After the festive season is over, the best way to keep your spirits high is to plan future travel. The first few weeks of January also happen to be a great time to dodge the crowds at top destinations and score some major travel deals, as most tourists have headed home post-New Year’s Day. Also a long weekend in January is just around the corner. January 26, Thursday is India’s Republic Day and can be clubbed with the weekend to make it your first mini vacation in the new year!
Whether you want a snow-powered getaway in the mountains or an oceanfront escape with midwinter sunshine, here are the five best places to travel in January.
Gulmarg in Kashmir
January would be the best time to visit Gulmarg as the entire valley would be covered in snow during this season. It has a lot to offer in terms of beauty and picturesque landscapes. Gulmarg is known as paradise on earth and rightly so for the breath-taking experiences it provides with snow covered mountains all around you!
How to reach: Srinagar, which is the nearest airport to Gulmarg is located around 56 kms away, and is well connected with the regular bus services. From the airport you can book a prepaid taxi that can easily drop you to Gulmarg. Since it is winter, flights would be the safest and the most comfortable mode of travelling to this place.
Things to do: The feast of your eyes begins the moment you step into this paradise.
- On the day you arrive, after checking in to your hotel, you can for a leisurely walk walk through the local markets and explore the streets of Gulmarg with the snow-covered mountains as the backdrop.
- You can devote the next day to exploring the famous Gulmarg Gondola which is a cable car ride taking place in two stages. The first ride is from Gulmarg to Kongdori and the second phase is from Kongdori to Mt. Apharwat. The Apharwat peak serves as an ideal location for expert skiers.
- If you are into skiing, you must definitely visit the Gulmarg Ski Resort, which is one of the most famous ski resorts in the country! If you are new to skiing, you can try out the beginner’s slopes which are around 2-3 kms away from the market. There are also instructors available to assist you with skiing and snowboarding in Gulmarg.
- The last day can be spent visiting the Alpather Lake and the Gulmarg Biosphere Reserve for spotting mammals.
- While in Gulmarg, you can enjoy a stay at the Khyber Himalayan Resort and Spa which is a little bit of paradise in itself!
What to eat: For breakfast head to Bakeries in Srinagar and enjoy local breads like tsot, a small round bread topped with poppy and sesame seeds, Sheermal, baqerkhani, and kulcha and wash these down with salted tea called sheer or noon chai or Kashmiri Kahwa. For lunch or dinner, the lip-smacking tabak maaz, rogan josh, nadru yakhni and phirni are just a few dishes that are a part of the traditional 36-course Kashmiri wazwan, where carefully crafted traditional recipes are served on a large plate (called a trami). You may try the wazwan at Sarposh at Khaleel Palace hotel. If the wazwan seems too daunting, try the local fare—dum aloo, haak, goshtaba—at Khyber Himalayan Resort and Spa or any of the town’s popular eateries.
Bhimashankar near Pune in Maharashtra
Surrounded by lush rainforests in the Sahyadri range near Pune, it is one of the picturesque and pristine hill stations in the State.
How to Reach Bhimashankar is well connected to all the major cities. Buses are available from Kalyan and Ghatkoper in Mumbai and from Shivajinagar in Pune. It is located about 100 km from Pune and 223 km from Mumbai. Pune Railway Station is the nearest railhead to reach the hill station. MTDC Bhimashankar resort offers a comfort stay at affordable rates.
Things To Do: Enshrouded with dense forest and thick foliage of trees, it offers breath-taking views of the green valleys and the two serene lakes of Devi and Hanuman. It is also the point of origination of the river Bhima, which flows south east and later merges with the river Krishna.
- The hill station is home to one of the 12 jyotirlinga shrines in India, making it a prominent pilgrimage centre. It is said that Lord Shiva resided here in the form of Bhima to kill demon Tripurasura. Hence, the site surrounding the jyotirlinga is called Bhimshankar. Apart from Bhimashankar temple, the pilgrims can visit other nearby religious destinations such as the Mokshakund Tirtha, the Kusharanya Tirtha and the Sarvatirtha.
- Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary is known for abundance of flora and fauna. Many rare and endangered species of plants and wildlife can be found here including Barking deer, leopards, hyena and langur. The bird lovers can observe hornbill, pigeon, Malabar whistling thrush, black eagle, and several other bird species. One can look out for the Great Indian Squirrel here.
- It is also a heaven for nature lovers as it provides many trekking, hiking and rock climbing opportunities since it is bounded by plethora of forts and ruins. Places like Padargad, Shivneri, Kothaligad and Siddhagad are perfect trekking points here.
What to eat: The place offers only vegetarian food, with Misal (spicy snack), Aluchi Patal Bhaji (tangy and sweet curry made out of Colocasia leaves dish) and Thalipeeth (savoury pancake) being the most popular ones. One must try the sweets, especially Puran Poli (sweet flatbread stuffed with sweet lentil), Ukadiche Modak (flour, jaggery and filing flavoured with Saffron & Cardamom, coconut based dessert) and Shrikhand (curd based sweet dish).
Roing in Arunachal Pradesh
Roing in Arunachal Pradesh is a perfect destination for a weekend getaway. It is the district headquarter of the lower Dibang Valley in Arunachal. It makes for a refreshing road trip away from the hustles and bustles of the city life. It has beautiful sights to behold with untamed flowing rivers, shimmering snow-capped mountains, enormous waterfalls and archaeological sites.
How to reach: Roing is well connected to Tinsukia, Assam and can also be reached via various other road links connecting the Tezu-Chowkham-Namsai circuit. You can also experience a ferry boat journey on your way to Roing which has recently been made much easier through the Dhola-Sadiya bridge over the Brahmaputra river. The nearest railway station to reach Roing is the New Tinsukia Junction railway station and the nearest airport is the Mohanbari airport in Dibrugarh.
Things to do:
- On the first day, you can visit the Mayudia Pass from Roing which is around 60 kilometres away. This place receives a massive amount of snowfall during winters. You can go trekking in this region to enjoy the snow and the sheer beauty of this place! You can spend the night in Mayudia amidst snow, and pack your own food to cook and enjoy a bonfire night with your friends and family
- The next day, you can also explore the Mehau wildlife sanctuary which is a home of a wide variety of flora and fauna, and see the Mehau Lake in Roing.
What to eat:. You should definitely try the hot steaming momos, rice, bamboo shoot dishes, and apong – a traditional homemade rice beer.
Permit Required: Arunachal Pradesh falls under restricted area, official permission is required to enter the state, and therefore the visitors other than natives of Arunachal Pradesh are required to obtain an Inner Line Permit (ILP) to enter Arunachal Pradesh. You can apply for the permit here.
Jaisalmer in Rajasthan
Jaisalmer, also known as ‘the Golden City’ is located in Rajasthan. You will feel a vast difference in the temperature of its desert in the day and night in winters, so pack your clothes accordingly. It is home to several beautiful temples and forts and it makes for a fulfilling weekend getaway destination.
How to reach: Jodhpur is the nearest airport which is around 300 kms away from Jaisalmer. From the Jodhpur airport, you can hire a taxi to reach Jaisalmer. Jaisalmer is also well connected by buses and trains plying to and from the major cities of Rajasthan such as Jaipur, Jodhpur, Mount Abu, Bikaner, and so on. The famous luxury train known as the ‘Palace on Wheels’ can also give you an unforgettable experience of the journey!
Things to do:
- You must definitely visit the Jaisalmer fort which crowns the entire town of Jaisalmer. You can take a walking tour of the Jain temples and the havelis in Jaisalmer, the Patwon ki Haveli being the most important and the largest haveli in the region.
- On the next day, do visit the Gadisar Lake and the Khaba Fort.
- Last but not the least, do try out an overnight camel safari for a breathtakingly beautiful experience of the Thar desert! You can book yourself a camel safari package which would include food, beddings and other necessities for a comfortable and a memorable ride. You can choose to return on the same day or spend the night where you can indulge in stargazing experiences along with spectacular views of the sunrises and sunsets!
What to eat: Dive into the extremely delectable Rajasthani cuisine with gatte ki sabji, dal bati choorma, pyaaz ki kachori, and mutton saag!
Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu
Winters are the perfect time to visit Mahabalipuram. The weather remains pleasant for sightseeing and exploration during this season. It is one of the most popular places for visitors as it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Hindu Group of Monuments built by the Pallava dynasty in the 7th-8th century. It is a culturally rich town providing a historical experience to its visitors and is a treat for history lovers!
How to reach: The Chennai airport located in Meenambakkam is the closest airport to Mahabalipuram. This airport is also connected to all the major airports in the country. You can book a taxi from the airport to reach Mahabalipuram which is around 60 kms away. This place is also easily accessible through roadways and railways as buses and trains ply regularly from the major parts of Tamil Nadu. The nearest railway station, the Chengalpattu Junction, is around 30 kms away from Mahabalipuram and one can easily reach this twon using the local taxis.
Things to do: Mahabalipuram is a land of monuments and stories from the Indian history. It makes for an amazing destination for sightseeing.
- You can explore the beaches of Mahabalipuram as this town is surrounded by water on three sides due to its location on a strip of land between the Bay of Bengal and the Great Salt Lake.
- You can also explore the caves and cave temples, the Tiger Cave being one of the most important caves of Mahabalipuram along with the Pancha Pandava Cave Temple, Trimurti Cave Temple and the Descent of the Ganges.
- Coming to its temples and monuments, you can explore the famous Shore Temple, Ganesh Ratha Temple and the Karukathamman Temple.
- You can also go for fish safaris in Mahabalipuram where you get to live and witness the life of a fisherman.
- You can also indulge in beach camping or go for an adventurous bicycle tour in Kadumbadi village, where you get a first-hand experience of life in rural India.
What to eat: You will find a variety of cuisine in the restaurants of Mahabalipuram. Dive into the authentic South Indian platter and sea food with grilled fish, lobsters, prawns, crabs and much more!
This piece and the gallery have been updated with new information since its original publish date.
Photos : Shutterstock
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