Ever since our travelling plans were put on the shelf due to the pandemic, we find ourselves dreaming about destinations on a loop, reliving the places we have explored, or thinking about the ones we will go to in the future.
The pandemic has also meant that we rethink our concept of travel. As states in India (and countries abroad) gingerly open up their borders, it is time to work towards a culture of mindful travel, and deeper engagement with places and their ecology. Walking in nature, witnessing the elements of the great outdoors closely, and leaving the environment undisturbed, will go a long way in ensuring that. Here's a list of picturesque nature walks and treks in India:
David Scott Trail, Meghalaya
Named after a British East India Company officer, this 16-km trek from Mawphlang to Ladmawphlang is one of the best-known day walks in the northeast. An easy nature hike set within the Khasi hills, this route promises enchanting views of mountains. The walk, punctuated by gurgling waterfalls, will take you across the gorgeous river Umiam.
Rajmachi Fort, Maharashtra
In the monsoon, the lush green Sahyadri ranges are one of the most stunning places in India. The Rajmachi Fort trail, which can be undertaken from Lonavala or Kondivade village, is one way to experience them. Take a dip in a waterfall and treat yourself to chai-pakoras at any of the dhabas along the way. You could also check out the tranquil Shirota Lake if you are willing to take a little detour.
One has great expectations from a trek that concludes with one of the highest Shiva temples in the world. The 4 km trek starts from Chopta and once at the top, affords unbelievable views of the rivers Alaknanda and Mandakini. The spring flush of rhododendrons, bright green meadows spread out competing against stately monals perched on slopes, and lofty members of the alpine brotherhood all around — who wouldn’t kill for a trail that has all this?
Triund, Himachal Pradesh
The dizzying heights of Triund–one of northern India’s most popular treks–overlook Dharamsala and the Tibetan enclave of McLeod Ganj. The trek starts at Dharamkot’s Galu Devi Temple, and winds through dense deodars and oaks and lush meadows. Those with more time on their hands can hike further up to the soothing calmness of the Kareri Lake.
Chembra Peak, Kerala
The state of Kerala isn’t all about the backwaters and the beaches. The lovely hike to Wayanad’s Chembra Peak, which winds through verdant tea plantations, grasslands, and the heart-shaped lake Hridaya Saras, is perfect to for an up close contact with nature. It is a 9-km hike and can be done in a day.
Anamalai Tiger Reserve, Tamil Nadu
The glorious Anamudi is not open to tourists, but the untrammelled forest vegetation and wildlife of the Anamalai Tiger Reserve is. A walk in the dense environs of the tiger reserve combines forest bathing with nature walking in the best way possible. Diverse birdlife and wildlife including tigers, leopards, elephants, endemic turtle species—the sights of this trail are simply unparalleled.
One of the lesser-known trails in southern India, this trek in the Coorg hills that begins in Yevakapadi is peppered with lush grassland, coffee plantations, and streams. The summit of the day trek, which can be undertaken on one’s own, affords sweeping views of lush rolling hills with patches of shola forest.
Goecha La, Sikkim
Every list has a personal favourite, and you know which way the wind blows by now. If you are headed to Goecha La in the spring-summer, you’ll be blown away at the forest trail stage itself. Rhododendrons light up the green of nature’s default hue at this time of the year. Catch Mt Pandim admiring its mien in the clear waters of the Samiti Lake, and at the end of the 10-day journey, drink in the jaw-dropping sight of the southeastern face of majestic Mt Kanchenjunga.