There’s hardly anyone who doesn’t take a summer holiday. Whether you take a trip with your family, or go solo, there’s plenty to choose from our list of best places to go during the hot summer. The best part – you can choose from anywhere in the country.
DHARAMSHALA & MCLEOD GANJ
With the Dalai Lama and some 80,000 other Tibetan exiles living around Dharamsala, this bustling but scenic corner of Himachal abounds in all things Buddhist. When travellers talk of heading up to Dharamsala, what they usually mean is nearby McLeod Ganj, a buzzing traveller hangout.
Bus: There are frequent deluxe buses (including Volvos) making the 12-hour journey from Delhi. Train: The nearest train station is Kangra Mandir, on the line from Pathankot to Jogindarnagar. The other option is to take the train up to Pathankot and then travel by bus (Rs 65, 2hr 30min) or taxi (Rs 1800) to Dharamsala.
Nestled around a deep, green volcanic lake, Nainital is Kumaon’s most popular hill resort. Many hotels are set in the forested hills around the lake and there are walking tracks to viewpoints overlooking Himalayan peaks. Summer vacations mean boating, ice creams, cable-car rides and sightseeing.
Bus: Three buses leave from Anand Vihar ISBT in Delhi at 6am, 9pm (deluxe) and 10pm. The journey takes around 8 hours. Train: Kathgodam, 35km from Nainital, is the nearest station. The Anand Vihar-Kathgodam Shatabdi (12040) leaves daily (except Thursday) at 6.15am and reaches at 11.50am. The Ranikhet Express (15013) leaves daily from Old Delhi at 10.40pm and reaches at 5.05am. A taxi from Kathgodam costs Rs 500.
KHANDALA & LONAVALA
Long before Bollywood immortalised it with a catchy number, Khandala and its pretty neighbour Lonavala have been Mumbai’s favourite weekend destinations. The fun begins with the smooth drive down the scenic Mumbai-Pune Expressway. And then there are dams (Tungarli and Bushy), vantage points, and even a local version of Madame Tussauds.
By Road: From Mumbai, private transport buses run daily to Khandala and Lonavala, with multiple pick-up points from the city. The fare is between Rs 300-400 one way. See www.redbus.in. It takes about 2hr 30min via the Mumbai–Pune Expressway and you can also choose to drive yourself.
CALANGUTE & BAGA, NORTH GOA
For a lot of people, a holiday in Goa means shacking up at Baga, eating at one of the many famous restaurants and just lazing on the beach, with the occasional water sports thrown in. Baga’s close neighbour, Calangute is another busy beach. With hotels, restaurants, shopping areas, tattoo parlours and activities, it is a world unto itself.
Air: The only airport in Goa is Dabolim. Carriers from all over the country fly into Dabolim and from there it is a short taxi ride to get to Calangute or Baga (Rs 650). Car: North Goa is connected well to the neighbouring states via a network of National Highways. Bus: Buses coming from Mumbai drop you off at Mapusa or Panjim, from where you can take a taxi.
A favourite with Bollywood, Ooty’s (Udhagamandalam) reputation as ‘Queen of the Hills’ is hard to beat, despite the tourists milling around. With many ‘tick off the list’ things to do, it’s an engaging destination with the toy train, Botanical Gardens, Boat House, and refurbished colonial bungalows.
Train: The most romantic way to arrive in Ooty is aboard the toy train. Departures and arrivals at Mettupalayam connect with those of the Nilgiri Express, which runs between Mettupalayam and Chennai. The train departs Mettupalayam at 7.10am daily. Bus: Multiple KSRTC buses start from Kempegowda bus stand in Bengaluru. The forest part of the highway (Bandipur) is closed between 9pm and 5am. However, you can opt for the 10.15pm or 10.45pm bus (deluxe and luxury, Rs 349 onwards).
Tranquil Coonoor, off the beaten tourist track, offers memorable experiences. This tea country is an olfactory paradise for lovers of the cup that cheers. For views of the Coimbatore plains, tea terraces and nearby mountains, choose from a number of superb vantage points around. Then there are boarding schools, clubs and colonial architecture from the days of the Raj.
Train: The most picturesque way to reach Coonoor is on the Nilgiri toy train between Ooty and Mettupalayam. Visit www.irctc.co.in for departure details. Bus: Multiple KSRTC buses, starting from Kempegowda bus stand in Bengaluru, go to Ooty. From here, you will have to change to a Tamil Nadu state bus.
Gorgeously green, Darjeeling is one of the country’s best-loved hill stations. Though crowded, the town is still the ideal place to relax and sip the best possible cup of Darjeeling tea. Close by is idyllic Kurseong.
Air: The nearest airport is 90km away at Bagdogra, which has fl ights to Kolkata and Delhi. Jeep & Taxi: Share jeeps leave Chowk Bazaar for Siliguri (Rs 90–110, 3 hours). Darjeeling Transport Corporation (Laden La Rd) offers charter jeeps to Kalimpong (Rs 1200) and Siliguri/Bagdogra (Rs 1200). Train: The nearest major railhead is at New Jalpaiguri (NJP). The Howrah-NJP Shatabdi Express (AC Chair/Executive Rs 925/1875) departs from Kolkata at 2.15pm and arrives at 10.20pm. Take a taxi or shared jeep (3 hours). If you’re willing to travel for eight long hours, you could also take the diesel toy train from NJP to Darjeeling. It departs at 9am.
The understated bazaar town of Kalimpong sprawls along a ridge overlooking the roaring Teesta River and within sight of Khangchendzonga. It’s worth a short visit for Himalayan views, some fine walks, temples, and a fascinating nursery industry.
All bus and jeep options mentioned here are at the Motor Stand. Train: The nearest station is New Jalpaiguri (NJP), 72 km away. The Howrah-NJP Shatabdi Express (AC Chair/Executive Rs 925/1875) departs from Kolkata at 2.15pm and arrives at 10.20pm. Take a jeep from the station. Bus: Bengal Govt buses run twice daily to Siliguri (2hr 30min), and there’s one Sikkim Nationalised Transport bus to Gangtok (3 hours). Jeeps: You can charter a jeep for Darjeeling (Rs 1400) and Siliguri (Rs 1400). Services are run by Kalimpong Mainline Taxi Driver’s Welfare Association and Kalimpong Motor Transport.
For more such destinations, grab a copy of our Summer Holidays pocket guide that lists over 30 great trips across the country.
There’s plenty more for the traveller at Shop.lonelyplanet.in.
The article was filed in April 2015 and has been updated since.