It is November and only a month and a few days more to go before we say goodbye to 2016. I am sure a lot of us are already planning ahead for what to do and where to go for this New Year’s Eve. I myself am pondering over which place to head to in India when the clock strikes 12. So here I am jotting down some of the places I would love to think about visiting to bring in 2017.
Although New Year parties are always fun, glamorous and dramatic, I plan to do something totally different this year. For a change, I would love to step into the next year in the midst of peace and calm, like a serene bonfire on a beach or a quiet dinner on the backwater of Kerala. I have put together 12 such stunning naturally beautiful new year destinations to welcome 2017 in India with my exclusive list.
Best of both worlds
Alleppey also known as Alappuzha in Kerala. Courtesy Sarath Kuchi
The closest you can get to a Venice-like experience is in the backwaters of Alleppey in Kerala, also known as the ‘Venice of the East’. You will be spoilt for choice in Alleppey which is home to several canals, serene lagoons, clean beaches, and backwaters. If serenity is on your list for this New Year, a dream candle light dinner on the backwaters of Kerela should be the getaway for you.
How to reach Alleppey:
Conveniently reachable by road/buses from major cities like Bangalore, Chennai, Mysore and Coimbatore to Alleppey. The Cochin International Airport to is located at a distance of 75 km from Alleppey.
Auroville at Pondicherry.
Get transported to a truly Indo-French experience in Pondicherry. Although so French in many ways, Pondy as fondly called is still totally Indian at heart. Start the first day of the New Year with a touch of spirituality in a universal township devoted to an experiment in human unity, Auroville (or the City of Dawn) in Pondicherry. Here you can devote yourself to some selfless service by volunteering for organic farming or animal care. What better than a selfless start to a new beginning.
How to reach Pondicherry:
Pondicherry can be reached by air with flights coming in from Bangalore and Hyderabad or connecting flights from Delhi, Kolkata, and Mumbai. Also, several buses ply frequently from Chennai, Trichy, Coimbatore, Bangalore and Madurai.
For a ‘chilled out’ experience
Umiam Lake, Shillong, Meghalaya.
Popularly known as ‘Scotland of the East’ Shillong is a tiny town in Meghalaya blessed with an abundance of natural beauty, lovely waterfalls, clear blue skies and gorgeous landscapes. As pretty as a picture one can celebrate a peaceful New Year on the vast banks of the calm and serene Barapani lake, or spend the day visiting Elephant Falls, Nohkalikai Falls, the tallest waterfalls in India or the more exciting and mysterious caves of Meghalaya.
How to reach Shillong:
The best way to reach Shillong is to drive down from Guwahati Airport or Railway station. Or catch a bus or rent a car from Guwahati to Shillong.
Changu Lake near Gangtok.
Gangtok, otherwise also means ‘Hill Top’ is crowned at a height of 5410 feet, blessed with stunning views of Kanchenjunga, the 3rd highest peak in the world. Imagine ending the last day of the year watching the Sun go down across the peaks of Kanchenjunga or taking a Yak ride by the Tsomgo Lake also known as Changu Lake.
I am sure beginning the year in the laps of such beauty is definitely going to rub some beauty onto you too. Not only is Gangtok one of the cleanest cities it is also extremely tourist friendly and peace loving.
How to reach Gangtok:
Cheap flights are available from major cities to Bagdogra Airport, from where Gangtok is 125 km and can be reached by car. Also, nearest railway station is Siliguri or New Jalpaiguri Railway Station.
For beach lovers
Havelock Island, Andaman
Havelock Island at Andaman. Courtesy codex41
Havelock Island in Andaman has waters like the color of the sky and dazzling white sand beaches. One couldn’t imagine a place closer to paradise. Go scuba diving into the ocean to a truly different world to ponder over the wonderful year gone by or spend the night and day on the untouched beaches lined with bamboo huts.
You could also try kayaking or take a dip and browse through the coral reefs to witness the riot of colors underwater. Havelock Island is truly one of the best New Year destinations in India. Although the recent popularity sees a lot of tourist coming in to celebrate the Eve to ditch the cold, yet it’s way untouched and undisturbed than any city in India during this time. Make sure to opt for early reservations to avoid any last minute hassles.
How to reach Havelock Island:
Reach Port Blair by air from any major city. From Port Blair take the air-conditioned catamaran ferry, which takes only 90 minutes from Port Blair or the government-operated ferries which take about 2.5 hrs to reach Havelock Island.
Kodalu beach at Gokarna.
Gokarna enjoys an amazing mix of tradition and urban life, famous for being a Hindu pilgrimage center, Lord Mahabaleshwar abode, it is also a beach lover’s paradise. It has several tranquil beaches like Kodalu beach, Om beach, Paradise beach, Half-moon beach, all frequented by not only Indians but Europeans and Russians alike, also a favorite for budget travelers. Not as thronged as Goa, this place should be on your list if you want a peaceful beach New Year celebration with close friends and family.
Gokarna is also abode to quite a few temples like Mahabaleshwar Temple, Maha Ganapathi Temple for those who wish to start the New Year with a touch of religiousness and traditions.
How to reach Gokarna:
Gokarna is well connected to all major cities by regular buses. Also, there are regular trains from major cities of India to Gokarna or fly down to Dabolim Airport instead and drive to the Gokarna.
For a New Year close to Nature
Asian elephant with its baby in Wayanad Tholpetty Range.
If you are a lover of solitude, wildlife, nature and all things Mowgli like. The perfect place for you this New Year would be at Tholpetty Wildlife Sanctuary, Wayanad, located in ‘God’s Own country’ Kerala. Book a stay in one of the tree houses perched on a high above the canopy of rainforests, spend the day taking a safari ride into the wild to pay a visit to the wild animals and birds and enjoy the breathtaking landscapes of Wayanad.
Bring in New Year amidst the sounds of the jungle as the clock strikes 12. And in the morning wake up to the chirping of birds and indulge is some early bird-watching.
How to reach Wayanad:
Although there are no airports or train stations in Wayanad, one can easily get regular buses to Wayanad from other major cities of the country.
Keibul Lamjao National Park, Manipur
A home on Loktak Lake, Manipur.
For a truly unique way to end this year and step into the next, book your tickets to Imphal and head to Bishnupur nestled in one small corner of the country. The Keibul Lamjao National Park in Manipur stands apart from the other wildlife reserves in India.
This is one of its kind only wildlife sanctuary that floats on water. Spend the New Year watching the endangered brow-antlered Dancing Deer aka Sangai or take a relaxing boat trip on the Loktak Lake and watch the vibrant and playful migratory birds. Park yourself at the Tourist bungalow on Sendra Island in the middle of the Loktak Lake to get best views of the other small islands on the lake formed from floating weed. Indulge in the fun activities like boating and watersports on offer as well.
How to reach Manipur:
The best way to reach Manipur is to fly down to Imphal by air since Imphal doesn’t have any train station.
Buses are also available to Imphal from nearby important cities.
For an ‘Adventurous’ beginning to the next year
A view of Nilgiri Parvat from Auli. Courtesy Ishan Manjrekar
Often hailed as one of the Best Ski Reports in the World, Auli is an exotic and adventurous destination nestled in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand, unlike any other snow-capped popular destinations like Gulmarg, Manali, etc, Auli is not cramped up with tourists during peak seasons, which allows you to immerse yourself into a peaceful time.
Welcome the New year by enjoying a warm drink or cocktail by a cozy bonfire or dig into a barbecue side celebration in the snow-capped wonderland revel along with local folk music and dance.
Kick start 2017 by putting on your skis and skiing on the milky slopes and witness the gorgeous panoramic views of the Himalayan peaks. For a more relaxed time check out the local temples, hot springs and try spooking yourself at one of the haunted spots.
How to reach Auli:
Delhi to Auli distance is about 487 km. Traveling from Delhi to Auli is only possible via road by car due to unavailability of flight and trains to Auli.
Riverside at Rishikesh overlooking beautiful hills.
Rishikesh is world famous for being the ‘Yoga Nagari’ or the ‘Yoga Capital of the Country’ but it is equally best at being an adventure lover’s dream destination. This quaint tiny city is known for its beauty, sanctity, and adventure options. Gifted with the hills of Garhwal and the holy Ganges, Rishikesh is one of the ancient cities in India. A must do activity in Rishikesh is River Rafting in the thrilling rapids of the Ganges or experience a free-falling dip from one of the cliffs there.
How to reach Rishikesh:
Take a flight to Delhi, Rishikesh is only 242 km from Delhi and can be easily reached by road.
Valleys and treks
Winter Kuari Pass Trek
A Pic taken during a trek to Kuari pass.
If you are an adventure enthusiast and enjoy trekking head to the upper reaches of the Himalayas for the Kauri pass trek. What better way to call an end to the year by trekking through the holy towns like Joshimath and Devprayag. Adventurous yet breath-taking this trek will also let you witness some of the highest peaks in the Garhwal Himalayas, including the twin peaks of Nanda Devi.
It is a trek fit for both amateurs and professionals. When tired retire into a makeshift camp and enjoy the camping and bonfire experience amidst the beauty of the snowfall and picturesque mountain forests and the tributaries of the Holy Ganges.
How to reach Kuari Pass Trek:
The trek starts from Joshimath. Joshimath can be easily reached from Haridwar at a distance of 260 km. Haridwar is well connected to all cities by train and roadways.
Kasol, Himachal Pradesh
A View of Parvati Valley.
Escape to the fascinating scenic hills of Himachal, Kasol is a confluence of two parallel worlds where you can feel the bone chilling Himalayan. Parvati Valley is definitely one of those priceless places you might want to be in during New Year. You could spend the evening commencing into the night partying here with locals and tourists with the scenic backdrops of the Himalayas.
It boasts of a crazy partying scene for the party goers and beautiful natural views for anyone wanting a quieter evening, make your pick.
How to reach Kasol:
The best way to reach Kasol is from Delhi via road by buses or by car. Several buses both standard and luxury are available and also cars can be hired for the same, usually takes 14hrs from Delhi to Kasol by road.