For people from the sun scorching plains of India , winter strikes to be the most magical time. A time when pleasant weather sweeps in the plain, and the snowfall changes the known landscapes into extraordinary sights. So today I am remembering my first winter in Himalayas back In 2014. Working as a trek leader for an adventure organisation , I was stationed in the region of Dalhousie , Himachal Pradesh, for two long months of peak winter season. While trekking in such environment has a lot of physical stress, but the memories made, are surely beyond what can be termed " beautiful ".
Walking through hard snowfall , leading batches after batches has a toll on your knees. Layers of skin burn due to the sub zero cold and dampness all around, with fingers and feet having the risk of blood clotting and eventually frost bite. But with such risk and hard work comes the ethereal views of landscapes , that I was lucky enough to capture with my basic digital camera. Check them out and the stories with it.
In the small wildlife sanctuary of Kalatop, nestled in Dhauladhar range above Dalhousie , I was stationed for a month. This was my little cottage. Built during the colonial times with Deodar trees ( Silver fir ) , it was warm inside for the nights. However continuous snowfall kept everything wet and damp, and the fire place could not be used. I could easily call this one of the best homes , I have had my fortune to stay in.
Walking out of the sanctuary , one could reach a tiny hamlet of temporary settlement. During the summer months when snow was no where , this is used by people of nearby region. A nearby Hindu temple which gets opened in summer , brings flocks of tourist , and makes this hamlet the perfect trade post. In the winter , the snow claims there empire , leaving the houses and giving a feel of haunted hamlet.
Even the most ordinary of landscapes turn magical , as snow spreads its wings around. A seating around the corner in the village which might be overlooked in any other times, becomes a perfect spot to romanticize and miss someone you love. How I wish , I had her beside me to sit, and sip in a hot cup of coffee.
Tell me who would you like to have with you , in such a magical place?
Khajjiar is a very crowded tourist spot throughout the year. Its rolling green meadows and velvet touched pine forest depicts a reflection of Swiss Alps according to Indian tourists. Hence it is always flocked by herds of tourist all the time except winter. Winter means roads are often closed due to the high snowfall , and only those like us who has a love for hiking can reach here. The green gives away to white , the famous lake freezes and people can walk over it easily but carefully. A fantasy world is created hence forth, with not much people to disturb you, you might just feel you have walked in Narnia. Such is the beauty of winters.
Heavy snowfall is a common occurance in the high Himalayas. At times with in four to five hours the snow can reach six to ten feet. In such a case, everything is stranded on the road for next few days untill the authorities come to open up. If you are a person who has no much obligations in life , like me , you will have a good time. Or else for people with a limited time in hand for vacation might get stuck and find themselves in knee deep problems , with knee deep snow!
However hard life may be , winter is just fabulous. Personally it is my favourite season. A season when you see the nature has let go of everything , embraced an ending , only to begin anew. Movies like Frozen and Narnia , has always stirred a beautiful picture of winter in mind, and being in India , it is easy to have a budget experience of such a fantastic season. If you are in love with winter , awaiting snowfall or planning to make a magical unforgettable memory like me , do use the next four months from December to March , to fulfill yourself. For any kind of advises or to plan a tour , you can always hit me up. Also write about your favorite memory from winter , I would be glad to know.
As more and more , travel industry is driven by social media , most travelers choose their next destination from pictures of other travelers and friends over Instagram and such handles. While it is a good way to promote such places, this also does not keep the destinations elusive anymore. You are expected to have crowds of other people , while visiting such a place . Yet to the blessing of huge range of Himalayas , some hidden hamlets and villages still hold on to their exclusivity. They are yet not, too much famous, in their reputation, and I chose to list five of them , for those who seek to go beyond the known trails. Check out if you have been to any one of this.
TONGLU - WEST BENGAL
Falling on the border of India and Nepal , Tonglu is my personal favorite. With majestic Kanchenjunga , world's third highest mountain looming large on the background , this village has some mind blowing landscapes around. Its just four houses in this village and settled atop a hill , pretty isolated from the rest of the world. With the chilling cold temperature round the year , Tonglu is a respite for summer and heat always. In the winter , snowfall, makes it beautiful and cold in both ways.
Falling near Darjeeling , it can be reached by car or foot . For more information to plan a vacation here, ping me directly.
TSOKA - SIKKIM
The village is well kept secret of western Sikkim, and though the state continues to grow in its fame of tourism , Tsoka still holds on to its elusive characteristics of being unknown. Accessible only by foot , the nature is still raw and well kept here. For those of you , who do not want to hike , a similar village but accessible by road and transportation can be found in Yuksom , in the same region. It is of your choice where you want to venture. Addition to the beautiful nature, the culture here is Buddhism , and amazing food delicacies such as momos and Thukpa , adore the taste of locals. Also for travelers who might want to try Yak Meat and amazing pork dishes, this village can serve perfectly. To know more , of course, give a knock on me,
OSLA - UTTARAKHAND
Legend has it , that this village has a temple dedicated to Duryodhana , the leader of Kauravas , from the epic Mahabharata. And the residents of this village are some of his descendants. But as all legends are , there is no proof to it, and the temple in the village indeed beautiful and striking in looks, is said to be of Lord Shiva , by the local residents. The temple door only opens during the annual fair which takes place in monsoon here, and thus the controversy remains. Hidden in the North western frontier of Uttarakhand , beyond reach of any transportation, this village is also gateway to a lot of amazing hikes and treks. A little tricky and time consuming to reach here , yet the journey and destination , totally captivates the mind and heart of all travelers that dare to go here. To plan a trip here, let me know.
GRAHAN - HIMACHAL PRADESH
A lesser known village in otherwise very famous Parvati valley , Grahan , in my view, is the most beautiful village of the valley , yet very less frequented. May be due to its accessibility only on foot, and no transportation makes it elusive as it is. The village still holds true to its customs and traditions and houses constructions that are two hundred years or more old. Surrounded by green mountains with snow during winter , Grahan is perfect to spend week , just detached from the outside world. Lonliness can never crop in , as the locals are very friendly and mingling with them is very easy. Activities here would range from hiking around forest, finding amazing waterfalls to take a bath in on sunny day. Evenings to mingle with other travelers and smoke some of the best hash in world. Interested ? You know whom to connect for a plan.
ARU - KASHMIR
A very well kept secret of Kashmir, the Aru village has everything that defines the region of paradise on earth. An ever flowing Lidder river , flowing by its side and huge green meadows near by, to venture and walk barefeet , is magical experience. Respite to all those, who are not too keen, on hiking or walking, because this village has proper roads to reach by car and transportation. Hopefully , once the political turmoil in Kashmir cools down , you can plan your vacation here. The small wooden cottages , give a feel of times , and world of Lord of The Rings. Along with super helpful and fiendly locals , the village of Aru can surely win hearts in your visit.
There are many more such beautiful villages in every corner of regions of Himalayas. My list is here, on the basis that I have been to all this places , and have never seen, much Instagram post or a hash tag from this place.
If you know of such cool places or hidden villages, do leave the name in comment box, as I too , seek for more of such beauties.
The grand mountains of Himalayas always welcome change , and it is here throughout a year we see starling differences as one season gives way to another. As the post monsoon season is upon us , the Autumn has officially arrived , and with this season , some hikes and treks look better than the others. With clear sky , more sunshine than any other time of the year , September to November is the perfect time to climb some trails to view undisturbed views of some world renowned summits and move towards its base , to spend a grand time with the famous mountains.
Here is a list of hike and treks you should choose to do for best experience in Autumn.
1. Sandakphu Trek.
Situated in the borders of West Bengal in India and Nepal , this trek is perfectly suited for this season. The nights can be chilly as hell yet with enough sunshine throughout the day , Sandakphu is at its best during the Autumn. The cherry on the cake, has to be the most brilliant sunrise to see from the summit. As a clear sun makes up through sea of clouds, in it's first light glows world's highest mountains like Mt.Everest , Mt. Lhotse and Mt.Kanchenjunga.
If this intrigues you enough , plan up.
2. Har ki Doon.
In the beautiful mountain state of Uttarakhand , lies in the western corner the valley of Lord Shiva a.k.a Har Ki Doon. A very famous route , involving mystical villages and mind blowing landscape views, this trail has mixture of forest , Meadows and native Himalayan lifestyle to offer for the visitors. The cherry on the cake , is camping by Mt. Swargorohini massif. This unclimbed peak has the legend of great Yudhishthir , from Mahabharata , walking up to it and getting an entry to heaven. Since then no man ever could walk up to it's summit. I say , if you spend a night in its base or walk this trail , you inevitably early heaven here itself.
3. Buran Ghati Trek
The most unknown of the lot , yet personally my favorite trek would be Buran Ghati. Residing in Himachal Pradesh, a stunning cross over trek starting from the remote valley of Pabbar , climbing through vast Meadows of endless flowers and green , we cross over to Kinnaur valley. Being less frequented , it's rawness and virgin trail makes your eyes shine as you see mother nature at it's truest beauty. The cherry on the cake, has to be the campsite of Dayara , which is one of the prettiest place on Earth to spend your night in. If new trail and flowering green attracts you , this trek should top your list in this season.
4. Goechala Trek
A long unending trail lies in the mystical kingdom of Sikkim. It is through this trail that man can approach the base of the great Mt. kanchenjunga ( 3rd highest mountain in the world ). Also through this trail , we can walk up to great glaciers and high altitude Alpine lakes that form the region. It is highly spoken of as the most romantic trek in India , and I don't argue with that. Campsites such as Lamuney and Thamsing can make your heart beat faster with love , for a human or for the mountains. So if you think love is something you'd like to feel , I recommend planning this trek.
5. Gaumukh - Tapovan Trek.
The holiest pilgrimage trek of the lot , resides in Uttarakhand. It is on this trek , that you see the source of mighty Ganges. The life line of India finds its birth in the Gaumukh glacier that stretches 45 kilometres , and traversing it , we climb to Tapovan , one of the most beautiful high altitude Meadows. The cherry on the cake, is the divine , unearthly views of renowned Himalayan summits such as Mt. Bhagirathi massif , Mt. Sudarshan and my favourite Mt.Shivling. The slow transformation of colours on mountains during sunrise and sunset is one of the rarest thing to see here on the trek. If this excites you plan up for this.
All in All , this is my recommended list , but Himalayas being so vast, there are surely other hidden gems of treks and trail for Autumn one can go upon. If you know any such kindly let me know.
Note from the Author
" Travel made me rich and free. Magic and miracles are true , once you wander on the roads to places different and divine. Sharing with you all, those memories and stories , and wishing you all , that someday you guys travel far and wide too. I am not a great writer , so ignore my grammar and spellings, read it with feelings, and you might just be affected with the wanderlust to hit the road"