With the New Year just around the corner, you are sure to be thinking about places you can head to to get your ‘New Year, New Me’ vibe on. And while you may have tons of invites to go to those done and dusted party haunts — we’re looking at you, Goa — there are surely no offers to explore the more offbeat parts of our country. To help you zero in on the perfect place to ring in the New Year in style, we have put together a list of our favourite holiday destinations in India. So pack up your rucksack, check the gas, and lace your boots, as we take you on a trip off the beaten track!
Way before Led Zeppelin immortalized our northernmost state, the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, is said to have exclaimed “Ya firdaus barruhe zamanast, haminasto-haminasto-haminast” (If there is heaven on earth, then it is here) on seeing Kashmir’s natural beauty. Located 2,650 meters above sea level, the hill station of Gulmarg is a great place for those who enjoy the cold mountain breeze in their face as they ski downslope! In fact, this beautiful valley town is also known as the ‘heartland of winter sports in India’ and has been rated the seventh best ski destination in Asia. While you aren’t blitzing through the hills, on a no-horse-open-ski (yes, it’s the Xmas vibe — no, we won’t get over it) you can also spend New Year’s Eve soaking in picturesque Gulmarg. After all, the St Mary’s Church and Maharani Temple are each over a 100-years-old!
While most holidays destinations are randomly ascribed to being ‘magical’, the Rann of Kutch is one of those few places on earth that actually matches up to the adjective. The great salt marshes, which cover more than 7,000 sqkm of Gujrat, is home to the annual ‘Rann Utsav’, which begins in December and ends in February. This four-month-long festival is a treat for all ages, as visitors get to see the local wildlife at the Wild Ass Sanctuary, experience the life of a local for a day, and go shopping in the alleys of Bhuj. What’s more, New Year’s Eve is pretty amazing at the Rann — with celebrations including local performances, firework displays, and camel rides to the sand dunes.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Khajuraho is located in Madhya Pradesh — nearly 380 km north of Bhopal, the state capital. While Khajuraho town is described as sleepy at best, the temple group nearby is what draws attention from across the world. And if you have an eye for details and an ear for history, Khajuraho is sure to be a treat for you too. These Hindu and Jain monuments were built between 950-1050 AD by the Chandela kings and are exquisite examples of the nagara-style of architecture. While you’re there, make sure to try out the audio-guided tour of the temples, and go for the light and sound show that takes place every evening.
Does the thought of riding up hilly roads with over 20 hairpin bends excite you? Do you want to spend a few days away from society, recharging your batteries? Then look no further than Ponmudi! This idyllic hill station is located on the Western Ghats and is just 55 kms away from Kerala’s state capital, Thiruvananthapuram — the closest airport and railway station. Ponmudi is great if you want to spend the New Year in peace and quiet, reflecting on nature’s beauty and how the simpler things are what matter.
Far away from the Indian mainland, the pristine Andaman and Nicobar Islands are soon turning into an unparalleled New Year destination — with crazy parties being thrown at resorts, on beaches, and in yachts! But dancing and partying aren’t all the islands offer. For those of you who would like to catch a slice of paradise, all you have to do is go down to any one of the islands’ serene beaches and catch the sun as it sets or rises on another day to get that much needed R&R.