1. FROM BENGALURU – Coonoor walk in the clouds
With the plains roasting in the summer heat, what could be better than escaping to an altitude of nearly 2,000 m above sea level? That’s where Coonoor is, making it perfect for a short break from Bengaluru or Chennai this season.
Located in Nilgiri district of Tamil Nadu, Coonoor, less touristy than nearby Ooty, beckons with its cool climes, green vistas, tea estates and opportunities for trekking. There’s much to see and do here. To begin with, head to Hidden Valley, lush and green, set against dramatic mountainscapes. Much of it can be explored
only on foot, so it’s a splendid trekking zone. If the route is challenging, the rewards are the spectacular views at every turn.
Go also to Droog Fort which served as Tipu Sultan’s outpost in the 18th
century—reached after a three-km trek through tea gardens. Only some parts of this fort remain now, but you can reimagine history and delve into the past in this picturesque setting. The watch tower of the fort provides a vantage spot from which to take in great views.
Other things to do in Coonoor include an outing to Catherine Falls, an impressive double cascade in Kotagiri. Lamb’s Rock is a lookout point providing sweeping views of the Coimbatore plains. A trip to Sim’s Park, a fetching botanical garden set amidst shola forests, provides for hours of pleasant walking.
You can also walk past Highfield Tea Estate and get some insights into the process of tea-making at the Guernsey Tea Factory. Coonoor is also home to a rich Toda tribal culture, and you can buy tribal crafts and artifacts at the charming Green Shop here.
Nilgiri Train, Coonoor
Reach Coonoor is about 280 km from Bengaluru and a six-hour drive via Mysore.
Stay Do it in style and stay at the luxurious Kurumba Village Resort which has a superb setting and great service.
Shop local produce is a nice thing to take back from Coonoor. Check out the stores that sell wild honey and handmade chocolates and take them back home for friends and family.
2. FROM DELHI – Dalhousie peek into the Colonial past
If a town set amidst pine, deodar and oak forests, with charming architecture still exuding a colonial air, graceful churches in which you can hear the past whisper and a gentle pace of life, sounds appealing to you, head to Dalhousie, a popular hill station in western Himachal Pradesh.
Compact and self-contained, Dalhousie, spreading over the hills of Kathlog, Patreyn, Tehra, Bakrota, and Balun, covers just 14 sq km. From its high-altitude setting, Dalhousie offers lovely views of the plains below, through which the river Ravi meanders, a silver thread in a blue-green vista. The snow-covered Pir Panjal range provides a dramatic backdrop.
Slow down, leave your city stress behind and explore the gorgeous town. Begin at its ancient churches—St. Andrew’s Church and St. Patrick’s at Balun, St. Francis Church at Subhash Chowk and St. John’s Church at Gandhi Chowk. Go to Panchpula, three km from Dalhousie, where a gushing stream feeds a series of limpid pools. The Kalatop Wildlife Sanctuary, home to the ghoral and Himalayan black bear, is well worth a visit. From Dalhousie, you can visit Khajjiar, another
splendid hill resort. A glade, it lies surrounded by thick forests of deodar with the snow-line just above these deep woods. At Khajjiar, you can also visit the 12th-century Khajji Nag temple, famous for its life-sized wooden images of the five Pandavas. Chamba, sitting by the banks of the Ravi and rich in architecture, makes for another engaging getaway from Dalhousie.
Snowfall in Dalhousie
Reach It’s just under 600 km from Delhi to Dalhousie and a longish, but utterly enjoyable, drive. Break it up with a mid-point stopover, if you wish.
Stay Splurge and check into the JK Clarks Exotica which sits amidst dense, green woods.
Eat For affordable food that hits the spot, try Kwality Restaurant in Dalhousie. Here, you can try a variety of dishes—from Chinese to Continental and Indian.
3. FROM KOLKATA – Pelling Vantage point
Mt. Kangchendzonga from Pelling
In July, the package tourists of summer have departed, and the rains begin to arrive in the Sikkimese town of Pelling. So, if you want a quiet break and don’t mind the occasional shower, then this is it. The main attraction of Pelling, situated at an altitude of just under 2,000 m, is that it offers eyepopping close views of the mighty Kangchendzonga and the surrounding mountain ranges. It is from here that ardent trekkers set off to explore these heights. If you aren’t up for that sort of adventure, you can still take in the mountain views from the comfort of your lovely hotel.
Wrapped as it is in natural beauty, there’s much to see and do in Pelling. The Kangchendzonga waterfalls are considered among the most beautiful in Sikkim. Active through the year, they surge with renewed vigor in the rainy season. Visit also the Khecheopalri lake, amidst thick forest. One of Sikkim’s sacred lakes, it is a place of beauty and sanctity. If you want to hit the trekking trails, we recommend the three-day monastery trek: Pelling – Khecheopalri lake – Yuksum – Tashiding. It follows quiet paths through some of the most fetching parts of the Northeast. Visit also the Darap village to experience up close the life and culture of the indigenous Limbu people. Here, you can visit traditional houses, watch dances, sit in on story-telling sessions and participate in handicraft making as well as local farming. There are also some opportunities for volunteering with community programs.
Reach From Kolkata, fly into Bagdogra. From here, Pelling is 140 km away, and you can hire a taxi for the distance.
Stay For a truly unique experience, opt for the home stays organized by the Darap Eco Tourism Committee in Darap village.
Shop there’s a range of wooden artifacts here. You can also buy woolens and Tibetan thangkas as souvenirs.
4. FROM MUMBAI – Ratnagiri sunny side up
Maharashtra’s coastal belt is strung with little gems. Among them is Ratnagiri with its sun-kissed beaches, ancient forts, abundant local produce, and its delightful cuisine.
If you have a beach break in mind, then Ratnagiri has much to offer. There are destinations such as Kelshi, Murud, Guhaghar, Palshet and Anjarla, a string of palm-fringed beaches that are less visited than Goa, but charming nevertheless. You can explore coastal hamlets with their narrow streets and Konkani-style cottages with their typical sloping red-tiled roofs. Enjoy the serenity of the backwaters in this region, and a slow ride in a local boat is a great way to unwind and soak in the beauty of the place.
The region is dotted with ancient temples, the best known among them being Ganapatipule, besides pilgrim spots such as Velneshwar, Marleshwar, and Hedvi. If discovering the past gets you excited, then don’t miss the great forts in this region.
Bankot, Mandangad, Ambolgad, and Mahipatgad make for hours of rambling among ruins and Ratnadurg, a sea fort, is especially fascinating. The bird sanctuaries at Vanadi valley and Anaskura Ghat are bound to appeal to birdwatchers. After all that strenuous sightseeing, explore local Konkani cuisine that revolves around rice, coconut, and some superlative seafood. Ratnagiri is also home to the king of fruits, the Alphonso mango, known in these parts as Hapoos. Also, try the jackfruit and the cashew.
Reach It’s a comfortable drive from Mumbai via Chiplun. The 300-plus-km drive will take you under five hours.
Stay the state-run MtDC Resort has an excellent location facing the ganapatipule beach and makes for a good option for a short break.
Shop Bring back boxes of Alphonso mangoes. Look for fruit that comes from organic farms.