A family holiday by the lake, a solo stroll through mountain trails, a party with your friends away from the city – take your pick from our recommendations.
For the family
A few years ago, Naukuchiatal in Uttarakhand was an obscure little lake-side town, one that you bypassed while driving to its more famous cousin Nainital from the nearest railhead of Kathgodam. Then in 2009, a few musicians and their groups of friends decided to get away from Delhi for a few days to a quiet place where they could jam and play music together. They chose Naukuchiatal as their escape and the Escape Festival was born.
Over the next few years, the festival grew from a small gathering to a three-day creative retreat dedicated to contemporary indie music and art that drew in people by the hundreds. And in the process, Naukuchiatal – with its nine-cornered lake and undulating green hills – began to attract those who wanted a quick weekend getaway but wished to give the crowds in Nainital a miss.
Today, Naukuchiatal houses a couple of resorts, sprawled across acres of land, overlooking the majesty of the lake. These are holiday destinations in themselves – with full in-house recreational facilities, they are perfect for a family vacation. You can spend many leisurely hours boating in the lake. Or take a quick drive to the other tourist destinations nearby – Nainital, Bhimtal, Sat Tal and Mukteshwar, to name a few.
How to get there: Drive from Delhi (320 km approx) or take a train to Kathgodam and a cab further ahead.
For the solo traveller
Dharamkot, Himachal Pradesh
The 10-minute auto rickshaw ride or the roughly half hour trek you take from McLeod Ganj to reach Dharamkot is usually uneventful. Don’t be disheartened though, because sometimes, the destination does matter more than the journey. And the little village of Dharamkot, situated about three kilometers uphill from the tourist-thronged McLeod Ganj, is one such.
Once visited mostly by post-draft Israelis and other foreigners, Dharamkot has been gaining popularity amongst Indian backpackers – especially solo travellers. Many go with the intention of ticking off one of the most famous and easy destinations off their trekking bucket list – Triund. The short three to five hour trek (depending on how leisurely or fast paced you want it to be) takes you through jungle trails and gentle slopes to the summit of Triund Hill. The trail is lined by tea shops and cafeterias, and even a couple of guest houses.
You can also choose to spend a wonderful time in Dharamkot village instead. The picture postcard village set in a valley surrounded by the mighty Himalayas is a feast for the eyes – green fields sway gently in the cold mountain breeze, cobbled lanes lead you further inside the landscape dotted by small houses with tiled sloping roofs. Villagers amble on their porches in the afternoon sun, smoking hookah, petting their dogs. Several cafeterias provide the perfect ambience to sit, relax, read a book, enjoy a smoke and listen to music. Most of them serve café staples, but one among them is famous for its loaded, wood-fired pizzas. Family Pizzeria is run by a family of locals who learnt the art of making pizzas from a foreign tourist who was passing by. They now serve delicious vegetarian pizzas with ingredients hand-picked from the village fields.
How to get there: Take an overnight bus to McLeod Ganj from Delhi or Chandigarh and then a quick auto ride to Dharamkot.
For a group of friends
Kasol, Himachal Pradesh
This place needs no introduction – at least amongst the new generation of tourists who love all things hippie. Every weekend through the summer, groups of friends from Delhi and Chandigarh drive up to one of the ‘coolest destinations’ in Himachal today – Kasol. Gone are the days when neighbouring Manali used to be the hippie haven; now it’s a honeymoon-family-adventure destination all rolled into one.
So Kasol, once an obscure village on your way to the hot springs and the gurudwara at Manikaran, is where the smoke-loving, harem pant-wearing, guitar-playing crowd found a new home. The swarm soon followed – some who were looking to partake in the flower culture, others who went because everyone else did. And over the last couple of years, to indulge in one of the several full-moon parties that take place in the nooks of the mountains.
Whatever your reason, Kasol will beckon you with its hotel-lined village road on one side of the gushing Parvati river, and tree-lined walking trails on the other. The mountains loom large and towering in the backdrop. Cafes and food stalls are many, and every time you visit Kasol, a new one pops up. There are shops selling every smoking paraphernalia imaginable, along with pyjamas, jholas and psychedelic t-shirts. And when you manage to make your way to one of the all-night parties – their venue and time are often kept hush-hush – you are greeted by all things trippy.
How to get there: Drive from Delhi (520 kms) or Chandigarh (290 kms). Alternately, take an overnight Volvo to Bhuntar and then a local bus to Kasol.
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From HT Brunch, March 27, 2016
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