It’s time to escape the heat of the plains yet again and plan a short vacation. Here is our list of places ideal to visit this season.
Nestled amid evergreen hills that line the southernmost edge of Karnataka is the luscious Kodagu (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.
Also Read: A trip to the northeast: what not to miss
While Mussoorie was the summer favourite for a lot of Indian royalties, its smaller neighbour – Landour, became a favourite for the British – so much that they named it after a Welsh town. Even today, the town exudes a certain British charm with its old English homes, set against the lovely Himalayan ranges. Though a small town, there is plenty that you can do in and around Landour.
Hindu pilgrims, Bengali holidaymakers and foreign travellers all make their way to Puri. For Hindus, Puri is one of the holiest pilgrimage places in India, with religious life revolving around the great Jagannath Mandir and its famous Rath Yatra (Chariot Festival). The town’s other attraction is its long sandy beach, which is much better for strolling than swimming.
Pelling’s raison d’être is to provide countless visitors with stride-stopping dawn views of white-robed Kangchenjunga. At first glance the small town is an architectural cascade of concrete hotels tumbling down a gorgeous woodland ridge. Walk a little and you’ll quickly find yourself wandering through a beautiful natural forest.
5. Valley of Flowers
The high-altitude meadows of tall wildflowers in the Unesco World Heritage–listed Valley of Flowers are a glorious sight on a sunny day, rippling in the breeze, and framed by mighty 6000m mountains with glaciers and snow decorating their peaks year-round. Over 300 species of flowers are found here.
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.
7. Bir & Billing
The village of Bir, between Palampur and Jogindernagar, is internationally famous as the base for some of the best paragliding in the world. The take-off point at Billing, 14km up a winding road from Bir and 1000m higher, hosts major competitive flying events most years in October or November (including a round of the Paragliding World Cup in 2015). Experienced paragliders fly as far as Dharamsala, Mandi and Manali from here.
A soft haze of clouds, ridiculously green surroundings and a cold, damp, almost ominous weather surrounds you as you approach Agumbe in Karnataka. This small village gets the second highest downpour in India and is therefore blessed with copious reptiles including the King Cobra. If you are looking to whet your knowledge about reptiles or just get over you fear of snakes, you may want to sign up for a weekend camp, which is organised by some locals.
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.
10. Lahaul & Spiti
The desolate northern and eastern tracts of Himachal Pradesh are among the most spectacular and sparsely populated regions on Earth. Crossing the Rohtang La from Manali, you arrive first in Lahaul’s relatively green Chandra Valley. Travelling east up the Chandra Valley and over the Kunzum La into Spiti you pass into the rain shadow of the Great Himalayan Range. Spiti is 7000 sq km of snow-topped mountains and high-altitude desert, punctuated by tiny patches of greenery and villages of whitewashed houses clinging to the sides of rivers and meltwater streams.
Lonavla is a raucous resort town about 106km southeast of Mumbai. Its main drag consists almost exclusively of garishly lit shops flogging chikki, the rock-hard, brittle sweet made in the area, and you get fun-for-the-whole-family kind of stuff like wax museums, go-carts and India’s largest water park. But there are some pleasant side streets, serene residential areas and destination yoga places along with the pastoral surrounding countryside that means you can choose your own path here. One of the main reasons you’d want to come here is to visit the nearby Karla and Bhaja Caves which, after those at Ellora and Ajanta, are the best in Maharashtra.
Dalhousie’s host of thickly wooded trails, plunging pine-clad valleys, magnificent views, and salubrious climes are exactly what the doctor ordered! This town is like a painting straight out of the pages of a Victorian sketchbook. It lulls you into sweet slumber. Action seekers may shun this sleepy hill station for its slow pace of life, but lovers of solitude find heaven in the former sanatorium.
Home to one of the largest concentrations of Royal Bengal tigers on the planet, the 2585-sq-km Sundarbans 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. Cruising the broad waterways through the world’s biggest mangrove sanctuary (now a Unesco World Heritage Site) and watching wildlife is a world away from Kolkata’s chaos.
Alappuzha or Alleppey- is the hub of Kerala’s backwaters, home to a vast network of waterways and more than a thousand houseboats. Wandering around the small city centre and bus-stand area, with its modest grid of canals, you’d be hard-pressed to agree with the ‘Venice of the East’ tag. Float along and gaze over paddy fields of succulent green, curvaceous rice barges and village life along the banks. This is one of Kerala’s most mesmerizingly beautiful and relaxing experiences.
15. Malshej Ghat
Malshej Ghat is one of those special places that do ample justice to the travellers’ adage of the journey being more important than the destination. Clearly among the best weekend drives out of Mumbai, these mountains should fire the imagination of anyone who’s willing to experience the unadulterated charm of nature. It offers breath-taking natural beauty and unspoilt environs.
The little Sikkim’s modern capital, Gangtok, is layered along a precipitous mountain ridge, descending the hillside in steep tiers. Other than a few minor sights, there are countless viewpoints with panoramas that encompass plunging green valleys and, if weather favours, glimpses of Kangchenjunga on the distant skyline. Gangtok is a pleasing destination and makes for a nice vacation to a hill town. A short trip can be planned to explore the place inside out.