Wander through the woods in Jibhi, Himachal Pradesh
(Out of Delhi 490 km)
A deep valley with 150-ft tall cedars, five distinct, spectacularly beautiful seasons, and a glacier-fed river filled with trout – if there’s one place in all of Himachal Pradesh that you just should not miss, it’s Jibhi. Put on your hiking shoes and set out on a hike up to Raghupur Fort. The hour-long climb is quite a demanding proposition, but, standing atop the hill amid the scattered remains of the fort at 3,350m with the Shivaliks to your left and the Greater Himalayas to your right, you’ll be glad you endured the exertion. Then, in comparison, the hike up to Chaini Temple will seem like a breeze. A look-out post for the king of Kullu in the 14th century, these towers make for quite the sight. And, if this one was easy, you’ll be happy to know that quite a few of Jibhi’s other walks are not gruelling at all. The one from Bahu Village, with its Himachali architecture, to Balu Temple, for example, is a gentle stroll through deodar trees. If you really want to kick back, go fishing in the nearby Tirthan River and think of all the simpler, slower pleasures that Jibhi guarantees.
Discover the many surprises of Jamnagar, Gujarat
(Out of Mumbai 800 km)
Recognised as the keeper of the 150-year-old art form of bandhini, the sleepy Gujarati city of Jamnagar appears trapped in a different era – Victorian, Solanki and Islamic architectural styles are visible in older parts of the city like Limda Lane, and historical structures like the Sidhnath Mahadev Temple and Jama Masjid are a reminder of the city’s once-glorious past. If you look beyond the historical imprints, Jamnagar has plenty more surprises up its sleeve. Case in point: the Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary, which sometimes is home to more than 250 species of birds from as far away as Siberia. Next, drive out a couple of hours to the Marine National Park. Surrounded by a coral reef, the island is accessible by land during low tide, and that’s when it reveals its treasures. When the water is shallow, you can take a ‘coral walk’ around the island to see the bed of the Gulf of Kutch – you’ll spot sea slugs in neon colours, hairy crabs, and more. Keep your eyes peeled – you might even spot an adorable slimy octopus.
Give in to simpler joys in Thalassery, Kerala
(Out of Bangalore 350 km)
Often just a name flashing by en route to other destinations, Thalassery, on the Malabar Coast, is full of surprises. Once a British outpost, it has played host to the first Western bakery in Kerala and the first game of cricket ever played in the country – by the British. While that field may have lost its lustre, the spirit of the sport and the charm of Thalassery have not. Begin with a morning saunter by the fishing docks, and watch the busy fish market get on with daily business. Close by is the Thalassery Fort, which makes for a great early-morning exploration. Behind the fort, an ancient lighthouse overlooks the 160-year-old St John’s Anglican Church and the cemetery in which many town founders lie. One grave is of the owner of the Anjarakundy Cinnamon Estate, who was first asked for his ingredient to be used in a cake by the owner of the iconic Mambally Bakery in 1880. Also check out the bungalow of Lord Wellesley nearby, he who is believed to have introduced cricket in India. Before you head back, do try kallu (toddy), kallumakai (fried mussels) and tapioca – it’s the perfect ending note.