Winter Treks Promise A Captivating Experience

From the snow-clad Himalayas in the north to the soothing sea coast in the south, a plethora of trek routes awaits hikers in India
View of the breathtaking Mount Kanchenjunga from Sandakphu
View of the breathtaking Mount Kanchenjunga from Sandakphu

India's varied topography has opened up trekking routes for all categories. From beginners to advanced trekkers, everyone is spoilt for choice when it comes to trekking in the country. Winter is the best time to trek in southern India, which is not biting cold like the north, and you can hike along hilly trails and the coast. Several routes in the Himalayas are also accessible during winter, subject to weather conditions and snow.

No matter which route you choose, it is advisable to do some advance planning and research on routes, appropriate gear if you are trekking along the Himalayas, camping details, arranging guides and porters. If you wish to travel solo, check with the local authorities if it is feasible. Beginners have the option to join tour groups. However, always remember to take assistance from government-approved agencies.

Winter treks are more challenging, but the snowy winterland promises stunning views. But, do check with the authorities if you want to trek in the north. Heavy snowfall may shut some routes. Here are some trekking routes you can choose from for a memorable experience.

Bedni Bugyal

Located in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand, this alpine meadow (bugyal), surrounded by high-altitude forests, is perched at a height of 11,004 feet. According to legend, this was where Krishnadwaipayan Vyas (Vedvyas) composed the Vedas.

This is a moderate to difficult trek and is on the way to Roopkund. There is a small lake within the meadow and a temple dedicated to goddess Kali. From here, you are likely to catch a panoramic view of several Himalayan snow peaks such as Trishul, Nandaghunti, Nilkanth, Choukhamba. You can camp here or stay in the trekkers huts or forest department lodges.

Reaching there: The trek starts from Lohajung, which is about 260 kms by road from Rishikesh.

Bedni Bugyal, an alpine meadow, is a perfect camping site for trekkers
Bedni Bugyal, an alpine meadow, is a perfect camping site for trekkersSchwiki/ Wikimedia Commons

Dayara Bugyal

Also located in Uttarakhand, this high-altitude meadow perched at almost 12,000 feet, is a favourite with those who like to go camping in the Himalayas. After reaching Dayara, you can see the majestic Greater Himalayan range. The snow-covered meadow is also drawing the attention of trained skiers. This is an easy to moderately difficult trek.

Reaching there: The trek starts from Raithal, about 185 kms from Dehradun. You can drive down to Raithal.

Sandakphu

The highest point in West Bengal, perched at 11,930 feet, Sandakphu hugs the Indo-Nepal border at this end of the country. You will pass through several hamlets on the way and you can take a break at Trekkers hut, a lodge in Singalila Forest. Homestays are available en route and in Sandakphu.

From Sandakphu, on a clear day, you will be able to catch a panoramic view of four of the world's five highest peaks --- Everest, Kanchenjunga, Makalu and Lhotse. A part of the trek route lies through the Singalila National Park, and so it is necessary to obtain permission from the forest department.

Reaching there: A motorable road runs right up to Sandakphu. Usually, trekkers start from Manebhanjan (about 25 kms from Darjeeling) and reach Sandakphu via Tumling and other villages. On the return journey, you can come via Srikhola and Rimbik from where you can take a bus back to Manebhanjan.

Harishchandragad

One of the best thing about this trek route in Maharashtra is that it can be approached through several routes, each of varying difficulty. Hence, depending on your physical strength and experience, you may choose the route suitable for you. According to veteran trekkers, the Paachnai route is the easiest while Nalichi Vaat is the most difficult. The more adventurous are known to camp at the Konkan Kada, a cliff with an overhang.

Reaching there: Paachnai, the starting point of the easy trek route, is about 200 kms by road from Mumbai.

A view of Harishchandragad from Konkan Kada
A view of Harishchandragad from Konkan Kadasolarisgirl/ Wikimedia Commons

Bekal Fort

This fort on the sea coast of Kerala is the starting point of a pleasant beach trek which is best undertaken in winter. Located on a hillock near Kasaragod, Bekal Fort is 400 years old. But you have to start early in the day because the sun can be very hot during the afternoon.

You can walk up to Kappil Beach, enjoy a break or two at the fishing villages en route. See the colourful boats and talk to the fisherfolk. Pallikara fishing village of Tharavadu is on the route and you can get an insight into the lives of the fishing community. You will also cross Bekal river and many crescent-shaped beaches --- serene and calm. The beautiful coconut and the casuarina trees provide a cool shelter for those who need to soak in the soothing ambience.  

Reaching there: Kasaragod, about 15 kms by road from Bekal, is the nearest transport hub.

Note It is always advisable to check with the state tourism offices and local people about the condition of the trek routes.

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