There are some pernicious myths when it comes to trekking in India. The first is that monsoon is a bad time for trekking. Because, rain. The second is that winter is an even worse time to go on treks. Because, snow. I’ve discussed the former elsewhere (“The hard road to Himalayan heaven”, 21 July). As far as the latter is concerned, such an argument doesn’t take one thing into account—it only snows in the Himalaya, while India has countless other ranges where it doesn’t. With that in mind, here’s our list of some of the best treks you can go to from your city. Remember, for every trek mentioned here, there are at least another five you can go for in the same region.
If you live in Delhi, you pretty much have all of Western Himalaya to explore, just an overnight drive, or train ride away. While there are a number of winter treks you can go for, for fantastic Himalayan views, you can’t better a trek to the peak of Chandrashila (4,000m) in Garhwal, Uttarakhand, that towers over the medieval temple of Tungnath, the highest of the Panch Kedar temples. Begin your trek from the village of Sari, just beyond the temple town of Ukhimath in the Mandakini valley. From here, trek to the high- altitude Deoria Tal through forests of oak and rhododendron for fantastic views of the Chaukhamba massif. Head back to Sari and either take a vehicle to the village of Chopta, or, if you have time, walk the gorgeous forest trail to Chopta. From Chopta, it’s a long snow-walk up to the temple of Tungnath. You will have to camp here overnight for a jaunt to the peak of Chandrashila. Its 180-degree view of the Himalaya, from the Kedarnath peaks in the northwest to Nanda Devi in the east is a sight to behold.
Duration: Keep about four-five days for the trek.
While you can try some winter treks in North Bengal and Sikkim, like Singalila and the Dzongri La hikes, winter is a great time to check out some off-the-beaten-path treks in Arunachal Pradesh. One of the most beautiful regions in this beautiful state is the Ziro valley, famed for the annual music festival that’s held here. However, Ziro and its neighbouring Talle and Pangey valleys, home to the Apatani tribe, is also perfect for a cultural trek, with some great views of the lush valleys and the distant Bhutan Himalaya to boot. Drive from Guwahati to Ziro village. Starting from Ziro, the trail crosses over into the Talle valley conservation area through forests of pine and silver fir. Once in the valley, the trail follows the Talle and the Pangey river through frequent river crossings. Take a local guide who can point out interesting lichens, orchids and endemic forms of bamboo along the way. It’s also a great place for birdwatching. The trek ends at the Apatani village of Hong. From here you can drive back to Ziro and then to Guwahati.
Duration: The full trek takes about four days. Make sure that you get your Inner Line Permit before setting off for Ziro.
If you live in Mumbai, then you have it easy. A dozen and more excellent trekking trails in the Sahyadri range and the Western Ghats are just a short drive away. From ancient Buddhist caves to old temples to medieval forts, from lakes to lofty cliffs, the mountain ranges of the Konkan coast have it all. While you can choose trails of varying difficulty, one of the best and more difficult trails here is the one that links three medieval forts in the Kalsubai range near Nashik: Madan, Alang and Kulang. There is some rock clambering and steep trails to be negotiated. But the views are spectacular. Keep a few days aside to explore the ruins. While Madangad and Alang Fort can be explored in a day, you will need a full day to explore Kulang Fort. If you’re approaching from Mumbai, drive down to Ambewadi via Kasara and begin the trek from there.
Duration: Three days
If you’re planning a short trek from Bengaluru, look no further than Coorg. Home to coffee plantations and stunning shola forests, the day trek to the green peak of Tadiandamol, at about 5,735ft, the highest point in the Western Ghats region, is a picturesque one. The trek begins from the village of Kakkabe, well known for the Nalknad Palace. The trail begins at the palace and passes through intermittent stretches of thick forests and open grasslands. As the trail is fairly steep throughout, pace yourself and ensure that you’re carrying enough water. Althought the trail is fairly clear, there are some established landmarks, like the “Big Rock”, a cliff that’s a great place to take a break and get something to eat. From here the trail continues over mostly grasslands and across a couple of false peaks. As you get higher, the surrounding area opens up to reveal a stunning vista of soaring peaks, emerald green grasslands and thick shola forests. The final stretch to the windswept peak is the steepest, but the views from the top are nothing short of breathtaking.
Duration: This is a day trek.
The Nilgiri Hills offer a multitude of options. With your base in Ooty, you can do any number of day hikes in the area. If you’re feeling more adventurous, combine some of the treks into a longer, multi-day affair. One such is the five-six-day trek, which covers the Parsons Valley reserved forest, the beautiful Parsons reservoir, the Mukurthi dam, the high Pandiar Hills and Pykara Falls, before ending at the Madumalai National Park. Along the way, you will pass through beautiful shola forests, grasslands, countless lakes and open meadows, reservoirs, old temples and villages of the local Toda tribe. Stay at trekkers’ huts, forest resthouses or camp. You need permits from the forest department to do this trek. These can be obtained at the forest office in Ooty.
Duration: Five-six days