New Year escapes for the mountain lover

For a snowy New Year's Eve Ladakh is a great option.

From the mighty Himalayas to the pretty Nilgiris, India spoils you for choice when it comes to a holiday in the hills. Let your eyes feast on the scenery as you end your year in the lap of nature.

Ladakh
You read it right. If below-freezing temperatures do not daunt you, then this is the best time to visit Ladakh. Much of the tourism machinery shuts down and the lakes and Nubra are inaccessible, prices are at their lowest, the sun still shines brightly and moving about in the days is not a problem. If you are into hard core trekking, then gear up for the Chadar trek where you’ll be literally walking on thin ice as you trace the course of the frozen Zanskar River.

Dhanaulti, Uttarakhand
This hidden gem, nestled in the Garhwal Himalayas, is where you can expect heavy snowfall on the last evening this year. The hill station is mercifully free of noisy tourists and souvenir shops. It also offers great birdwatching, solitary trekking and hiking opportunities. The chill in the air and makes you want to settle down with a book and a cup of tea.

Ranikhet, Uttarakhand
This tranquil hill station stretches languidly along a thickly forested ridge in the Kumaon Hills. It has tall pine trees, spectacular views, charming colonial bungalows, an old orchard – all the right ingredients to rejuvenate a city-worn visitor.  The cantonment area is a canvas of winding, walking trails, with whispering pines and dense clusters of oak trees, nearly 130 pretty colonial cottages and several old churches.

Gangtok, Sikkim
Sikkim’s capital isn’t brimming with attractions, but it does offer excellent Khangchendzonga views and a chilled-out vibe, making it a good introduction to the state. It is also the most convenient hub to plan tours to other parts of Sikkim. Linger for a while to soak in local culture and Gangtok’s laidback style and top it up with day trips to the nearby Rumtek monastery.

Matheran, Maharashtra

 

The Blue Mountains
Image courtesy: ©Rajan Kapoor/Lonely Planet

Matheran is a tiny patch of peace and quiet capping a craggy Sahyadri summit within spitting distance of Mumbai. Endowed with shady forests crisscrossed with foot trails and breathtaking lookouts, it is easily the most elegant of Maharashtra’s hill stations. Motor vehicles are banned within Matheran, making it an ideal place to give your ears and lungs a rest and your feet some exercise.

Manali, Himachal Pradesh

Image courtesy: Umang Dave via See.Click.Share.Repeat

Think snowballs, woollen caps, noisy family holidays and loads of fun, and you are in Manali. There are conifer-cloaked green vales and gurgling brooks too, for anyone looking at quieter retreats. Manali, defined by lush open valleys, forested walks, pretty wood and stone homes, and glorious food, continues to be Kullu Valley’s poster destination.

Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu

Chasing Monkeys
Image courtesy: ©Adnane M-K/Lonely Planet

Kodaikanal is small, intimate, misty and mountainous. Draped in forests filled with trekking trails and waterfalls, its weather is a welcome relief from the plains. The town clings to a mountainside draped in sholas (forests) of pine, gum trees and the kurinji shrub, whose flowers bloom once in 12 years (next due date 2018). Kodai is remarkably compact for a hill station, affording many options for walks around the town centre.

Ooty, Tamil Nadu

Sweet Home
Image courtesy: ©Sirsendu Gayen/Lonely Planet

Tea plantation-clad hills, strewn with bright Lego-like houses, are your first glimpse of Ooty. Interspersed with lush patches of fern and eucalyptus, the hills immediately put you in a good mood after leaving behind the heat of the plains. Enjoy simple pleasures like the sight of fresh carrots and turnips lining the roads, and the whimsical weather.

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