It’s that time of the year again when the Sun ruthlessly shines bright and the temperature soars and then amiably settles in at a sweltering 40°C. The good part however, is that we live in a country which brims with a multitude of getaways ranging from the Sahyadri Hills to the majestic Himalayas and the Eastern Ghats, therefore providing choices galore to find an escape from the scorching heat.
1. Araku Valley, Andhra Pradesh
Featured in South Indian films often times, the Araku Valley is found in the Eastern Ghats at a distance of 110 kilometers from Vishakhapatnam. From the Vishakhapatnam airport, you can either book a cab or opt for shuttles run by the State Department. If you prefer train journeys, it takes about 6 hours from the Vishakhapatnam Railway Station to the Araku Railway Station.
Regardless of whether you go by train, cab or bus, the place showers you with loveliness as soon as you start to climb up the hills, the roads winding through tunnels and bridges. With valleys on your right, and sometimes waterfalls on your left, the environment alone lends it a surreal experience.
Once you arrive, make sure to choose a stay that caters to all your needs. Go for an offbeat property such as cottages instead of mainstream hotels and you’re already in the shoes of a local. Click here to book one of our favourite places.
It is indeed going to be splendid visiting places which will eventually unfold its beauty in perfectly timed sequences. Board the toy train at the Padmapuran Garden and enjoy the ride while in the thick of eucalyptus and pine trees.
As the fragrance of eucalyptus still lingers, get a glimpse of the coffee plantation and production at the Coffee Museum; buy chocolates, cakes and coffee from here and you’ll know what’s most distinguishable about this place. If there’s more room for enchantment, stopover at the Borra Caves and then head for the Katiki Waterfall from there.
Relish the South Indian flavours at a dhaba (small hotel) and make sure you don’t miss out on activities like trekking and rock climbing. Spending your long weekend here will give you more than enough reasons to return.
2. Chamba, Himachal Pradesh
A former princely state, the Chamba district in Himachal Pradesh is situated at the banks of the River Ravi and is home to innumerable temples, palaces and monuments that date back to the British Raj.
Land at the Amritsar airport or the Jammu airport (both of which are at a distance of 245 kilometers) and book a taxi from there. However, it is more advisable to board a train and get down at Pathankot which is 120 kilometers away. Once you’re there, stay in a tent instead of conventional hotels and you’re ready for an extraordinary experience. Click here to book a stay in tent and experience the call of the wild.
There isn’t going to be a dull day here in Chamba. Home to numerous wildlife sanctuaries; you’ll be sure to come across snow leopards, marmots, wild goats and partridges while driving past the Deodar forest.
Shrines and museums such as the Champavati Temple, the Akhanda Chandi Palace and the Bhuri Singh Museum provide an insight into the rich history and background of this place while the distinctive artifacts and manuscripts add more worth to these shrines.
Drive to the scenic Khajjiar Lake and experience tranquility, go horse riding, savour the taste of chickpeas prepared in yogurt gravy, trek the Zanskar ranges and make sure you’ve experienced the most of what Chamba has in store.
Read about some of the quirky road signs that we came across on our trip to Chamba.
3. Kurseong, West Bengal
The place of the ‘white orchid’; Kurseong is not one of those hackneyed vacation spots but a favourite of those looking for pleasant weather, an affable crowd and the best Thukpa noodle soup. A sub division of the Darjeeling district, Kurseong has no direct route.
You can land at the Bagdogra airport which happens to be at a distance of 60 kilometers away, however, the most recommended route is to get down at the New Jalpaiguri Railway Station and hop onto the toy train.
Get a glimpse of how beautiful and charming these houses on the hills are by staying in one of the homestays that will acquaint you with the lifestyle and culture of the locals living here. Click here to book
Trek up to the Eagle’s Crag to get a view of the Teesta River and Darjeeling. Tea Gardens such as the Castleton and the Goomtee deserve a visit indeed while temples and churches add to the serenity of this place. The Buddhist Gompa at Downhill road, Grotto and Catholic church in St. Mary’s Hill, the Deer Park and the Forest Museum are just a few of the wonders Kurseong has in its kitty.
Choose from different variants of tea, pick hand woven carpets for home, eat the best dumplings, have a cup of muscatel organic tea and just sink into the serenity that Kurseong is.
4. Gangtok, Sikkim
A balance of tradition and present-day; reaching Gangtok can be a bit of hassle at times but it’s all worth it in the end. The closest airport is at Bagdogra and it is a five hour road journey from there, the trains however will take you to Jalpaiguri which is 125 kilometers away from Gangtok. Once you arrive, opt to stay in a homely cottage that makes you feel comfortable and at ease while surrounded by the lush greenery. Click here to book a beautiful scenic cottage.
When in Gangtok, make sure you’ve gazed at the Kanchenjunga from the Tashi View Point. Visit the mystical Enchey Monastery that has eventually evolved into a religious center or the Pemayangste Monastery; one of the oldest monasteries of Sikkim. The place is adorned with stupas, orchids and sculptures but that’s not all Gangtok has to offer.
You can never get short of choices or tired of shopping here. From clothing to Tibetan handicrafts to souvenirs for friends and family, you’ll get it all here; all you have to do is walk along the Mahatma Gandhi Marg and pick up everything that catches your eye. Try the Viennese Coffee from one of their cafes and all the pain of travelling will be well rewarded and washed away.
5. Lavasa, Maharashtra
Located between Mumbai and Pune, Lavasa is known to be one of the best getaways in Maharashtra. The nearest airport is at Pune which happens to be 65 kilometers away while the closest railway station is in Lonavala, at a distance of 25 kilometers.
Once you’ve decided to go on a vacation to Lavasa, make sure to opt for the best stay such as the furnished serviced apartments that are beautifully decorated and give you, your own space. Click here to book
Be it entertainment, sports or activities, Lavasa is certainly not going to disappoint you. Start your day with hot pancakes from one of the American Diners found here and then head straight to the Dasve Lake and indulge into cruise boating, jet skiing and swimming. Head to Neo Spark and enjoy games like electronic darts and photo play.
If there’s still appetite for fun, head to the Xthrill Academy and spend the day rock climbing or indulge in paintball. Make sure you’re at Xthrill during the evening and come back only after relishing their campfire dinner.
Relax the next day, hop on to their local trains that run on roads (Yes, a train on the road) and take a tour of the city, go for a hearty breakfast at the Lakeside promenade and walk along the trails located beside Ekaant.
Get a spectacular view of the Temghar Dam and experience the most of what Lavasa is famously known for.
So take a break from the heat and find home in one of these hill stations. These are definitely the best offbeat places to visit with family or to explore with your friends on a long weekend.