Cool breeze and drizzles have started to replace extreme summer heat and we are all set to welcome the monsoons. Travel could become your way to enjoy the month of downpour. Here is our list of places ideal to visit this season.
The trans-Himalayan region of Spiti is a chunk of Tibet marooned in India. The scattered villages in this serrated moonscape arrive like mirages, clusters of whitewashed mud-brick homes huddled amid green barley fields below monasteries perched on crags a thousand feet above. The turquoise-grey ribbon of the Spiti River is your near-constant companion, running along a fairly broad valley before turning south at Sumdo into the precipitous gorges of the Hangrang Valley.
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Beside shimmering Lake Pichola, with the ochre and purple ridges of the wooded Aravalli Hills stretching away in every direction, Udaipur has a romance of setting unmatched in Rajasthan and arguably in all India. Fantastical palaces, temples, havelis and countless narrow, crooked, timeless streets add the human counterpoint to the city’s natural charms. For the visitor there’s the tranquillity of boat rides on the lake, the bustle and colour of ancient bazaars, a lively arts scene, the quaint old-world feel of its better hotels, endless tempting shops and some lovely countryside to explore on wheels, feet or horseback.
Rising to 1455m, the Nandi Hills, 60km north of Bengaluru, were once the summer retreat of Tipu Sultan. Today, it’s an easy day-trip, and is predictably congested on Saturdays and Sundays. You’ll find good short hikes, with stellar views and two notable Chola temples but note that accommodation options are very limited.
Pint-sized Goa is more than beaches and trance parties. A kaleidoscopic blend of Indian and Portuguese cultures, sweetened with sun, sea, sand, seafood and spirituality, there’s nowhere in India quite like it.
Naldehra, 25km northeast of Shimla, is famous chiefly for the historic and scenic Naldehra Golf Club. You can have a drink and snack in the clubhouse bar whether you’re playing or not. Ponies can be hired for rides along the ridge-top above the course and there are pine-scented walks.
Home to one of the largest concentrations of Royal Bengal tigers on the planet, the 2585-sq-km Sunderbans Tiger Reserve is a network of channels and semi-submerged mangroves that forms the world’s largest river delta. Tigers lurk in the impenetrable depths of the mangrove forests, and also swim the delta’s innumerable channels. Nevertheless, cruising the broad waterways through the world’s biggest mangrove sanctuary (now a Unesco World Heritage Site) is a world away from Kolkata’s chaos.
Coonoor is one of the three Nilgiri hill stations – Ooty, Kotagiri and Coonoor – that sit high above the southern plains. Smaller and quieter than Ooty, it has some fantastic heritage hotels and guesthouses, from which you can do exactly the same things (hike, visit tea plantations, marvel at mountain views) you would do from bigger, busier Ooty. From upper Coonoor, 1km to 3km northeast (uphill) from the town centre, you can look down over a sea of red-tile rooftops to the slopes beyond and soak up the cool climate, quiet environment and beautiful scenery.
The best thing about Mahabaleshwar is the jaw-dropping mountain scenery on the road to get here. As it is surrounded by beautiful hills, Mahabaleshwar’s viewpoints and falls attract quite a large number of tourists. The town can also be used as a base to visit the impressive Pratapgad Fort or Kass Pleateau of Flowers, both nearby.
A mighty gash in the earth fringed by hulking mountains, Tawang Valley works a special magic on the minds of travellers. The valley is a gorgeous patchwork of mountain ridges, vast fields and clusters of Buddhist monasteries and Monpa villages. The setting is more beautiful than the town itself, but murals of auspicious Buddhist emblems and colourful prayer wheels add interest to the central Old Market area.