Listing the top ten hill destinations for winters in India is a tough one. With over 200 popular and lesser known destinations, you are spoilt for choice. Snowfall in the Himalayan states is definitely a big reason for travel junkies to visit in the winters. Snow cover not only adds to scenic beauty of these hill destinations, it also provides for a perfect landscape for skiing (for those who care and dare). Looking at a few key factors viz. tourist footfall, accommodation options, local market and eateries, activities & things to do and places to visit nearby, here are the top 10 destinations:
1. Gulmarg – Jammu and Kashmir:
Also known as “Gaurimarg”, Gulmarg is a treat for the eye for people craving for snow plus it is a popular skiing destination. It is 56 Kms from Srinagar in Baramula district. With temperatures dropping to as low as -7°Celsius in January, tourists need to come prepared for the weather extremes. This town with a small population of under two thousand was rated by CNN as the 7th best ski destination in Asia. While the scenery is enough to keep you smitten, there are a few attractions like the Maharani Temple, St. Mary’s Church and Gulmarg Gandola – a ropeway that ferries about 600 people per hour between Gulmarg and Apharwat Peak (4,200 mts altitude). And if you are a sucker for music, films and photography, you need to come and join the annual three day Gulmarg Winter Festival held in March every year.
Bonus – Do check out the almost secret Alpather lake, 13 Kms from Gulmarg. It is also known as the ‘Frozen Lake’ since it is actually frozen for near seven months from November to May. Tourists go for the one day trek to the Alpather lake throughout the year, though considering the extreme weather condition and high altitudes, it is recommended to plan for the trek diligently.
2. Srinagar – Jammu and Kashmir:
The summer capital of the Jammu and Kashmir, Srinagar is the heart of this paradise on earth – Kashmir. The city boasts of four lakes with Dal lake being the most popular tourist destination sporting the famous houseboats and shikaras . And then there are the five Mughal gardens which have a majestic presence about them. There are ancient shrines, temples, mosques and churches to visit for those who want to pay obeisance to God while assimilating the mesmerizing beauty of the valley. Some of them are the ancient Shankaracharya mandir, Zeastha Devi mandir, Hazratbal shrine, Jama Masjid, Gurdwara Chatti Patshahi and Holy Family Catholic Church. And then there is the Hari Parbat fort supposed to have been built in the 6th century and subsequently fortified by the mughals and later rulers. Official permission is required to visit the fort by submitting an application.
The climate can get very cold in the winters with average low temperature of -2°C and can sometimes go below -5°C due to cold waves. Handicrafts and dry fruits are high on the shopping list and good markets to buy stuff are Lal Chowk Ghantaghar and the Wholesale market and the former is supposedly cheaper. Some other popular things to do are shikara ride or houseboat stay on Dal Lake or Nageen Lake, paragliding and trekking. And yes, Srinagar is a perfect place to start for a hill-station tour of Gulmarg, Pehalgam and Sonamarg.
3. Pahalgam – Jammu and Kashmir:
Located in the Anantnag district, Pahalgam is a beautiful hill station that is popular for its natural beauty. With temperature touching subzero and this area receiving heavy snowfall during winter it is a perfect holiday destination particularly during winters.
Also read: 10 LESSER KNOWN HILL STATIONS IN INDIA
4. Patnitop – Jammu and Kashmir:
A beautiful hill station located in the Udhampur district in Jammu and Kashmir offers magnificent snow peak views and also provides the perfect landscape for adventure sports such as skiing and zorbing.
5. Shimla – Himachal Pradesh:
Located in Himachal Pradesh Shimla, is a beautiful city that is bounded by Mandi and Kullu in the north and Kinnaur. During winters it receives heavy snowfall and as a result provides an ideal landscape for winter sports like skating and snowing.
6. Kufri – Himachal Pradesh:
Located at about 13 km from Shimla Kufri, is beautiful hill station that is popular as a skiing destination during winters. It also provides for some magnificent views of its surroundings.
Also read: A FEW UPCOMING HILL STATIONS IN INDIA
7. Dharamshala – Himachal Pradesh:
In the Kangra Valley, there is a scenic city called “Dharamshala”. This city is a home to the Dalai Lama. This city receives heavy snowfall and is known for its scenic beauty during the winter season. The snowfall recorded on January 7, 2012 was the heaviest recorded in recent times.
8. Auli – Uttarakhand:
Auli a beautiful hill station in Uttarakhand is an important skiing destination located in the Himalayan mountain ranges. Other adventure sports such as mountain climbing, snowboarding etc are also popular. This hill station also provides for magnificent views of the snow clad mountain peaks of the Himalayas.
9. Mussorie – Uttarakhand:
Popularly known as the “Queen of the Hills” Mussorie, is a beautiful hill station located in the Dehradun district in Uttarakhand. This hill station experiences heavy snowfall with the temperature dropping below zero degrees. It also provides for magnificent views of the Doon valley and Shiwalik ranges especially during winters.
10. Chopta – Uttarakhand:
Known as “Mini Switzerland” Chopta, is a beautiful hill station located in Uttarakhand. During winters this scenic hill station provides for magnificent views of the snow clad Himalayan ranges such as Trishul, Nanda Devi, and Chaukhamba.