By Kapil Goswmay, CMD, BigBreaks
With the country’s proximity to the world’s highest mountain ranges, India’s millennial consumer is taking on the challenges of the urban winter by visiting snow-laden destinations such as Ladakh, Shimla, Dalhousie and Manali. And millennials are doing this in style. Luxury, honeymoon and adventure travel bookings spiked these last few months as visitors from warmer places in this largely sub-equatorial nation seek to experience ‘real’ winter by immersing themselves in the frigid temperatures and biting winds of the Himalayan landscape at a time when tourist bookings normally drop. Kapil Goswmay, CMD, BigBreaks, lists down a few activities to beat back the cold this winter.
Ladakh, for example, boasts of temperatures that go down to -20°C and peak at just 2°C. A significant number of people believe that this destination is ideal for a visit in winter because this is the best time to interact with locals and soak up indigenous culture. The approach road from the Leh-Manali highway or the Srinagar-Leh road may close due to snowfall and hence a road trip is not advisable in winters. However, air fares are remarkably cheaper at this time. One can choose to take on the challenging Chadar trek-walk on the Zanskar River over a week. Alternatively, one can choose to stay in the capital, Leh, and find bliss in the local festivals and ancient Buddhist culture and majestic landscapes. Perched at a height of 3,505 meters above sea-level on the northern fringes of Indian territory, its colorful Gompas have attracted the devout and the faithful for ages. For the wild-life lover, there is also activity surrounding snow-leopard tracking. Ladakh is ideal for a trip that lasts at least 4-5 days.
Manali has been the most preferred destination for honeymooners and young adventurous couples at the peak of winter. Its close juxtaposition with the scenic Kullu valley allows Manali visitors to enjoy the thrilling sport of winter skiing. Winters turn this quaint countryside into a carpet of white that gives plenty of road-space for adventure sports. Snowboarding is another pastime that is finding newer, younger and fitter patrons. Heli-skiing, sloping down sledges and straining the athlete in oneself with some mind-boggling ice-climbing are just some of the activities adrenaline junkies can partake in during the period running from December to March. For the more relaxation-inclined, breathtaking sights over cable-car ‘gondolas’ await. One can sit back and enjoy this flight of fancy without having to leap off cliffs and ledges. Nights can be fun too with music and intoxicating good food and wine as there are plenty of hotels and restaurants one can visit in close proximity.
Shimla and Kullu
Shimla and Kullu are the other two lesser Himalayan destinations that are blessed with an abundance of natural bounties, towering deodar and pines, snow-clad mountain tops submerged in smoky clouds, colonial structures and buildings of period architecture, surrounded by lush green forests, paddy fields and apple orchards under the shadow the Pir Panjal ranges of the Western Himalayas. Trekking and hiking trails are other leisurely activities that can be undertaken to fill your days with fond amusement.
The warm open beaches of Goa are the quintessential winter destinations for travelers from the Northern parts of India where winters are sharp and air qualities miserable. Some of the loudest music festivals take place in December in Goa. These include the Feast of St. Francis Xavier, the VH1 Supersonic and the Sunburn music festivals. Small Vagator is the venue for many of these music festivals and forms a sprawling backdrop to crowds seeking pleasure and entertainment in Goa’s endless carnivals. Beach parties, drinking and dancing are other activities for the carefree. Many luxurious hotels and resorts abound on the sands of Goa with indoor or private pools and spas for complete peace free of tension and anxiety. Honeymooners, too, can find places to revel and enjoy in comfort and serenity away from the madding crowds in upscale South Goa.
Winter also brings out the best of distant Jaisalmer as the Thar cools down considerably during chilly winter nights. With its looming forts and charming structures of historical significance that bear testimony to its vivid past, no day would remain free of activity as you take a guided trip around the town. Travel over capricious sand dunes on camel safaris ending with a proud musical performance in the evening under the stars. Shoppers and souvenir hunters will find plenty of articles to carry home, indigenously crafted clothing and the experience of the annual Desert festival, ensure that you carry indelible memories across the spans of time and space.
Hot, cold, indulgent or adrenaline-fuelled, young couples and groups will find plenty of action away from home this winter as festival season climaxes with the ushering in of the New Year in 2018.