With the peak of winter approaching, it is surely time to curl up in a blanket and sip on hot coffee. Not really Make the holiday season fun by heading to destinations that make winter special - interact with the locals and try some local cuisine, engage in adventure sports or simply play around in the snow.
At OT, we recommend the following destinations this winter.
Snow covers lush, green Chatpal, a small town located around 90 km from Srinagar. Winters are brutal here. You will be able to enjoy a trek of the mountains, on foot or on horseback, through the snow-laden pine forests and the apple and walnut orchards. And while summers are the time when you will be able to appreciate the greenery, snowfalls in this region are equally spectacular. Best of all, Chatpal&rsquos tourism potential wasn&rsquot discovered until very recently, so it is highly likely that you will be able to enjoy nature&rsquos gifts in splendid isolation.
Several stories and eccentricities abound in Malana, a village on a remote plateau in Kullu. After all, the village is famous for Malana cream, one of the most expensive commodities in the global market. The green-eyed villagers, many of whom speak the obscure Kanashi language and claim to have descended from Alexander the Great&rsquos army, are also notorious for their strict insistence that outsiders should not touch them or their belongings. The village also boasts of being the oldest democracy of the world and did not recognise the Indian constitution till a few years ago.
Perhaps, quite fittingly, the uphill journey/trek to reach the village is as arduous as the complicated and rigid customs here. However, once you make it here, snow-capped mountains and beautiful valleys will be the highlight of your winter vacation. You can explore the village and its traditional architecture - plan a visit to the Jamlu Devta temple built in Kathkuni style where the locals worship their guardian deity, Jamlu Devta, but make sure not to touch anything on the premises.
Trekking and hiking expeditions to the nearby hills and temples have also grown in popularity. If you prefer rafting and exploring wildlife, you could head out to the Great Himalayan National Park.
A part of the Kedarnath WildLife Sanctuary, Chopta in Uttarakhand is the base point for the Tungnath-Chandrashila trek. It is often called Mini Switzerland for its breathtaking, panoramic views of the Himalayan range and beautiful bugyals (alpine meadows). As many as 41 peaks are visible from Chopta, including Nanda Devi and Chaukhamba.
In Chopta, camping, trekking, skiing, rock-crafting, rappelling and rock-climbing are popular activities in winter. And since Chopta sees the arrival of many rare birds in Chopta, birdwatching is a hobby worth pursuing here.
Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh houses vast mountains, deep terrains, some green patches and desert landscapes, which are all engulfed in a blanket of white snow during winters. You can choose to river-raft in the river Spiti or trek to the high-altitude Dhankar Lake. Other adventures include heading to Bara-lacha La or camping on the shores of the picturesque, mesmerising lakes in the vicinity.
In winter, Lansdowne resembles a town you would encounter in Ruskin Bond&rsquos works. Little wonder then that the town has been frequented by vacationers since the British era. Still, Lansdowne retains much of its old-world charm, and remains one of the best destinations where you can enjoy a white, frosty and snowy Christmas or New Year.
You can add a dose of excitement to your winter trip to Lansdowne by opting for thrilling treks, boating in Bhulla Lake or simply gazing at the wildlife in Kalagarh Tiger Reserve. If you are making your way to Lansdowne on road, the blue pine forests in the town&rsquos vicinity are majestic and simply unmissable.