Best Winter Destinations in North India
Winters are usually the most fun and exciting time in India, largely attributed to the fact that this is also the festival season and the weather is most suitable and pleasant to venture out of home. While vacationing during any season has its own peculiar charms and excitement, holidaying during winters is particularly amazing. India in general and North India in particular goes through a rush of shivers, bringing heavy snowfall over the northern and north-eastern ridges of the Himalayas while sending chilling cold waves across the plains.
While this might put-off some, for others this is one of the most thrilling times to explore and enjoy newer and amazing destinations. For some playing in the snow, relishing the winter sports or cuddling with their beloved during the chill forms the idea for a perfect vacation while for others finding fresh new places, exploring the history of a location or discovering exotic forests and wildlife through treks and safaris echoes the ideal holiday. With an intention to satisfy both the camps of vacationers, we present here 17 Best Winter Destinations in North India for a discerning traveler to choose from the lot, their own spot which fits best into their vision of most incredible and captivating sites so as they could take on their most memorable time off. Take a look:
Bodhgaya: In the footsteps of Buddha
A small temple town, the navel of Earth for some and the place significant for the very spot where the feeble-bodied but determined Prince Siddhartha attained Enlightenment to become the Buddha under the Bodhi Tree, approximately two and a half millennial ago. A kind of unique, spiritual atmosphere and deeply tranquilizing ambiance grips the entire area as students, monks and religious seekers (ordinary tourists notwithstanding) from around the world make their way into this Mecca of Buddhism pursuing inner peace and satisfaction, chasing the solace for the soul from the troubles of the mundane and trying to hold onto to some lumber of log within the ocean of wisdom that is flowing from this source.
Bodhgaya remains one of the favorite destinations for pilgrims and travelers from across the globe, moved not only by the history and importance of this place, but also to experience its vibrancy and culture. With the arrival of winters, begins the consistent inflow of tourists to witness the coming of hundreds of Tibetan pilgrims who descend down from their abode in Dharamshala. Besides being one the best weathers to take on spiritual contemplation at the site, it is also the time when the Dalai Lama is often expected to arrive here. Thus, it is one of best winter destinations in North India for any kind of explorer.
Delhi: A Tale of Two Cities
The national capital of India and one of the most outstanding cities of the country, whose history dates back to farther in time than the Bronze Age. Delhi is bustling, busy and cosmopolitan. From its narrow alleys to distinguished monuments and from its multi-ethnic, multi-cultural population to its spicy and delectable food, Delhi has a charm that is incomparable to any other city in the world. Though a city of all seasons (except the excruciating summers), the appeal that it has during winters is amazing.
The beauty of the famous “Delhi ki Sardi” lies in the delightful and bright vivacity that envelops the city during this time, be it in the riotously colorful woolens or a cup of hot, piping chai (tea) or the mesmerizing smell of roasted moongphali (peanuts). Delhi experience mild to extreme cold in winters where the temperature can plummet to chilling 3-4 degrees C. At this time a misty fog surrounds the city and one can witness from the crawling traffic, people crowded around into small groups over a bonfire or tea or around parks and markets, basking in cool sunshine. This mystical appeal, this romantic charm, this streaming energy under the outer, rocky topographical crust is hard to miss, making the city one of top winter destinations in North India.
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Agra: The Land of Love
Agra, the quintessential seat of power for the mighty Mughal Empire bears its stamp, its nostalgic legacy and its character like no other place. Although, the city was founded and was being used as a power base to rule India, long time before the arrival of the Mughals, it is mainly associated with stunning monuments, enchanting architecture and the archetypal and refined pervading ambiance, characteristic of that golden era.
Starting from Babar, who laid down beautiful Charbagh Garden on the bank of Yamuna, the city was used as a capital by Akbar, Jahangir and for some time by Shah-Jahan and Aurangzeb, who with their own characteristic temperament and personalities erected monuments that became immortal, manifesting in their glory, the fortunes and tragedies of the time. Be it the elegance of Taj Mahal, the imposing battlements of the Red Fort, the delicate and exquisite pavilions and palaces of its interiors, the majestic gateways and structures of the Fatehpur complex, the Jama Masjid or the tomb of Itmad-ud-Daulah, all the buildings have left an amazing heritage that makes this city a favored tourist spot.
Agra has the most suitable climate during the months from November to March, at which time the city should be visited to enjoy its mesmerizing sights. Escaped from the sweltering heat and sweat of summers, a traveler can easily soak in the historical significance and importance of wonderful buildings pervading all around.
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Jaipur: The Pink City
Jaipur, the beautiful, cultural and historic city is one of the most popular and enthralling places as a tourist destination. Widely known as the “Pink City”, the place has an amazing ambiance and wonderful allure, mesmerizing the guests with its beautiful and exotic streets and bazaars selling blue pottery, leather shoes, tie and dye scarfs and other exquisite material and wares. Modernity and Tradition compete for space as the city, dotted with some of the most elegant monuments, buildings and palaces tries to find their relevance in the rapidly changing world with a new age perceptions and attitudes. Whether it be the royal environs of the City Palace, the captivating charm of the Jantar Mantar or the honeycomb bearings of the Hawa Mahal, the amazing, colorful though chaotic city is an absolute enchantment.
Manali: The Adventure Land
Often hailed as a traveler’s paradise, Manali is a beautiful and scenic hill town, offering wonderful views and tremendous opportunities of fun and recreation for both leisure and adventure travelers alike. Located in the stunningly gorgeous Beas River Valley, blanketed by verdant, panoramic views of green and snow-clad mountains, it’s cool and calming ambiance lets the tourist enjoy relaxed and peaceful vacation while at the same time providing thrill and adrenaline rush to adventure enthusiasts with activities like paragliding, white water rafting, trekking, climbing, skiing, ballooning (it being amongst the Top 10 Places for Hot Air Balloon Ride in India), mountain biking, cannoning etc. Enjoying the cool and crisp air, tourists can unwind and move around, sightseeing amazing views, shopping malls and local shops and stores.
During winters, the Manali experiences a good snowfall and that when the town and its nearby areas like Solang Valley, Rohtang Pass etc. become hub of winter sporting activities. Winters are off season here so tourists can expect heavy discounts. Besides one can also head along to take a dip in sulphur waters of Vashist or enjoy the delectable cuisines in New Manali. With a wonderful view of the snowfall, walking up and down the The Mall becomes all the more amazing and memorable, while one can also pay a visit to the 16th century Hidimba Temple.
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Jaisalmer: The Desert Kingdom
Famously called “The Golden City”, Jaisalmer is a place of wonderful views, amazing culture, exquisite history and exclusive and distinct ambience. The city was founded in 1156 AD by Maharawal Jaisal Singh, who was a local Rajput King. The main attraction and highlight of the city is the majestic Jaisalmer Fort-Citadel that rises from the middle of the town, assuming the center stage and focus point of the place. The citadel still houses the old, original families of the town that have lived here through generations. Inside the fortifications, the numerous dwelling places of people presents a unique cultural establishment with distinct and colorful stalls, buildings, havelis and pavilions with a fine and delicate architecture.
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Shimla: Queen of the Hills
One of the old colonial hill towns and the summer capital of the erstwhile British Empire, Shimla has always been a popular and one of the favorite tourist resorts in North India. During winters the high, imposing mountains surrounding the town gets covered with snow and looks mesmerizingly beautiful as well as the streets, houses and markets look spotless white presenting a unique view. The winters are especially chilling here when temperatures can drop to 0 C or even less.
Peak winter tourist season here is from mid-December to January, covering Christmas and New Year that sees the inflow of a good number of visitors. Enjoying an ample share of snow, tourists can relish in playing with snowflakes or throwing snowballs at each other or making a snow-man. During this season, Shimla hosts the winter carnival and Ice Skating which are a major highlights. Located at the height of 2,206 m above sea level, it is one of the Top 22 Honeymoon Destinations in India.
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Mussoorie: The Devbhoomi
Located within the scenic embrace of beautiful ridges of the Uttrakhand, Mussourie is a popular hill town, located at the foot of Himalayas and is famously called the “Queen of the Hills”. The hill town was established in the year 1825 as a shooting lodge and soon acquired the distinction of one the favorite summer retreat for the British. That legacy could still be seen in the number of beautiful and exotic colonial buildings in the form of churches, restaurants, hotels and summer palaces serving as a fodder for sightseeing. Mussoorie is punctuated with vast enveloping lush green hills, distinctive flora and fauna and amazing sights of the Doon Valley that attracts thousands of tourists every year to the site.
Perched at a height of 2,000.5 m above sea level, it is one of the most accessible hill town and is increasingly popular among leisure tourists and honeymooners. Major tourist attractions include the Gun Hill, Mussorie Lake, Kempty Falls, Company Bagh, Landour, and Camel’s Back Road etc. Permeated all around with wonderful views, the exquisite experience of touching the moving clouds evokes a unique romanticism and in winters when the snow falls, the surrounding sights become even more charming.
Pahalgam: The Green Valley
Exotically blanketed by breathtakingly high, snow-capped hills of Kashmir, wrapped in richly thick and beautiful pine and coniferous forests and subdued in marvelous sights all around, Pahalgam is a tiny little town-resort, located about 100 km from the state’s capital Srinagar. Known as the Valley of Shepherds, Pahalgam has since long remained as a tourist resort and many films has been shot here due to its amazing sceneries. Besides it also serves as a base camp for the Amarnath Yatra.
The town is fairly popular amongst the adventure enthusiasts and there are a number of attractions to satisfy the thrilling spirit of the travelers with activities like trekking, angling and golf and white water rafting. During winters, the town hosts a two day long Snow Festival that exhibits a number of winter sporting events like snow-sledging, skiing etc. in which the tourists can participate. Surrounded by stunningly beautiful spots, punctuated by over 20 fascinating lakes, it is a place of a must-visit charm.
Srinagar: Paradise on Earth
The principal city and political capital of India’s northern-most state of Jammu and Kashmir, Srinagar is a verdant oasis of beautiful sights, serene lakes, exquisite gardens and a wonderful, pleasant climate, effervescent all throughout the year. Srinagar was one of the most popular getaways for people of North India, before the clout of insurgency took over in the early 90’s. With the place again returning to one of its intermittent phases of peace and stability, tourism is again on the rise.
There are numerous charms of the city, alluring enough to take the heart away. A ride through the serene Dal Lake on Shikara, paying a visit to the religious sites of Hazratbal or the temple of Shankaracharya, taking a walk down the Residency Road or shopping around the bustling Lal Chowk is always on the cards of the tourists arriving here. Another highlight of the town are famous Charbagh Mughal Gardens of Shalimar and Nishat, laid down by the Mughal Emperors, who were mesmerized by the incredible beauty of the place.
In winters, tourists can enjoy rich snowfall, coupled with adventure activities like skiing down the Khilanmarg mountain slopes, golfing at the city’s number of golf courses or contemplating trekking though the Pir Panjal Range. With its enchanting sights, wooden mosques, beautiful welcoming people it is one of the leading Winter Destinations in North India.
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Gulmarg: Meadow of Flowers
One of the popular skiing resort and literally meaning to be the “flower meadow”, Gulmarg is a beautiful and picturesque hill town, located 56 km north east of Srinagar. Once being a favorite retreat for Mughal Emperor Jahangir, Gulmarg has a steady charm and pretty broad and lush fields, which offers plenty of scope for fun and adventure even hosting the world’s highest golf course.
In Gulmarg, the tourists can hike to alluring pine slopes that let them have one of the most stunning views of the Nanga Parbat, which lies on the other side of the international border with Pakistan. Receiving a rich share of snow in winters, Gulmarg transforms into a tourist haven with thrilling and fun activities like zorbing and pony rides occupying the activity scene during this time. Other popular destinations located inside this scenic hill town furnishing the fun the entertainment for travelers are Gondola Lift, Alpather Lake, Afarwat Peak etc.
Ranthambore National Park
One of the best spots in India to sight the tigers and witness their natural habitats, Ranthambore National Park is a sprawling expanse of 1334 sq.km of territory hitched in the wilderness of India’s North Western State of Rajasthan. A famous tourism site since long, it was initially the hunting ground of the Maharajas of the region and surprisingly continued to do so until 1970, long after it had been converted into a Sanctuary. Alongside tigers, there are many other exotic species to be seen including chital, Nilgai, leopards, jackals, jungle cats besides a wealth of about 300 exquisite species of birds.
The area incorporating the national park also encompass the old Ranthambore fort besides the adjoining areas being pervaded with aged temples, mosques, old tombs and as well as hunting pavilions. The venue is an exciting site to visit with a lot of adventure in place for the tourists. The park authorities organizes shared jeep safaris with a trained guide for the sighting expeditions. Spread in between the dry and deciduous Vindhya and Aravalli range, The Park is dotted with several lakes like Malik Talab, Padam Talab and Raj Bagh Talab etc. Peak tourist season lies during winters when the weather is fairly pleasant for a comfortable excursion. It is also the time when a number of migratory birds descend on the park for their wintering. Thus, the period from October to June is one of the best time to visit the place.
Jim Corbett National Park
One of the oldest and most famous National Parks in India, Jim Corbett Reserve was established in the year 1936 with the name of Hailey National Park. However, after India’s independence, the Park was renamed as Jim Corbett National Park, in the honor of the legendary hunter who held an important voice for the conservation in the area. Located in Nainital, amidst the beautiful surroundings of the Uttrakhand state, Jim Corbett hosts about 488 distinct species of wildlife and plant including Chital, Sambhar, Nilgai, Ghariyal, Wild Boar, Hedgehog, Indian Pangolin, Flying Fox, and Common Musk Shrew and about 600 diverse species birds.
Corbett National Park is also the protected area for the highly endangered Royal Bengal Tiger of India, which is also main and highlighted specie at the park. The park spreads in the total area of about 1318 sq. km and is divided into six zones based wherein the tourists can be part of the wildlife safaris. The park is open for visitors throughout the year but the best time to visit the site is from the months of November to June as during this period, all the zone of the park are open for visitors for sightseeing. Moreover, this is the time when the tourist is saved from stifling heat of the summer and heavy downpour during the winters.
Auli: The Ski Resort in North
Located in the Chamoli district of the Garhwal region and perched at the height of about 3,050m above sea level, Auli is an amazingly beautiful and scenic hill resort, known best as the favorite skiing spot for tourists both within India and outside. During winters, place receives a good share of snowfall, thus making it an ideal place to enjoy your passion for skiing. Auli also sports a nice, clean environment and surroundings as well as some of the most spectacular and picturesque views of oak and deodar forests due to which a large number of international tourists also descends.
From the view-point of leisure travelers, the place hosts Gorson Reserve hosting some of the most exotic wildlife including wild cat, wild rabbit, jackal, fox, musk deer, hyena and bear etc. In addition, it also gives one of the most beautiful sights of most famous slopes like Nanda Devi, Kamat Kamet, Mana Paravat. With its most stunning views as well as scope for adventure, it is one of the most memorable destinations for visitors.
Nainital: Tales of Lakes
Located around the environs of the Naini Lake, Nainital is a prominent and picturesque hill town, situated at a height of 1,938m above sea level. Being one of the famous resorts in the Kumaon Region, Nainital is frequented by a number of tourists from India and abroad who descend here to enjoy its cool and salubrious environment. Besides reveling in boating through vast and expansive Naini Lake, leisure tourists can enjoy taking a walk through its attractive bazaars, especially The Mall where one can find restaurants, shops, offices, hotels.
Besides, one of the other highlight of the place is Naini Zoo, which is popular amongst the tourists and hosts rare species like snow leopard, steppe eagle as well as Himalayan Black Bear etc. Mukteshwar Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva can also be covered while sightseeing around. During winters, the place receives a significant amount of snowfall, which makes the surroundings even more alluring and picturesque. Adventure tourists can enjoy stunning natural treks, rock climbing, mountaineering and boating making the excursion to the place thrilling and full of excitement.
Keoladeo National Park
Known formerly as the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, Keoladeo National Park is a wonderful hub of some of the most exquisite bird species, local as well as migratory as also being home to some other species of exotic mammals. Of the large variety of birds that have been observed and recoded here, almost 230 are resident or local, while rest of them are migratory, that travel from far off lands for their wintering.
Thus during the later months of the year, a large number of birds can be seen and observed here like ducks, waders, geese, coots, pelicans, Imperial Eagle and Greater Spotted Eagle etc. From amongst the other animals, one can observe large Indian pythons, lazing around in the grass while the park is also home to Neelgai (antelope), boar, deer etc. which can be very easily seen. Keoladeo was declared a national park in 1982 while it was instituted as a world heritage site in 1985. As in winters, maximum number of species could be seen, this is the best time to visit the park which is otherwise frequented by ornithologists, tourists, bird enthusiasts and children.
Varanasi: Heart of Hinduism
Varanasi a spectacularly amazing and one of the oldest living cities of the world, being host to some of the most ancient and venerable customs and traditions that are still alive and kicking, trying to retain their identity and relevance within the rapidly changing context of the 21st century modernity. Considered one of the most sacred sites for Hindus, the city has always been bubbling with activity be it religious or literary and had always been an important center of pilgrimage for the religious devotees.
The brilliant ambience of the city is amazingly conspicuous through its numerous temples, Ghats, Ashrams or other places of religious significance that brings out its character and soul and when that mixed with the heavenly sounds of chants, gongs, and invocations feels a truly breathtaking experience. Both summers and winters have their own individual appeal, but in winters, the presence of mystical and thick fog, combined with the chilling cold of North India, the same Ghats, Temples and Ashrams looks surreal and divine. This amazing mood, sense and background is awesomely fascinating and must be witnessed, thus including Varanasi in the list of Best Winter Destination in North India.
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