Surrounded by gorgeous mountains, national parks and historical wonders, Delhi spoils you for choice when you want to escape the city. We understand your dilemma when the options are endless, and the hardest decision is choosing the right destination. Well, here are a few suggestions that might help you make that crucial decision of your last holiday this year and first one for 2017.
SHIMLA, HIMACHAL PRADESH
North India’s favourite hill station goes a little berserk when it snows on New Year’s Eve. Waking up to a white New Year is quite delightful, that’s why Shimla is alive with the cheerful buzz of holidaymakers, restaurants, cafes and splendid Raj architecture at this time. Even when it’s snowing Shimla makes you want to walk around with a cup of hot tea, and no matter how much its slopes may make you puff, you’ll find that the view at the end is always worth it.
Its apt to begin the New Year on a spiritual note at the Golden Temple. Gear up to experience the city’s rich history and all things so famously Punjabi. A centuries-old heritage awaits discovery in the labyrinthine streets and ancient bazaars of the inner city of Amritsar, along with its legendary food and hospitality.
Among Mukteshwar’s many attractions, the foremost is the exquisite view of the Himalayan peaks that almost stretch across in a 180-degree arc on a clear day. At about 7500ft, this one-road town is cosseted by thick forests and peers down at snow-covered valleys, orchards, villages and farms. A sacred hilltop Shiva shrine completes the picture of serenity.
Jaipur encapsulates the entire Rajasthan experience: magnificent forts and palaces, traditional eateries, exotic jewellery, textiles and handicrafts. In the midst of the chaotic streets are the splendours of Jaipur’s majestic past – the City Palace, Jantar Mantar and Hawa Mahal. And if your budget allows, you can feel like royalty itself if you stay in one of the palace hotels and start then New Year on a royal note.
With only nature as the attraction, Pangot offers a much more peaceful New Year’s Eve than its famous cousin, Nainital. At its busiest, you would find about 150 people but more than 350 species of birds here. Barely 17km from Nainital, Pangot is a village surrounded by thick forests, quiet hamlets, streams and walking trails. The rare and beautiful bird species that inhabit these woods attract enthusiasts from around the world.
AGRA, UTTAR PRADESH
There’s a certain charm about starting the New Year by paying a visit to the monument of love – Taj Mahal. The allure of the Taj Mahal draws tourists to Agra like moths to a flame. But the Taj is not a stand-alone attraction. Visit here for the magnificent Agra Fort, and several other fascinating tombs and mausoleums. Make a side trip to Fatehpur Sikri to complete the experience. There’s also fun to be had in the bustling marketplaces, where you can shop for leather goods and handicrafts.
PALAMPUR, HIMACHAL PRADESH
When marvellous year-round weather, lush tea plantations and the dazzling Dhauladhars beckon seductively, why resist? Throw in a ride on a toy train – a heritage one at that – and a picnic on the banks of gurgling brooks, and you have a complete Enid Blyton holiday. Palampur is just waking up to its popularity with the urban wanderer. The verdure of tea estates, fed by a criss-cross of gurgling brooks against a backdrop of the dramatic Dhauladhars, showcases nature at its best.
RANTHAMBHORE NATIONAL PARK, RAJASTHAN
An appointment with the Royal Bengal tiger is a bit of a gamble – some return again and again without success, others are graced by a glimpse of the beast on their very first visit. Only one thing is certain: when you do see that tiger, you’ll never forget it. The dry scrublands and fortress ruins of Ranthambore are as magnificent a setting as this great animal deserves. Go on, try your luck and it’ll be a date to remember if you spot it on 1st January 2017.
Auli offers every possible kind of snowy thrill but skiing is what draws people here and it doesn’t matter if you have never tried your hand at the sport ever before. Paid guidance is easily available. There’s almost 5km-long slopes here for you to blaze on your skis. And you can get back to the mountain-top in one of the ski- or chair-lifts from the bottom of the slope. Apart from skiing and other winter sports, Auli is also known for its fantastic scenery and sweeping mountain views all around.
GWALIOR, MADHYA PRADESH
A fascinating mix of the modern and the ancient, Gwalior’s showpiece is its magnificent hill fort, dotted with palaces and temples. Stronghold of the Scindia rulers and home of Tansen, (jewel of Hindustani Classical music) the city will enrich you with its fascinating history and stunning monuments.