Best time to visit: June-August
You need: 2-3 days, for each
The lush green of the freshly showered leaves is quickly replacing the Gulmohar’s flame red and the Laburnum’s golden yellow, which dotted the city all summer long. Yes, the monsoon is here in all its splendour and it is certainly not a time to stay put in the city. What was once considered off-season is now one of the hottest times to travel, and this isn’t true merely for adventure junkies looking to rappel off a waterfall or take on the rapids on a dam-controlled river.
September will usher in the famed Leh Festival, while the Hemis Festival and the Zanskar Karsha Gustor at Karsha Monastery will be held in July. Pic/AFP
The rain hater’s refuge
If the rain makes you a wet rag, you’ll be much better off in the rain shadow areas of the country. The cold desert of Leh-Ladakh is one of your best bets, what with its extremely rare bouts of rain. But if you’re going to wince thinking about mountain climbing, white water rafting, trekking, or biking, you can always plan to go off on a wildlife safari. While jungles across the country are prepping to close off for the monsoon, this is a great time to spot some wildlife in this starkly barren valley. “While wild yaks and snow leopards can be spotted at higher altitudes, the city of Leh is quite the bird lover’s paradise,” says Opal George, Himalayan Safaris. Migratory wetland birds such as wagtails come to the river side and other marshy areas in the city. “You can also spot rare species such as the black-necked crane and golden eagle,” says George. For the more culturally-inclined, this season is also a great time to catch some Ladakh festivals. September will see the famed Leh Festival, while the Hemis Festival and the Zanskar Karsha Gustor at Karsha Monastery will be held in July.
Take a trip to the living root bridge in Mawlynnong, which has been awarded the distinction of being Asia’s cleanest village. File pic
Rain lover’s paradise
Cherrapunji, famed for being the wettest place on earth, and the tiny village of Mawsynram, also fighting for the coveted spot, are both in the northeast state of Meghalaya. “Visit in July and you can avoid the tourist surge that hits the state in August,” recommends Manjari Verma, Broken Compass. Considering it is on the other side of the country, the trip will need a minimum of eight-10 days. Besides a visit to capital city, Shillong, and a trek to the living root bridge in Mawlynnong, which has been awarded the distinction of being Asia’s cleanest village, you might want to set aside some time for caving. “Once the rain arrives, you could also go tubing in the caves,” says Verma. But the rain is extremely unpredictable, making it hard to pre-plan a trip to the state. For all you know, you might not be able to step out of your hotel at all, so make sure your room has a fantastic view.
Mandavgad, popularly known as Mandu, in Madhya Pradesh is said to have been fortified for the first time in sixth century BC
A historical holiday
You’ve checked Hampi’s ruins, the many forts of Rajasthan as well as the caves in Aurangabad off your list. This year, visit the ruined city of Mandavgad, popularly known as Mandu, in Madhya Pradesh. Mandu is said to have been fortified for the first time in the sixth century BC. It gained great prominence under the Parmars, and has at various points in time been ruled by the Khiljis, the Mughals as well as the Marathas. The city, its ruins of fort gates, palaces and monuments come alive during the monsoon. A bit hard to get to, Mandu is probably best left for a road trip. So if you’re looking for a shorter drive perhaps you could treat yourself to a more Maratha-centric getaway with a trip to Panhala Fort in Kolhapur, which is just as accessible via an overnight train.
An escape to the hills
If you’re looking for some rest and relaxation this season, a spa holiday in northern Kerala’s Wayanad could be just the thing. The quaint hill station in the Nilagiri Biosphere of the Deccan Plateau, surrounded by waterfalls, deep valleys, and dense forests, is definitely a sight for sore city eyes. The rejuvenation therapy at Wayanad’s Vythiri Resort combines traditional Ayurveda with aroma therapy and new-age treatments with massages. The resort is also one of the few places in the country that offers tree house accommodations. For a more holistic Ayurvedic therapy, you could opt for the Ayurkendra Herbal Village, located on a coffee plantation. Their treatments include a host of different traditional massages as well as yoga sessions.
5 weekend destinations and drives
Bordi: Bordi is a quiet sea-side hamlet, approximately 145 km away from Mumbai. Well-connected by road and train, Bordi’s beaches are the respite you need this monsoon. Explore the chickoo orchards, check out the local bazaars where women come to sell their wares and relax by the palm trees swaying near the beaches.
Dangs: Leave the worries and chaos of the urban life behind as you head to Dangs, which lies on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad highway, around 300 km from Mumbai. Beautiful teak forests, waterfalls, campsites, rivers and treks will welcome you. The area is known for its tribal crafts, so make sure you keep time aside for shopping.
Saputara: Take a drive till Saputara, that’s on the Maharashtra-Gujarat border, around 250 km from Mumbai. Once you cross Nashik, Dindori and Vani, you reach this tiny hill station that offers great drives through forests and by-rivers. Don’t forget to check out the sunset point or the sunrise point.
Dahanu: At a distance of 125 kms from Mumbai, Dahanu has a lot to offer to the nature lover. Rose plantations, mango orchards, forests and waterfalls abound in this picturesque town. Trekking and agro-tours are also popular here.
Jawhar: Don’t want to drive all the way to Mahabaleshwar? Head to Jawhar, which, at a distance of 180 km from Mumbai, is known as the Mahabaleshwar of Thane district. The area is known for its Warli paintings. Jaivilas Palace, Dabhosa waterfalls and Hanuman Point are some of the famous tourist places in and around Jawhar.