Winter holds a special significance to people like us, staying near the tropical zone. In other countries, the expression, “a warm feeling ” is used to describe a feeling of love and happiness. It, essentially, is so because the language cropped up from a place where winter was of much distaste among the population as they experience it through most of the year, hence, summer or warmth is something which they quite welcome and hold close to their hearts.
For tropical beings like us, however, it is quite just the opposite, thus, even during winters, we can be seen craving for more of a bone chilling cold atmosphere. So put on your seatbelts for a virtual tour to almost certainly, here are the ten best winter holiday destinations in India.
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Situated in Uttarakhand, Munsiyari is fabled for the magnificent picturesque view that it gifts its travellers which include the sight of peaks like Panch Chuli, Nandakot, and Trisul. To make things better, the views can be enjoyed while relaxing yourself in the Madkot hot water springs, filled with natural minerals which rejuvenate each and every working cell of your body. Add to that the sights of Khaliya Top along with Thamri kund and you have the perfect mixture to satiate your desire for nail biting cold.
9. Jim Corbett National Park
What makes Jim Corbett a favourite of travelers, especially during the winters, is the fact that it is a National Park situated right at the foothills of the Shivaliks. It, in turn, serves as one of the most scenic and best routes for a road trip. Imagine moving into the mountains from the plains, that too from within a forest. Wait for it though, as this place offers some of the best frames for astrophotography enthusiasts, on a new moon night. Things get more interesting with the presence of the magnanimous Indian tiger. If you want your soul pierced with fright by the glancing green eyes of this fantastic beast, where else will you go to find them? The local Tourism Corporation along with the Forest Development and Protection authorities also provide safaris on the backs of elephants for the tourists.
8. Dharamshala & McLeodGanj
Famous for housing the Tibetan Government in exile, Dharamshala, over the years has turned into a mini Tibet. The first thing which catches the eye, as one enters this mountain hamlet, is the fact that it is lined up with a variety of shops selling trinkets belonging to the Buddhist culture, amalgamated with that of the Himachali culture as well. For people from Delhi, this place is a mini heaven since they can consume all the momos they want, that too, of a way better quality than they ever had there, even when selling them was considered a legal profession in the Capital. Furthermore, being able to visit the highest cricket ground in the world might definitely be a thing to check off from the bucket list of the nearly 0ne billion cricket fans of the country.
Much like its counterparts in Parvati Valley, McLeod Ganj reeks of psychedelia and spiritualism from each and every quaint little corner. It is definitely not a place to visit with the family and definitely a place to visit with your friends. It, however, is a delight to walk through the 1.5 km stretch of Kora Circuit, draped with prayer flags all around, and is quite a place of appeal for the people hooked into their phone screens and on social media like addicts.
For the ones who would rather live life and experience it by keeping away their mindless gadgets, McLeod Ganj serves as one of the best places in India for astrophotography, especially, during winters as the dust in the air settles closer to the ground and offers beautiful views of the night sky. A night under the stars serves as the best food for the soul when it needs healing. This place will definitely make you realise how petty your worries are compared to the grandeur and vastness of deep space. For further healing, resort to the fantastic treks and the amazing Yoga and Spa therapies offered by experts in the region.
If your favourite colour is green, just head to Munnar, it is most certainly a synonym. Being a part of the Western Ghats, it can be called one of its crown jewels. Being a hill station, Munnar offers its visitors quite the chill during winters. Add to that the fact that it is crammed with water bodies which offer spectacular sights of rare migratory birds, along with a variety of water sports, and you have the perfect setting in the South for a wonderful winter getaway. Additionally, the Tourism Development Corporation allows different types of boats to take the tourists out on to the water bodies as well, with an option to stay in a house boat overnight on the beautiful, famed backwaters. The place also takes you down memory lane with accommodations on tree houses at the Dream Catcher Plantation Resort.
Known as the rock capital of the mountains, along with an ever-growing hip-hop scene, Shillong is definitely music for the ears of a traveler. Having a good share of Catholics, the town is quite the scene during Christmas with lights and Christmas trees outside the numerous churches. Furthermore, music festivals such as the NH7 Weekender, during the last weekend of every October, sees crowds flock to this otherwise pleasant hamlet. Over the years, International musicians such as Steven Wilson, Megadeth and The Wailers have graced the lineup of NH7 and this October the event features the renowned guitarist Steve Vai.
Sandakphu is the highest point of West Bengal, situated at an altitude of 3,636 meters above sea level. During the winters, reaching Sandakphu turns into a four-day trek because of the snow which settles on the road, making travel by the otherwise preferred 4X4s an unviable option. If white is your favourite colour, think no more and head over to this “beyond the wall” experience right out of Game of Thrones without having the fear of being converted into a soldier in the army of the dead.
What makes the sceneries comparable to this is the fact that the whole landscape is covered with a blanket of white quite similar to the description given by the famous poet Khushwant Singh in his poem, “The Portrait of a Lady”. The scenery is complemented with a vast ocean of white clouds which can be seen right beneath one’s feet from the edge of any cliff, don’t step in though, out of curiosity, as it will surely suck you into a void. The Kanchendzonga massif (3rd highest mountain in the world and the highest in India) is clearly visible from Sandakphu on a clear day. Towards the north side of the meadows in Sandakphu, there’s a small hillock, from which peaks such as The Everest, Lhotse, Cho Oyu and Makalu (some of the famous 8000ers) are visible, with the help of a binocular, on a clear day.
4. Dalhousie & Khajjiar
Dalhousie is the example of a town having its architecture influenced by many cultures. Its architectural palate consists of different hues from cultures such as the Mughals and British having created the famous Rang Mahal and the European Catholics with the St. Francis Church. Furthermore, this town offers its tourists a variety of places to visit, within a distance of 20 odd kilometers. One of the famed places being Satdhara Falls on the Panchpula route which is renowned because of the apparent healing abilities in its magical waters. For trekkers, the place offers a short 5 kilometers trek to the lush green meadows of Ganji Pahari as well.
Khajjiar, most justifiably, is called the “Mini Switzerland of India”. It, undeniably, lives up to its name, as the view is much similar to that depicted in a postcard. What makes Khajjiar even more enthralling during the winters is that the slopes get covered with snow which is inches thick, serving to be the perfect condition for a spin on the skis. Khajjiar also has a beautiful lake on which boats can be seen offering rides to the tourists. The slopes, additionally, double out to be perfect for adventure activities and sports such as zorbing and paragliding.
Essentially, the party and psychedelia capital of the country, Goa is basically a real life version of “The Hangover”. Over the years, Electronic Dance Music Festivals such as the Sunburn, which take place every December here, have people flocking to this beachside town in large numbers, as they host international artists such as David Guetta, Major Lazer, Daft Punk and Steve Aoki to name a few. The line up changes every year, but be assured of the popularity of the artists performing here.
For the people who like it away from the crowd, the southern parts offer hamlets of peace through desolate beaches which travellers need to look for on their own as it is littered with literally dozens of them. The wonderful cuisines, having touches of Portuguese origin, are enjoyed by travellers throughout the world, along with one of the cheapest rates of alcohol in the country, since Goa is a Union Territory. The beach shacks offer the same with further facilities of accommodations, which are quite reasonable in some cases. Water adventure sports such as paragliding, snorkeling, scuba diving and water jet skiing are some of the other activities enjoyed by tourists here.
2. Havelock Island
Moving away from the mainland, India’s island groups are an escape from the mundanity of everyday life. The white sands with crystal clear sky blue waters of islands such as Havelock, in the Andamans and Nicobars, are a real heart throb for travel enthusiasts, however, what makes this place the one for you is the bioluminescent phytoplanktons, without the jargon, which translates to algae that glow on the beach after dark, best enjoyed on a new moon night. If you want your own Life of Pi experience, head to this soul fulfilling masterpiece. McLeod Ganj, as mentioned, is one of the best places for astrophotography, but what probably makes Havelock the 2nd best (position being reserved for Hanle, Leh) place in India to stargaze from is the view at night in which the glowing phytoplanktons merge into the waters.
The heavens form their own intricate art with a gazillion, if that is even a number, stars being visible to the eye on a clear night sky with no moon and lots of wind. The cherry on the icing is the fact that the water, essentially, reflects the creator’s intricate art and thus, along with the planktons, creates one of the most surreal sights that life can ever offer an individual. Put on your earphones, put your phone on airplane mode, switch on the album called Endless River by Pink Floyd and fly away into the vastness and depth of the ambiance. The island group is also one of the best places to scuba dive and enjoy water sports.
Famous not only because of the never-ending conquest between two countries but also for the unreal beauty that it offers, Kashmir is considered to be the most beautiful of all places in the Indian Subcontinent. The valley, along with that of Ladakh, serves to be one of the most picturesque places on the subcontinent with sights and activities such as the helicopter ride to Amarnath, skiing on the slopes of Gulmarg and Sonmarg by going up on a ropeway cable carriage, soaking in the soul crushing beauty of sights such as Pahalgam, going for a shikhara ride under the golden or rose red skies of the captivating Dal Lake, and last but definitely not the least and perhaps the most rewarding out of them all, the milky way out of the lenses of your DSLR from magical paradises such as the Pangong Lake and the Hanle Space Observatory (The only Indian Astronomical Observatory) having a state of the art 50-cm photometry telescope set up in association with the Macdonell Centre Washington University, St. Louis, USA.
Perhaps Kashmir is justifiably the most sought after piece of land on Earth. It is said that the name Pehalgam literally means, “pehala gaon”, which translates to “first village” in English. The story goes that the Creator wanted to create the first village on Earth exactly in the way that heaven actually looked, and hence, he created Pahalgam or Pehalgaon as the mirror image of heaven.
Folklores, Stories, experiences, memories and all the other beautiful things which come along with travelling to the mentioned places are things which probably are the most unique out of anywhere in the world. It is highly advisable to fellow travellers from India and across the world to give in to the wanderlust of the soul and come to the “Incredible” thing, that is “India”, especially, for a winter joy ride that probably can’t be experienced all at once, anywhere else.