For many Indians, the winter season brings a longing for something magical—snow. While the Himalayas are the undisputed champions of snowy landscapes, there are several other gems across the country where you can witness this enchanting wonder. So, if you're dreaming of building snowmen, throwing snowballs, and creating memories that will last a lifetime, pack your bags and head to one of these snow-laden destinations.
Once you’re in Jammu and Kashmir, you’re in a picture-postcard territory. Beautiful hillsides forested with tall pine trees, green meadows, and stunning valleys add to the allure of this destination, which is a delight even as the snow begins to set on its vibrant lands.
At the heart of these scenic delights is Pahalgam, a hill station in the Anantnag district where the Lidder River flows in all its glory. A short trip from this town is the picturesque Baisaran Valley, dubbed the 'Mini Switzerland of India.' Situated amid dense pine forests, this meadow, flanked by snowy peaks, is the gateway to nature and serves as a campsite for trekkers going to Tulian Lake.
The best way to head to this meadow is via pony or a hike, where you can take in the melange of colours on the backdrop of the stunning white Pir Panjal range. In winter, this snow-covered valley offers activities like sledging, sliding, and skiing. Close to the meadow, food joints serve piping hot 'kahwa,' the quintessential Kashmiri beverage, as well as snacks.
How To Reach: Baisaran Valley is 4km from Pahalgam. Pahalgam can be accessed via road; the nearest railway station is Jammu Tawi railway station, and the nearest airport is Sheikh-ul-Alam airport, also known as Srinagar Airport.
What To See: On your way to Baisaran, which starts at Pahalgam and takes an hour on foot or horseback, make sure to stop at Pahalgam Old Village, Kashmir Valley Point, Dabyan, and Deon Valley Point to witness the majestic Lidder Valley and get a bird’s eye view of Pahalgam town.
Stay Options: Baisaran Valley has no accommodations. Travellers can stay in various hotels, homestays, and guesthouses in Pahalgam, which can be booked online.
Important Note: Baisaran can only be accessed on foot or on horseback. There are no car/cab services to the valley.
Once the domain of seasoned trekkers, Sandakphu, the highest peak in West Bengal, is quickly gaining prominence among avid travellers. Situated at the edge of Singalila National Park, close to the Indo-Nepal border, Sandakphu in Darjeeling district towers at 12,000ft, with a clear view of the Himalayas, right from Bhutan to Mt Everest. While the peak is also accessible by car, the Sandakphu trek is both popular and exhilarating; it starts at Manebhanjan (26km from Darjeeling), taking you through a canopy of silver fir forests and rhododendrons to snow-covered hills.
There is, however, one thing that makes Sandakphu unique. From this peak, four of the world’s five highest peaks are visible. Between Mt Lhotse and Mt Makalu, the fourth and fifth highest peaks, Mt Everest towers like a giant. If the skies are clear, Mt Khangchendzonga also appears against a spectacular sunrise.
How To Reach: Sandakphu can be accessed by car and on foot. The nearest airport is Bagdogra Airport, while the nearest railway station is New Jalpaiguri Station. Old British-era Land Rovers take tourists from Manebhanjan to Sandakphu.
What To See: The Singalila National Park boasts diverse flora and fauna, such as pine, oak, silver fir and bamboo, and endangered species like the Red Panda, Shrouded Leopard, Himalayan Black Bear and Himalayan Barking Deer. You can also trek to Tonglu, one of the peaks inside the national park.
Stay Options: Sandakphu trail offers basic stay facilities, including homestays and trekkers’ huts across villages such as Chitrey, Tonglu and Tumling, which can be booked online.
Important Note: Getting an entry permit for the Singalila National Park and a guide is mandatory.
The best views come to those who persevere, and Brahmatal’s mesmerising views are a reward for trekkers who voyage here in the winter months, trudging their way up the snow-carpeted hills to this lake in Uttarakhand. Brahmatal, as the name suggests, is believed to have been where Lord Brahma meditated for many years. It is a haven for trekkers because it is one of the few treks in India open even in winter.
Starting at Lohajung, a small village in Chamoli district in Garhwal, the treks take you through stunning meadows, quiet hamlets, and rhododendron forests to two alpine lakes—Brahmatal and Bekaltal, both of which remain frozen from December to March. Moreover, the trek to chase snow here doesn’t just let travellers bask in the views of Mt Trishul and Mt Nandaghunti; if the weather permits, you can camp by the lake and go for mini treks in the forests near Bekaltal. At the height of around 12,000ft, Brahmatal takes around six days of a moderate trek on foot.
How To Reach: Lohajung, the base point for the trek, is accessible by road. Pantnagar is the nearest airport and Kathgodam is the nearest railway station.
What To See: The trek offers uninterrupted views of Mt Trishul and Mt Nandaghunti amidst rhododendron forests and gushing streams.
Stay Options: There are no permanent accommodations en route to Brahmatal. Camping tents need to be carried by trekkers. If you go through travel operators/trekking organisers, they make camping arrangements.
Perched at 17,800ft, Gurudongmar is one of the highest lakes in the world and is an important destination in Sikkim’s thriving tourist and pilgrimage circuit. This glacial lake, 200 km from the state’s capital Gangtok, has every possible hue of blue in its azure waters. This lake is venerated by both Buddhists and Sikhs because of its history. One legend says that Gurudongmar was named after the Guru Rinpoche Padmasambhava, while others believe that the lake is a site that Guru Nanak is said to have visited.
Nestled at the foothills of snow-capped Himalayas, the journey to Gurudongmar starts from Lachen, a small town located in the Mangan district and takes travellers on a bumpy sojourn to dizzying heights. The lake remains frozen throughout winter; however, a portion of the lake never freezes, even when temperatures drop as low as -30 degrees Celsius. Take in the snow, and see the yaks graze against the backdrop of Mt Siniolchu and Mt Khangchendzonga, but spend only 30 minutes at the lake.
How To Reach: Lachen is the first stop in the journey to Gurudongmar Lake and can be accessed by road. The nearest airport to Lachen is Bagdogra Airport, while accessible railway stations include Darjeeling Railway Station and New Jalpaiguri Station.
What To See: The drive from Lachen to Gurudongmar takes at least four hours, and you can make a pit stop at the world’s highest dosa point, Munres Dosa Point, on the way. At Lachen, visit the Lachen Monastery and the Handicraft Centre in the market area. Also, try chee, a traditional Lepcha drink made from fermented millet.
Stay Options: There are no stay options at Gurudongmar lake. The nearest hotels and homestays are at Lachen and Lachung, which can be booked online.
Important Note: Visitors need an Inner Line Permit to visit the lake. The Indian army closes entry to the lake at 11 am, and visitors must leave by 12.30 pm before the winds get harsh.
Sethan, a stone’s throw from Manali (14 km to be precise), continues to revel in its anonymity, with its pristine snow-covered hills a boon for travellers looking to escape the tourist-trammelled cities of Shimla and Manali. This quaint and obscure village allows intrepid travellers and adventure seekers to find their fill of skiing and snowboarding, hiking and nature trails.
Looking out to the Dhauladhar range, with the Beas River flowing close to the village, the Sethan Valley attracts trekkers and was home to India’s first igloo stay back in the winter of 2016-2017. Today, the opportunity to glamp in a unique geodesic glass dome is also available here. While winters are harsh, the smog-free skies allow you to witness the celestial dance of stars and planets under the night sky.
How To Reach: Sethan is best accessible by road and is 14km from Manali. Kullu Manali Airport in Bhuntar is the nearest airport, while the nearest railhead is Joginder Nagar Railway station.
What To See: At a distance of 2km from Sethan is the mythologically relevant site of Pandu Ropa, where Pandavas are believed to have resided and meditated. A route from Pandu Ropa also takes experienced trekkers to Indrasana Peak (which translates to the seat of Indra, the god of heaven), considered a challenging climb for even the best experts.
Stay Options: Sethan has cottages and lodges that host snowboarders and travellers. You can also book glamping domes here via websites.
Important Note: Sethan is a protected area; you require a permit to enter the valley. This permit can be obtained at a check post in Prini.
At an elevation of 9,400ft and offering breathtaking views of the Eastern Himalayas, Zuluk was once the transit point between India and Tibet and sits close to the Chinese border. Here, meandering roads and hairpin bends take travellers to the snow-capped mountains, where the Old Silk Route reveals itself in all its glory. This quiet hamlet, which also serves as an Army base, offers panoramic views of Mt. Khangchendzonga and its sister peaks on a clear morning.
The Silk Road is not a single road or route; it was a historic trading path that connected China to the Mediterranean for almost 1,500 years, till the 15th century AD, traversing India, China, Persia, Greece, Arabia and Italy. In India, many smaller routes joined the main Silk Road, one of them being in east Sikkim. Today, this ancient route is part of a flourishing travel circuit, the central point of which is Zuluk.
How To Reach: Zuluk is 90km from Gangtok and can be accessed via road from Gangtok and Kalimpong. The nearest airport is Bagdogra Airport, while the nearest railway station is New Jalpaiguri Station.
What To See: Snow-chasing travellers can make their way to the viewpoints of Thambi (11,200ft) and Lungthung (13,000ft) at a distance of 13km and 17km from Zuluk, respectively. An early start will allow you to capture the peak towering above the misty mountains and snow-laden hills. Further up, the Kupup Lake, locally called Bitan Cho, is one of the most sacred lakes in the state and remains frozen throughout winter. Here, the Yak Golf Course, the highest of its kind in the world, is also worth visiting.
Stay Options: Choose to stay at one of the many homestays here, which can be booked online.
Important Note: A special Inner Line Permit is required to reach Zuluk, which can be arranged through Sikkim Tourism offices, tour operators and hotels in the state.