Although Independence Day falls promptly on a midweek day, we aren't letting that dampen our holiday plans. Take a couple of days off either before of after Wednesday and make it a 5-day long weekend. From Landour to Tranquebar, Shillong to Ganpatipule, we're telling you about four lesser-explored destinations that will let you unwind.
From Kolkata to Shillong
Kolkata, give Darjeeling and Kalimpong a much-desired break and plan a trip to Shillong. This Northeastern city, capital of Meghalaya is a beautiful destination to explore, and what doesn't hurt matters is that it's only a 2-hour direct flight from Kolkata.
Do: There are beautiful waterfalls to explore from the popular Elephant Falls in the city or the Dainthlen nearby in Cherrapunjee. A stroll along Ward's Lake is also pleasant, and for the most adventurous, even a boat ride. You can also go shopping at Meghalaya Handloom and Handicrafts to buy local handicrafts from the state.
Eat: One can't miss out on the street food in Shillong, be it the jalebis fished out straight from a paper bag, pork momos, aloo muri and jadoh. A good place to get a mix of these items is Police Bazaar. Other popular cafes and restaurants include the Cafe Shillong and Trattoria.
Stay: Built as cottages with thatch huts, Ri Kynjai offers a gorgeous view of the Umiam lake. Budget travelers can explore accommodations near Police Bazaar.
From Delhi to Landour
It's the weekend, and you're longing for something a little reclusive. While others are well on their way to higher, more crowded hills - Nainital, Manali and beyond, there's a smaller town up the hills of Mussourie that is a nest of peace. Take a train from Delhi to Dehradun, and it's a 1.5-hour drive from there.
Do: We wouldn't say there's so much to do as there is not to do, you can not worry and not be stuck in traffic (most people travel by foot here). However, a small itinerary can go like this: visit the sunset point at Laal Tibba, play with the local dogs at Char Dukaan, rent a bicycle around the hills, and buy jams and peanut butter from Prakash's shop.
Eat: The humblest and most delicious meal comes at Chaar Dukaan (the centre of all activity in Landour). There are literally four shops, and we recommend the maggi, chai and bun omelette at Tip Top. Have hearty meals at the restaurant in Rokeby Manor, and end on a sweet note at Landour Bakehouse (the almond xxx is just the right amount of sweet).
Stay: Smaller groups can stay at the cosy boutique hotel Rokeby Manor or in one of their cottages spread across Landour. For homestays, there is the wooden delight Bethany's Inn or a more colourful Dolma's Inn.
From Mumbai to Ganpatipule
Far away from the rather crowded Chowpatty and (magically) perpetually, dirty Versova beach are the clean sands of Ganpatipule. About 8 hours from Mumbai, it is hard to believe Ganpatipule isMaharashtrahtra. Either drive down the bumpy road or take a train to Ratnagiri, which is the closest station.
Do: Ganpatipule is blessed with a gorgeous eponymous beach as well as the Malgund beach, which boasts of patches of black sands and sunsets out of a paintbox. It's best to lie down there with a book in hand and no agenda.
Eat: Get a taste of the local Malwani cuisine at Hotel Sameer, where you must try the shrimp achaar or have a thali at Hotel Naivedya. The food in this town is simple and unpretentious, yet packed with flavours from local ingredients.
Stay: Can it really get better than staying in a treehouse? We think not. Perch yourself up at Atithi Parinay, a tree lodge and homestay in Ratnagiri, Ganpati Phule . Another hotel to consider is Blue Ocean Resort (which has an in-house Sukho Thai Spa).
From Chennai to Tranquebar
Tranquebar (or Tharangambadi) is a town with Danish origins and history steeped in every step is your lesser explored spot to visit this extended weekend. It is a 6-hour drive from Chennai and an 8-hour drive from Bengaluru.
Do: Visit the Dansborg Fort and the New Jerusalem Church. You can then swing by the Maritime Museum for a bit of sea history. It is a postcard-perfect town where you will find stunning architecture and a hint of blue wherever you turn.
Eat: Find place inside the Bungalow on The Beach restaurant which offers seafood and other local dishes.
Stay: Neemrana's property Bungalow on the Beach is just where you should park yourself for the long weekend, and not move.