Winters are an amazing time to travel in India, especially on road trips. The weather is more pleasant and there is a festive cheer in the air. There are many winter festivals in India that you could choose to attend. And if you’ve seen our Long Weekend Calendar, you’d know that there are two extended weekends in January. 🙂 Almost all regions have their harvest festivals in January like Lohri in Punjab, Makar Sankranti in the North & West, Pongal in the south and finally, Basant Panachami and Bhogali Bihu in the East. You would be able to observe the local communities at their colorful and joyful best when you visit them. Furthermore, there are many cultural events which take place in January, especially outdoors.
Here are some of the recommended Winter Festivals in India you must plan to travel to.
Mamallapuram Dance Festival
Where: Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu
Mamallapuram or Mahabalipuram is a popular weekend getaway from Chennai. The gorgeous beach town hosts the open-air Dance Festival against the rock sculptures at Arjuna’s Penance. It is one of the annual winter festivals in India that showcases many folks and classical dance forms. You can watch enthralling performances of Bharatnatyam, Kathakali, Kuchipudi, Odissi, amongst others. The entry fee is Rs. 100 and the shows are held every day. You can plan an extended road trip, driving down the ECR Road and catch a performance on the way.
Where: Kutch region, Gujarat
The Rann Utsav is a showcase of all the amazing things that the Kutch region has to offer. You can read all about the Rann of Kutch Festival here. You must try to plan a trip during the full moon period, to see the white expanse drenched in moonlight. Catch folk performances, sample the local cuisines and check out the intricate Kutchi embroidered fabric. We would recommend going on a road trip to visit the many interesting places in Kutch. You can check out our White Escape Package, or in fact, join the Great Voyage of Kutch bike trip by Meanders India at Bhopal/Bhuj in February.
Where: Chennai, Tamil Nadu
Mylapore is one of the oldest neighborhoods of Chennai and venue of the eponymous cultural festivals in January. It started as Kolam contest in 2001 and now is held over 3 days in the area around the famous Kapaleeshwar Temple. Winters are the best time to visit Chennai and you can feel the city come alive at these festivals. If you are in and around Chennai, you must check out the event and even participate in the revelry.
International Kite Festival
Where: Ahmedabad, Gujarat and Jaipur, Rajasthan
Kai Po Che! Nope, not the movie but the joyous cry when kites cut each other. Uttarayan or Sankranti is one of the major winter festivals in India, most importantly in the west. Flying kites is a popular activity during the celebrations. Kite flyers from different countries participate in this festival and the sky is filled with kites of all shapes and colors. There are kite painting competitions, kite-making workshops and lots of other fun activities. You can actually head to Ahmedabad on Gujarat road trip and go on to the Rann Utsav from there.
Street Food Festival – Delhi
Where: Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, New Delhi
Foodie or not, most people love to try out local cuisines while traveling. Now imagine if you could go to one of the many festivals in January and taste street food from all over the country. Doesn’t it sound exciting and honestly blissful? The National Association of Street Vendors of India holds this mother of all food festivals in January every year. If you are in or around Delhi, you have got to block your calendars and head there.
Bikaner Camel Fair and Nagaur Cattle Fair
Where: Bikaner, Rajasthan and Nagaur, Rajasthan
Rajasthan is famous for the most colorful winter festivals in India. Starting from Nov-Dec, the numerous celebrations of rich heritage and culture continues with the festivals in January and February. The Bikaner Camel Fair and the Nagaur Cattle Fair are two of them. The Nagaur Fair is the second-largest event of its kind. There are camels, horses, and cattle, from across the region at the fairs, all dressed up in resplendent finery. You can enjoy camel races, folk performances and walk through the markets to pick up beautiful handicrafts and gifts for loved ones. Plan a Rajasthan road trip during in the winters and enjoy the many local fairs.
Where: Kenduli village, Near Shanti Niketan, West Bengal
Shanti Niketan is an oft-visited weekend getaway from Kolkata. and hosts some of the oldest winter festivals in India. The fair at nearby Kenduli is a great opportunity to explore the Bengal countryside and observe rural life. You would get to experience the soulful performances by the Baul musicians, nomadic singers clad in saffron garb. The characteristic tune of the Ektara and the simple truths are the soothing qualities in their music.
Modhera Dance Festival
Where: Modhera, Gujarat
Gujarat is really buzzing with exciting events at the beginning of the year. The Modhera Dance Festival is held in January every year. An ancient Sun Temple presents an inspiring backdrop for this cultural festival. The entire area is lit up magnificently, especially during the performances in the evening. The whole atmosphere is charged with an appreciation of the artists from across the country. Modhera is a great detour on the way from Ahmedabad to the Kutch region, in case you are headed to the Rann of Kutch festival.
Jaipur Lit Festival
Where: Jaipur, Rajasthan
The Jaipur Literature Festival is a prominent event in the calendars of the who’s who of the literary world. Bibliophiles from different parts of India make way to this esteemed festivals in January. The festival features book launches, panel discussions, speeches and seminars by iconic authors and legends. If you love reading as much I do, you must head to this fabulous event. You can probably extend your stay and go on a quick getaway near Jaipur.
Republic Day Parade – Jan 26
Where: New Delhi
When: January 26
If you’re an 80’s kid like me, one of your earliest memories would be of watching the Republic Day Parade on Doordarshan. The magnificent parades with all its pomp and pageantry are definitely one of the significant festivals in January. The parade is telecasted and webcasted on many channels. However, the joy of attending the parade in person and the feeling of pride that washes over you as you watch the participants walk by is inexplicable. There are many things to do and places to visit in Delhi. But watching the parade definitely tops all those lists.
Jaisalmer Desert Festival
Where: Jaisalmer, Rajasthan
Finally, you can spend the last few days of January in Rajasthan in the golden city of Jaisalmer. You could go on a road trip to Rajasthan starting from the Republic day weekend and end it with a visit to this glorious place. Jaisalmer has a grand heritage and the celebrations showcase that. Besides the usual camel races and folk performances, there are polo matches and other sports competitions.
Other than these, there are many other interesting festivals in January. The GOAT Festival in Goa, the Mukteshwar Dance Festival in Odisha,
I hope we have inspired you to plan a road trip on one of the long weekends in January. Our Scouts would love to answer any questions you have on the Community forums. Even better, you could check out some of our holiday packages and get in touch with us. We can plan a hassle-free exciting road trip for you, to any of these festivals or any place you choose.
If you have attended any of these festivals, we’d like to know about your experiences in the comments.