Another month is set to take off and we are ready with a fresh travel list. Here is a mix of places, cities and states, to visit in this short and sweet month of February, with an extra travel day, 2020 being the leap year.
Kochi has been mentioned as one of the best cities to travel in 2020, by Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel. It’s a delightful place to explore, laze in arty cafes and relax at some of India’s finest homestays and heritage hotels. It’s also an important centre for Keralan arts (traditional and contemporary) and a standout place to see Kathakali and kalarippayat.
Also Read: Going local, for the locals
2. Andaman Islands
With shimmering turquoise waters fringed by primeval jungle, fantastic diving, and sugar-white, sun-toasted beaches melting under flame-and-purple sunsets, the far-flung Andaman Islands are the perfect Indian escape.
As the former capital of British India, Kolkata retains a feast of colonial-era architecture contrasting starkly with marginalised urban areas and dynamic new-town suburbs with their air-conditioned shopping malls. Kolkata is the ideal place to experience the mild yet complex tang of Bengali cuisine.
Hassle-free and warm-hearted, Sikkim is a state that’s all too easy to fall in love with. Clean, green and ‘all organic’ since 2016, Sikkim is mostly a maze of plunging, supersteep valleys thick with lush subtropical woodlands and rhododendron groves, rising in the north to the spectacular white-top peaks of the eastern Himalaya.
This misty hill station, 120km northwest of Madurai in the protected Palani Hills, is more relaxed and intimate than its big sister Ooty. It’s not all cold either; days feel more like deep spring than early winter. Kodai is popular with honeymooners and groups, who flock to its spectacular viewpoints and waterfalls. Visit mid-week for peace and quiet.
Mumbai is the city of dreams. It’s got a furious energy, limited (but improving) public transport and is seen to be always on the move. The heart of the city contains some of the grandest colonial-era architecture on the planet, but explore a little more and you’ll uncover unique bazaars, hidden temples, hipster enclaves and India’s premier restaurants and nightlife.
7. Kaziranga National Park
Famed as a haven for the one-horned rhinoceros, one of the great wildlife emblems, Kaziranga National Park in Assam encompasses grasslands, wetlands and forests for about 60km on the south side of the Brahmaputra River. Its 2400-plus rhinos comprise two-thirds of the world’s population and you’re highly likely to see some on any safari in the park (usually grazing peacefully).
Ratnagiri, in Odisha, is the most interesting and extensive among the three Pusphagiri sites. Two large monasteries flourished here from the 5th to 13th centuries. Noteworthy is an exquisitely carved doorway inside the first monastery complex, opening onto an expansive courtyard that leads to a shrine housing an intact Buddha statue.
Coonoor is one of the three Nilgiri hill stations – Ooty, Kotagiri and Coonoor – that sit high above the southern plains. It has some fantastic heritage hotels and guesthouses, from which you can go for a hike, visit tea plantations and marvel at mountain views.
Mighty Mehrangarh, the muscular fort that towers over the Blue City of Jodhpur, is a magnificent spectacle and an architectural masterpiece. The Blue City really is blue! Inside is a tangle of winding, glittering, medieval streets, which never seem to lead where you expect them to, scented by incense, roses and sewers, with shops and bazaars selling everything from trumpets and temple decorations to snuff and saris.
Rishikesh styles itself as the ‘Yoga Capital of the World’, with masses of ashrams and all kinds of yoga and meditation classes. The action is mostly north of the main town, where the exquisite setting on the fast-flowing Ganges River, surrounded by forested hills, is conducive to meditation and mind expansion.
Udaipur has a romance of setting unmatched in Rajasthan and arguably in all India – snuggling beside tranquil Lake Pichola, with the purple ridges of the Aravalli Range stretching away in every direction. Fantastical palaces, temples, havelis (traditional, ornately decorated residences) and countless narrow, crooked, timeless streets add the human counterpoint to the city’s natural charms.