With this changing season, it’s time to take a short break and treat yourself with an outing. These places are just perfect for a holiday in November. It’s good to plan ahead!
Perched almost perilously along the edge of 15m-high red laterite cliffs, the North Cliff part of Varkala has a naturally beautiful setting that has steadily grown into Kerala’s most popular backpacker hang-out. Varkala is a great place to watch the days slowly turn into weeks, and it’s not hard to escape the crowds further north or south where the beaches are cleaner and quieter.
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The crucible of Buddhism, Bodh Gaya was where Prince Siddhartha attained enlightenment beneath a bodhi tree 2600 years ago and became Buddha (the ‘Awakened One’). In terms of blessedness, this tiny temple town is to Buddhists what Mecca is to Muslims. Unsurprisingly, it attracts thousands of pilgrims from around the world every year, who come to pray, study and for meditation.
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 and families come for the mountain air and a taste of snow on the 3978m Rohtang Pass.
Kutch, India’s wild west, is a geographic phenomenon. The flat, tortoise-shaped land, edged by the Gulf of Kutch and Great and Little Ranns, is a seasonal island. During the dry season, the Ranns are vast expanses of dried mud and blinding-white salt. Come the monsoon, they’re flooded first by seawater, then by fresh river water. Only on scattered ‘islands’ above the salt level is there coarse grass, which provides fodder for the region’s wildlife.
Bikaner is a vibrant, dust-swirling desert town with a fabulous fort and an energising outpost feel. It’s less dominated by tourism than many other Rajasthani cities, though it has plenty of hotels and a busy camel-safari scene, which attracts travellers looking to avoid the Jaisalmer hustle.
Pushkar has a magnetism all of its own – it’s quite unlike anywhere else in Rajasthan. It’s a prominent Hindu pilgrimage town and devout Hindus should visit at least once in their lifetime. The town curls around a holy lake, said to have appeared when Brahma dropped a lotus flower. It also has one of the world’s few Brahma temples.
There is something about cold evenings in Shantiniketan. You can do the touristy things and visit Kala Bhavan and Upasana Mandir (where Rabindranath Tagore would meditate) or just spend hours in Café Alcha browsing rare books from its collection and digging into freshly made patishapta (Bengali pancakes), but the truth is Shantiniketan is a place to feel rather than visit.
Wildlife lovers can head to Bharatpur, which is famous for its wonderful Unesco-listed Keoladeo National Park- a wetland and significant bird sanctuary. Apart from the park, Bharatpur also has a few historic vestiges, which add-on to the visitors’ list.
With a promise of a captivating trip, the legendary stone legacy of Orchha is an inviting option between October and March. The 16th century city lies at the edge of the Betwa River and offers stunning views of cenotaphs, palaces, temples and towering spires. The Jehangir Mahal, Laxminarayan Temple, Raj Mahal and other monuments stand tall against the weathered browns of the city and make for a breathtaking view.
Set along a steep-sided ridge, Almora is the regional capital of Kumaon. These days you’ll find colonial-era buildings, reliable trekking outfits and a couple of community-based weaving enterprises. Head to the pedestrian-only cobbled Lala Bazaar, lined with intricately carved and painted traditional wooden shop facades. It’s a fascinating place to stroll, people-watch and shop. On clear days, you can see Himalayan snow peaks from various spots around town.
This hilly, forested, 1412-sq-km sanctuary between Veraval and Junagadh is the last refuge of the Asiatic lion, best spotted between December and April. In terms of conservation, Gir is a massive success story, with lion numbers doubling since the 1960s, so big cat sightings are pretty much guaranteed.
Founded in 1577 by the fourth Sikh guru, Guru Ram Das, Amritsar is home to the spectacular Golden Temple, Sikhism’s holiest shrine and one of India’s most serene and humbling sights. The same cannot be said for the hyperactive streets surrounding the temple, but they’re a delight to walk through for a sensory overload of sights, sounds and smells. Indulge in a food tour to treat your taste buds.