Winter is coming and most of you might already have planned holidays to warmer destinations in southern and western parts of India. After all, in the times of utter cold, who would mind relaxing on sun-baked beaches or camping under the starlit sky in desert! However, the peak season for such experiences mean two things: inflated prices and heavily crowded places. These factors can often lead to not-so-pleasant holidaying experiences.

But if you love mountains, you are in for big surprises at very pocket friendly prices. All you have to do is visit any of the following Himalayan destinations this winter and enjoy a holiday that will stay in your memories for long.

Want to visit some place quiet and peaceful place near Shimla? The secluded village of Kotkhai, about 58 km from Shimla, is the place you should visit this winter. Known for its apple orchards and the famous Kotkhai Fort, the village is also home to stunning natural beauty and utterly peaceful environs, which make it a great holiday alternative to Shimla.

Things to do:

In winters, Kotkhai receives heavy snow, yet most parts of it are accessible by road. You can enjoy playing in the snow, visit its famed apple orchards, the Kotkhai Fort which is the cultural wonder in the region, and explore the nearby hill towns of Cheog, Fagu, and Theog, if you have time at hand. However, Kotkhai is a perfect place to enjoy staycation.

How to get there:

Nearest airport is in Jubbarhatti (approx 78 km). Nearest railway station is in Shimla at around 60 km. However, travelling by road remains the most common mode of transport. Direct state-run and private bus services are available from nearby cities like Delhi and Chandigarh to Shimla bus stand. From Shimla, you can hire a taxi or take local buses going towards Rohru.

Sitting cosily on a ridge between Tedong and Maenam hills, Ravangla, also known as Rawangla, is a quaint little hill station located in the southern region of the northeastern state of Sikkim. It is a gateway to many popular destinations in the north Sikkim. At an elevation of 8,000 feet, Ravangla offers gorgeous views of the greater Himalayas, yet it is one of the least known destinations in the Northeast. While you may not be able to visit upper reaches of Sikkim in winter, it wouldn’t be a bad choice to spend a few days in this offbeat destination

Things to do:

Visit Buddha Park, Ralong Monastery, Ralong hot springs, Kheunpheling Carpet Centre to buy local handicrafts, Mangbrue Gompa and the view point, and Samdruptse Hill. Don’t forget to travel to nearby destinations like Peling, Kaluk, and Namchi. When you are not exploring, simply enjoy the authentic northeastern delicacies at the local restaurants.

How to get there:

Nearest airport is in Gangtok (approx 70 km) and the nearest railway station is in New Jalpaiguri, about 120 km from Ravangla. Bus services to Ravangla aren’t very reliable. It’s recommended that you hire a cab from any of these nearby cities.

Nestled in the Pir Panjal range at over 1,400 metres, Karsog is a small and beautiful hill town that continues to remain in the shadow of Shimla. Described in the Hindu folk tales as the place where Bhima — one of the five pandavas killed a demon who used to kill the innocent villagers in the ancient times, Karsog now holds major religious and cultural significance for the locals.

Thick fields, lush green fields, vast apple orchards, and free-flowing streams, with cosy homes, and almost no crowd; isn’t that the kind of hill station you’d want to spend a day or two in?

Things to do:

Go hiking and enjoy witness gorgeous views of the valley from the view points, try local food, go camping, and enjoy photographing the bewitching beauty of this place which is not known by many in the world beyond its boundaries. Besides, you can also visit the ancient local temples in this village.

How to get there:

At 114 km, Jubbarhatti Airport in Shimla is the nearest airport to Karsog. Kalka railway station is the nearest broad gauge railway station to Karsog at around 160 km. However, reaching Karsog is easiest if you travel by road. Buses and taxis are available from nearby cities like Shimla, Delhi, and Chandigarh. Roads are good, so you can drive yourself to Karsog as well.

If you really are looking forward to visiting a place in Himachal that does justice to the word ‘offbeat’ then Thachi is where you should be heading to this winter. Overseeing the lush green hills of the Great Himalayan National Park and the snow-covered Himalayan peaks that tower on them, Thachi valley is home to sleepy hamlets completely disconnected from the hustle and bustle of the modern world. Don’t be surprised if the repetitive sights of gushing waterfalls and the experience of staying in cosy wooden houses make you fall in love with this place.

Things to do:

Perhaps, the best thing to do here would be just staying indoors and taking occasional hikes up and down the trails. However, the Bithu Narayan temple and the Hadimba Devi temple are some other attractions in Thachi valley.

How to get there:

Nearest airport is in Bhuntar (approx 45 km) and the nearest major railway station is in Chandigarh, about 245 km from Thachi valley. The best way to reach Thachi valley is to catch a bus from nearby cities and get down at Aut. From Aut, you can catch the only direct bus to Thachi Valley via Balichowki. Else, you can hire a cab directly from Aut.

Imagine yourself amid vast expanses of aromatic tea and fruit gardens with thick cover of forest in the distance with the imposing snow-clad Himalayan peaks against the perfectly blue backdrop of the clear sky; that’s Chaukori for you. This small fairyland sitting peacefully over 2,000 metres above sea level in Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand is not a regular hill station where tourists throng every weekend.

It’s one of the rare places which offer majestic views of Nanda Devi, Panchachuli, and Trishul which make for a perfect destination for those who are ready to trade luxury for natural beauty.

Things to do:

In Chaukori, you can visit the famous temples including Arjuneshawar Shiva Temple, Ghunsera Devi Temple, and Kapileshwar Mahadev Temple. Go hiking or simply relax at your homestay and enjoy spectacular sunrise and the stunning night sky to experience the pure natural beauty of this place.

How to get there:

Travelling by air isn’t a viable option if you wish to visit Chaukori. Haldwani is the nearest rail and bus link to Chaukori at approximately 200 km. From Haldwani, taking shared jeeps is the only reliable option. It may take around 7-8 hours to reach Chaukori from Haldwani.

Harsil in winters, is a destination for adventurers who don’t mind the cold weather the Himalayan villages are known for. Located about 72 km from the nearest major town of Uttarkashi in a stunning valley on the banks of River Bhagirathi, Harsil is another wonderful but lesser known Himalayan destination in Uttarakhand which offers picture-perfect views of deodar forests and huge snow-capped mountains. With an elevation of over 2,600 metres, Harsil receives snowfall in winters. And if you can brave the cold, you are in for the views that seem straight out of a fairytale!

Things to do:

Go hiking and trekking in Harsil. Watch out for exotic birds and other-worldly views in the sky, both during the day and night. Besides, you can also visit Sattal, the place near Harsil that’s known for its seven lakes.

How to get there:

Nearest airport and railway station, both are in Dehradun, about 220 km from Harsil. From Dehradun, you have to take a bus to Uttarkashi, the nearest town with a bus link. From Uttarkashi, you have to complete the rest of the journey in a shared cab.

Are you planning a romantic holiday with your partner in some place that’s not trampled by tourists already? Try Khirsu. Just about 10 km from Pauri in Garhwal region of Uttarakhand, Khirsu makes for a great destination to amaze your adventure-loving partner with almost all kinds of views you can think of in a Himalayan village. The warm locals and the timeless beauty of the landscape which looks even more beautiful in winters will make you go slow and take in the vibe of this serene village.

Things to do:

Hiking, enjoying natural views, or just staying inside your cosy accommodation make for great holidaying experience in Khirsu.

How to get there:

Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun is the nearest airport to Khirsu (approx 319 km). Kotdwar railway station is the nearest to Khirsu at a distance of 140 km. However, the road connectivity is good and you can also get a bus or a taxi from the nearby towns in Uttarakhand.

So, would you attend to the call of the Himalayas this winter? Let us know in the comments below.

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