25th, 26th, 27th, 28th ,29th, 30th, 31st and the count down ends in a glorious new year’s day. Eight days of fun and revelry leading to the big bang new year’s welcome party or seven days of peace, quiet, blissuful relaxation with your loved one and welcoming the New Year in a quiet way? Which one is your preference? Whatever be your choice, India has it all for you. Its geographical location ensures that you have the best of all holiday spots- Sea and sunshine, Fire and Ice, Or the Serenity of the Sand dunes. You have it all and if more than nature, its history or spirituality that attracts you then, we have the capital city Delhi which turns a shade more beautiful during winters or the temple town of Madurai down South. Today we have attempted to bring before you our Fried Eye’s choice of top three winter destination of India. We made the choices based on the factors of –scenic beauty, popularity, tourist friendly facilities, the economic feasibility as well as the accessibility of the spot. Of course while giving the Fried Eye verdict; we took care to choose one each from the different terrains. We hope the brief notes along with the pictures will help you in forming an opinion , which in turn will prove decisive when you plan for your holiday next.
Even If Alps have been glorified as one of the most beautiful mountain ranges of the world; nothing can beat the Himalayas in sheer magnificence combined with its pristine beauty. Manali sitting pretty in the foothills of the lower Himalayas in Himachal Pradesh, reinforced itself as India’s most popular hill station after Srinagar had to relinquish its top position because of terrorism. Though there are other Hill stations dotting the entire lower Himalayas as in Shimla, Nainital, Sikkim, right upto Arunachal Pradesh which are also sought after by the tourists, Manali ranks high in our eyes because of the tourist friendly features and the superior infrastructure. For once, the state tourism department has done a lovely job of promoting tourism in its state by catering directly to the needs and comforts of the tourists. It will be unfair if we do not mention the role of the local people who go out of their way to make the visitors welcome and comfortable. This is one state that has utilized the potential of tourism to its fullest and with greatest results.
Coming back to Manali, its ancient history dates back to the times of Manu, where it is said that the sage Manu , had stepped from his ark to recreate human race after the great deluge. It falls under the administration of Kullu valley and is situated by the banks of the river Beas in the lesser Himalayas with an altitude of around 6000ft on average. But lets leave the statistics and demographics and proceed directly to what is in store for the average tourist.
Picturesque Town- Beauty cannot be measured hence we cannot quantify it but we can just say that you will find beauty of the highest degree in the scenic surroundings. Even the teeming tourist population cannot mar the appearance of the place . Everything appears to be picture perfect- the hotels, quaint cottages, the apple orchards, the river and its rocky, pebbly bank, the distant mountains, snow covered peak- everything!
Places to visit- Manali has a piece of everything from adventure tourism in Solang valley and Rohtang pass comprising of para gliding, skiing, tobogganing , mountain biking ad zorbing, river crossing, to the spiritual as in the Gurudwara in Manikaran, Hadimba temple and the monasteries. If spending a quiet time is your cup of tea, then you can laze in the sunshine with a book in hand by the river Beas or just gaze at clouds playing with the snow peaks. This is also one of the few places in India where you will find snow through out the year (Rohtang Pass in summers) and you have almost ninety percent chances of experiencing snowfall from the late autumn to the winters.
If palaces and royalty are what that excites you then you can always enjoy being treated like one in the Nagar Castle which has been converted into a heritage hotel with very much economical room rates.
Shopping- Evenings can be enjoyed with shopping for the blankets and woolens and strolling in the bright colorful markets. The goods are slightly pricey but if you haggle well, then you may get a good bargain.
Food- As it is frequented by many foreign tourists, due to the charm and attraction of the Manali Leh highway drive, you will come across a variety of Indian and foreign cuisines as in Italian, French, Lebanese etc etc. Trout is famous in Manali and so is Maggi in the Rohtang pass and nothing can warm you up as like a cup of hot tea and a bowl of steaming hot maggi.
Accommodation- Accommodation is not a concern at all with hotels, suites, villas and cottages of all price ranges available and since tourism is the primary source of income, you will get hotels in competitive rates. There are HPTDC hotels and cottages at affordable price with great services. Sightseeing and conveyance can be arranged easily. In fact you can just land there unannounced and still have a stay without any hiccups. For the compulsively organized person, you can book, reserve and plan your whole travel package singlehandedly from your own home, to the minutest of detail. Everything is there in the internet to see and book, right from the Bus tickets from Delhi/Chandigarh/ Shimla or the Railway reservation to the nearest railhead Joginder Nagar or even Bhuntur , the airport in Kullu. The road leading to Manali from Delhi via Chandigarh is an absolute delight and where the fun starts from Bilaspur itself
Though Manali is an all weather destination, winter is best if you would like to experience snowfall and roll and frolic in the snow. Building a snowman and having a snowball fight doesn’t even cost you any money.
Hope the brief note along with the pictures could help you decide on it, but if you are still in a fix about the place you would like to spend this holidays, then here is our second in the list
A place with a life of its own- vibrant, energetic and colorful. Their beach, culture, architecture and the way of life has acquired quite a fan following all over the world resulting in it becoming an international tourist hub which sees high influx of both international and domestic visitors every year. Tourism has propelled Goa on an upward drive as far as quality of life and prosperity of the population is concerned and that which can be experienced by the infrastructure and amenities available.
Goa is primarily divided for tourism purpose into South Goa, North Goa and Panajim, its capital city and it is to be noted that each of the three has a distinctly different feel from the others. So you cannot just opt for a single zone to get a hang of the whole. North Goa has the most populous beaches like Calangute and Anjuna beaches famous for its flea market and hippies or the Baga beach and its night clubs, the quieter Candolim and Sinquerium or the rocky Vagator beach- the best thing about them being its accessibility . It also has other sightseeing attractions like the Fort Aguada a seaside fort, Donna Paola , a seafront memorial and some great night clubs. The countryside up in the North is a beautiful place to just drive away aimlessly finally stopping at one of the many beaches to enjoy watching the waves at play.
While North Goa is the common man’s play ground, South Goa is more elitist and is the Goa that is projected in the movies with white sands and deep blue sea. Most of the beaches over there in South Goa are private properties of Luxury resorts and hotels and hence less crowded and well maintained. The catch lies in getting admitted to the resorts which of course doesn’t remain a catch if you can shell out big money. If you love the quiet and peace of surroundings alone, then South Goa is more your place with just the company of a hammock and a book . Some of the famous beaches of South Goa are Colva, Bogamalo, Majorda , Palolem and Varca with Colva being the largest and popular beach in South Goa.
Central Goa or Panajim offers you some great architecture in Bom Jesus chapel , a world heritage site where the remains of St. Francis are still displayed. You can also visit some old heritage Portuguese houses which gives us a beautiful insight on their way of living and culture
Boat cruise in the Mandovi River is a prime attraction of Goa as is water sports in the beaches. Nightlife is exciting with the hip crowd at the pubs and clubs and if you can maintain your sanity and balance with the right mix of spirits, then Goa is indeed a fun place to be in. The people are friendly and helpful though facilities may not come cheap. Shopping is not a wise option unless and until you are shopping for souvenirs from the flea market. Feni is a worth buying for its uniqueness but it takes time to build a taste for it. The sea food there is amazing and food tastes great even if taken from those shack-stalls.
Getting around the place is easy with buses and ferry transporting you across Goa. You can hire two wheelers and cab for self driving easily without coughing out much money as deposit nor is the paperwork elaborate.
Accommodation comes in all ranges and also in budget packages. Not all hotels near the beach have a beach front, so inquire about that when you book for the hotel room. Goa tourism hotels in Colva and Calangute are sea facing and just in the beach, if you would like to enjoy the view of the sea and the sound of the waves at all times. Goa is accessible by all means of transport as is its information over the internet. Everything can be planned to the last of the details with a few clicks.
Christmas is a major festival in Goa and is just the right time to visit the place. Though the place will be crowded to the brim, but it further makes the place more gay and colorful. The weather will be just the right one to visit and the air totally festive and cheerful.
Now If the snow and the sea failed to impress you then I am sure, this place will be more your kind.
Jaisalmer- The city of the Sonar Kella or the Golden Fort.
Though Jaipur, Udaipur, Jodhpur and Mount Abu are more frequented by tourists, it is Jaisalmer in the far west of Rajasthan which has more of the raw and stark beauty that deserts are famous for. The town Jaisalmer is situated a bit on the higher ground and the first thing that strikes you is that the buildings are all uniformly golden in color due to the sandstone. The Fort crowns the city and is a living fort which means that people still reside inside the fort. In fact a percentage of the Bhatti Rajput population has been living there since ages and the fort itself is a bee hive of day to day activit giving you the impression that you have stepped inside a time machine and travelled to those medieval times. The main royal residence is an example of opulence and grandeur and you can just shut your eyes and soak in the feeling of what it must have been during those days of Rajas and Maharajas. Well they still have their royalty in the present descendent Brijraj Singh who carries out a lot of the welfare work for the people over there.
The town also boasts of some fine example of architecture in the Havelis that the old Jain Merchant families had constructed as their residence. Examples of which are Nathmalji ki haveli, Patwan ki haveli. There are also the Jain temples with their intricate carvings to keep you captivated if you are interested in sculptures and architecture. The museum houses some treasures of the past and gives you a close glimpse of the Rajputs and their customs, traditions and way of life.
Though the town’s usp lies in its historical connection and architecture, a few kms into the heart of the desert gives you a completely different scenario to both experience and enjoy. The Sam sand dunes and the khuri dunes are the famous and popular camping sites where you can enjoy being in the Thar Desert and experience the feeling of being lost in the vastness. The sand dunes are the main seat of activities as in camel rides, desert safari in camel drawn carts, the gypsies and their kalbelia dancers around the bonfire, a simple yet tasty meal of the desert prepared from sangri a vegetable indigenous to that area, a night in the mud cottages or the tents , comfortable and with all modern amenities- All these experiences are simply out of the world. There is endless space to just wander aimlessly. Sunsets and sunrise are magnificent and winter is the perfect time to be there. They also have the desert festival during January and February for which people from all over the world turn up in the town.
The Indo Pak border is not far away from Jaisalmer and the road through the dunes lead straight to the frontier.
Rajasthan is a bit costlier than the other states but the camping package in the dunes are economical. The National highway services the state and the famous Palace of Wheels has a stop over there but POW is not the only train that runs to Jaisalmer . You can fly into Jodhpur and drive to Jaisalmer as an alternative. It’s better to have a guide in the main town for sightseeing or else you will be whirring about confused. Accommodation is not as remarkable as in Manali or Goa in terms of economic feasibility, but cheaper accommodation is available if you search well.
Shopping for clothes and curios is a good idea but do not forget to bargain while searching for good deals.
Dal bati chorma is the local delicacy while sangria ki sabzi is unique in taste.
Nights in the desert are cold, so you should be well prepared with warm clothing.
Rajasthan is again another state that takes their tourism seriously and hence is a traveler’s delight.
We hope that by now, one of our three top destinations has surely made you sit up and ponder a moment about spending some time there with your dear ones. This winter and yearend, all we want is you to have some great moments and memories for a lifetime.