Snow special

, Cover Story

Revel in the pristine snowy landscapes and snowfall this season

Winter is here! There are few who just find it apt to hide beneath a quilt and enjoy the sip of a hot coffee during winters, whereas some adventurous ones like to pack their bags and head to the place where they can challenge the freeze and enjoy the flakes of snow. India, being a huge country, has several picturesque winter destinations. Let’s discover few of them and find what makes them different from the others.

Auli, Uttarakhand

Set at a height of 2,800 metres, Auli in Uttarakhand is known for fascinating ski resorts and stunning natural vistas. Bounded by the snowy peaks of the mighty Himalayas, this hilly terrain is an ultimate stopover for skiing enthusiasts. The government here maintains various provisions to make skiing possible for everyone – both for the novice and professionals. Surrounded by vast acres of oak and coniferous forests, skiing right through these snow covered forests feels highly thrilling. Starting from late November till March, the winters cover the mountains of Auli with blankets of snow, with January being the best fit for skiing.

Pahalgam, Jammu & Kashmir

Perched at a height of 2130 metres above sea level, Pahalgam is famous for its scenic beauty and is the jewel of the picturesque Liddar valley located in the high Himalayas. It provides an ideal setting for activities like hiking, trekking, and fishing. It is also the starting point of the annual pilgrimage to the holy cave of Amarnath. Riverside location, snow-capped peaks, freezing weather conditions and surrounding calmness, all adds to the charm of this destination. There are many hiking and trekking trails around Pahalgam. One can even explore these places on horseback.

Indian woman with ski instructor in Gulmarg

Kufri, Himachal Pradesh

A tiny hill station located about 13 kms from Shimla, Kufri lies at an altitude of 2,510 metres above sea level, and is famous for its trekking and hiking trails. Adventure lovers throng Kufri in the winters months to enjoy skiing and tobogganing along its snow-covered slopes. The white snow spread all over gives a very refreshing and chilly look. People can hike through thick forest around Kufri to the Mahasu Peak. The other places to visit in Kufri are the Himalayan Nature Park, which has a collection of animals and birds found only in Himachal Pradesh, and the Indira Tourist Park, which is near the Himalayan Nature Park and provides panoramic view of the locations around Kufri.

Tourists in Jakhoo

Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh

Located amidst the eastern Himalayan ranges, winter in Tawang is probably the best time to visit. Covered in snow, Tawang is replete with nature’s beauty. Hiking to Gorichean Peak is one of the most popular activities in Tawang. Perched at an altitude of 22,500 feet, Gorichean Peak is the highest peak in Arunachal Pradesh and the third highest in the Northeast. Tawang is also famous for its 400-year-old monastery, one of the biggest Buddhist monasteries to be found in India, which is an important pilgrim centre for the followers of Buddhism.

Misty morning at Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh

Nainital, Uttarakhand

Commonly known as the “Lake District of India”, Nainital is one of the most beautiful hill stations in North India, surrounded by seven hills, popularly known as ‘Sapta-Shring’ – Ayarpata, Deopata, Handi-Bandi, Naina, Alma, Lariya-Kanta and Sher-Ka-Danda. Lying just over 270 kms from Delhi, Nainital often serves as a refreshing weekend escape. However, the best time to visit the place is from December to March when Nanda Devi Peak looks stunning in a white cover and you can feel the chill in the breeze while following snow-covered trekking routes. While here, don’t miss the Snow View Point, renowned for mesmerising views.  The cable car ride connects the foothills of Nainital (Mallital), with Snow View Point, 2270 metres above sea level.

Ladakh

Ladakh tests your mental and physical toughness in winters. Besides doing the world famous Chadar Trek, one can also do other fairly lesser known but more challenging treks like Stok base camp trek, Markha Valley Trek, Sham valley trek. Regions like Zanskar become hotspots for winter treks as the river, lakes and waterfalls freeze during this time of the year. Pangong Lake, which acts as a teaser of nature’s craftsmanship in summers, freezes during winters on which you can play cricket or drive your car. Most of the hotels in Leh are closed during winters, therefore, you have to stay in modest home stays or traditional Ladakhi houses.

Hiking on Frozen Zanskar River

Mount Katao, Sikkim

Mount Katao is an offbeat destination about 144 kms from the state capital, Gangtok. Mostly covered in snow till late March, one has to avail permits from the Army to enter the area where this majestic peak is located. A perfect place for adventure lovers as sports like skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing and stone grinding can be enjoyed here during the winter season, the valley is also covered with attractive flora such as poppy, primula and rhododendron.

Landscape view of snowy Katao

Munsiyari, Uttarakhand

Nestled on the shores of the Goriganga river, Munsiyari is situated in the easternmost hill district of Uttarakhand, bordering Tibet. Known as ‘Little Kashmir’, it is full of mountains, glaciers, trekking routes and awe-inspiring natural beauty. A fast developing centre for skiing and other winter sports, Munsiyari falls on the ancient ‘salt route’ from Tibet and is the entrance of the Johar valley, which extends along the path of the Goriganga river to its source at Milam Glacier.

Herd of deer spotted during sunrise in Munsiyari Uttarakhand

Words: Aviska Kashyap

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