Kickstarting the new year with a vacation? Fret not, here is a comprehensive list of 16 lesser known places to visit in January in India you can add to your bucket list to welcome the new year with. From the most challenging terrains to the smoothest sand beaches, from north to south and east to west, on the sea and land, the eternal travel enthusiast’s guide to winter vacation begins here.
1. Kalimpong (West Bengal)
Kalimpong is one of the hidden gems of the east, especially known among travel enthusiasts as one of the honeymooning places to visit in January in India. Snuggling in the heaviest woollens during January the view of the Teesta river valley is a remedy for every eye aching with the mundane metropolitan sites.
The Galinka and Crockety bungalows built during the British regime which happen to be exemplary specimens of colonial architecture should be your choice of accommodation for the best facilities and experience. The Morgan House is also an option if economising is an agenda on your trip here. January can be an extremely chilly and frosty, but the view of the panoramic snow-capped mountains is worth the cold.
January is one of the best time to visit Bikaner and one of the chief reasons it is thronged in this month is because of the Camel Festival organized here, in village Ladera. Camel owners show off their decorated camels and participate in various quirky competitions, some of which are: best haircut for a camel, best fur cutting, and camel milking. The camel owners make an exclusive show out of their well-trained camels, who dance to the directions of the owners. All in all, Bikaner is a well-packaged deal for January, considering the weather and the infallible charm of the hospitable city.
3. Golconda Fort (Telangana)
The Golconda Fort in Telangana is one of those south Indian marvels, that calls for explorers who are not pressed for time, and more importantly, can appreciate the light, almost perfect weather in the otherwise tropic south India. The Golconda Fort is one of the places to visit in January in India when the city is experiencing the crux of its airy and slightly windy, but pleasant weather. The Fort is said to have been the chief mine source for some of the world’s most precious diamonds, like the Kohinoor and the Hope diamond, the Regent diamond, and the Nur-Ul-Ain diamond. The huge Golconda fort, which is about five kms in circumference, houses a huge number of smaller forts and has about 8 huge gates and 70 ramparts. Simply put, it is the perfect getaway for architecture enthusiasts with a taste for history.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Fatehpur Sikri is one of the best-preserved marvels of Mughal architecture, which also served as the capital of the Mughal emperor Akbar’s capital for a few years of his reign. Akbar planned the complex with Persian sensibilities and Indian embellishments, and with photogenic sandstone boundary walls. With a host of shopping and cultural options to explore, the village is a delight for architecture enthusiasts, handicraft curators and cultural explorers. Fatehpur, just beyond the ruins, hosts a colourful crafts bazaar, while to the north of the main city, the small picturesque village Sikri is worth a round especially in the chilly weather of January in India.
The Elephanta Caves, 11 kms to the north of Apollo Bandar, Mumbai, and about 7 kms off the mainland, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Caves are present on the Elephanta Island, also known as the Island of Gharapuri. The Caves find perfect expression in the carvings of Lord Shiva and appear to blend in with their natural environs. At the entrance of the first cave, the 7 meters high Shiva statue with three facets, represent the incarnations of the deity as the creator, the preserver and the destroyer. Dating back to 6-7th century AD, the caves are preserved with extreme care by the Archaeological Survey of India, and there is ample to explore for the historically aligned. The cafes and craft stores have much to offer, and to top off the trip, the ferry ride to and fro from the island is what makes it even more memorable.
Havelock Island, in January in India, is a delight for all those who love quiet beaches with a never-ending horizon, sands and crystal clear waters that stretch beyond sight. Havelock Island is a hidden gem which is perfect for marine lovers, professional, and recreational alike.
The Island is divided into several villages, and the main bazaar in village number 3 is quite popular among the travellers. One of the most beautiful aspects of the island is that larger sea animals, like dolphins, turtles and bigger fishes are friendly with the coastal people and are often seen without much difficulty. Snorkeling is also one of the major attractions here. With temperatures not hovering over 28 degrees and a pleasant air drifting all day, it’s one of the places to visit in January in India.
7. Auli (Uttarakhand)
Auli may as well be named as the snow sports and adventurer’s paradise for once and for all. The tiny snow swathed area, located in the Chamoli district of ‘Dev Bhoomi’ Uttarakhand at the height of 2,500 metres, is fast becoming a popular skiing destination among those who want to look beyond its commercial counterparts.
January is the month when temperatures here drop to sub-zero levels. Hence the heaviest parkas and pashminas are a must have if you are planning to visit. Apart from skiing, various other excursions like trekking, visiting the world’s highest man-made lake or spiritual enlightenment with the views of some major Hindu pilgrimage points, like Nanda Devi and Mount Neelkanth are what makes Auli a well-rounded pit stop.
A tiny town with an area of little over 40 square kilometres, Kalpetta is located in the Wayanad district of God’s Own Country, Kerala. If like a true Indian, you are drawn to aromatic spices and the national beverages of tea and coffee, this is just the place to be. Large coffee and tea plantations, preceded by high mountain peaks are a vision.
January is a peak time for traders and tourists alike. One thing to not miss while in Kalpetta is the Wayanad Flower Show, held every year in the months of December-January. The misty mountains and cooler plains are a treat for those looking for a laid back vacationing spot with the bonus of a kitchen supplies’ connoisseur’s delight.
9. Phwangpui (Mizoram)
Phwangpui, like Kalpetta, is one of the lesser discovered havens, and tucked up and away at the height of about 2150 metres in Mizoram. Also referred to as the Blue Mountain, Phwangpui is much revered among the locals for its folklore and local stories to housing a local deity, ‘Sangau’. Apart from being spiritually significant, Phwangpui is also one of the most beautiful naturally preserved spots where flora and fauna flourish.
Rhododendrons and orchids of various hues and some of the rarest animals, like the Asiatic black bear, leopard cat, gorals, capped langur, stump-tailed macaque, which are now endangered are a regular sight here. Colorful plumed sunbirds are seen soaring in the sky overhead while the calls of the barking deer transport a tourist into a nether realm of absolute natural beauty. Trekking at Phwangpui in January is a must to explore the lands, so make sure to carry all your trekking gear with you.
Southern India is the most thronged part of the country when it comes to travellers looking to escape the harsh cold of the north, especially during January. The Kabini Wildlife Sanctuary in Karnataka is a wildlife lover’s haven, and the added comfort of the breezy, pleasant southern air adds to the experience.
The Sanctuary is the most popular wildlife tourism destination in south India and houses some of the most exotic varieties of animals known to the Indian populace, like the cheetah, panther, spotted deer and is also known as the best bird sanctuary in the area for maintaining and growing the 250 varieties of birds found here.
11. Khajuraho (Madhya Pradesh)
One of Indian civilisation’s most noteworthy contribution at the international scale is the sensibility and heightened sensitivity towards the human body. Khajuraho is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, known for its evolved representation of acceptance of diversity among Hinduism and Jainism as religions, through the unified temple complexes and for its intricate erotic carvings on all the temple walls.
Although diminished in number from 85 to 20 since their inception in the 12th century AD, the temples still stand strong and are visited by art, history and cultural enthusiasts from around the world. The temperatures around this time lie comfortably between 9-25 degrees Celsius, a perfect place to visit in January in India.
12. Ooty, Tamil Nadu
Surrounded by lush green hills, dense forests and beautiful lakes, Ooty, the Queen of Hill Stations, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in South India and has been so since the days of the British. It’s one of the places you to visit in January in India, owing to it’s cool and misty weather then. The place is a delight for nature lovers as it is extremely rich in flora and fauna. The numerous lakes in and around Ooty provide some of the most picturesque picnic spots in the area. Among the tourist spots in Ooty, the Rose Garden, the Botanical gardens, the tea plantations, and a visit to the colonial era buildings is a must.
13. Chadar Trek, Ladakh
The Chadar Trek or The Frozen River Expedition is one of the unique and challenging treks in India. The 6-day chadar trek across the frozen Zanskar River in Ladakh takes place during the latter part of January till the end of February or sometimes the first week of March, depending on the weather. Though, it seems a challenging trek; it isn’t the most difficult; as it is a flat walk along the Chadar with minimal amounts of climbing. If you can walk for a couple of hours without much strain, you are good to go. If you’re a person interested in trekking, then head over to Ladakh in January for an experience of a lifetime.
Known as the “Isle of Calm” in Portuguese, Diu is a place frequented by those who want to have a relaxing time far away from the hustle and bustle of cities. Though it’s a relatively popular destination for tourists, it’s not very crowded.The Portuguese influence here is very much evident in the architecture, food and even the culture of Diu. There are plenty of historic forts, churches and temples that one can visit while here. Also, being a major fishing town, an abundance of seafood is available here, much to the delight of the sea-food lovers. Enjoy the blend of Portuguese and local culture, relax on the sandy shores and dig into the lip-smacking food. It’s one of the best places to visit in January in India.
The ‘Pink City’ of India, Jaipur is a palatial wonderland with its unparalleled beauty, spectacular architecture and vibrant, regal history. With a superb collection of breathtaking palaces, exciting camel/elephant rides, vibrant Rajasthani culture and scrumptious ethnic food, Jaipur is a time travel portal to the old time worldly charms of the Rajahs and their lavish lifestyles, giving Jaipur a unique regal vibe in the contemporary 21st century India.
Why is January the best time to visit Jaipur?
If you love literature and books and fancy staying in touch with the literary circle, then the Jaipur Literature Festival is your Mecca! A grand festival solely dedicated to Literature had been long due and JLF made it possible for all of us. It is so popular that Mail has even called it “the grandest literary Festival of them all”. So, what is the Jaipur Literature Festival? It is the annual literary festival which takes place in the royal city of Jaipur in the month of January. The Diggi Palace Hotel serves as the main venue for the event with 6 sub-venues inside.
Located in the midst of Thar Desert, Bikaner is a “cultural paradise and a traveller’s haven”. The city will mesmerize you with the camels sauntering its beautiful sand dunes and captivate you with its ancient palaces and forts. Rightly called as one of the three great desert kingdoms of Rajasthan, the dazzling city boasts of old-world charm, opulent havelis and depicts a pleasing bygone era of the Rajputs. Best known as the “camel country” for breeding some best-known riding camels. The famous Camel Fair organised by the Department of Tourism, Art and Culture in January is a major attraction. The festival includes colourfully dressed camels participating in various performances including dances and races. There are also some folk dance performances and puppet shows. Tea, sweetmeats and other dairy items prepared from camel milk are also available.
Few other places that can be visited in January in India
Santiniketan, West Bengal - For a colourful Poush Mela at the time of Makar Sankranti, Gujarat for the Modhera Dance Festival, Kutch for Rann-Utsav, Mahabalipuram for the Mammalapuram Dance Festival, Tamil Nadu – For an experience of Pongal, which is a four-day festival in Tamil Nadu. Lots of food and frolic!, Goa for the nightlife