South Goa
South Goa is a quiet escape
When you’re done living it up in all the Bagas, Calangutes, Titos and Mambos of Goa, a quiet escape is just a short drive away. Enter: South Goa. If beaches are your thing, you’re in paradise here. Butterfly Beach, as the name suggests, is a haven for spotting butterflies, crabs and dolphins. You can even take a boat or a canoe to explore this hidden oasis in your own style. Hidden away from the crowds of Palolem and Agonda, Cola Beach is an elusive wonder where the water is the perfect amount of still to swim in and watch the hues of the sunset over.

Walk to Blue Lagoon, where a palm tree-encrusted freshwater stream meets the beach. Yes, this is what paradise looks like. Just south of Madgaon is Benaulim Beach and this is where all the sea-foodies need to unite. The vibrant culture is juxtaposed with peace and tranquillity as you sit around spotting dolphins and crocodiles. Make sure you do any parasailing or jet skiing before you eat till you can no longer move. When you’re done soaking in the sun, head to Assolna to explore the gorgeous Portuguese architecture of some colonial-era palaces, and don’t forget to shop for some trinkets to wear later.

Activity: Dolphin spotting, parasailing. 
Must Eat: Fish fofos. Traditionally made from cod, these cheesy fish rolls have been adapted and made with boneless fish, shrimp and prawns.
Pune to South Goa is 473 kms, a 9 hour drive.

Located at a drivable distance, Alwar is a great escape

Agra, Jaipur and New Delhi form a convenient road-tripping triangle around Alwar—one of the 16 mahajanapadas, and an underrated collage of Rajputana. If you don’t want to venture into the state’s interiors, Alwar is the microcosm that has it all. Start with an early morning visit to Moosi Maharani ki Chhatri—a cenotaph overlooking a reservoir, ghats and medieval-era homes. Lift the small boulder inside the main building, and wash your face with the cool groundwater below. Locals believe it wards off the evil eye.

Next, head to the City Palace and Museum next door. Done in baby blue and white, its collection houses rare Rajput and Mughal weapons, religious and literary relics, miniature paintings and more.

Alwar’s forts are intriguing—there’s the small hilltop Bala Quila (currently under restoration), the scenic drive up to which is painted in green, white and brown, and the more expansive Bhangarh fort. The latter’s supposedly haunted, so you can’t visit after sunset.

Coffee at the windy Siliserh Lake, which stretches all around a singular viewpoint, and strolls inside the impeccably landscaped Company Bagh, perfectly bookend this trip.

Post the historical circuit, book a safari into Sariska National Park (1 hour away). Its grasslands and dry forests turn blazing orange during sunrise and sunset. Drive through groves of dhok and along natural pools to spot tigers, nilgai, boar, crocodiles and hyenas. If cruising in from Alwar, opt for the park’s Sariska gate to dabble in astronomy at the Stargate Observatory. For a more secluded experience, head to the Tehla Gate, and glamp under the stars at Sariska Astroport.

Activity: Walking tours, sunrise safari, stargazing.
Must Eat: Special thali from Prem Pavitra Bhojnalaya. It features dal-baatichurma, roti, papad, and spicy gatte ki sabzi. Paired best with stuffed chillies and kulfi. 
Delhi to Alwar is 166 kms, a 3.5 hour drive.

Breathtaking low hills, rolling teak and sandalwood forests, roaring waterfalls, and miles of aromatic spice and coffee plantations, Kodagu is a getaway for those in the mood to awaken their senses, and coincidentally, also the largest coffee producer in India. Nick-named the ‘Scotland of India’, this gorgeous town, dotted with villages and hamlets is a rediscovery of the self. Known for its torrential waterfalls, it offers natural wonders as the Lakshmana Tirtha River tumbles in the Iruppu Falls, and the Kaveri River snakes through spice plantations and coffee estates, down green plains and off rocky cliffs into the Abbey Falls, awaiting anyone willing to make the short hike up.

Better known as Coorg, it is also home to the Nagarhole National Park, which hosts over 270 species of birds and animals, and dense forests. Head over to the Nisargadhama river-island to take in elephant sightings and treetop bamboo cottages. If you’re in it for the caffeine kick, a variety of coffee plantations offer tours of their facilities, sometimes through pepper and cardamom fields to present the most scenic views for your coffee tasting. With one of the highest rates of rainfall in the country, Coorg is also a great destination for trekking, angling, whitewater rafting, and other adventure sports.

Activity: Whitewater rafting, angling. 
Must Eat: Pandi curry(coorgi pork curry) with akki roti. 
Bengaluru to Kodagu is 250 kms, a 5 hour drive.

Dooars is the gateway to the kingdom of Bhutan
Spread across the eastern Himalayan foothills from West Bengal to Assam, Dooars is the gateway to the kingdom of Bhutan. Traverse through its lush tea estates, meandering mountain streams and varied villages, for an exquisite meeting with natural beauty. Dooars’ endless stretch of untouched forests is intersected by the Teesta and Dhansiri rivers.

Deeply rooted in tea, tourism and timber, the region is served with a network of motorable roads cutting through the dense forests. The valley is also home to a wide range of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, such as Buxa, Jaldapara, Chapramari, Gorumara, and Manas. Segregated into three parts—eastern Dooars, Central Dooars and western Dooars—the region abounds is an ecotourism and birding hub.

Buxa National Park in eastern Dooars offers a great collection of orchids and medicinal plants, while Jaldapara in Central Dooars is home to primaeval forests interspersed with sleepy settlements. The main attraction here is the one-horned rhinoceros. A preferred destination for wilderness explorers, a safari through the emerald green forests of Dooars is a great way to experience nature at its best. 

Activity: Tea garden tours, jungle safaris on the way to Jaldapara.
Must Eat: Bamboo shoots, dry fish pickle.
Darjeeling to Dooars is 100 kms, a 3 hour drive.

Lansdowne is known for its scenic beauty

Thick oak and blue pine forests paint the picturesque little hilltop town of Lansdowne. perched at an altitude of 1,780 metres, this hill station was an established British cantonment in 1887, and was named after the earl of Lansdowne, the then Viceroy of India.

Located in the Pauri district of Uttarakhand, Lansdowne is not only known for its quiet natural beauty but is also the home of the Indian Army’s Garhwal Rifles. The town’s quaint colonial architecture is a romantic draw for a quick drive over from Delhi with a special someone, while the Bhulla Tal is ideal for boating getaways with friends or kids. Stop by Tip-In-Top point for some spectacular views of the Shivalik Range, the Darwan Singh Regimental Museum for a dose of defence history, or visit one of the two colonial-era churches—St Mary’s and St John’s—for the gorgeous stained-glass windows.

The Kalagarh Tiger Reserve is about 13 kilometres from Lansdowne and offers not just the big cat, but also a variety of deer and bird species. for the more religious, the Kaleshwar Temple is a popular shrine to Lord Shiva, and the town is a must-visit during the Mahashivratri celebrations. Lansdowne is the perfect getaway for birders, casual hikers, couples, and nature lovers. 

Activity: Birding, hiking.
Must Eat: Bhangak khatai, local chutney made of bhang (cannabis) seeds, mixed with cumin, red chillies and lemon juice.
Delhi to Lansdowne is 257 kms, a 6 hour drive. 

Like every other hill station in the country, Nahan features itself as a languid stretch of colourful rooftops peeking from lush vegetation, with perhaps a viewpoint or two and definitely, a Mall Road. The capital of erstwhile Sirmaur, what sets this hilltown apart is the number of things one can do, if they choose to. for those who seek a bit of an adventure, we would suggest the trek to Jamu peak or Churdhar peak.

There is rock climbing, camping, fishing and boating too; Renuka Lake (the largest in Himachal Pradesh) is just 38 kilometres from Nahan. Tourists can also opt for safaris at Simbalbara Wildlife Sanctuary and Renuka Wildlife Park. Located on the banks of Markanda, the Suketi Fossil Park is the first of its kind in Asia, one of the earliest spots where fossils were discovered. The town is a popular spot for pilgrims who travel to visit Renuka Temple and Trilokpur Temple nearby. The Jagannath Temple, dedicated to Lord Neel Madhav, resembles its namesake in Puri. One can also dabble a bit in history and architecture; Jaitak Fort was built using the remnants of Nahan Fort and offers stunning views of the hills. Most intriguing is Rajbans Tal, a place shrouded in curses and mysteries, the ruins of a once-great city. 

Activity: Trek to Jamu Peak or Churdhar Peak.
Must Eat: Himachali thali with favourites like rice, pude and maah ki dal. 
Chandigarh to Nahan is 86 kms, a 2 hour drive.

Silvassa is a paradise for lover for water sports

Silvassa, former Portuguese colony and the capital city of the Union Territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli, is endowed with nature’s benevolence. Surrounded by the lush Western Ghats, Silvassa is nestled between Maharashtra and Gujarat. Since the land was a Portuguese territory till 1954, traces of their strong influence are evident even today.

The churches, chapels, forts and old quarters scattered all through the town are remnants of Silvassa’s rich history and culture. Our Lady of Piety Church, one of the oldest Portuguese structures here, still stands tall exuding an old-world charm. furthermore, Silvassa also boasts of a rich tribal culture. Located in the heart of the town, the Tribal Museum seeks to preserve the legacy of the indigenous tribes. The artefacts on display include handmade ornaments, household utensils and other ancestral knick-knacks.

The pristine Dudhani Lake is nearly 40 kilometres from Silvassa. Located amidst small hillocks, this waterfront formed by the Madhuban Dam is a hub of aquatic adventures. from kayaking to canoeing, it offers a plethora of watersports. Once you’re done with your dose of culture, indulge in a rustic shopping spree. from thrifty spenders to the shopaholics, Kilvani Road caters to all. Warli paintings, intricately carved wooden smoking pipes, palm-leaf mats and paper bags made using ragi flour are definitely worth the splurge. 

Activity: For watersports lovers, Dudhani offers numerous options like jet skiing, kayaking and canoeing.
Must Eat: Ubadiyu, a mixture of vegetables and herbs cooked in an earthen pot. 
Mumbai to Silvassa is 173 kms, a 3-hour drive.

Wayanad lush landscape
The verdant hill station replete with jungle streams and luxury homestays is Kerala’s green paradise. Located about 76 kilometres from sea-facing Kozhikode, it lies on the southernmost tip of the Deccan Plateau and boasts of not only a diverse and rich flora and fauna but is also home to Kerala’s famous spice and coffee plantations.

Different types of spices are grown in various sections of the plantations. However, it is the modest kitchen gardens here where one can find an incredible array of spices. from cardamom and cinnamon to cash crops like coffee and pepper, the spice trails in Wayanad are a peek into history and heritage.

One of the prime highlights of the region is the Chembra Peak. At 2,100 metres, it is the highest peak of the Wayanad hills. A trekker’s delight, it offers a panoramic view of Kozhikode, Malappuram and Nilgiri. If you’re a nature lover then Wayanad has plenty to offer. The Meenmutty Falls, with its milky white streams, is an ethereal sight.

The district is also home to the largest earth dam in India—the Banasura Sagar Dam built across the Karamanathodu tributary of the Kabini River. with its tribal culture and rich natural resources, Wayanad is the ideal weekend escape from Bengaluru.

Activity: Trek to Chembra Park.
Must Eat: Gorge on some authentic Malabar delicacies—chemmeen unda puttu or prawn dumplings, Thalassery biryani and fish moilee, a rich curry cooked in a coconut base.
Bengaluru to Wayanad is 275 kms, a 6-hour drive.

Tharangambadi (or, more popularly, Tranquebar) is straight out of a poet’s dream, the ‘land of singing waves’. There is much to draw a weary tourist: a small little town that is best explored on foot, a number of glimmering beaches to relax on and some interesting tales to carry it all forward.

Located in Tamil Nadu, this sleepy town was once a Danish colony, sold to the British in 1845. Much of Tranquebar’s architecture is reflective of this history, emboldened in white and peach hues. A bonus? It’s a bit offbeat, especially when compared to Pondicherry and Goa, making it the perfect getaway.

A trip to the city must start with the Dansborg Fort, which also houses a small museum. The beach-facing fort was, in its prime, the second-largest Danish castle in the world. There are plenty of churches to visit, Zion Church and New Jerusalem Church being the most popular. Head to the Old Danish Cemetery and then to the 700-year-old Sri Masilamani Nathar Temple, which shows a surprising mix of Chinese and Hindu architecture. The Ziegenbalg Museum Complex is a true gem, home not only to the first printing press in India but also to the first printed book, a Bible.

Activity: Boating through Pichavaram Mangrove Forest.
Must Eat: Tharangambadi fish curry at Bungalow on the Beach. 
Chennai to Tharangambadi is 286 kms, a 6-hour-drive.

A waterfall in Yercaud
Take a seat, take a hike, take a dip. But first, relax your shoulders and take that sigh of relief. you’re in Yercaud, Tamil Nadu—a breezy hill station with no room for stress. Twenty-somethings will love the 20-something hairpin bends on the drive from Salem, the nearest town, which passes through fruit and berry plantations. pack a lunchbox for a quick picnic, as pit stops are scarce.

Once inside Yercaud, cycle or hike through the 32-kilometre Loop Road that begins and ends at peaceful Yercaud Lake. The Kiliyur waterfall here is a jovial sight after the monsoons. Later, climb up to the sunset viewing points of Lady’s Seat. Before you ask—yes, there is also a Gent’s Seat, and it’s only a few minutes away.

Set in the Eastern Ghats, Yercaud is a biodiversity hotspot—beyond the citrus and pear orchards, you might encounter bison, civets, jackals, anteaters, pythons, and rare endemic flora. Take your kids to the National Orchidarium here, for a look at the insectivorous pitcher plant. Don’t worry, they’ll remember it from Pokémon. And for a lesson in punctuality? Show them the neelakurinji plants, which bloom once every 12 years.

Activity: Cycling through Kottachedu Teak Forest.
Must Eat: Chettinad specialities like kothu parotta, mutton urundai, traditional banana leaf meal with all the fixings. 
Salem to Yercaud is 30 kms, an hour’s drive.

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