We are just entering 2020, and it’s the prime holiday season and there are so many beautiful places to explore. Love all that white snow, those winter markets, having some hot coffee, hot chocolate, garam chai or that little bit of alcohol to take away the chill! Let’s explore some destinations you will particularly like to visit in the winter months.
Iceland in the winter looks so dreamy and straight out of a fairytale. During this time, the crowds are a lot less and it’s not as cold as one would think. London’s and New York’s weather is actually quite comparable. Some of the places in Iceland to visit during winter are:
Blue Lagoon: This is a geothermal spa and the milky blue water found here is not found anywhere else on the planet. Imagine the feeling when the outside temperature is like -10 Degree Celcius and the water is 50 Degree Celcius. It’s a blissful feeling. The minerals in the water are therapeutic and leave the skin glowing. The surrounding lava field, rocks and grey moss make the landscape dramatic.
Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon: This clear blue lagoon, which is surrounded by icebergs from the nearby Vatnajokull Glacier, is an experience that cannot be missed. Take a boat ride, and hold pieces of glacier in the hand. The glacier pieces are also left on the black beaches in the area. When the sun shines on them, they look like diamonds.
Glacier walk in Lanjokull: This is Iceland’s second largest glacier. This glacier has a man-made ice tunnel, that is wonderful to walk in and experience ice all around. There is also a church inside where weddings have taken place.
Chasing Northern Lights: These lights can only be experienced in the winters. But you need to chase these lights as they keep playing hide and seek. It’s always more preferable and are more dramatic in the interior and less crowded places.
Tip: It is advisable to drive yourself in Iceland, as all rock formations, mountains, pools, waterfalls come along the way. Tourists can just stop and take home amazing scenic shots.
This is a perfect winter spot, nestled in the Himalayas, with very pleasant temperatures and the Ganges flowing all around. Hindus have been coming here since early times, due to the holy Ganges, but since the Beatles arrived here, many westerners have followed in flocks.
Some of experiences in Rishikesh:
Beatles Ashram: This academy of meditation was a training centre for classes held by Maharshi Mahesh Yogi. In 1968, members of the Beatles arrived here, and lived here for 2 years, and composed 48 songs here. After 1990, it was abandoned and in 2015, officially opened to public, who wanted to come and visit, and see pictures of the Beatles stint in India. Inside this very run down building, there is an amazing room full of graffitis including one of Maharshiji and the Beatles.
River Rafting: Though in winter months, the water is very cold, rafting can actually be quite enjoyable. The picturesque and beautiful Ganges with three areas of massive level 4 rapids are something thrill seekers enjoy. Also the raft stops in the middle, at a point where there’s a cliff diving adventure, and a place to sip some hot tea and eat Maggi.
Triveni Ghat: This is a very well-known ghat where many pilgrims come to take a dip in the holy river. Every evening the beautiful ceremony of Ganga Aarti is performed. From here one can also take a boat ride in the river.
Rishikesh today is a hot place for yoga, and it’s magical to practise it around the Ganges. There are many ashrams offering yoga practice, and today Rishikesh is the yoga capital of the world. So many foreigners have been coming here because of which there are cafes having very healthy and organic cuisines. Shopping around Laxman Jhula, one can get many trinkets, and home decor items, and one needs to bargain hard.
Travel tip: The Laxman Jhula and Ram Jhula are lovely to see and click photos, but it’s not advisable to go on them as it’s so crowded that stampedes can occur at any point of time.
Welcome to the world “Down Under”, while it is summer in the country during our winter months, it’s considered an important winter travel destination, as most Indians travel during this holiday season. Also usually here, the weather is always on the colder side, and so even in the summer, you would need a jacket or sometimes even an overcoat. Blessed with geothermal spas, lakes, mountains, glaciers, glow worm caves, this splendid country is sure to make your eyes pop wide open.
Some of the places to visit in New Zealand are:
Rotorua: This is a small town, set around the lake of its namesake. This is part of the country’s North Island has has some amazing attractions. The blue glow worms found in the Waitomo caves, twinkle like blue stars in a night sky. This is also the place to all geothermal activity and the geysers. One can get amazing mineral therapies at the Polynesian Spa. Rotorua is the land of the originals natives of New Zealand - the Maoris, and one can interact with them at the Tamaki village, and enjoy a Hangi dinner, which the traditional meal being cooked inside the earth.
Queenstown: Situated on Lake Wakatipu amidst the backdrop of the Remarkables. This is the adventure capital of the world, and one can enjoy over 200 activities, like bungee jumping, skydiving, luge, amongst many more. From Queenstown, everyone goes and takes the Milford Sound cruise, to witness the fjords in Southwest New Zealand. The prettiest lavender fields to take Instagram selfies are just a 30 minute drive away in Wanaka and Cardrona. And in terms of gastronomy, one of the tastiest burgers you can eat, are available at Ferburger in Queenstown. And they have great vegetarian options.
Dunedin: Truly a hidden gem in the country, that not many usually visit. This city has the look and feel, and draws a lot of parallels to San Francisco. This is home to the blue-eyed penguins, which are the world’s smallest and are only found here. There are also the world’s most steepest streets and some amazing street art specimens here.
Travel tip: You enter New Zealand through Auckland in North island, and exit through Christchurch in South Island. While in Auckland, one must go to Kaikoura and see the whales, as there is almost a hundred per cent chance of seeing more than one.
Think Northeast India, the first place that comes to mind is Sikkim. An ideal place to visit in the winters, as it’s filled with snow-capped peaks and the majestic Mt Kanchenjungha. The greenery and snow make for picture-perfect landscapes. The food that most tourists eat here is Chowmein, momos and maggi noodles.
Here are some of the things one cannot miss in Sikkim:
Dzongu: The inhabitants of the northern part of Sikkim are called Lepchas. They are the pure line descendants of the Mayal Lang people. This is indeed a blessed and treasured region. The terrain here is simply stunning, with small icy rivers that need to be crossed to reach the sulphur springs. The flora in the area is one of its kind, and the area is filled with many natural waterfalls. The hot water in the springs is therapeutic and has many pain relieving properties.
Chaang is a fermented millet drink that is worth trying and is a speciality of the Lepchas but is now widely available.
Lachung: This is a village in the region very close to the Tibet border. It is home to the Sante Chorling, a popular Buddhist Monastery built in the mid 1800s. The architecture is stunning and grand. The colours are very vibrant and the place is famous for the famous mask dance performed by the local Lamas. Another bucket list in Lachung is a visit to Point Zero. It is located about 50 kms from Lachung in Yume Samdong. The place is cornered in ice most of the year, and you are not allowed beyond this place. Hence comes the name Point Zero.
Gangtok: Everyone must visit the state capital. It’s so pretty a town and has so many things to do and stunning sights to see. Take a walk do the main market road, to have a glimpse of the shops and many cafes. A very stunning monastery in the region is the Rumtek monastery. The yaks are the main mode of transport on the area, and one can have very close encounters with them zand can also go on a Yak ride. Hanuman devotees must visit the Hanuman Tok. The high point of Gangtok is a trip to Nathula Pass, which is the Indo-China border.
Travel tip: The best way of reaching Sikkim is to either fly directly to Gangtok or into Bagdogra, which would work out more cost effective. The roads, are not very good. So, it’s advisable to take a 4X4 wheel drive with good shock absorbers. Also it’s only worth going to Lachen if Gurudungmar Lake is open.