Best escapes for long weekends in 2016

Kerala backwaters
Image courtesy: ©Prakhar Krishan/Lonely Planet

So many long weekends and so many places to go: take your pick, and get a-packin’.



Saturday              Sunday                 Monday               Tuesday*

23                         24                        25                        26*

*Republic Day

Tiger Spotting at Ranthambore: An appointment with the Royal Bengal tiger is a bit of a gamble – some return again and again without success, others are graced by a glimpse of the beast on their very first visit. Only one thing is certain: when you do see that tiger, you’ll never forget it. The dry scrublands and fortress ruins of Ranthambore are as magnificent a setting as this great animal deserves. Go on, try your luck.


Saturday              Sunday                 Monday*

5                          6                           7*

* Maha Shivaratri/Shivaratri

Wednesday        Thursday             Friday                    Saturday              Sunday**

23*                      24                       25                          26                         27**


** Easter

Kerala backwaters on a Houseboat: It is not every day you come across a place as sublime as Kerala’s backwaters: 900km of interconnected rivers, lakes and glassy lagoons lined with lush tropical flora. And if you do, there likely won’t be a way to experience it that’s quite as serene and intimate as a few days on a teakand- palm-thatched houseboat. Float along the water – while nibbling on seafood so fresh it’s still almost wriggling – and forget about life on land for a while. The distinctive houseboats that cluster around the main hubs of Alappuzha, Kumarakom and Kollam are designed like traditional rice barges or kettuvallam (‘boat with knots’, so-called because the curvaceous structure is held together by knotted coir).


The mighty Khangchendzonga
Image courtesy: Lonely Planet/Shweta Andrews


Thursday             Friday                    Saturday              Sunday

14*                      15**                      16                          17

* Ambedkar Jayanti

** Ram Navami

Sikkim trek: Uttarey to Phoktey Dara: One of the best treks in Sikkim, Uttarey to Phoktey Dara takes four days to complete. This trek climbs from Uttarey in West Sikkim to a ridge top for amazing views of the Himalayan peaks including Everest, Lhotse, Khangchendzonga and Makalu.


Saturday              Sunday                 Monday*

13                        14                         15*

*Independence Day

Thursday*           Friday                    Saturday              Sunday

25*                      26                          27                        28

* Janmashtami

Taj Mahal on a full moon night: As the silver beams of a full moon illuminate the Taj Mahal when it is completely dark except for the single lamp hanging in its central chamber, the white marble monument to love turns magical. No wonder its beauty on a full moon night attracts so many visitors. Every month, on full moon day and two days before and after, the Taj Mahal is open for viewing at night for a select few (in batches of 50 for half an hour) on a pre-booking basis. Bookings must be made in advance at the ASI office in Agra. Squeeze in a day off from work for this one.


Saturday              Sunday                 Monday*

3                          4                            5*

* Ganesh Chaturthi

Saturday*           Sunday                 Monday

10*                      11                         12

*Eid al-Adha starts

(Dates may vary)

Kerala’s snake boat races: The boat races are a marvellous display of sinew and sportsmanship on the otherwise serene backwaters of the region. The honour of an entire village hinges on the annual ‘Vallam Kalli’. Such races are held between July 15 and September 15. Four most popular ones are: Nehru Boat Race in Punnamada Lake, Champakkulam Moolam, Payippad Jalotsavam on Payippad Lake and the Aranmula race.


A mere glimpse of the Golden Temple, the most sacred Sikh shrine, is stunning
Image courtesy: Lonely Planet/Matt Munro


Friday*      Saturday       Sunday          Monday       Tuesday**      Wednesday

7*              8                   9                   10                11**                12

* Durga Puja

** Dussehra

Friday                    Saturday              Sunday*

28                          29                        30*


(Dates may vary)

Music festivals in Northeast India: Northeast India is known for its musical talent, especially in the rock and metal genres. Over the recent past, some states have started hosting annual music festivals to celebrate this tradition. These events feature local acts as well as bands from across India, and are a wonderful time to sync with contemporary Indian music. For instance, the Ziro Music Festival (Sept/Oct) is steadily garnering a strong following among music lovers. If you fit in a day off from work, a long weekend can work.


Saturday              Sunday                 Monday*

12                        13                         14*

* Guru Nanak Jayanti

Golden Temple, Amritsar: A mere glimpse of the Golden Temple, the most sacred Sikh shrine, is stunning. A dip in the Amrit Sarovar, the holy tank reflecting the gleaming temple, is an unforgettable experience. Ringed by a marble walkway, the tank is said to have healing powers. The temple contains the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikhs which is continuously read out. The holy book is installed in the temple every morning and returned at night to the Akal Takht (Timeless Throne) in a ceremony worth witnessing. Don’t leave without taking the kara prashad and having the langar meal.

The article was first published in 2015, and has been updated since.