The most-awaited festival of India, Diwali, is right around the corner. As most of the people gear up for shopping and gifting, many travellers might just be waiting to utilise the Diwali break for a holiday worthwhile. So, for those enthusiasts who are always ready to put on the travel boots, here are some destinations you might want to explore during the Diwali break.
Ringed by an arc of green mountains, Srinagar’s greatest drawcard is the mesmerizingly placid Dal Lake, on which a bright array of stationary houseboats form a colourful scene and a unique opportunity for romantic chill-outs. Famous Mughal gardens are strung out over several kilometres around the lake’s less urbanised eastern shore; these contrast with a fascinatingly chaotic old city centre that is topped by a fortress and dotted with historic wooden mosques.
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Spread in ribbons over a steep mountain ridge, surrounded by emerald-green tea plantations and towered over by majestic Kangchenjunga, Darjeeling is the definitive Indian hill station and is arguably West Bengal’s premier attraction. When you aren’t gazing open-mouthed at the peaks, you can explore colonial-era architecture, visit Buddhist monasteries, and spot snow leopards and red pandas at the nearby zoo. The adventurous can arrange a trek to Singalila Ridge or hire a mountain bike for a guided ride around the hilltops.
Another cute and quiet hill town, quite apart from the busier Himachali resorts, Chail has an air of exclusivity. Thick deodar forests, panoramic views, the highest cricket ground in the world, and a sprawling palace hotel, are the offerings of this alpine haven. Long rambling walks, picnics on the hillside and easily available solitude all add to its charm.
The joy of lakes enfolded by hills, of birding hotspots, of forests and leopard tales, of some unparalleled quietude… multiplied by seven. Over the years, Sattal’s seven lakes have become synonymous with camping, walks, birdwatching, adventure, and just getting away from it all. And they do live up to their promise.
Nestled amid evergreen hills that line the southernmost edge of Karnataka is the luscious Coorg region, gifted with emerald landscapes and hectares of plantations. A major centre for coffee and spice production, this rural expanse is also home to the Kodava people, who are divided into 1000 clans. The uneven terrain and cool climate make it a fantastic area for trekking, birdwatching or lazily ambling down little-trodden paths winding around carpeted hills. All in all, Kodagu is rejuvenation guaranteed.
Tottering at an elevation of 7250ft, Chakrata is a little cantonment town on the way to Yamunotri. A strong scent of pine cones hangs in the air. This small sleepy town has no busy bazaars or noisy restaurants to distract from the breath-taking views of the Garhwal Himalayas. Its spectacular cloud cover, even in summers, will charm the most jaded traveller.
The fort of Jaisalmer is a breath-taking sight: a massive sandcastle rising from the sandy plains like a mirage from a bygone era. No place better evokes exotic camel-train trade routes and desert mystery. Beneath the ramparts, particularly to the north, the narrow streets of the old city conceal magnificent havelis, all carved from the same golden-honey sandstone as the fort – hence Jaisalmer’s designation as the Golden City.
Tarkarli is amongst the very few places in India where you can indulge in scuba diving. This hidden gem on the Konkan coast is abundant with coral reefs and also is blessed with clear waters making it a great site for Scuba Diving. The place offers an incredible stay where one can explore the beaches, water sports and Malvan food. There are other water rides like Jet Ski, banana boat, kayaking etc.
The last refuge of the Asiatic lion is this forested, hilly, 1412-sq-km sanctuary about halfway between Veraval and Junagadh, where visitors may go lion-spotting between mid-October and mid-June. Taking a safari through the thick, undisturbed forests is a joy – even without the added excitement of spotting lions, other wildlife and myriad bird species.
Nagaland’s agreeable capital – scattered across a series of forested ridges and hilltops – could easily rub shoulders with the best hill stations of India. That said, it’s still a nice place to stop by on your tour of the Northeast, and the festive Christmas week is a particularly beautiful time to be in town.
Surrounded by high peaks in the beautiful green Beas valley, with mountain adventures beckoning from all directions, Manali is a year-round magnet. Backpackers come to hang out in the hippie villages around the main town; adventurers come for trekking, climbing, rafting and skiing; Indian families and honeymooners come for the mountain air and a taste of snow on the 3978m Rohtang La pass.
Wander towards the river ghats and some of Ujjain’s famous temples, via the city’s maze of alleyways, and you’ll discover the spiritual side to Ujjain that has been attracting traders and pilgrims for hundreds of years. An undeniable energy pulses through the sacred sites here – not surprising given this is one of Hinduism’s seven sacred cities and also one of the four cities that hosts, every 12 years, the gigantic Kumbh Mela pilgrimage festival.