East India has a lot to offer in terms of natural beauty, exotic locations and culture. And if you move away from the crowds on the plains and into the hills, there is lots to see and do in the winter. From the tallest peak in the world to one of the most isolated towns in the country, there’s something for everyone in the cold months.
Now what could be more adventurous than driving down the second highest motorable road in the world in peak winter? This pass in Arunachal Pradesh stands at a height of 13,700 feet and was named after a girl (Sela) who died a martyr. In winter, weather conditions change rapidly and cars engines are known to shut down due to the intense cold. Paradise Lake lies close to the pass and often freezes over at this time of the year. The pass is a popular tourist spot and you can play in the snow.
And we have been warned that snow leopards frequent the area often. So be on your guard.
Tour operators with excursions to Tawang.
A trip to this final frontier on the Indo-China border really tests your resolve, but you will be rewarded with beauty unparalleled. Once there, you could visit the PT Tso Lake that often freezes in winter. The cold makes it difficult for fish to survive in the water. Then there are the Jang waterfalls, where certain scenes of the Shah Rukh Khan-Madhuri Dixit starrer Koyla (1997) were shot. Or visit the 400-year-old monastery and listen in to the constant chanting of the Buddhist monks. You could also stop by The Jaswant Garh Indo Chinese Memorial or Tawang’s War Memorial and relive the Indo-China war.
Major tour operators.
Harbhajan Singh temple
No, this isn’t a tribute to the Indian spinner by some cricket fanatic. Instead, the shrine, located in between the Jelep La Pass and Nathu La Pass, has been built in memory of Baba Harbhajan Singh, a sepoy. He went missing and was thought to have drowned in a glacier during the 1962 Sino-Indian War. Though his body was discovered three days later, locals still believe that he is “on duty” and even conducts his rounds at nights, protecting the lives of his fellow soldiers. In fact, the army sends money to his family as he is still on their payroll.
Contact: Major tour operators.
Frozen Tsangu Lake
Just about 34 kms. away from Gangtok lies a serene lake at an altitude of 12,400 ft on the Gangtok Nathu La highway. Though the surrounding area remains covered in ice throughout the year, the lake tends to freeze over completely in winter and becomes a major tourist attraction. It is not uncommon to see families there in hordes, walking around the lake or enjoying a yak ride.
Major tour operators.
Eagle’s Nest Wildlife Sanctuary
When you think of the North East and wildlife, Kaziranga and its one-horned rhinos are the first thoughts that come to your mind. However, located within Arunachal Pradesh in the west Kameng district, lies another sanctuary that is a bird lover’s delight. The sanctuary covers an area of 217 sq km, and is home to endangered animals like the elephant, tiger, leopard, goral and red panda. However, you must visit the place for its 454 species of birds, including several varieties of kites, hawks, vultures and eagles. Though the area is taken care of by the army, accommodation is available within the sanctuary itself.
Log on to
Mount Everest, the Himalayan ranges and the Brahmaputra delta
Heading to the North-East? Don’t miss on the opportunity to see the world’s tallest peak and its adjoining mountain ranges. Take a no-frills flight from Delhi to Guwahati, and pray you have a pilot who was a tour guide in his last life. And the next thing you know, you will have the pleasure of seeing the peak without suffering a climb or facing the cold. Winter is also a great time to see the mountain in all its snowy finery and as in our case; for checking out the other major peaks in the area. If you go a little ahead, you also have a bird’s eye view of the expansive Brahmaputra delta. Spread over acres of land, the basin still has enough water for you to appreciate how powerful that river must be in the monsoon. And all this is for just Rs. 4,000.
Keep in mind
* Some states that share a border with our neighbours need a permit.
* Winter means the day starts at 4 am and ends at 4 pm.
* At times, the only access road to these exotic places is in deplorable condition, causing a car to break down. So keep your car gear handy.
* A car is a must the entire time since most tourist spots are at quite a distance from the city centres.
* Be prepared for lack of hospitality from the natives.