Suffering from winter wanderlust? Here's a look at 10 amazing cold-weather experiences in India that'll let you make the most of winter!
Perhaps it’s the shorter days, the colder temperatures or the need to get bundled up before leaving the house, but most people seem to prefer inactivity during winters.
Call us crazy, but we think winter is actually one of the best seasons for some dreamy yet epic adventures. Why? Because there are so many amazing cold-weather thrills that you can experience only in this season!
Here’s a look at 10 winter experiences in India are definitely the best way to make the most of colder months!
1. Food and Folk Dance at Mount Abu Winter Festival
Come winter, and India comes alive with an eclectic mix of traditional and modern festivals. Among the most vibrant of these winter festivals is the one celebrated in the sleepy little hill station of Mount Abu in Rajasthan — a three-day extravaganza that offers a unique way of experiencing the cultural vivacity of the destination and bonding with like-minded folks.
Grab some delicious local treats and enjoy the mesmerizing vision of hundreds of diyas set afloat in the serene Nakki Lake for Deepdan. Participate in fun spectacles such as boat races, tug-of-wars, cricket matches and more. Experience the magic of folk songs on a chilly winter night as you feast your eyes on the liveliness of Ghoomar, Dhap and Kalbelia dances in the backdrop of the mystical mountains.
2. Misty Mornings at Lambasingi
There are few more refreshing Andhra moments than boarding a bus in the heat-soaked plains and disembarking in the sharp pinch of a Lambasingi night or morning. This misty hill station, located at an altitude of 1025 meters above sea level in the Chintapalli region of Arakku Valley, has experienced winter snowfall in the past.
That’s right! The temperature does not go below 0° C every year, but when it does, Lambasingi sometimes gets an all-white snowy cover due to an odd geological cooling effect! In fact, Lambasingi is also known by another name, Korra Bayalu.
The little hamlet of Lambasingi, nestled in the beautiful and lushly forested the Eastern Ghats, is also home to an isolated tribal community and is known for its tasty organic coffee.
3. A Snowy Sojourn Through Sela Pass
A precious lifeline for the people of Arunachal Pradesh, Sela Pass is a high-altitude mountain pass that connects the rest of the country to Tawang — the land of breathtaking valleys, misty rivers and ancient monasteries. Besides its strategic importance, Sela Pass is also a place that offers truly breathtaking views of the eastern Himalayan range.
The rocky pass, which remains snowed in for most of the year, is also home to one of Arunachal’s most beautiful lakes, the Sela Lake, a watery wonder whose stark surroundings (majestically jagged mountains and piles of snow smoothened pebbles) bestows a sense of untouched beauty on every mortal lucky enough to visit it.
4. A Dip In The Hot Springs of Nubra Valley
A far-flung and starkly beautiful enclave cradled by rugged mountains and arid boulder fields, Nubra Valley is among the most stunning parts of Ladakh. A journey to this gorgeous region takes one across the Khardung La pass, ancient Buddhist monasteries, humble hamlets and patchwork fields of barley.
While the many wonders of Nubra Valley in winter are pretty well-known, few know that the valley is also home to two hot springs — Panamik and Chumathang. The therapeutic qualities of these naturally heated, mineral-rich thermal baths have drawn travellers for centuries and a dip in them is the perfect way to warm up your winter!
Village people often construct tank-like structures around these spring pools to create small enclosures where visitors and local residents can bathe in semi-privacy. Tucked away in mountain nooks, these unpretentious and simple tanks often afford dramatic views of towering mountains and gorgeous river valleys.
5. Star-gazing in the Great Rann of Kutch
Hauntingly beautiful. Two words that aptly describe the surreal and silent landscape of the Great Rann of Kutch, the largest salt marsh in the world. In winter, this endless white landscape — nestled in the heart of the Thar desert — is at its magical best while it hosts the three-month-long Rann Utsav.
A spectacularly colourful festival that allows you to sample local Kutchi culture, Rann Utsav (held at the hamlet of Dhordo, located 81 km from Bhuj) includes but is not restricted to, local handicrafts, traditional embroidered fabrics and folk performances.
What can make this experience even more special is a night spent lying on the pristine white sands as one gazes at prominent winter stars (such as Sirius, Orion, Taurus and Gemini) glowing brightly in the velvety sky. Also, remember to take a night ride up the Kala Dungar to witness the silvery moonlight lighting up the infinite white sands – a panorama that will remain etched in your memory forever.
6. Gawp at Spiti’s Frozen Waterfalls
A heady mix of austere barren mountains, unexpected bursts of green fields and deep gorges formed by fierce rivers, Spiti Valley is a wonderful playground for the more adventurous to explore. Most travellers have heard about its beautiful glacial lakes and snow-covered summits. But did you know that Spiti is also a great place to see massive 200-plus feet frozen waterfalls?
For instance, the Shela and Lingti waterfall. Located 13,000 feet above sea level, the Shela waterfall is formed by a tributary of the Spiti River passing through Kaza while the smaller Lingti waterfall is 180-feet high and formed due to an overflow from a small hydroelectric project in the Valley.
With temperatures swinging between minus 10 to minus 35 degrees Celsius during the colder months, both these waterfalls (and many others) freeze in winter. Interestingly, in 2016, two 31-year-old mountaineers, Abhijeet Singh and Pranav Rawat, filmed their extremely challenging climb on these frozen waterfalls for their documentary, The Fall.
7. Hot Chocolate and Ice Skating in Shimla
If you’re dreaming of a picture-postcard perfect hill station where you can celebrate the sights, sounds and spirit of the season, there’s no place like Shimla. The capital of Himachal has it all: colonial-era architecture, cloudy days with a sprinkle of sunshine, an iconic church that sits in the middle of a gorgeously lit up Mall Road, and a picturesque alpine backdrop on top of it all.
And when it snows, this storybook setting is transformed into a winter wonderland. When in town, be sure to try your hand at ice skating at the Skating Club of Shimla, India’s largest and only natural ice skating rink. Remember to attend Midnight Mass at the 150-year-old Christ Church and sip on some hot chocolate as you watch the snowflakes settle on the turrets of the Viceregal Lodge.
8. Cloud-kissed forest trails of Daringbadi
Called the Kashmir of Odisha, Daringbadi (in Khandmal district) is a bewitching place that beckons with its small-town charm and wealth of natural beauty. Perched at a height of 3500 feet above sea level, this little-known hill station is surrounded by lush coffee gardens, emerald valleys and primaeval forests that will remind you of Robert Frost’s beautiful lines, “The woods are lovely, dark and deep.”
In winter, Daringbadi is almost always blanketed in an ethereal white mist that swirls and moves with the wind. The verdant orchards around this tiny hamlet also get an enchanting sprinkling of wildflowers.
Furthermore, despite being a newbie as compared to the traditional coffee growing areas in India, Daringbadi grows some lovely coffee. Interestingly, Daringbadi’s forest-fringed location ensures that coffee expeditions of visitors frequently turn into jungle safaris!
9. Spotting the Elusive Snow Leopard at Leh
The enigmatic king of the mountains, the Snow Leopard’s smoky-grey dappled fur, piercing eyes and powerful strides are a magnificent sight to behold. The rocky outcrops and steep ravines of Hemis National Park in Ladakh are home to this almost mythical animal where, if you are lucky, you can spot it prowling for prey.
The most mysterious and elusive of big cats, snow leopards are called “the grey ghost of the mountains” by the hardy mountain people of the region. In winter, the chances of spotting this elusive mountain cat (which generally resides in the higher, snowy realms of the Himalayas) at lower altitudes are better.
So if you want to try and catch the glimpse of this majestic feline, you know where you should be this winter! Even if you don’t get lucky, there are few things as ethereal as a winter in Ladakh!
10. Skiing in Snowy Sikkim’s Yumthang Valley
If you have been to Auli, Manali and Gulmarg too many times, this winter, try visiting Sikkim’s gorgeous Yumthang Valley (also called the Valley of Flowers. One of India’s prettiest offbeat destinations, Yumthang is famous for its flower-filled meadows and has been developed as a skiing destination by the state tourism department in the recent years.
At an altitude of 11,000 feet, Yumthang offers fresh powdery snow, smooth slopes and skiing courses (offered by the Sikkim Amateur Mountaineering Association), making the experience feasible for both beginners and experts. Adventure junkies can also try their hand at snowboarding and mountain biking. Besides, the views from here — of lofty snow-clad peaks, alpine forests and quaint hamlets dotted with multi-hued prayer flags — are stunning.
And since its Christmas time, we decided to surprise you with two more!
11. The Jaw-Droppingly Beautiful Chadar Trek
With nothing around for miles except walls of ice almost 2,000 feet high around you and vast stretches of ice underfoot, the Chadar trek over Kashmir’s frozen River Zanskar (a tributary of river Indus) is a journey most arduous. But its unforgettable thrills and incredible beauty make up for it.
Used by locals to travel between Leh and Zanskar, the daunting trail provides an excellent opportunity to explore the ancient culture of the Zanskar region, which is a fascinating blend of Tibetan and Indian cultures. In addition to this, trekkers can also spot local wildlife such as blue sheep, snow leopard and ibex during their trip into the heart of Zanskar’s frozen wilderness.
You May Like: The 5-Minute Guide To Everything You Need To Know About The Chadar Trek
12. Surreal Sunrises and Organic Tea at Kolukkumalai
What could be better than sipping a hot cup of fragrant tea on a mist-shrouded mountain that boasts one of the highest organic tea plantations in the world? This is exactly what Kolukkumalai Tea Estate offers. At a height of 7900 ft above sea level, it is believed to be the highest organic tea plantation in the world — Kolukkumalai’s time-tested tea factory still sticks to the orthodox (handmade) methods of tea processing it has practised since the colonial era.
Wake up early to witness a surreal sunrise. After a stroll through the verdant tea gardens, pack a picnic lunch and head to a nearby viewpoint that offers a panoramic view of the beautiful Anayirangal dam (the name literally means ‘where the elephants come to play’) and high altitude shola forests. You can enjoy the breathtaking terrain of the region is by doing the tricky but terrific trek to Meeshapulimalai peak nearby.