Waterfalls, mist-covered mountains, lush greenery, cool weather, and hot meals...don't these remind you of the onset of monsoons and monsoon vacations? There is indeed nothing quite like a monsoon vacation!
India is a land of many seasons and monsoon is the one most people look forward to. Monsoon is that time of the year when you can enjoy the blooming of the flowers, rivers flowing swiftly and the sky with rain bearing clouds. Here are a few must-visit monsoon getaways that you would love -
1. Leh and Ladakh - Travelling anywhere in the Himalayas is an experience in itself. Starting with northern India, are the beautiful Leh and Ladakh, which are must visits during the onset of monsoons. Ladakh, at an altitude of 9000 feet, is a plateau with interspersed valleys lying close to the Greater Himalayas. The enchanting beauty of the landscape is what gets the travellers back again. Wind-swept mountains, crystal blue lakes and monasteries with colourful prayer flags waving in the wind add to the charm. Leh is accessible by road only between May and October. This is the time of the year when the roads are clear of snow, making travel a lot easier. Trekking in the Leh-Ladakh region gives an exciting opportunity to have captivating views of snow-capped mountain ranges, lush green valleys and rivers. Its High Mountain passes are ideal for trekking. You get to explore local traditions and culture by walking and driving through the hilly terrain. If you plan a trip to Ladakh in June or July, don't miss on the two-day Hemis festival to commemorate birth of Guru Padmasambhava, who founded Tantric Buddhism in Tibet.
Note: Landslides are almost inevitable in the monsoons. They also cause road blockages and bikers would have to be very careful so as not to skid on the slippery winding paths.
Monsoon activities: Mountaineering, biking, white water rafting, jeep safari, camel safari and trekking.
What makes it popular: Silk yarn, cashmere wool, brocade, semi precious stones and resins
Nearby getaways: Srinagar 440 kms and Manali 473 kms from Leh.
2. Valley of Flowers National Park, Uttarakhand - Widespread alpine flowers and outstanding natural beauty make the Valley of Flowers National Park, situated at 3600 meters above sea level, a must visit during the monsoons. The flowers are in full bloom and your eyes are treated to a riot of colour. Open from April to October, the meadows are laden with nearly 300 varieties of alpine flowers which appear like a sheet of the most beautiful colours, framed by the snow capped Himalayan Mountains. If fortunate, you may even encounter some endangered species like the Snow Leopard, Himalayan Bear, Himalayan Mouse Hare, Musk Deer and Blue Sheep. A 13km long trek from Govind Ghat will take you to the Valley of Flowers, which stretch out before you like the Garden of Eden, a magical land.
Note: Wear proper sports shoes for trekking, preferably waterproof hiking boots. Be prepared for bad weather and do carry an umbrella.
Monsoon activities: Trekking, mountaineering and bird watching
What makes it popular: The varied variety of flora and fauna like orchids, poppies, primulas, calendulas and daisies.
Nearby getaways: Auli 56 kms, Nainital 231 kms and Dehradun 256kms
3. Mandu or Mandavgarh - Historical locations dotted with forts, lakes, hills and waterfalls can be equally exciting and relaxing during monsoons. Just about 100 kms from Indore is a ruined city in the Malwa region of Madhya Pradesh called Mandu. Often referred to as the "City of Joy", Mandu is built at a height of over 600m on the southwestern edge of the Malwa Plateau, with sweeping views of the Nimar Plains below. The beauty of Mandu is only enhanced during monsoons when the waterfalls gush down the plateau and old buildings of the fort get mirrored in the lakes making it one of the most romantic historical sites in India. It also has the good fortune of not having been invaded by armies of tourists so far.
Note: It is an ideal place for honeymooners. Being a small city, Mandu has fewer hotels, hence better to make prior reservations.
Monsoon activities: Hire a bicycle and ride around the city.
What makes it popular: Large ruins site more than 10 kms long and 15 kms wide. Local handicrafts are a must-buy as a souvenir. Traditional Daal-Baati and Nimbu Paani are quite popular here.
Nearby getaways: Indore 100 kms, Omkareshwar 100 kms and Ujjain 154 kms.
4. Goa - Fresh cool breezes, colourful sunsets, giant sea waves hitting the beach and lush green landscape, this is Goa for you during monsoons. Usually tourists prefer coming to Goa during winters but if you want to enjoy the greenery, the Arabian Sea getting furious with giant waves and most of all get good deals on luxurious resorts and hotels, monsoons are the best time of the year. It is during this time that there is no mad crowd at the Goa beaches unlike that during peak season. The Dudhsagar Falls and the much-admired Savoi (spice plantation) are the best during the monsoons. One of the best reasons to visit Goa during the monsoon is the vibrant festivals that are celebrated. Sao Joao or Feast of St. John the Baptist is celebrated in late June and involves men jumping into overflowing village wells to retrieve bottles of local alcohol 'feni'. Other festivals like the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, Bonderam flag festival and Ganesh Chaturthi are also celebrated during this season. For some, Goa may not be fun during monsoons as there are fewer restaurants on the beach and no water sport activities takes place, but for some, it may just be calm, relaxed and a romantic vacation far away from the crowded city life.
Note: Going near the beaches during monsoons should be avoided as the sand becomes very sloshed and the sea turns a bit violent.
Monsoon activities: Hire a bike and enjoy the rains. Take a boat ride up the Mandovi River and get a feel of the historic Goan architecture, jeep safari to Mollem National Park, Bondla, and Cotigao wildlife sanctuary.
What makes it popular: Clear water beaches, New Year's celebrations from 20th December to 31st December, Goan Carnival, Fenny (local alcohol) and the best party destination.
Nearby getaways: Jog falls 261 kms from Panaji (capital of Goa) and Hampi 342 kms from Panaji.
5. Coorg or Kodugu - Also referred to as the "Scotland of India", Coorg ia one of the favourite travel destinations in Karnataka, especially during the monsoons. It can be visited anytime during the year but the monsoons are considered to be the most romantic time especially for honeymooners. Rainfall during July - September is quite intense and the weather normally cold, tempting couples to sit around cozy fires and cuddle! This is also the best time to see cascading waterfalls, green landscapes and thundering rivers. The mountains and fields cover themselves with green carpet and the fog and mist adds to the charm. Coorg is also known for its rich wildlife and has three wildlife sanctuaries and one national park.
Note: Monsoon travellers are advised be careful while trekking in this region or try any extreme nature adventures as leaches and snakes are plentiful here. Be extremely caution of slippery edges, rocks and steps.
Monsoon activities: White river rafting, fishing, plantation visits.
What makes it popular: Coffee plantations, honey and orange plantations and mesmerizing views.
Nearby getaways: Mysore 120 kms, Mangalore 136 kms and Hassan 115 kms
6. Malshej Ghat - Few people may consider Maharashtra