India is indeed one of the prime exotic locations of the rising east, and it unfailingly attracts tourists from all over the world. Yet, the first thing you must remember before planning a winter tour in India that it is a place of contradictions and a very tricky one to deal with if you have previous expectations. No matter what anybody may say to you, India is a different experience for every second person. You need proper planning and guidance to catch the vibe of the diversified country. For the tourists who belong to the western countries, India appears a much warmer place even during the coldest months of the year which are December and January. The north and north-eastern part of the country are prone to low temperatures (the average temperature is 10-15 degree Celsius during winter). The mercury soars as you move to the southern direction and the average temperature is close to 20-25 degree Celsius. Presenting you here India in winter – where to go and why.
Gulmarg – The meadow of flowers
Gulmarg is the most frequented winter destination of India. Regular bus services and tourist taxies are available from Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir to reach the beautiful hill station.
Gulmarg will both dazzle and soothe your eyes with the scenic beauty of the snow clad hills, lakes and flower valleys. Gulmarg is also India’s famous Ski Resort which has the world’s highest gondola ski lift. The skiing season lasts from November to February. Tourists are provided with short-term memberships by the golf club to play in the Golf Course. Other available adventure sports in Gulmarg are Trekking and Horse riding. You may also visit the shrine of Baba Reshi – a Muslim mystic saint.
Goa is famous for its sea beaches, sea foods, laid back lifestyle and the Christian places of worship. Tourism is the primary industry of this small state of India. So gear up your expectations as an exotic retreat awaits you in Goa. During winter, Goa is a den for foreign tourists. Being a former Portuguese enclave in India and influenced by 450 years of Portuguese and Latin culture, Goa presents a somewhat different picture of India to the foreign tourists. The churches and convents of Goa have been declared as world heritage sites by UNESCO. Major tourist attractions in Goa include Bom Jesus Basilica and Fort Aguada. If you are interested, visit the Fort Tiracol and Chapora Fort as well. There are museums in Goa for history lovers including the Goa State Museum, Naval Aviation Museum, Goa Science Centre, Archaeological Museum and Portrait Gallery and the Museum of Christian Art.
Goa has multiple facets and it is equally interesting for animal lovers. Bondla Wildlife Sanctuay, Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary, Mollem National Park, Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary, Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary and Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary prove a heaven for tourists interested in wildlife. Foxes, wild boars and migratory birds are also found in the forests of Goa. The avifauna includes kingfishers, maynas and parrots. The famous Dudhsagar Falls, India’s fifth tallest at 310 metres, is inside Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary at the Goa-Karnataka border. The renowned Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary is situated on the island of Chorao. The endangered Olive Ridley Sea Turtle can be found on Morjim Beach in Pernem, Northern Goa and Galgibaga Beach in Canacona, Southern Goa.
Now it is time to rest your legs and enjoy the fun and frolics of the colourful winter in Goa. Do not miss the famous beaches of Calangute, Baga, Vagatore and Palolem. Goa also offers bunch of winter festivities for you to plunge in. The Goa Heritage Festival, Feast of the Three Kings and the Konkani Drama Festival are a few to name. Do not miss the spicy, delicious Goan cuisine and the music of the Portuguese guitarists.
Goa has good communication facilities. It has daily flights to and from Bangalore, Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Cochin. Most international flights arrive here via Mumbai. There are international flights to Kuwait, Sharjah, London and Germany. Goa has a regular train service from Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Ernakulum, Mangalore, and Thiruvananthapuram. There are buses from Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Mangalore and other nearby cities.
The land of desert shows a different colour during winter. The lovely hill station of Mount Abu is a great place for winter vacation; it provides you with respite from the heat and gives you a chance to visit the famous Dilwara temples. Most important thing about the place is the three days winter festival which is held during the last week of December. The festivals offer glimpses of life and culture in Rajasthan. The festival is organised by Rajasthan Tourism and Municipal board of Mount Abu.
Wildlife and photography enthusiasts must visit the Ranthambhore National Park in southern Rajasthan. Once famous as a hunting ground of the Maharajas of Jaipur, the Park is a major tourist attraction now. The best time to visit the Park is from October to February. Jeeps can be booked much before your visit.
Rajasthan is full of forts, palaces and temples. Patwon ki haveli and Nathmal ki haveli in Jaisalmer; Hawa Mahal and Jantar Mantar in Jaipur; Dilwara Jain Temple, Ajmer Dargah Sharif, Ranakpur temples, Brahma Temple in and around the capital city of Jaipur are worth a visit.
Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan is well connected by flights.
Kerala, God’s own country
The southern state of Kerala has earned its nickname as ‘God’s own country’ for its beautiful and varied landscape. Kerala is always flooded with tourists. However, we think, the best time to visit Kerala is during winter (November to February). During winter the weather is mild and appropriate to enjoy the outdoors. Kerala is famous for its Ayurvedic medicines and massages. The backwaters and houseboats are among the major attractions of the place.
Kerala has rich wildlife. A few more spots to explore would be the Bekal fort, Kochi fort, Kovalam, Kumarakom, Munnar (famous for tea gardens), Thekkady, Varkala and Wayanad.
Kerala is well connected by flights, trains (from other Indian cities) and roadways. Kerala has three major international airports in Thiruvananthapuram, Cochin and Karipur or Calicut.
India is a vast country and it will be next to impossible to cover all the must-visit places in one visit. Hence, consider visiting a few places the next time you visit India (preferably during winter). Your next visit to India is a given. The destinations to visit in your next India trip must include the eastern part of India including, Kolkata (formerly known as Calcutta), Sikkim (for the view), Darjeeling and Assam (for the world famous tea), Tawang (for its Buddhist monasteries), Shillong a.k.a. the Scotland of east (for its beautiful landscapes), Odisha (for the breath-taking temples) and last but not the least, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the extreme southeast.
Contemplating a visit to India? Do consider the followings –
- Pack your cloths carefully. You are going to experience ups and downs of temperature in the land of unity in diversity. Both woollens and cottons should be in your packing list.
- Handle your passports and other valuables carefully.
- Be careful about the visa papers. Book your tickets and hotels earlier and from trustworthy sources. Most good hotels have their own website where you can reserve your accommodation at a good discount.
- Learn to suspect people. Contact your hotel concierge for an experienced guide. Do not try to be adventurous alone, it can be fatal. Handle the touts carefully and firmly, if necessary take help from other tourists to face the situation.
- Get ready for extreme situations, crowd, dust and dirt, but you may see just the opposite at places.
- Avoid eating street foods on the streets. It may sound contradictory, but it is the best way to keep your stomach healthy.
- Try to travel with a person who knows the language of the place.
- This is for women tourists: please ensure your own safety. Carry chili spray with you. In extreme cases, do not hesitate to contact the police or ask for legal help. The number of the local embassy office may come in handy. The emergency helpline number in India is 100.
Know more on the things to know before visiting India.
Overall, India is a hospitable country and the official catchphrase/tag line of India Tourism is “Atithi Devo Bhavah” meaning – Guest is God. However, keep your eyes open for the potholes on most of the roads and the obvious after effect of population explosion in India which is visible everywhere.