This year’s Holi week is what every traveller wanted. For our readers in Delhi, the options are mind boggling. It has just started to get hot, so the mountains would be perfect. But then this is also one of the best times for spotting wildlife in the various parks and sanctuaries around the capital. If you do not mind a bit of heat, that is.
Here are our suggestions for your perfect Holi escape from Delhi:
Few know of Lansdowne which makes it an attractive hideaway. Visit this quaint little hill station in Uttarakhand to truly ‘escape’. Surrounded by oak and pine trees, it offers picturesque walks and trekking opportunities – and bad phone networks, which works out well. While this small cantonment town does not have luxuries, it certainly has a lot of character and ambiance. While a jeep can be hired to get around, the best way to get a feel of the place is by foot. Trek to a few look-out points, churches and the man-made lake through the pine trees and undulating pathways, and you experience a new degree of tranquility.
Make it happen: If you are driving, go via Ghaziabad, Meerut, Najibabad, Kotdwara and Dugadda. To avoid the congested Meerut city, take the Meerut bypass leading to Bijnor (250km, 6 hours). Interstate buses run from Delhi to Kotdwara. From here, shared jeeps can be easily found for the 41km climb to Lansdowne (Rs 50 per head).
Tottering at an elevation of 7250ft, Chakrata is another little cantonment town on the way to Yamunotri. Situated between the Tons and Yamuna Rivers, Chakrata was built in 1866 when Colonel Hume established it as the headquarters of the 55th British Regiment. In Chakrata, a strong scent of pine cones hangs almost perennially in the air. This small sleepy town has not busy bazaars or noisy restaurants to distract you from the breathtaking view of the Garhwal Himalayas. Due to the strong army presence, Chakrata is off-limits for foreigners and even Indian nationals are advised to carry ID cards at all times. Places like Tiger Falls (20km), Kanasar (26km) and Deoban (13km ) make for interesting day trips from Chakrata.
Make it happen: If you are driving, take the National Highway 1 towards Chandigarh. Drive to Shahbad, around 15km before Ambala, turn right towards Yamunanagar and follow the road straight to Chakrata via Paonta Sahib, Herbertpur and Kalsi (311km, 8-10 hours).
Bharatpur, a tiny town in western Rajasthan is known for Keoladeo Ghana National Park, a world-renowned bird sanctuary. The park has been named by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and remains, even after the Siberian Cranes stopped visiting, one of the best birding areas in the world. Established as a sanctuary in 1982, Keoladeo Ghana was previously used as the maharaja’s hunting grounds. The 29sqkm landscape in the lap of nature makes the city, in fact so close, appear thousands of miles away. Don’t forget to carry binoculars and cameras, preferably with telephoto lenses.
Make it happen: If you are driving, take the National Highway 2 that goes to Agra all the way till Mathura. Turn right from the Mathura flyover; this road leads to Bharatpur (185km, 4 hours). Although there are buses to Bharatpur, they are few and far between. It is a better idea to take a bus to Agra (4 hours) and then take a local bus from Agra to Bharatpur (1.5 hours).
Ranthambhore National Park
Spread over 1334sqkm of wild jungle scrub hemmed in by rocky ridges, this famous national park is one of the best places in India to spot wild tigers. At the centre of this vast wilderness is the amazing 10th century Ranthambhore Fort, scattered around which are ancient temples and mosques, Hunting pavilions, crocodile filled lakes and vine covered chhatris. Please keep in mind that seeing a tiger is partly a matter of luck. You must plan two or three safaris to improve your chances. But remember, there’s plenty of other wildlife here too, including more than 300 species of birds. You can book your safaris from http://www.rajasthanwildlife.in/
Make it happen: If you are driving (it will be a long and tiring drive) take the NH 8 from Delhi to Jaipur followed by Agra Expressway to Basi and then SH24 to Ranthambhore (414km, 8 hours). Trains are a better and comfortable option. You can choose from Golden Temple Mail, Nizamuddin Kota Jan Shatabdi and the Dehradun Express.
To know more about these destinations, and indeed about many many more interesting places, check out our travel guide ‘Short Escapes from Delhi‘.
The article was first published in 2013 and has been updated since.