One of the world’s highest lakes, the sacred Gurudongmar Lake is north Sikkim’s very own Shangri-la
There are lakes, there are extremely gorgeous lakes and then there’s Gurudongmar. Perhaps the most spectacular destination in Sikkim, Gurudongmar Lake promises to be an experience like none other. Encompassed by stunning snow-capped mountain peaks, this utterly magnificent lake sits at a dizzying altitude of 17, 800 feet. Blessed with aquamarine waters that shimmer under the bright sunshine and reflect the gorgeous peaks, the lake is considered sacred by Buddhists and Sikhs. While some attribute the lake’s name to Guru Nanak, who is believed to have visited the place, others claim that it is named after Guru Rinpoche. Gurudongmar has to be on your list if you are a lover of nature and the great outdoors.
Pro tip 1: Packing woollens is an absolute must and to avoid high-altitude sickness, carry medicines, inhaler, oxygen spray, chocolates, popcorn and lots of water.
Pro tip 2: It’s best to leave as early as 4am from lachen to visit the lake since the chances of an avalanche are high after 11am
Chasing the architectural legacy of the chandelas in the temple town is an experience history buffs would not miss for the world
A town of superlative cultural and aesthetic value, Khajuraho is home to some of South Asia’s grandest temples. Embark on a heritage trail as you hop from temple to temple marvelling at their brilliant architecture and intricate carvings. Notable among Khajuraho’s 24 temples are the rectangular Chausath Yogini Temple, the Matangeshwara, Lakshmana, Kandariya Mahadeva, Jagadamba, Chitragupta, Varaha and Vishwanatha Temples in the Western Group; the Vamana, Javari and Ghantai Temples of the Eastern Group and the Shantinatha, Parsvanatha and Adinatha Temples of the Southern Group. What’s fascinating to note, is the fact that the carvings at Khajuraho are not just about the Kama Sutra poses. In fact, they represent all the navarasas or the nine human sentiments. All you need is a fresh lens.
Pro tip: Do carry hats, sunscreen, umbrellas and water when exploring the temples and don’t forget to hire a registered tourist guide
Traditions, culture and ancient beliefs rule the city of Varanasi
Characterised by saffron-clad priests and reverberating holy chants, Varanasi is an experience like no other. One of the world’s oldest inhabited cities, it is a continuous cycle of life of death here. Whether it is strolling along the ghats, or watching the sun rise over the horizon in a boat, or temple trailing, its mysticism unfolds by the minute. Ancient structures, narrow lanes, flavourful food and meditating sadhus will make the most of your journey here. Varanasi, for many, is the land of their first true-blue Indian experience.
Pro tip 1: Ideal time to visit is from November to February.
Pro tip 2: Beware of the touts that you might encounter on the ghats.
The beaches here are a quiet escape for nature lovers and a birder’s delight
Boasting of an expansive coastline, Odisha is home to some exotic beaches and has recently reclaimed its glory amid travellers. With solitude dominating the air around the beaches in Odisha, spirituality, nature and culture walk hand in hand here. Ranging from Chandrabhaga to Gopalpur to the recently Blue Flag-certified Puri Beach, there is no dearth of seascapes here. The state is also home to less frequented, virgin beaches that continue to hide their charm in little nooks and crannies.
Pro tip 1: Best time to visit is October to March.
Pro tip 2: Sustainability lies at heart of tourism in Odisha. Make sure to visit the ecotourism nature camps and retreats.
Aesthetically pleasing and culturally abundant, Pondicherry welcomes all with open arms
An age-old French connection with a soft tinge of south India, Puducherry is a combination we didn’t know we needed. It is not just home to pristine beaches with soft, white sand but also bee-lined colonial-style bungalows with free-falling bougainvillea, lip-smacking food, art galleries and ’gram-worthy walls. While mornings here can be spent watching the sunrise, marvelling at the architecture and indulging in wholesome meals, the breezy evenings pave way for boulevard walks and some beach therapy.
Pro tip 1: Best time to visit is from October to February.
Pro tip 2: If you’re looking for some spiritual awakening, Auroville is only a short drive away. Here, indulge in yoga sessions, soak in the community spirit and engage with people from all walks of life.
From lush valleys to thrilling adventure sports and rich tribal heritage, Mechuka is as offbeat as they come
Located in Shi Yomi, one of the newly carved districts of Arunachal, Mechuka is a high-altitude valley, arguably the most picturesque in the region. The place was literally hidden from the outside world, which has led to Mechuka’s cultural diversity being intact and uncorrupted from urbanisation. Over the last few years, it has emerged as a prominent adventure hotspot in the state and continues to draw discerning travellers with its vibrant landscapes and unique culture.
When here, you can take peaceful walks through coniferous forests that lie on the outskirts and spot migratory birds that arrive here from the upper reaches of the Himalaya. Blessed with myriad seasonal streams, azure skies, rufous valleys and snow-covered peaks, Mechuka is a paradise for solace seekers and nature lovers.
Pro tip 1: Mechuka can be reached from Halo through private taxis and shared cabs
Pro tip 2: Mechuka is home to the Memba tribe and the word ‘mechuka’ roughly translates to ‘a land of snow and medicinal water,’ in the local dialect