If you're planning a break with friends or family, here are best winter holiday destinations in India that become idyllic spots in December, January and February (they're great all year round, but come winter and they transform into something else entirely.) Our vacation roster covers all regions, all temperature zones and all moods so you can choose according to your weather, location and vibe preferences. We've also thrown in some event and food recommendations based on memorable firsthand experience. Here goes – the 7 best winter holiday destinations in India.
The Best Winter Holiday Destinations in India
Peppered with yellow houses in languid lanes, the town of Kochi is a coastal gem tucked away in God's Own Country – Kerala. If you want a break from the biting cold, the temperature's nice and cool here at 23-30 ° C– make sure you start your day with a heavy breakfast of appam or prawn curry, lest sauntering from street to street leave you with a rumbling stomach.
- How to get here: Fly to the Cochi International Airport connected to all major cities in India, or de-board at either of the two Ernakulum train stations
- Must-visit spots: Pardesi Synagogue, Chinese Fishing Nets, Mattancherry Palace, Hill Palace Museum, Indo-Portuguese Museum, Santa Cruz Basilica
- Events: Art and culture enthusiasts should get tickets for the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, an art festival that runs from 12 December, 2018 till 29 March, 2019
- Where to eat: Kashi Art Café, Arca Nova, The Rice Boat – Vivanta, and to experience the town like a true local, the roadside shacks in Fort Cochi
- Where to stay: We recommend you stay anchored in Fort Kochi, as it's dotted with sufficient eateries and stays, a stone's throw from other tourist destinations, and buzzing with activity being the central destination for the Biennale, which makes it one of the best winter holiday destinations in India
A heady blend of Indo-Portuguese culture, Goa always makes it to every (yes, every) list of the best winter holiday destinations in India – it's a party hub like no other, although there are enough serene spots for travelers looking for peace and quiet. The temperature ranges from 20-30 ° C in winter months, so head here if you want a break from the cold.
- How to get here: From any airport in a major city (like Delhi or Bombay), catch a domestic flight to Goa's pint-sized Dabolim airport. Or catch a train to Goa's largest railway station, Madgaon
- Must-visit spots: Explore the beautiful bays at Palolem, take languid walks in the salt-scented streets of Panjim, and shop till you drop at the Anjuna Market
- Events: Party animals can head to the Sunburn EDM Festival that runs from 29, December 2018 – 31 December, 2018.
- Where to eat: Enjoy delectable Goan, Portuguese and Greek food at a multitude of local and fine dining options. Popular spots include Joe's River Cove, Zeebop, Mum's Kitchen, Thalassa, Burger Factory, German Bakery, Café Chocolatti, and Fellini's Pizza
- Where to stay: It depends on what you're looking for – peace lovers should head to South Goa, and party animals should head to the North side
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For a veritable winter holiday, this rustic side of Manali is one of the best winter holiday destinations in India, freezing in the months of December-February at -9 to 2 ° C. Unwind with a sumptuous breakfast at the first café that catches your eye (you'll be spoilt for choice), then step out and explore the quaint mountain town.
- How to get here: From Delhi, we recommend taking an overnight HRTC bus to Manali. From there, you can easily reach Old Manali by cab.
- Must-visit spots: Go café crawling, visit the Hidimba Devi Temple, head to Rohtang Pass, or go to Vashisht;
- Where to eat: You'll forget about your food (which is pretty great, too) with the scenic views these cafes have to offer – visit Café 1947, Lazy Dog Lounge, Drifters' Inn, Dylan's Toasted and Roasted, Casa Bella Vista, Art Cafe and Johnson's Café
- Where to stay: If you want to be stationed in the hub of Old Manali, we recommend Drifters' Inn. Or you could check out The Sunshine Heritage, a stone's throw from the main town.
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If an Instagram holiday is what you seek, head to the magnificent blue city of Jodhpur. Its twisting lanes and bustling bazaars are filled with surprises at every corner. This is one of the best winter holiday destinations for those seeking respite from the cold, with temperatures ranging from 10-28 ° C in December-February.
- How to get here: Fly to the Jodhpur Airport, catch a train to Jodhpur Junction or take a bus from close-by cities.
- Must-visit spots: Visit Mehrangarh, Mehrangarh Museum, Jaswant Thada, Umaid Bhawan Palace, Clock Tower, Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park, and saunter around quiet Navchokiya
- Where to eat: Gypsy, Janta Sweet Home, Shandar Sweet Home, Indique, Jharokha, Mid Town, Jhankar Choti Haveli, Kalinga Restaurant, Risala
- Where to stay: Depending on your budget, there are enough luxury hotels and homestays to choose from
The capital of Meghalaya, Shillong is one of the best winter holiday destinations in India. Its streets come alive in December, resonating with echoes of Christmas carols. Temperatures range from 11-28 ° C in December-February.
- How to get here: Fly or take a train to Guwahati, which is around a 100 km from Shillong. Then take a cab or a bus to your destination.
- Must-visit spots: Visit the Don Bosco Museum of Indigenous Cultures, the Shillong Golf Course, All Saints' Cathedral, the Anglican Church, Ward's Lake, or take a 2-hour drive to the high-altitude town of Cherrapunji to witness pristine falls and caves
- Where to eat: Café Shillong, Jadoh, Trattoria, La Galarie, City Hut Dhaba,
- Where to stay: The Pinewood Hotel is a popular choice among travelers
Colourful and chaotic, the royal city of Jaipur is one of the best winter holiday destinations in India. Whether you want to soak in its architectural magnificence, or shop for traditional footwear and drapery, this is a city that always has something to offer. Temperatures range from 9-26 ° C in December-February.
- How to get here: Fly to the Jaipur International Airport, take a train to Jaipur Junction, or catch a bus from nearby cities
- Must-visit spots: Hawa Mahal, City Palace, Jantar Mantar, Maharaja Mansingh Museum, Iswari Minar Swarga Sal, Central Museum, Jal Mahal, Nahargarh Fort
- Events: Literature enthusiasts and bookworms should head to the Jaipur Literary Festival, happening between 24-28 Jan, 2019
- Where to eat: Sanjay Omelette, Copper Chimney, Laxmi Mishtan Bhandar, Indian Coffee House, 1135 AD, Anokhi Café, Brown Sugar,
- Where to stay: Jaipur has a whole host of heritage and luxury stays to choose from (Samode Haveli, Taj Jai Mahal Palace are top picks). And if you're looking for budget options, browse hundreds of homestays on Airbnb
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A former French colony, Pondicherry is one of the best winter holiday destinations in India. Saunter through its streets (still called ‘rues', that's streets in French) to soak in its old world charm, and head to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram for a spiritual reawakening. Temperatures range from 20-30 ° C in December-February.
- How to get here: We recommend flying to the Chennai airport, then taking the scenic coastal route to the town by cab/bus. Or catch a train to Villupuram, about 35 kilometres from your destination.
- Must-visit spots: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Puducherry Seafront, Puducherry Museum, Notre Dame des Anges, Institut Francais de Pondicherry
- Where to eat: Auroville Bakery, Café des Arts, Tanto Pizzeria, Domus, Café Xtasi, Le Dupleix, Surguru Spot
- Where to stay: The Promenade, Palais de Mahe, L'Escale, Dumas Guest House
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