By Fawaz Shaheen:
Summers in India and long and sweltering, and for most people the only time they can get away for a vacation. We have tried to compile a list of ten prominent places that form an ideal ‘summer retreat’. There places are mentioned in no particular order, except perhaps a twinge of author-subjectivity. Read and give your view!
Mussoorie is the personification of the typical hill station, beautiful and serene. With a small population of around 22,000, it is far from bustling and offers a peaceful retreat with breathtaking views and quite a handful of memorable places to visit. The best thing about this hill station is that it caters to almost all income groups. From Rs. 600 a night lodgings to five star hotels and resorts, Mussoorie has it all. Take a trip to the famous company gardens, enjoy the view from Gunhill via a cable car, behold the splendid Himalayan ranges from atop Lal Tibba, or simply stroll along Mall Road with its breathtaking view of the valley below. And if you are a bibliophile, the biggest attraction should be the chance to meet Ruskin Bond, who can often be seen in bookstores on Mall Road.
Ultapani forest reserve (Assam)
The Ultapani reserve forest in Assam is part of the Manas Biosphere Reserve and consists of tropical forests and grasslands. Located near the India-Bhutan border, it consists of around 200 species of trees. It is specially known as an attraction for butterfly lovers with its nearly 300 species of butterflies. Take a walk through the forest and get to know nature in its pristine beauty!
River-rafting in Rishikesh
Rishikesh offers a unique opportunity for rafting in the waters of the Ganga. If nature and adventure excite you, this should be your destination this summer! Rishikesh offers something for adventurists of every skill level, from easy, no obstacle courses to highly congested and violent waters, you may take your pick and experience the mighty river in a whole new way.
Ooty (Tamil Nadu)
Although Udhagamandalam is its official Tamil name, this hill station town located in the Nilgiri Hills is best known as Ooty. Standing at approximately 7,500, it forms the ideal getaway from the sweltering summers of India. The famous Blue Mountains of Ooty are covered with forests all through the year. Ooty has attracted a number of well known movie-makers to its scenic locales, and is also famous for its tea plantations.
Munnar in Kerala is known around the world for its tea plantations, and is one of the leading centres in India. It is also a small but beautifully landscaped hill station known for its hills, lakes and forests. With a mild climate and picturesque views, Munnar should be enough to seduce you to Kerala for a beautiful summer vacation.
A Mughal Emperor had justifiably said that if there was a heaven on earth, it could only be Kashmir. Experience the very heart of Kashmir in Srinagar. Whether you choose to ride the houseboats and shikaras in Dal Lake, take a walk through the terraced hillside of 400 year old Mughal gardens, or simply take in the local culture, you are sure to lose yourself in a world that will reinvent the meaning of ‘beauty’ for you. Also known as ‘Venice of the East’, Srinagar is one of the most ideal summer destinations.
Shimla, which is presently the capital of Himachal Pradesh, used to be the summer capital of the British in India. With most of the city located at a height of around 7,800 feet, Shimla is the original ‘summer getaway’. Lying in the Western Ghats of the Himalayas, Shimla is known for its picturesque locales and architecture dating back to the colonial era. From history to ecology to pure, pristine beauty, Shimla offers a comprehensive package for every vacationer.
The capital of North-Eastern state of Sikkim, Gangtok is a place with a comfortable and cozy aura about it. Located at 5,800 feet above sea level, Gangtok offers a cool retreat with a unique ethnic culture. It is also a popular Buddhist destination that makes it a thriving town with deeply spiritual destinations. Visit Gangtok to immerse yourself in the calm and serene life of the hills, and take a look at India as you haven’t seen it before.
Being the highest hill station in the western region, Mahabaleshwar is often known as “Queen” of Maharashtra’s hill stations. Having one of the few evergreen forests in India, Mahabaleshwar offers the experience of Maharashtra with all its rich culture and long history in the backdrop of extreme scenic beauty. Trot on horseback in the Venna lake area, take in the fresh forest air or enjoy the taste of local strawberries and corn.
Widely considered to have the best beaches in India, Goa is the ideal party-goers destination. Traditionally a winter destination, a summer holiday on the beach offers its own unique possibilities. Goa has a slow pace which distinguishes it from the usual hustle-bustle of mainland India. It also offers a wholly refreshing cuisine and moderate climate. Also, most hotels in Goa offer off-season discounts in the summer which increases its attraction for the budget traveller.