The hot summers are back to drench you in sweat. With the rising level of mercury, rises the urge to escape the heat and rush to cooler, calmer places for a vacation. So, here we come with a list of places to visit in the month of May. Take your pick and set off exploring.
Surrounded by high peaks in the beautiful green Beas valley, with mountain adventures beckoning from all directions, Manali is a year-round magnet. Backpackers, adventurers, families and honeymooners- all are welcome to breathe in the fresh mountain air. It makes sense to unwind and feed up here for a few days while organising your trip into the mountains. Top sights include Hadimba Temple, Nature Park and Museum of Himachal Culture & Folk Art.
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The trans-Himalayan region of Spiti is another chunk of Tibet marooned in India. In this serrated moonscape, turquoise-grey ribbon of the Spiti River is your near-constant companion, running along a fairly broad valley. The approaches to Spiti remain among the most rugged and scenically spectacular roads in India, and the Spiti–Kinnaur loop is one of Asia’s great road trips. Top sights include Tabo Gompa, Dhankar Gompa, Chandratal, Kunzum La and Lhalung Monastery.
Perched high on a forest-covered ridge, this tiny village has lovely panoramic views of distant snow-capped peaks, fresh air and a relaxed atmosphere. Mahatma Gandhi found Kausani an inspirational place to write his Bhagavad Gita treatise, ‘Anasakti Yoga’ in 1929, and there is also an ashram devoted to him here. Baijnath village, 19km north, has an intriguing complex of 12th-century sikhara-style temples in a lovely location shaded by trees, with other shrines in the nearby old village.
The rolling hills around Munnar, South India’s largest tea-growing region, are carpeted in emerald-green tea plantations, contoured, clipped and sculpted like ornamental hedges. The low mountain scenery is magnificent – you’re often up above the clouds watching veils of mist clinging to the mountaintops. Just a few kilometres out of town, you’ll be engulfed in a sea of a thousand shades of green. Top sights include Tea Museum, Lockhart Tea Factory and St Anthony Statue.
Ooty, ‘Queen of Hill Stations’ mixes the bustle and temples with beautiful gardens, an international school and charming Raj-era bungalows. The journey up here on the celebrated miniature train is romantic and the scenery stunning. Even the road up is impressive. Ooty is a welcome relief from the steaming plains. Botanical gardens, St Stephen’s Church, Nilgiri Library and Doddabetta make for top sights. Pykara Falls, a few kms away, is also a good tourist spot.
Bir & Billing
The village of Bir is internationally famous as one of the best paragliding bases in the world. The take-off point at Billing, 14km up a winding road from Bir and 1000m higher, hosts major competitive flying events (including a round of the Paragliding World Cup in 2015). Experienced paragliders fly as far as Dharamsala, Mandi and Manali from here. Bir is also an important centre of the Tibetan exile community and there are several Buddhist monasteries and institutes in and around Bir, some of which attract a number of foreigners for courses and retreats.
A few kilometres south of Shimla, Chail village is a peaceful and secluded summer retreat. With thick pine and cedar forests and moderate temperatures, the area has some nice walks, including through Chail Wildlife Sanctuary up the panoramic hill Kali Ka Tibba, 6km south of the village. It also claims the world’s highest cricket ground, on a levelled hilltop 2km southeast of the village centre in the grounds of Rashtriya Military School.
From the south end of the Kullu Valley, the Tirthan Valley leads up southeast into the region known as Inner Seraj. This is an area of exceptional valley and mountain scenery, unspoiled villages and nature, great walks and inviting guesthouses. It’s becoming known among tourists seeking a low-key escape from the plains, but is still off most foreign visitors’ radar. It’s the gateway to the spectacular, World Heritage–listed Great Himalayan National Park, 754 pristine square kilometres of steep-sided river valleys and mountains reaching right up to the 6000m-plus peaks of the Great Himalayan Range. Top sights include Jalori Pass, Chehni Kothi, Raghupur Fort and Saryolsar Lake.