History, culture, beaches, mountains.... Whatever your interest, there's a tailormade destination that will fit the bill. Here's the second instalment in our two-part series on the best options for the perfect holiday.
No rowdy tourists, no loud parties, explore the ‘other’ Goa
With a vibe that echoes a laid-back attitude, South Goa is starkly different from its northern counterpart. Doing away with the constant conundrum and an overdose of neon, South Goa is home to palm-lined beaches such as Palolem, Bogmalo and Varca. Layered history is also what makes South Goa an unparalleled experience. Quiet and soulful, its rich heritage in the form of cathedrals, temples, Portuguese culture, tiny villages, fortified ruins and lip-smacking seafood do the talking here.
Pro tip: Head to the famous dudhsagar falls, a two-hour drive from South Goa
Assam’s only hill station is more than just sprawling vistas
Located in the Dima Haso district of Assam, Haflong is where you could possibly touch the clouds. Being the only hill station in Assam, Haflong enjoys a surreal mist and comfortable weather all year round. The untapped beauty of the hills beckons the intrepid and slow traveller alike, as they can engage in camping and trekking, or soak in the naturescapes. The town also offers multiple short drive routes, each more promising than the other. Food lovers and architecture geeks are in for a treat as you can sample local horticulture produce and catch a glimpse of the British colonial past.
Pro tip: Visit the waterfalls in the area by undertaking easy-moderate treks that take upto 4-5 hours
The picturesque town set along the banks of the giriganga river lures many nature lovers throughout the year
A tiny hamlet situated in the Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand, Munsiyari serves as the base for various treks into the interiors of the Himalaya. Perched at an altitude of 2,298 metres above sea level, the hill station is often referred to as ‘Little Kashmir’. It is nestled between the borders of India, Tibet and Nepal and serves as the base for three glaciers namely Namik, Milam and Ralam. It is also the starting point of Johar Valley and falls on the ancient salt route between India and Tibet. Surrounded by snow-capped peaks, it is a fast-growing adventure hub with the key attraction being the trekking route to the Khalia Top. Legend has it that the Pandavas set out for their final journey to heaven from here.
Dotted with pine forests and waterfalls, it is also surrounded by valleys and plateaus
The only hill station in Odisha, Daringbadi is an exception to the lot, being the only place in the state receiving snowfall in peak winter, albeit sparingly. Dotted with coffee plantations, magnificent waterfalls, cosy villages and dense pine forests, Daringbadi is on every discerning traveller’s bucket list. What sets Daringbadi apart from the other popular destinations in Odisha is that it offers an eclectic mix of cultural, tribal and nature tourism.
Daringbadi is named after daring Sahib, a british officer who was in charge of the place.
Nestled amid the pir panjal range, the hill station has been endowed with nature’s bounty
Pine-fringed hillocks, deep ravines, forested valleys and the lofty, snow-covered Himalaya define Gulmarg. The rugged beauty of the rocky terrain and the lush green meadows in summer peeping out are also a popular choice among filmmakers to rekindle the old romance with the place. Right now, it’s a white wonderland though. Home to the world’s second-highest gondola ride, Gulmarg has a reputation for winter sports, offering activities like skiing, snowboarding and trekking.
Pro tip: Attracting wildlife enthusiasts, the Gulmarg biosphere Reserve boasts of a rich avifauna population that one should keep an eye out for.
Located at the confluence of the tons and yamuna rivers, Kalsi is a lesser-known village near paonta sahib
Pass over hyper-touristy Mussoorie and Nainital, and drive along to discover the offbeat hamlet of Kalsi in Uttarakhand. The hilly retreat is a great hideaway for those seeking some solitude. Walking trails, river rafting and hiking, Kalsi does not fall short of options. Nestled amid the picturesque landscape of the Doon Valley, it is also home to a 2,200-year-old rock edict of Emperor Ashok, discovered by an Englishman, Forrest, in 1860.
Pro tip: It’s best to set base in Chakrata, from where you can embark on exciting treks, and birding and botanical adventures
Unwind by the coast, while soaking in the scenic sunset hues
Known as the land of seven languages and several cultures, Kasargod—Kerala’s northernmost town—is almost otherworldly. Home to an expansive coastline, forts, rivers and hills, it’s neither touristy nor overbuilt and hence makes for a perfect secluded escape. With an excellent network of roads, legends pertaining to various districts here will keep you hooked at every turn. For those invested in culture and arts, Kasargod also has a handloom industry along with ancient temples beelining the streets. A visit here is incomplete without an evening at the majestic and well-maintained Bekal Fort, flanked on the shore of the eponymous beach. One can hear the echoes of Kannada, Tulu and Malayalam alike here.
Fondly nicknamed ‘the Queen of Chotanagpur’, Netarhat has probably spawned dozens of poets
Drenched in an old-world colonial charm, Netarhat is lined with narrow roads and forests, offers rejuvenating walks and is known for its beautiful sunrises and sunsets. Walk up to the light-orange hue at dawn at Sunrise Point or cherish the sunset at Magnolia Point—named after a young British girl who had fallen for a tribal shepherd boy. Also worth visiting are Netarhat Dam, Koel Viewpoint, Upper Ghagri Falls and Lower Ghagri Falls.
Pro tip: Visit the nearby Taher village, home to the Birjia tribe and observe and interact with the tribal communities up and close
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These hills attract travellers from all walks of life
Rustic and cosy, the Horsley Hills make for a refreshing escape along the Eastern Ghats. These idyllic hills, in the Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh, are named after a British collector, W.D. Horsley, who turned the hills into his summer home. Birdwatchers and adventure junkies feel equally at home here owing to the rich biodiversity and adrenaline-fuelled activities.
Pro tip: Visit Kalyani—the over 150-year-old eucalyptus tree—planted by Horsley himself
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Travel back in time through architectural abundance
During their 200-year-rule, the Hoysala dynasty built various temples here that retain their regal charm even today. Located in the Hassan district, it is primarily known for the magnificent twin temples— Hoysaleshwara and Kedareshwara. The walls of these temples feature intricate carvings of Hindu deities and the complex makes way for as many as 108 pillars within the premises of the temple. Travellers should also make a pitstop at the Jain temples located in the vicinity.
Pro tip: The archaeological museum inside the complex houses over 1,500 sculptures and artefacts