Winter Wonderlands

‘Take out your heavy woolens and shine up those leather boots, as Promita Mukherjee brings you seven not-so-known snowy destinations from across India  to visit this season’

Auli in Uttarakhand, Gulmarg in Jammu & Kashmir, and Shimla and Manali in Himachal Pradesh are on the go-to list of every winter-loving tourist. But these are not the only destinations in India that receive heavy snowfall and transform into white paradise in this season. Here are seven lesser-known destinations you can visit in north and Northeast India, where you can enjoy snow and snow adventures!

Sangla, Himachal Pradesh

Sangla is a jewel the lush Baspa Valley. Perched on slopes near Baspa River, one house precariously placed atop the next, Sangla is a magical place. Between December and February, temperatures drop as low as -15 to -20 degree C and Sangla is covered in a thick, white blanket. Walk in the snow or stay warm inside a local homestay sipping cups of Himachali tea.

The Bering Nag Temple located here is an architectural wonder. Head there for some peace and calm. If you are up for some exploring, head up to Chitkul (about 22 km away), said to be the last inhabited Indian village on the old Indo-Tibetan road. Carry back pine nuts, a speciality of the region, and don’t forget to gorge on fresh trout.

Zuluk, Sikkim

Zuluk, or Dzuluk, a sleepy hamlet in East Sikkim, was once a part of the historic trade route that connected Lhasa in Tibet to Kalimpong in West Bengal. If being far away from civilisation is what catches your fancy, then Zuluk, with a very sparse population, is the ideal destination for you. If you are a thrill seeker, Zuluk will not disappoint you either. Gear up for as many as 32 hairpin turns with the Himalayas as your companion as you drive up to Zuluk in a jaw-dropping ride.

Located at an altitude of around 10,000 ft, Zuluk receives heavy snowfall in winter, with the temperature dipping to as low as -3 degree C. So make sure you carry enough warm clothes. About 88 km away from Zuluk is the state capital Gangtok that offers plenty of snow activities like skiing and ice skating.

Lava, West Bengal

Thick pinewood forests covered in powdery snow, a lone monastery, stunning trekking routes covered in a soft white blanket and breathtaking views of Mt Kanchenjunga. All this and more await you in West Bengal’s Lava. Situated at an altitude of 7,709 ft (approximately), this quaint village in Darjeeling district, is one of the few places in the state that receives snow in winter, with an average temperature ranging between zero degree and -8 degree C. Owing to its offbeat location, Lava has managed to retain its charm and is not as crowded as Kalimpong, a popular tourist spot, about 30 km away.

Lava is from where you enter the Neora Valley National Park, which is a great option for trekking and bird watching. Walk up to the Lava Buddhist monastery, a striking red building very close to the centre of the town. If your idea of a holiday is to rejuvenate and go for relaxing long walks, Lava is just the place for you.

Sela Pass, Arunachal Pradesh

Biting cold of -10 degree C and lesser, that’s what you will be signing up for if you are headed to Se La, or Sela Pass that connects the town of Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh to the rest of the country. Though this place receives snow pretty much round-the-year, it freezes during the colder months. Unless there is heavy snowfall, Sela Pass remains open, thanks to the efforts of the Indian Army, as it is located close to the international border. Close to the pass lies the stunning Sela Lake, which remains partially or completely frozen during winter, making it a favourite site for landscape photographers. Adventure enthusiasts can drive to Tawang (about 76 km away) to indulge in some adrenaline-filled skiing. For an unparalleled experience, head to the Pankang Teng Tso Lake, situated about 17 km from Tawang. The lake remains frozen during winter and the slopes around it are great for skiing.

Harsil, Uttarakhand

Dubbed as the “mini Switzerland of India”, this hidden gem in Uttarakhand is situated at an elevation of around 8,600 ft on the banks of River Bhagirathi. Surrounded by snow-capped mountains, pine forests and some splendidly-beautiful flora and fauna, Harsil is a winter paradise. The temperature remains way below zero degree Centigrade in this town that is also known for its apples. You can walk around, explore the deodar forests nearby or go for a trek in the snow. If you do not feel like exploring the snowy trails, you can get snug and comfortable in one of the few cosy homestays here.

Once you’ve had a fill of Harsil’s snow-covered beauty, you can visit some of its nearby attractions too. A two-hour drive (approximately) will take you to Daraya Bugyal, which is an excellent spot for skiing.

Chopta, Uttarakhand

If you are a thrill seeker, Chopta in Uttarakhand is just the right place for you this winter. Although this little village serves as the base camp for trekking to Tungnath, said to be one of the highest Shiva temples in the world, it does not get in the way of a serene snow-filled vacation. If you decide to visit, carry warm clothes as during the winter months, temperature here ranges from seven degree to -3 degree C.

 

Nestled in the lap of the Himalayas, Chopta is yet untouched by tourists and offers stunning views of the Himalayan range, including Trishul, Nanda Devi and Chaukhamba mountains. Find your own romance as you walk amidst the snow-clad branches of pine, fir and rhododendron trees. The chirping of rare species of birds will wake you up in the morning as you snuggle into your blanket, with the chill surrounding you. If you are up for a long walk, check out Deoria Tal nearby, which is a popular lake surrounded by forests on all sides. For those who want to pump up some adrenaline, indulge in activities like camping and snow trekking.

Martand Sun Temple, J&K

An 8th-century architectural marvel, the Martand sun temple is located about eight km from Anantnag in Jammu & Kashmir. Although the structure is a picturesque sight in summer, it is during winter that it presents an ethereal view. The ground surrounding the temple is blanketed with snow. Its beauty in winter was captured in the critically-acclaimed Bollywood movie Haider (2014). The temperature around Anantnag during winter usually stays between 9 degree C and 4 degree C. If it’s snowy adventures you are looking for, take a trip to either Pahalgam (an hour from Anantnag) or Gulmarg (about three hours from Anantnag) – two of the best spots in the state for skiing.

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