India has a varied landscape, home to the Himalayas, the Western Ghats, the Thar desert, islands, beaches, and even glaciers. Each region experiences a different climate, but mainly four seasons are common across India. The season of pouring rain, followed by trees shedding their leaves for new ones, then the season of cold chilly days, and then comes summer time when the temperature soars as high as 48 degree Celsius in some states. Living in metropolitan cities, each of us has experienced the hot and humid days of summer in abundance, but snow is something only a few Northern states are blessed with.
The ideal time to plan a vacation is when it too cold outside, and schools and colleges are shut. Retreat to the mountains and spend your vacation days enjoying the fresh mountain air and experience the magical snowfall in these Hill Station in India:
Shimla, time and again, has been one of the most preferred holiday destinations in India. Even during the time of the British Raj, Shimla was the summer capital and even today; it houses the official retreat building of the President of India.
Situated at the height of 7,467 feet, Shimla is the preferred hill station among both honeymooners and families. You can find a heavy British influence in Shimla, be it the architecture like once the Viceregal Lodge and now the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies or the railway lines, the iconic Kalka-Shimla railway line which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Shimla is popularly known as the Queen of Hills and has lovely weather throughout the year, a fantastic skyline and the Mall Road.
You can easily reach the city by taking a train and then the Kalka-Shimla line or by road, which is well maintained and connected to cities like Chandigarh and the capital Delhi. You can also come by air; the airport is located in Jubbarhatti, which is 23 kilometres away from the main city.
Shimla during winter is an entirely different experience. The beauty of Shimla is magnified during snowfall. You can take walks on the Mall Road or simply enjoy the view of a snow-clad Shimla during the day and an all illuminated one during the night time.
Best Time To Witness Snowfall: Unlike previous times, now, the snowfall starts in January and lasts till February. Best bet would be mid-January when one is most likely to experience snowfall.
Situated at the height of 8,200 feet, Auli is a hill station in the state of Uttarakhand which is the most sought-after holiday destination during winters. It is located in the Chamoli district in the Garhwal region and is a huge meadow or bugyal which receives a thick blanket of snow every winter. It is breathtakingly beautiful and situated and is lined with deodar and oak trees. It has a lovely climate throughout the year and is ideal for a calm and peaceful break from the monotony of every day.
It has beautiful resorts which offer enthralling views of the Himalayas. Here, you can go on nature walks, indulge in photography, or simply sit in your cottages and sip on some hot tea. It is a must-visit destination for adventure enthusiast as its slopes are ideal for skiing. Auli also has Asia's second longest cable car which covers a distance of 4 kilometres which takes one from Joshimath to Auli. Being situated at the height of 3010 metres, it is also one of the highest cable cars in India. If you are travelling to Auli from cities like Delhi, you can fly till Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun which is situated at a distance of 270 kilometres from Auli or travel toll Rishikesh by road or train and take a cab till Auli. But for international travellers, the nearest international airport is the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi.
Kashmir valley is considered one of the most beautiful locations in India. It was once the most sought after location for movie shoots, movies like Silsila, Kabhi Kabhi, Bobby, Kashmir Ki Kali and most recently Highway being shot here. It is also a popular honeymoon destination having picturesque and breathtakingly beautiful locations like Gulmarg, Pahalgam Valley, and Dal Lake, thus staying faithful to its nickname 'Paradise on Earth'.
Although parts of Kashmir no longer have the ideal situations which make it safe for a visit, the capital Srinagar is still famous and visited by many tourists from Indian and abroad. Sri Nagar has a beautiful landscape where you can indulge in boating on shikaras and explore the night bazaar of Dal Lake while sipping on a kahwa or spend a night on a boathouse watching the illuminated city of Srinagar. Winters in Kashmir are cold, and the city gets covered in a blanket of snow. The Dal Lake freezes over and becomes ideal for ice skating.
Travelling to Srinagar is most ideal by air as the airport is situated in Srinagar which has regular flights to major cities like Delhi, Goa, Mumbai, etc. If you wish to travel by train, the nearest station is in Jammu, from where you will have to take a cab or bus into Srinagar. The capital is well connected to other cities by road and air.
Best Time To Witness Snowfall: December - March
4. Gulmarg, Jammu and Kashmir
Situated in the Baramula district, Gulmarg is a haven for adventure enthusiasts. You must recognise the slopes of Gulmarg as this was the location for the shooting of Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani. Throughout the year the temperature remains moderate, and during summers, the huge meadow becomes covered in colourful flowers thus literally becoming Gulmarg or 'the meadow of flowers'.
Gulmarg during winters is an entirely different picture. The meadow receives heavy snowfall and becomes covered in snow. The ideal time to visit is during December to April as then the sloped are ideal for adventure sports like skiing or snowboarding. It also has a high altitude golf course, Alpather Lake which freezes in winter, the Gulmarg Biosphere Reserve and the Khilanmarg valley. In Gulmarg, you can partake in trekking, adventure sports, nature walks, and photography of the majestic Himalayas which will make for a perfect souvenir.
Travelling to Gulmarg is very easy as it is well connected to the capital by road. Gulmarg is at a distance of 56 km from the Srinagar and the Srinagar airport. You can reach this destination by travelling by air till Srinagar airport and then take an hour-long cab till Gulmarg.
Located at the height of 6,726 feet, Manali experiences a beautiful climate throughout the year. Manali is a picturesque town nestled in the Beas Valley between the ranges of Pir Panjal and Dhauladhar and is surrounded by apple, plum and pear orchards. As per the local legends, the town is named after Manu, an ancient Hindu lawgiver and is considered the 'abode of Manu?. It was also once the preferred holiday destination for the former Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru. Here, you can find the old and the new existing side by side. It is home to the historic Naggar Castle and cafes and restaurants serving local delights. It is a quaint small town with picturesque beauty with a population of around 8,000 which is ideal for a getaway from bustling city life.
Solang Valley in Manali is the place to be for adventure seekers. As soon as winter arrives, the valley gets heavy snowfall and becomes packed with people indulging in adventure sports. You can ski on the slopes of Solang, indulge in mountain biking or partake in paragliding with the snow clad Himalayas in the background and a breathtaking view of the valley from the top. Rohtang Pass is another popular destination among tourists and the perfect spot to catch some snow.
To experience snow, the ideal time to visit this hill station is during October to February when the nights and days are equally chilly, and the entire town becomes snow-clad. Most tourists prefer to drive up to Manali as the ride through the towns of Mandi and Kullu offers amazing sights. The nearest airport is in Bhuntar, at a distance of 50 kilometres from Manali however, there are no nearby or feasible railway stations. One of the most fuss-free ways is to travel by an HPTDC (Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation) Volvo or by any other luxury bus.
Best Time To Witness Snowfall: December - March
6. Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir
Ladakh is every millennial's dream destination. It is the perfect example of a retreat on the mountains, being calm, serene, secluded, and most of it is remote. Ladakh is situated on the longest mountain chains in India, the Kunlun mountain range and the Himalayas at the height of 9,800 feet or more. It is unlike any other place in India, being the most distinct culturally and also geographically. Its culture is a lot close to Tibetan culture and has a population of about 200,000 thousand.
Ladakh is a picturesque and beautiful place and has a desert terrain, along with rivers, valleys, and mountain ranges. During winters, Ladakh receives huge amounts of snowfall which is also the main source of water for its inhabitants. As soon as October begins, the temperature starts dropping and continues to drop till December going as low as -14 degree Celsius, however, this is the time when the Diskit Festival, Losar Festival, Padum Festival and Thiksey Festival are held.
It houses the famous Zanskar river which completely freezes over in winters and becomes the famous trekking destination known as Chadar trek. While here, you must pay a visit to the iconic Pangong Tso Lake which is an entirely different picture when it is frozen solid.
Ladakh's is truly a beauty as the locals have tried hard to keep the place unexploited and the natural beauty intact. The capital Leh is the blend of old and new, although urbanisation has taken place, the city is still lined with stupas and centuries-old forts and palaces, which add to the uniqueness of Ladakh. Winters in Ladakh result in snow blocking roads and highways. Therefore, it isn't the perfect time to go on a road trip to Ladakh. However, you can fly in, which is the most feasible option as the nearest railway station is in Jammu. The closest airport is in the capital Leh and has regular flights to cities like Delhi, Chandigarh, Srinagar, etc.
Situated in Udhampur district in the Northern state of Jammu and Kashmir, Patnitop is a beautiful hilltop ideal for a visit during winters. It is situated at an elevation of 6,640 feet and is a popular destination among adventure enthusiasts.
Patnitop is home to many hill resorts situated among deodar and pine trees and green meadows with spectacular views of the Pir Panjal Range. Come winter season, Patnitop receives huge amounts of snowfall and thus attracts many tourists. The months of January and February are perfect for skiing and sledging on the snow-clad slopes or taking walks among the picturesque beauty of Patnitop. If you are a beginner, fret not, the ski resorts also offer courses for those who are new at skiing. You can also indulge in paragliding at Sanasar, which is 17 km away from Patnitop.
If you are thinking about travelling to this winter wonderland, the best way is by road. You can also take a train till Udhampur and then take a cab or bus to Patnitop.
Narkanda is a small town in Himachal Pradesh with a population of approximately 2,500, situated at a distance of 62 kilometres from the central city of Shimla. It is the ideal place to find snow and the one that had the highest probability. Situated at an altitude of 2,708 metres, Narkanda is also a popular skiing destination.
People from Shimla and neighbouring cities flock to this small town, to witness snowfall, indulge in skiing and ice skating on the small frozen lake in the middle of Narkanda, and for the breathtaking views from Hatu Peak, the highest peak in Narkanda. During January, Narkanda gets covered in a blanket of snow and becomes ideal for all snow-related sports. The skiing slopes are relatively easier than other places in India and perfect for those with no experience.
Narkanda is easily accessible by road. It is well connected to all major cities like Shimla, New Delhi, Mumbai, etc. The nearest railway station is in Kalka, from there you can either take the Kalka-Shimla heritage line or travel by road which is a lot faster. Travelling by air is also an option, the nearest airport is in Jubbarhatti, at a distance of 87 kilometres from Narkanda.
Sonamarg is a quaint little hill station, nestled in a valley between the Himalayas. Situated at the height of 2,739 metres, this town is very remote and has a population of a few hundred. Tourists and mainly those seeking snow mostly visit the place. Sonamarg has beautiful weather throughout the year, although the snow season begins during December.
Sonamarg or 'The Meadow of Gold' receives a thick blanket of snow which lasts even till April. It offers amazing views of the nearby mountain ranges which make for beautiful images. You can also partake in trekking and slide down on snow sledges. Whether you are a photography or an adventure enthusiast, Sonamarg is the place for you.
It situated 85 kilometres away from Srinagar and can be reached by road. The drive till Sonamarg through the Sindh Valley is worth it. You can also travel by air till Srinagar and then take a cab or bus till Sonamarg. Travelling by train isn't advisable as it is neither economical nor feasible.
Yumthang is a valley situated in Northern Sikkim and is a haven for nature lovers. It is surrounded by lush green meadows, rhododendron trees, colourful flowers, rivers, hot springs and shepherds grazing their cattle in the backdrop. It is situated at the height of 3575 metres and a distance of 150 kilometres from the city of Gangtok. Yumthang is also known as the Valley of Flowers and the ideal time to catch the flowers in full bloom is from March to May. During the winter season, the valley becomes a haven for adventure seekers. People come in huge numbers to indulge in skiing on the snow-clad slopes of the valley. The ideal time for winter sports is from December.
As soon as winter arrives, the roads become blocked with huge amounts of snow. The railway station is situated in New Jalpaiguri which is 139 km from Laching, and from there, taxis are readily available till Yumthang. The nearest airport is Gangtok, and then one will have to travel by road till this valley. Although the entire road journey can be a little taxing, the destination is worth it.
Best Time To Witness Snowfall: December - March
As soon as winter season hits India, pack a bag and head to any of the hill stations mentioned above to experience snow.