If you think that the Himalayas are off-limit during the winters, you have been fooled by the daunting, ice-cold peaks too! Yes, a lot of mountain passes higher up start closing as the temperature falls. But there are still many options nestled in these valleys to explore. The blocked passes and low temperatures have been keeping the best of Himalayan secrets. Uttarakhand is one such state. Fret not, we’re here to unveil them!
1. Chamoli, Nanda Devi National Park
Go here for: Snow Leopards
Known to be elusive, snow leopards are a flagship of the Himalayas. Winter is the best time to spot these mysterious cats as they follow their prey to the lower regions. The best place in Uttarakhand to spot a snow leopard is Nanda Devi National Park. Trek the Nanda Devi Peak for better visibility!
Alternative: Govind Pashu Vihar National Park and Sanctuary
2. Dehradun, Rajaji National Park
Go here for:Winter Migratory birds, elephants safaris.
If you love wilderness, there is no better time for you to visit Uttarakhand than the winters. A colossal amount of migratory bird species move here during this time.
Most famous for the herds of elephants seen here, Rajaji National Park also hosts many other animals like tigers, panthers, and sloth bears. A bonfire at the end of the day completes the entire “Jungle Book” experience.
Alternative: Jim Corbett National Park
3. Joshimath, Kuari Pass
Go here for: A winter trek
Yes, one can trek up the Himalayas in winter. In fact, Kuari Pass trek is mainly known as a winter trek. An easy trek with frozen lakes, snowscapes, and tall deodar trees; Kuari exudes magic. Located at the center of the grand Garhwal region, Kuari is considered as the benchmark amongst all the winter treks in Himalayas, owing to the panoramic views of surrounding peaks – Mt. Mana, Kamet, and Nanda Devi.
Alternative: Chopta, Chandrashila trek.
4. Chamoli, Auli
Go here for: Winter sports
Dreaming of powdery snow trickle down your face as you gaze at the cerulean sky? Make your dreams come true at the snow carpeted meadows of Auli. Of the very few skiing destinations in India, Auli is the best – be it for a beginner or a professional. A ski lift or a ropeway takes you to the massive 7 km meadow, surrounded by peaks as high as 23000 ft. It has an exquisite view of the sun rising from behind the Nanda Devi peak.
Go here for: Homestays and Bond, Ruskin Bond!
(Image source: Little Black Book)
Winters leave the villages in Himalayas almost deserted. With no tourists around and lovely homestays to unwind at, this is the best way to get to know the mountains. Landour has many exceptional homestay options. Look forward to the cosy La Villa Bethany, a British-era cottage in the cantonment area. Fans of Ruskin Bond, get a chance to see him in person at the Cambridge Book Depot, where he does a book signing every Saturday evening.
Alternative: Sarmoli, Kalpana Pandey’s House
Go here for: Winterline
An extremely rare phenomenon, winterline is seen only from certain mountainous areas which have a long and open western horizon. From mid October to January, as the sun sets, the horizon is painted with marvelous hues of yellow, red, orange and mauve. Mussoorie is the only destination in India where you can experience this occurrence!
Surprised? Amazed? Shocked? Well, now you know! Don’t let another season pass by, pack your bags and get exploring. Also, don’t forget to let us know if you happen to discover more secrets of the mountains.