Traveling in India in the winter is wonderful – the days are shorter but bright and sunny, and nights are refreshingly cold. It’s the perfect time to visit most of the country, but here’s some places that I think are worth including on your list.
Goa is one of the most popular winter destinations, families to party goers flock there. While it gets crowded during the festive season don’t be put off, as the beaches further north or south of Panjim aren’t overrun. For those who just want to get a tan and avoid the snow back home the beachside atmosphere is ideal, but Goa also offers the greatest variety of adventure options. Try parasailing, paragliding, canoeing or even kitesurfing.
If animal watching is your preferred activity, the national parks are a must visit during the winter season. The oldest is Jim Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand which is also a good place to spot an endangered Asiatic tiger. In Rajasthan, the desert heat and camel safaris dunes are more bearable during the cooler months, particularly if you visit Jaisalmer or Jodhpur.
With nine well maintained national parks, Madhya Pradesh is one of the best places in the country to go tiger spotting. Try Pench and Bandhavgarh to catch a glimpse of rare white tigers along with a variety of other native flora and fauna. But this state is also famous for its ancient architecture. From the kingdom of Mandu located near Indore to the UNESCO World Heritage listed monuments at Khajuraho – dubbed the Kama Sutra temples thanks to itserotic sculptures – are also ideal to visit when the temperature drops.
If you still crave the thrill of winter adventure sports, it’s a well kept secret that the Himalayas offers opportunities to indulge. Try skiing in Auli, Uttarakhand, which is known not only for its slopes but its luxurious resorts. Kashmir also has some slopes that are open to the public near Gulmarg. These also offer the opportunity to try heliskiing if you’re daring.
The harsh desert of Kutch to the west is softened in the cool winter air. While the flamingos in the Little Rann will have migrated for the winter, the Wild Ass Sanctuary still has plenty of its namesake to appreciate. And of course there is the stunning shimmer of the world’s second largest salt flat, a sight to behold in what is otherwise an unforgiving landscape. The region is also rich in crafts and artists, with every town hiding a hidden talent and treasures.
Of course the major cities also come to life during winter. Mumbai opens up its terraces and Delhi-ites rug up in their winter finest. While the sun sets early over the Taj Mahal during winter, it makes it ideal for a day trip from Delhi or Jaipur that includes the sunset. And for the book aficionados the Jaipur Literature Festival brings the world’s finest writers to the country. It’s held each year in January.