There is no dearth of hill stations in India. From Shimla and Mussorie to Munnar and Ladakh, almost every state in the country has at least one world class winter destination. For those of you who have visited all of them, here are some not-so-famous-yet-wonderful winter destinations in North India.
The Himalayan Ski resort Auli is set in an almost Alpine locale. It is one of the best skiing destinations in the whole of Asia. Each year as winter sets in the Himalayas, this picturesque town comes alive with boisterous tourists seeking pure adrenaline rush. Auli has Asia’s longest cable car and ski-lift facilities to take tourists to the top of the skiing slopes. And as they descent downhill, there are plenty of deodar and oak trees to protect them from the chilly winds. Even if you are not an adventure freak, you will absolutely enjoy your trip to Auli. Watching the sun rising from behind the glorious Nanda Devi Peak is an unforgettable experience. The snowfalls are surreal and make you wonder if you are really in a subtropical country like India.
Rann of Kutch (Gujarat)
Rann of Kutch is not a run-of-the-mill winter getaway. Situated in Gujarat, it is a vast expanse of almost nothingness and cultural abundance. Rann is full of salty marshes and the solitude pervading the space makes it meditative. Each year Rann of Kutch comes alive between December and February thanks to the state sponsored Rann Utsav which is a heady concoction of cultural programs, soulful music, handicrafts exhibition and heavenly food. If your idea of fun is immersing yourself in local culture on cold nights under clear skies, head to Rann this winter.
Bir – Billing (Himachal Pradesh)
The twin villages of Bir and Billing are as different as chalk and cheese. Bir is a quiet place with several Buddhist monasteries. A large number of Tibetan refugees live here. Tourists who visit this place have always likened their trip to a spiritual journey. Billing is 14 km north to Bir and is a popular paragliding destination. From Billing you will get magnificent views of the Dhauladhar range but the best view is that of Himalayas jutting up abruptly at a distance.
Rajasthan is famous but not necessarily as a winter destination. The Land of Maharajas, Rajasthan needs no introduction. The state is famous for its magnificent palaces, rich culture and glorious history. There are several benefits to visiting Rajasthan in winter. For one thing, in winter the weather in Rajasthan is quite friendly. Try walking barefoot on the old sandstone floors. They won’t burn your feet during this season. Rajasthan hosts some culturally rich and colorful festivals during the winter season. These include the Pushkar Fair and the Rajasthan International Folk Festival. Make it a point to visit places like Jaisalmer, Jaipur, Pushkar, Jodhpur and Udaipur during your trip to Rajasthan. Read about the most popular tourist places in Rajasthan here.
Nagaland and Shillong (North East India)
The rolling hills of Shillong are a marvelous sight. They earned the city the sobriquet, ‘Scotland of the East’. Shillong is now a modern city but it still retains much of its old-world charm. The annual Ziro festival provides an uncensored glimpse into the culture and music of the place.
Nagaland has sort of come to the main stream. But if you look deeper, it is not hard to find the primal instincts that shape the life of the tribes. The state is famous for its lush valleys, serene hills and exotic locale. Naga culture has not yet been spoiled by modern influences. Nagaland is also famous for its music and culinary culture. Attend the annual Hornbill Festival to enjoy the music, culture and food of the state.