Whenever I ask someone if they like winters, most answer me in the negative. And I think it is justified to some extent as the season, especially in North India, brings with it coldness, smog (not fog or mist) and sometimes strong and chilly winds. The sun seldom shines, and most of the times it does, it is shadowed by the light haze, which sometimes persists for many days. At least, this is what happens in Delhi. I have been patient up till now, letting winters pass as I lay curled up in a blanket or underneath layers of clothes, but no more. Enough is enough, I say. Let us get up and go out there  even in the season, when everything seems gloomy.

Contrary to our belief, winters, and specifically winters in India, are not a cause for that much worry. Compare the season in our country to some other places like the Baltic, Siberia and northern Canada, where nothing grows and temperatures of –40 degree Celsius are regular. Does any such thing happen here? No, right? Winters here are much more bearable, and we still cry about the season being too cold. And, what if it is cold?! We have thermals and woollens. So, let us put them on and head out so we can live life to the fullest, leaving the so-assumed dullness of the season behind.

Here is a description of what you could do and see in the country during the winter season.

Visit the Hill Stations of the North
India has no dearth of hill stations, and these are the kind of places I love the most. Nainital, Srinagar, Shimla, Dalhousie, Munsiyari, Manali, there are so many in the Himalayas. All these lie between elevations of 5000 feet and 10000 feet, making them ideal for a relaxed vacation. It snows in all these places, but not as much as it does higher up in the mountains. For me, this is the perfect altitude range to have fun and not be frozen by the cold. All these places have coniferous trees that are all covered with snow. I just love such sights; it is the quintessential mountain scene.

Manali Leh Highway during winters
Manali Leh Highway during winters

You could walk around the towns, admiring the vistas, and visit the popular places of interest there. Also, remember to try some local delicacies that would make your experience even better. If you go during Christmas, there may be some celebrations going on, especially on the Mall Road of Shimla, where the famous Christ Church is located. The Dal Lake in Srinagar is completely frozen during the season, resulting in an astonishing sight. Another such scene to admire would be of fresh snow, falling on the waters of Naini Lake as you take a walk on the quiet Thandi Sadak.

Go Trekking
Aah…trekking, a good way to explore mountains and be close to nature. Most consider trekking as a summer activity, and rightly so as the paths are clear then. But those, with an adventurous soul, can also try hiking in winters, when the landscape would be white with snow. There are numerous sites within the Himalayas, to where trekking tours are organised in the winter season. While no trek would be easy in winters, they all promise loads of thrill; is it not why we would trek in snowy conditions? For the challenge? Some of the places you could trek to in the Himalayas in winters are Naggar, Brahma Tal, Dalhousie, Kasol, Kheerganga, Tirthan Valley, Triund, Kedarkantha, Prashar Lake, Tungnath, Chandrashila, Kuari Pass and Indrahar Pass.

Winter trekking has its own charms
Winter trekking has its own charms

For those of you, who cannot summon the strength and courage to go trekking in snow, there are loads of hiking trails in the Western Ghats as well, where the cold will be nowhere as much as in the Himalayas. Even in the height of winters, the weather here remains cool and pleasant. The hills are not even as rugged as the Himalayas, making it is easier to hike here. So, if you are considering this option, you can go on a trekking tour to Mullayanagiri, Antaragange, Durga Hill, Ramanagara and Kodachadri.

Explore the Northeast
If you want to see primitive cultures and learn about warring peoples, then the north-eastern part of India is perfect as it is home to hordes of tribes. The summers here can be quite warm, and the rains are like a pestilence; hence, the winter season is perfect to come here. There is so much to see and do in the region that one trip will never be enough. Among the best things to do in the Northeast is taking a walk through the lush tea plantations of Assam and learning about the different types of teas produced in the state. A mystical place in Assam is the village of Mayong, where a large number of occultists, who claim to have spells to cure various diseases, live.

Sikkim during winters
Sikkim during winters

I’m personally planning to head to Meghalaya to explore astonishing caves, many of which have a river. But, what I’m most interested in is trekking to a Living Root Bridge that the locals make by letting the branches of rubber trees entwine around the trunks of betel nut trees. Nagaland is where I would be heading in order to meet the indigenous and eponymous Naga people, who have a rich warring culture. One great way would be to take trips to villages deep in the hills for a chance to stay with the tribesmen and get a first-hand look at their customs. If you don’t have that much time, then do attend the Hornbill Festival in December, where people from all Naga tribes display their dances, music, customs and food.

For those, who want to learn about the Buddhist faith, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim are the best places to visit in Northeast India. There are so many monasteries or gompas in these states like those in Tawang, Rumtek, Taktsang (different from the one in Bhutan), Urgelling, Bomdila, Pemayangtse and Phodang. Natural ponds like Sangetsar Lake in Arunachal Pradesh and Tsomgo Lake in Sikkim, and the town of Lachung in Arunachal Pradesh are also great destinations to explore in winters. The town, with snow-covered spruce trees, and typical mountain homes with sloping roofs, might remind you of a hamlet from a fairytale; it is that pretty!

Dare to go to Ladakh
Ladakh, the northernmost region of India, is arguably one of the best places for an adventure lover. Only the bravest venture there in winters as the season is characterised by heavy snowfall and freezing temperatures for 4-5 months at a stretch. Just reading about it gave me shivers, but I am determined to push myself to the limit, let me see what I’m made of. Though Ladakh is a summer destination, it is so famous around the world that it gets clogged with tourists during this time also. If you want a quiet retreat and desire to come face to face with its true magnificence, then winters are perfect for a visit.

Chadar Trek
Chadar Trek

The essential thing to do here during the season is the famous Chadar Trek on the frozen Zanskar River. It takes you past numerous frozen waterfalls and lets you spend a night in a cave.  You could either head to Naerak Pullu and head back to Chilling or go all the way to Lingshed, tracing the ancient route, taken by the locals of Lingshed to transport wooden logs to Leh, every year. There are so many monasteries here; many built on hills overlooking rivers. As the entire landscape would be covered in snow, the monasteries would look amazing, like something right out of Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth movies.  

Try Skiing
One reason, which is desperately making me wait for the arrival of winters, is so I can go skiing. I just love watching people come down snow-covered slopes on skis, twisting right and left. I had followed the recent Winter Olympics religiously and am now determined to do it at least once. I earlier thought that the sport is only tried in places like the Rockies and Alps, but to my pleasant surprise, the Himalayas have no dearth of ski resorts. There are so many I could pick from; Gulmarg, Kufri, Narkanda, Solang Valley and Auli. Another plus about trying skiing is that many ski tops are reached by cable cars, something I really want to ride. As all these are popular destinations, they are well connected to major cities and towns; therefore, reaching them is not a problem.

Auli Skiing
Auli Skiing

Go on Wildlife Safaris
The incredible geographical diversity of the country blesses it with an astonishing variety of animals. As the summers are quite warm and monsoons are a strict no-no for tourism in national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, winters give you the perfect chance to see India’s biodiversity. Head up North to see animals like Himalayan wolves, Tibetan wolves, black bears, Himalayan brown bears, Himalayan tahrs, bharal and yak. If you go to the Spiti Valley or Hemis National Park, then get a chance to spot the snow leopard, the Himalayas’ most celebrated predator. Peninsular India, on the other hand, is known for its wide distribution of tigers, ranging from Jim Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand all the way to Eravikulam National Park in Kerala, which is also home to the Nilgiri tahr.

Sunderbans
Sunderbans

Gir Forest in Gujarat, the only home of the majestic Asiatic lion, is another must visit. If you, by any chance, like snakes (like me), then I suggest you head to the forests of Agumbe in Karnataka. Winters are when migratory birds come to India, and the Rann of Kutch, Keoladeo National Park, Chilika Lake and Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary are the best places to see them.

With so much to do and see, winters will never seem boring to you again. I for one have always loved the season for this particular reason. So, wait no more. Welcome winters with a smile, and pack your bags for a wonderful time.

Nowadays, we hear people, especially youth, talking about travelling and exploring new places. But, what do most do? They go to places like Ladakh, Goa, Kasol and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, making these places somewhat of a tourist cliché. What I mean is that these places have become so popular that many people visit them and there is almost nothing new left to explore. Whatever there is in such places, the tourist guide books have in their pages. So, what are we really ‘exploring’ by going to places, where already so many have been.

I admit that I possess a certain bias towards north-eastern states of India; however, do not let that take away from the fact that Assam is a traveller’s paradise. Not me, but Assam’s umpteen qualities speak for itself. An entire day might not be enough to list all the reasons behind Assam being an incredible travel destination! Consider it a bold endeavour on my part to be trying to encompass the mesmerising charm of the state in a few words. From the vibrant culture to enchanting vistas, this state is an amalgamation of everything that a discerning globetrotter could ever want. Here I give you the top nine reasons that will make you visit this realm of beauty and magic as soon as possible.

The Himalayas is one wonder of nature that has intrigued us since time immemorial. Its high snow-clad mountains, rich flora and fauna, and scenic beauty have enchanted one and all. But in all this, we have somehow missed another wonderful aspect of it – its people. So, read on and find out more about the people living in the Himalayas, their history, faith, occupations and living conditions.

Know more about Trekking in the Himalayas

The Great Himalayan Story
The mighty Himalayas rise beyond the Indo-Gangetic plain of Northern India, extending through the Indian states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand to Northeast India, Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan. This entire range of the Himalayan Mountains serves as home to more than 50 million people, with another 450 million settled at the base of it. And this entire population flourishes on the resources that flow from the Himalayas.

Today, the Himalayan population can be classified into three ethnic types, namely Aryans, Mongoloids and Negroids. But the truth about its original inhabitants is still a point of debate. There is a belief that the first settlement in the Himalayas began in 1500 BC when a warrior tribe called Khasa migrated to its western range. This was followed by the migration of Tibeto-Burman people from Southeast Asia to the eastern and central Himalayas in the early part of the millennia. These people were called the Kiratas. However, if one takes into account the Hindu epics and Puranas, then it is deduced that the native inhabitants of the Himalayan region were the Kinnars, Kiratas, Kulinds and Kilinds, with later migration of the Darads and Khasas.

It’s been almost 8 years since I started maintaining a travel diary and probably turned myself into a more observing traveller from a happy-go-lucky leisure tourist. Ah! 8 Years; seems like as if it was only yesterday that I had been to Goa.

Honestly, all these years of travelling has made me realise exactly what went through Aldous Huxley’s mind when he wrote the lines – “To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.” In my case, it was more about leaving behind all my prejudices and learning about different cultures and people, which somehow my geography teacher in school never stressed upon, unfortunately. And thus, I consider myself lucky enough to have been able to visit quite a few states of the country, especially the 7 sister states of North-east India, with utmost curiosity.

My first tour to North-east India was to the land of proud Ahoms – Assam, and it was pure bliss; from relishing local delicacies and enjoying natural vistas to my interactions with some of the most wonderful people I have ever met. Here is my pick of the best travel experiences in northeast India.

Assam – Kaziranga Elephant Safari – A Ride to Remember
Being a nature lover, I chose to first visit Kaziranga National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This protected region, which lies in the Nagaon and Golaghat districts of Assam, was set up in 1908. It is not only home to a high density of great one-horned rhinoceroses and tigers, but also several species of birds. Drained by four rivers, including the mighty Brahmaputra, this National Park offers fantastic safari opportunities, across its 430 sq km area.

North-East is one of the most unexplored regions in India. When you visit the place you’ll be proud to say that it’s in India. It’s a small world full of surprises if you are ready to explore.The breathtaking views of mountains, the endless verdant, the magical waterfalls, the wild caves and the distinct culture of North-East India will leave you with an amazing travel experience.You will drool over the North-eastern cuisines as these  have a lot of  variety and are different from the rest of  India.

North-East India has everything for you. You name it and you get to explore your kind of place. I wanted to experience the wilderness of the Natural caves. The caves are the home to many bats and different species of insects. Despite being scared of insects I dared to explore the dark caves and it was one of the wildest experiences of my life. Tiny waterfalls flowing through the lime-stones and the never ending darkness with bats all around made for  one of the most memorable days of my trip!

The beautiful villages of North-East will take your breath away. Some of them have interesting facts about them with the beauty. Let’s explore the Scenic Villages of North-East India.

Ziro Valley, Arunachal Pradesh
The least known place in North-East India, Ziro Valley has pleasant climate throughout the year, so you backpack to this place any day you want. It is just 115 kms from the state capital Itanagar and will take you around 4 hours to reach. Ziro Valley, also known as Apatani Plateau is home to the Apatani Tribes. The green rice field patches make the place look stunning! The Taley wildlife sanctuary, Kile Pakho ridge and the Bamboo groves are worth a visit. If you are planning an offbeat and peaceful trip then this is the destination for you!

The Scenic Ziro Valley Image Credit- thehindu.com
The Scenic Ziro Valley Image Credits – thehindu.com

India is home to some of the most diverse landscapes from mountains, valleys to forests, deserts and beaches. This diversity in topography attracts people from all over the world in every season to experience India in her many colors. India boasts some of the most beautiful valleys like the extremely popular Nubra in Ladakh or the verdant Dibang Valley in the north-eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh. Come explore these with us.

  1. Nubra Valley, Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir
    Believed to be originally called Ldumra meaning the Valley of Flowers, Nubra is located to the north east of Ladakh Valley, approximately 150 kms from Leh. The meeting of Nubra and Shyok (tributary of Indus) Rivers forms a large valley, separating the Karakoram and Ladakh Ranges. This valley can be reached by travelling over the Khardung La from Leh. The average altitude of Nubra is roughly 10,000 feet above sea level.
    An array of colors at Nubra Valley
    An array of colors at Nubra Valley Image Credits: wikipedia.org

     

  2. Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh
    Located high in the north eastern part of Himachal Pradesh, Spiti Valley is situated between Tibet and India. It is a desert mountain valley and is one of the least populated regions of the country. It is a part of Lahaul and Spiti district and is home to similar Buddhist culture as found in Tibet and Ladakh. Kunzum La at 4,590 meters separates Lahaul from Spiti. The entire valley is surrounded by high mountain ranges. Heavy snowfalls cut off the valley from the rest of the country for almost 2-3 months from November to January every year.
    The ever-welcoming Spiti Valley
    The ever-welcoming Spiti Valley Image Credits: wikipedia.org

     

  3. Dzukou Valley, Nagaland
    Considered to be one of the most beautiful places in Nagaland, the Dzukou Valley is just ideal for easy to moderate trekking. Dzukou means Cold Water which comes from the cold streams of water that flow through the valley. It is known for its flora and fauna and particularly seasonal flowers like Dzukou Lily found only in this area. It sits at 8339 feet above sea level behind the Japfu Peak at the border between Manipur and Nagaland.

“Winter is coming,” is a phrase made popular by the characters of a widely popular TV series – except, in the series they say the words in fear, while we in India say them with cheer!

Winter, the time to get out and explore, to ski, sail and more!

Here is our pick of some of the most beautiful places to visit in India in the month of November – the official beginning of the winter season:

  1. Andaman (Andaman and Nicobar Islands) – The apotheosis of beauty, the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago is unlike any other place in India. This collection of 572 islands in the Bay of Bengal has so much to see and explore that any number of days you decide to spend here would seem too little.
    Natural Coral Bridge – Andaman
    Image Credits: https://www.facebook.com/anandkshitij/media_set

    You can choose from thrilling water-based activities like scuba diving and snorkeling, historical sites like the Cellular Jail, and also beautiful islands (Havelock, Neil, and Baratang) that boast of some of the most stunning beaches around. This cluster of islands is also home to the Onge and the Jarawa, tribes that are many centuries old but whose populations are dwindling.
    For trip details click Here