Although well known for being a tropical country, there are many interesting destinations that one can explore in India during the winter season. While snow only falls in certain parts of the country, the temperature drops significantly in many places, making it a great reason to travel to these beautiful locales and discover their indigenous lifestyle, culture and cuisine. Here’s our selection.

The place to celebrate winter harvest: Puducherry

Once called Pondicherry, the erstwhile French colony also affectionately known as Pondy, is about a three-hour drive from Chennai. The coastal town makes for a beautiful beach location during winters. Since the temperatures don’t drop drastically, a swim in the sea is always possible here.

Another reason for a cool-weather visit is the winter harvest. In Puducherry and Tamil Nadu, it is celebrated as Pongal around 14–15 January every year. The four-day festival includes preparation of an eponymous sweet porridge, decorated cows, colourful rangoli (patterns created on the floor using coloured rice) and a lot of gaiety.

Residents of Auroville celebrate the founding of Auroville around the dawnfire every 28 February

Auroville is a utopian town where residents aim to live in perfect peace

Not to be missed:

A visit to Auroville is a must. The utopian town is where the residents try to live in peace and progressive harmony without any discrimination. On February 28 every year, Aurovilians celebrate the founding date of the town – in the year 1968 – by welcoming the dawn with a great dawnfire (bonfire lit at dawn).

Best time to visit:

November to February

Temperatures:

20-33°C in winter, 23-38°C in summer

Getting there:

Air India Express, Air India, Jet Airways, SilkAir, Singapore Airlines, Scoot and IndiGo connect Changi Airport with Chennai. Get your ticket here.

Land of the lion-hearted: Amritsar

A picture of the Golden Temple taken at dusk

The Golden Temple is the most popular prayer house of the Sikh community

Thousands of devotees flock to Amritsar to visit the Golden Temple – the most popular prayer house of the Sikh community. A historically important city, Amritsar wears a lively face during winter.

In January, the city celebrates the Lohri festival, which marks the end of the winter harvest, with people singing and doing the traditional folk dances of Giddha and Bhangra. The impending arrival of spring is also celebrated around this time with kite-flying festival, Basant Panchami. The winter sky adorned with bright, colourful kites is a sight to behold.

Indian soldiers march at the Wagah border in Amritsar

The Indian soldiers marching at the Wagah border is a sight to behold

Not to be missed

The lowering-of-flag ceremony at the India-Pakistan border at Wagah in Amritsar every evening is not to be missed as guards from both nations participate in the drills. Amritsar is also the gateway to other winter destinations such as Dharamsala, Dalhousie, Jammu and Kasauli (all within 300km).

Best time to visit
November to March

Temperature

4–19°C in winter, 17-44°C in summer

Getting there

Scoot connects Changi Airport with Amritsar via thrice-weekly flights. Book your tickets here!

Home to the Dalai Lama: Dharamsala

Kalachakra temple in McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala, with a view of the Himalayan mountains

The Kalachakra Temple in McLeod Ganj is a regular venue for discourses held by the Dalai Lama

A four-hour drive from Amritsar by a private vehicle will take you to Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh, home to the Dalai Lama and the exiled Tibetan government. Be greeted by picturesque valleys and exotic locales covered in thick deodar and pine forests.

At the peak of winter, it is shrouded in snow and fog, which is the primary reason to visit this place. Witnessing snowfall here makes for a unique experience in an otherwise snow-bereft India.

Not to be missed:

The mountainous terrain of Dharamsala attracts trekkers and backpackers. Some of the most popular trekking destinations here include Bhagsu Waterfall, Dal Lake, Indrahar Pass and Triund. You can also try gaining an audience with the Dalai Lama by visiting the Tsuglagkhang Complex, where His Holiness resides.

Best time to visit:

December to February

Temperatures:

2-29°C in winter, 21-44°C in summer

Getting there:

Scoot takes you from Changi Airport to Amritsar, where you can drive for four hours to Dharamsala. Your adventure starts here!

Witnessing snowfall here makes for a unique experience in an otherwise snow-bereft India

Seat of art and literature: Lucknow

Lucknow is known as the land of nawabs (a viceroy or deputy governor serving under the former Mughal empire) and Urdu poets. Under the Mughal patronage, this city, which is today the capital of Uttar Pradesh, has given India literary gems such as Mirza Ghalib.

The Mughlai cuisine is also a big draw for visiting this city during the winter season, as biryani (mixed rice) and piping hot kebabs have a different sort of enjoyment in the cold weather.

A picture of the Chota Imambara in Lucknow, with a man-made fountain in the foreground

The Chota Imambara houses the tomb of the nawab of Awadh, Muhammad Ali Shah

Not to be missed:

Check out architectural marvels from the Mughal era such as the Bara (big) and Chota (small) Imambaras. The former monument features a dizzying labyrinth of corridors, while the latter was built by Muhammad Ali Shah, the nawab of Awadh and now serves as his mausoleum. The 18m-tall Rumi Darwaza, sporting an octagonal umbrella with beautiful carvings, is another building of grand stature well worth a visit.

Best time to visit:

October to March

Temperatures:

4-29°C in winter, 15-43°C in summer

Getting there:

Tigerair connects Changi Airport with Lucknow via thrice-weekly flights. Book your tickets here!

Charms of a port city: Visakhapatnam

Rushikonda Beach is located 8 km from the port city of Visakhapatnam

The jewel of the East Coast, Rushikonda Beach

One of India’s 12 major ports, Visakhapatnam or Vizag is located on the coast of the Bay of Bengal in Andhra Pradesh. It is known for its long beaches, architecture, caves and parks. It is a great city to head to if you want to enjoy the sea without the scorching sun.

The Borra caves, in the Ananthagiri hills of the Araku valley of the Visakhapatnam district in Andhra Pradesh

The Borra Caves in the Ananthagiri hills is a naturally formed structure believed to be 150 million years old

Not to be missed:

A trek to Kailasagiri, a hilltop park with holy statues, will make for an enjoyable visit during the cool winter weather. The Borra Caves, about two hours away from the city, are another interesting place to visit for their stalagmite and stalactite formations.

Best time to visit:

October to March

Temperatures:

19-34°C in winter, 25-40°C in summer

Getting there:

SilkAir connects Changi Airport with Visakhapatnam via regular flights. Get your tickets here.

Indulge in a royal retreat: Jaipur

The ‘Pink City’ of Jaipur in Rajasthan was once the stronghold of the Rajput dynasty. Today, Jaipur and its nearby towns host several winter festivals.

Billed as the world’s largest free literary festival – Jaipur Literature Festival – is the meeting ground for authors and literature lovers from across the world. Elsewhere, the Jodhpur Nagaur Fair held at Nagaur, four hours from Jaipur, involves trading of livestock and also features Mirchi bazaar, the largest red chilli market in India.

Camels at the Pushkar Mela (Fair)

Pushkar Mela is a spectacle that attracts over 400,000 people over a period of fourteen days every year

Driving two-and-a-half hours from Jaipur will also place you in the middle of one of the world’s largest camel fairs. Held for five days sometime between October and November, you’re welcome to join in the festivities of the 100-year-old Pushkar Mela.

Not to be missed:

While in Jaipur, your sightseeing itinerary should most definitely include palaces as well as Jantar Mantar, an 18th-century astronomical observation site.

Best time to visit:

November to February

Temperatures:

8-28°C in winter, 22-44°C in summer

Getting there:

Scoot connects Changi Airport with Jaipur via four weekly flights. Book your tickets here!

 

With these awesome winter vacation ideas in India, experience the vast country in her cool moments. The trip will surely be an enriching one.