So, you’ve travelled to Shimla and Mussorie and thought they were decent. Somebody recommended when the Rohtang Pass is pliable, and you went there too. It was nice. By now you’ve realized there’s a burgeoning wanderlust inside of you. And it worries you that you may meet the extent of your options when you make the Ladakh trip next month. Fret not, ye wanderer. We’re here to recommend you some little-known but better-for-it winter destinations that will quell your holiday desires these winters and then some:
Auli is hot. Despite all the snow, the almost-Alpine locale, it is hot- as a skiing destination. Sitting pretty in the midst of glorious Himalayan peaks, this Bugyal (Garhwali for meadows) comes alive to boisterous travellers and pure adrenaline every winters as it claims its spot atop the list of premier skiing destinations in Asia. Asia’s longest cable-car and one ski-lift and chair lift apiece take adventure-seekers to the top of the skiing slopes, as magnificent oak and deodar trees shield them from the chilly winds on their descent downhill. Even if you’re not one for adventure, there’s no way you should miss the wonderful dawn behind the Nanda Devi peak, the bright clear night sky and the surreal snowfalls that will make you feel like no other place in India.
2. Rann of Kutch-
Not your typical winter getaway, Rann of Kutch is a heady concoction of bleak nothingness, natural awe and cultural abundance. Vast and vastly obscured from the usual tourist, this glaring solitude of salty marshes is meditative in its sparing beauty and roars back to life from December to February when the Rann Utsav is in full swing. Host to long festivities of handicrafts, cultural performances, folk music and lip-smacking local food, don’t miss this if dipping in local culture under a chilly, clear night sky is your kind of fun.
3. Bir- Billing
Bir-Billing is a glowing winter destination India should have woken up to a long time ago. The Bir and Billing villages are like a pair of siblings who are unlike each other in every respect other than lineage. Bir is a quiet village, home to a large community of Tibetan refugees and several Buddhist monasteries. Multiple travellers have described their stay here as a religious experience. But we bet the real spiritual awakening begins when you travel 14 km north to Billing for a paragliding session. Cool winds rushing to meet you, a view of the gentle slopes of the Dhauladhar range below you, a clear sky above, and a bird’s eye view of the distant Himalayas jutting abruptly up- take a shot and let us know if it doesn’t make you a believer.
Rajasthan is a much-written-about victim of cliché. The Land of Maharajas, the Seat of Royalty, the history, the culture, the heritage- it is all that and more. And did we even need to be told that? Rajasthan is breathtaking in all its ‘lake palaces, great lofty royal halls, bright museums and barren deserts’ beauty. And if you ever needed a reason to travel to this must-must-definitely-for-sure-visit place, let it be this- the weather is a lot friendlier during the winters and walking barefoot on these old sandstone floors won’t burn you for a change. The state is host to some colourful, culturally-rich festivals during the winters including the Pushkar Mela, the Rajasthan International Folk Festival, among others. We recommend visiting Udaipur, and Jodhpur followed by Pushkar and Jaisalmer.
5. Nagaland and Shillong-
The gentle rolling hills of Shillong are a treat to the eyes. Not for nothing, the city’s British settlers thought these hills reminded them of Scotland, and thus it got its sobriquet, ‘Scotland of the East’. Shillong has greatly modernised since then, but it still retains some of the old-world charm with its love of overhauled cars & rock and roll and an idling pace of life. Visit the annually-organized Ziro Festival for an unflitered glimpse into its music and culture.
Nagaland has come a long way from its savage self, but you can still witness some of the erstwhile primal legacy in the way of life of the tribes. The exotic scenery, the lush valleys and serene hills, and culture is still pristine and unspoiled by most modern influences. Apart from the rich tribal culture and scenic beauty, the state as a rich culinary and music culture. The annual Hornbill Festival is one of the most-attended music, food and culture festivals of India and a certain visit if you’re in this part of the country.