Winter is coming: The best of winters in Himachal Pradesh

From the quaint old colonial town of Dalhousie to the awe-inspiring views of snowy peaks from Narkanda--the best places in the Himalayas to savour Indian winters in all their glory

Winter is coming: The best of winters in Himachal Pradesh

Dalhousie (2,012m) is a little bit quieter than the more obvious Shimla or Darjeeling. And this is a good thing. When you go looking for snow you’ll find plenty else—quaint old British country homes now converted into hotels, quiet churches (the Protestant Church with it’s 19th century stained glass; the well preserved Sacred Heart Church) and several colourful rock frescoes painted by the first Tibetan immigrants. You absolutely must walk the thandi and garam sadaks to watch the Pangi hills.
Getting there: The nearest rail head is Chakki Bank, 67km away; by road Dalhousie is 570km from Delhi. Take NH1 to Jallandhar and NH1A to Pathankot before taking the state highway.
Where to stay: Mehar Hotel (01899-242179) is one of the oldest hotels in Dalhousie. Tariffs range from Rs 1,000 to 2,200).
: Most likely between January and February.

Even the idea of Shimla (2,210m) may seem too jaded. Too many people, too many aggressive monkeys and even the Mall Road isn’t what it used to be. Say what you will, but Shimla will always hold a certain nostalgic charm. And the winters may be just the right time to avoid all the aforementioned evils. Shimla is built on a central ridge surrounded by seven peaks. Successive viceroys and governor-generals left their marks on these hills. Walking is a good way to take it all in.
Getting there: The nearest rail head is Kalka, 97km away.
Where to stay: Hotel Holiday Home (0177-2812890) is a comfortable HPTDC hotel.
: Most likely between January and February.

Located amidst fragrant pine forests, the ski resort town of Narkanda (2,708m) has a choice of slopes ranging from a beginners run and slalom slope, to sharper descents for more experienced skiers. What gives Narkanda its awe-inspiring view of the snowy peaks is the fact that it is located on the ridge of the last watershed before the Great Himalayan range. Below Narkanda, to the north is the Sutlej Valley and beyond it is the snowy massif. A better view of Narkanda can be seen from the nearby Hattu peak, nearly 2,000-feet higher than Narkanda, and just over an hour’s trekking distance from it.
Getting there: A picturesque 60km drive from Shimla. The nearest rail head is Kalka, 150km away.
Where to stay: Options in Narkanda are rather limited. There is a Himachal Tourism Corporation (011-23325320; hotel a bit away from the town.
: Most likely between late December and March.


If chasing snow takes you to Manali(1,829m), you’ll have plenty of company. Because of its proximity to the snowline it’s a popular choice for people who haven’t seen snow before. Great snow-covered slopes, green valleys and the fast flowing Beas make Manali a great adventure sports destination. There are 2.5km of ski slopes and even beginners can try their hand at it. The HPTDC runs skiing classes here. Fifty kilometres from Manali town, at an altitude of over 4,000m on the highway to Keylong, is the Rohtang Pass, with the beautiful Dasohar Lake on its left. The pass, which provides the only access to the Lahaul Valley, is open from June to November each year. Snowfall is, however, unpredictable and blizzards can close the pass even during this period. A few kilometres from the pass is the Sonapani glacier.
Getting there: Manali is 565 kilometres north of Delhi. It’s a long 14-hour drive. HPTDC and several private operators run daily bus services.
Where to stay: HPTDC’s Log Huts and Hamta Cottages (01902-252407) claim to have the best views of the Pir Panjal peaks.
Snowfall: Most likely between late December and March