What is summer in three words? Sun, Sea and Sand!
Or is it?
Now what is summer really like in three words? Sweat, dust and grime. Yes, welcome to the torturous Indian summer season.
Summer break is a time that is most looked forward to, in the student and work calendar. Elaborate mental plans are made with the enthusiasm of a hiker set to conquer the Himalayas, but when they actually arrive, most of us choose to simply curl up in a ball, turn on the air conditioning, and sleep our days away through the break. And the ones that don’t? They end up watching IPL, or Football, or Comedy Nights. And in doing all of this, the break comes to an end too soon (“but it had only just begun!”), and routine comes knocking back.
If it’s summer time in Delhi, except for unexpected showers, you cannot expect any real respite with its ruthless sun, the lack of ventilation thanks to our ill-planned residential complexes, and now also a prestigious recognition as the world’s most polluted city. There are sweaty shirts, sun burn, discomfort, and a lingering sense of escaping to a place where you wouldn’t have to squint your eyes every time you step out in the sun.
But tell you what, all it takes is a little wind to blow before that sweat begins to evaporate and leave you in bouts of joy with its ventilating effect. All you need to do is go back-packing to a place that can give you just that comforting breeze.
Here is a summer travel guide that’ll help you experience bliss even in this hopeless weather. There’s something for everyone.
1. Trek to Roopkund/ Rupin Pass in Greater Himalayas
If you’re seeking to do something you’ve never done before, a trek to Roopkund in the higher ranges of the Himalayas should be the first thing on your list of places to visit this summer. The mysterious Roopkund glacier is located in the Garhwal district of Himalayas at an altitude of about 5,029 metres. Apart from breathtaking views of picturesque curves and bends of the frozen ice caps, Roopkund is famous for a Skeleton Lake!
Alternatively, you can choose to trek to Rupin Pass, located at about 4,650 metres above sea level, and the trekking route extends from Dhaula, Uttarakhand to Sangla in Himachal. Seasoned trekkers swear by the Rupin Valley’s lush green meadows and scenic beauty.
You can find all you need to know about trekking to the two destinations, including how to get there, where to stay, and how it’ll be the greatest adventure to undertake this summer, here
2. Havelock Islands, Andamans
If your idea of a perfect summer getaway is clear blue waters and tranquillity that surpasses every spa treatment, book your tickets to Havelock Islands in the Andamans this summer. Located 57 kilometres away from Port Blair, Havelock Islands are home to some of the best and cleanest beaches in Asia. You can choose from snorkelling at the Elephant beach to learning scuba diving or simply lying back and letting your senses refresh under the tranquil sky. There’s something for everyone at Havelock Islands.
3. Mount Abu, Rajasthan
Somewhere distant from the dusty deserts of Rajasthan, lies this beautiful Hill Station of Mount Abu. More than the place itself, it’s the way up to the mountains that is surreal. The uphill climb is so misty that you’ll end up feeling you’re cutting across thick clouds. If you just rub your hands together for a few seconds, you can notice the mist condensing on your hand. Mount Abu abounds in lush greenery, some beautiful lakes and exceedingly appealing views from the Gurshikhar mountain. It’s a popular retreat of the affluent Gujarati families, who come down to Abu for a drink or two. The best way to reach Mount Abu is by train, since the Abu Road station is merely a 27 km drive from the mountains. Cabs are easily available for hire at the station itself.
4. Valley of flowers, Uttarakhand
When Ralph Waldo Emerson said “The earth laughs in flowers,” I reckon he must’ve been visiting the Valley of Flowers. In Uttarakhand, Valley of Flowers is a National Park recognized since 2004 as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and is home to a variety of endemic bird and flower species. With over 300 kinds of flowers in full bloom, the valley appears as a picture right out of an artist’s imagination — the colours run amok against a backdrop of azure sky, lined with snow-covered mountains. The Valley is open to visitors from June-September, and has to be reached via a long hike, but it is every bit worth the effort. The closest railway station is Rishikesh, and the nearest Airport is Dehradun.
If you live and breathe Yash Raj movies, do not miss the Valley of Flowers for anything!
5. Viceroy’s Lodge and Botanical Garden on the Observatory Hill, Shimla
Over the years, Shimla has come to be synonymous with the Ridge and Christ Church looming in the background. But while people come all the way to Shimla, they miss the Observatory Hill which houses the grand structure of the Viceregal Lodge built in 1888, as a resident for Lord Dufferin. Currently functioning as Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, this place is an architectural marvel designed by British architect Henry Irwin, and has the exuberance of a timeless castle. Surrounding the main building are highly looked after green gardens with colourful flowers and tall trees. What steals the cake, however, is the drive up to Observatory Hill, which can be described as nothing else but therapeutic. Bright red leaves and dense foliage dotting the roadway — what is it but therapy?
Go to Observatory Hill this summer and let its architectural splendour take over your senses.
PS. There is a library out there as well! Take a YouTube tour of the place here.
6. Wayanad, Kerala
If you’ve never experienced South India before, Wayanad in Kerala is where you should start this summer. A district bordering the neighbouring states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, Wayanad occupies pride of place in the Western Ghats with its scenic semblance of thick forests, waterfalls, wildlife sanctuaries and heritage sites. You can safari into the wild forest or simply enjoy a recreational view of the waterfalls and other unique vistas of natural beauty at Wayanad.
If Kerala climate doesn’t speak for its own, Wayanad is one of the least urbanised districts in Kerala, and its dense forest cover ensures you breathe in the freshest air — unlike the smoke of our metropolitans. There are also a number of rare bird species and monuments of historical and religious significance in Wayanad.
7. Pangong lake, Leh
Remember the last scene of 3 Idiots where Kareena Kapoor rides up to Amir Khan in her bridal outfit? Remember being blown away by the serene surroundings? I do, too!
Pangong lake is the place where the scene mentioned above was shot, and so were many other Bollywood songs.
A Trans-country lake, sixty percent of the lake’s basin lies in Tibet, and the rest in India. Pangong lake lies to the North-east of Tibet, and can be accessed via channels in mountain ranges surrounding the area. The view of the majestic waters of the lake nestled in the Chushul mountains are a sight to behold. The weather around the area remains pleasant in all seasons, though the lake (despite being saline) freezes in winters, which means the best time to visit is summers. This very summer, I say!
PS: Don’t forget the sunscreen, I am not taking the blame for your tan!