankaracharya Hill, Indira Gandhi Tulip Garden,Yousmarg, Sonamarg, Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Botanical Gardens, Chashme Shahi Gardens, Doodhpathri and the Dachigam Wildlife Sanctuary.
Nainital, or the Lake District of India, is another jewel of Uttrakhand state. Nestled among the Kumaon Hills, this beautiful town is built around a uniquely shaped lake, thus giving it’s name, Naini Tal (tal means lake). Located about 2000 meters above sea level, Nainital has not just amazing views but also adventure activities such as paddle boating, rope climbing, row boating on the various lakes around, paragliding, trekking, camping, and shopping.
Places of interest around Nainital are Ghorakhal, Naukuchiatal, Kaichi Dham, Mukteshwar, Sattal, Bhimtal, Bhowali, Kilbury, Dorothy Seat & Tiffin Top and Naina Peak or China Peak.
The nearest railway station is Kathgodha, about 34 kilometers away.
Nagoa Beach, Diu
Located in the Nagoa hamlet of Bucharwada village, the Nagoa beach is 2 kilometers of serenity. The pristine beach with its swaying palm trees are the best way to relax and laze around in any of the various resorts along the beach. If you feel more adventurous, try water skiing, parasailing, speed boating, jet skiing, desert biking, hot air ballooning, scuba diving, surfing or sailing. The Nagao Beach is just 8 kilometers from Diu bus stand. Also check out the Ghoghla Beach which is less crowded and more serene.
Winter is the best time to visit Goa as the temperatures are more pleasant at about 15-20 degrees centigrade. The sun-kissed beaches are the best part of Goa and one can try out various water sports such as wind surfing, white water rafting, scuba diving, river cruising, dolphin spotting, kayaking, wakeboarding, and paddle boarding.
Havelock Island is the largest among the Andaman Islands. One cannot get enough of the white sandy beaches, lush green forests and rich coral reefs here. Popular for activities such as snorkelling, scuba diving, surfing, water sports, swimming, game fishing, elephant rides, trekking, sailing and kayaking.
Some of the best beaches here are the Radhanagar beach, the Vijaynagar Beach, the Elephant Beach and the Kalapather Beach. The best way to reach Havelock Island is by the Catamaran ferry from Port Blair.
Rann of Kutch, Gujarat
The Rann of Kutch is a large area of salt marshes in the Thar Desert of Gujarat. Known for its handicrafts, the exquisite embroidery, the colourful bandhini sarees, traditional mirror work ornaments and folk textiles add vibrant colour to the white desert sands. The Rann Utsav, held between November and February every year, is the best time to visit Rann as the place comes alive with activities such as Camel Cart excursions, ATV rides, paramotring, yoga, Gujrathi dances and music. Places to visit around Rann are: the Narayan Sarovar Sanctuary, the Kutch Desert Wildlife Sanctuary, the Marine National Park, Mandvi, Kandla Port, Bhadreshwar Jain Temple, and the Kala Dungar.
Udaipur and Jaisalmer, Rajasthan
Known as honeymooner’s paradise, Udaipur is one of the most romantic places in the country and there’s no better time to visit this mesmerising place than winter. The place is filled with palaces and gardens that take one to a different time period altogether. It lets you take a peak into history and you can take a piece of it back home in the form of memoirs because Udaipur is also a shopper’s haven. Things to see and places to visit in Udaipur are: the City Palace complex, boat rides on Lake Pichola, Lake Palace, Bagore ki Haveli, Jagadish Temple, and the Monsoon palace. Spend the evenings walking along the narrow streets of the old town where you will uncover many more mysteries. Unique art such as hand painting with a single bristle brush are just some of the things you may stumble upon once you enter the old city.
December-January is the best part to experiential travel to the desert safari in Jaisalmer. The vast expanse of the golden desert will mesmerise you enough to get onto a camel and explore more of it. Camp out in the open with food and drinks at the Prince Sam Dunes and enjoy what you have been missing out in the city- a star-filled sky! The Sonar Quilla, one of the largest forts in the world in the midst of the Thar Desertis not to be missed and so is a visit to the Merasi Music School that will enthral you with hypnotic vocals and desert music. Another place to visit in Jaisalmer is the Gadisagar Lake and the haunted city of Kuldhara.