Whether you are in Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, Bangalore or Chennai, we have the perfect place to celebrate the Independence Day weekend
There’s so much to celebrate in August. It finally sinks in that the end of the year is not as far away as it seemed just a few days ago. There’s the celebration of India’s independence – a time to reflect upon the A+’s & C’s in our report card, to take pride in our accomplishments and rue the unfulfilled aspirations. There’s the satisfaction of a great Eid biryani and the anticipation of Dussehra, Diwali and Christmas. And finally, this year there is an added bonus – a four day weekend that starts on Friday (August 15, Independence Day and ends on Monday (August 18, Janamashtami).
So if you’re one of those who’ve just arrived at the party, here are four offbeat getaways in India for the long weekend in August. Bon voyage!
From Calcutta: Lava, Lolygaon & Rishop in West Bengal
It’s no use visiting the beaches and forests in the rainy season, but it’s always a good time to catch a glimpse of the Himalayas. But this time, skip Darjeeling & Siliguri. Head instead to the neighbouring villages of Lava, Lolygaon and Rishop for a thorough detox of city life. Perched in the Himalayan foothills, these pretty villages are awash with towering pine, oak, fir and cypress trees, a variety of birds and lowers, and best of all, fantastic views of the Kanchenjunga and Everest on a clear day.
There is lots to see and do in the area – from lakes and waterfalls to an old Buddhist monastery, forest hikes (not recommended if it’s raining), sunrise points such as Ghanti Dara & Jhandi Dara for breathtaking views of the Himalayas and watching the sun set over Kanchenjunga from Rishop. Lolygaon is also renowned for the Canopy Walk, an 80 metre long hanging foot bridge across the dense forests. But if we were in your place, we would check into a comfortable property with great views, and settle down to dreaming about a walk in the clouds.
The fastest way to reach Lava, Lolygaon and Rishop is to take a train from Calcutta to New Jalpaiguri or Siliguri, which can take anywhere from 8 – 12 hours. Lava is at a distance of ~105 km from both places, and can be reached in 3-4 hours by taxi. Lolygaon is 12 km from Lava and Rishop is 9 km away. The nearest airport is at Bagdogra, which is 100 km away from Lava. We would not recommend undertaking the entire journey by road during the monsoons.
From Bangalore & Chennai: Valparai, Tamil Nadu
For a throwback to colonial luxury, visit the delightful hill station of Valparai, located in the Annamalai range of the Western Ghats. Home to tea and coffee plantations that are over 100 years old, the region houses numerous tea estates that were built during British rule. Much of the colonial architecture still survives, and several of these are now being used to promote tourism. Surrounded by lush evergreen forests, Valparai is heaven for bird lovers and animal watchers, and the best part is that you don’t need to undertake a crack-of-dawn safari for a view of these wonderful creatures. Elephants are a common sight as you travel through the region – don’t be surprised if you find a herd accompanying your vehicle into the estate. The big animals are notorious for raiding the bungalows in search of food. The area is also renowned for leopards and the Nilgiri Tahr (wild goat). As for the birds, you will find them paying you a visit as you sit in your quiet balcony, demanding water and their share of your lunch.
Natural beauty apart, a visit to Valparai is an opportunity to experience a pleasurably decadent life – one that includes a lavish English breakfast, an elaborate lunch and dinner spread, and an evening tea served in silver cutlery with dainty sandwiches and moist cake. It’s thrilling to imagine that you are the Lord (or Lady) of the manor, if only for a couple of days.
The fastest way to reach Valparai from Bangalore & Chennai is by road : it takes 8 – 10 hours to cover the journey of 450 km from Bangalore/ 470 km from Chennai. The nearest airport and railway station is at Coimbatore, which is about 120 km from Valparai (3-4 hours by road).
From Delhi: Fagu
While our preferred destination for a mid-August getaway would be the wonderful birdwatching peaks of Pangot and Sattal, the monsoons have been exceptionally harsh in the Kumaon region this year, and we strongly advise that any trip to the hills be preceded by a check at the weather advisory ! Our other recommendation for the season is Fagu in Himachal Pradesh on the Hindustan-Tibet Road.
Traditionally known for its close proximity to the skiing regions, Fagu is a quaint little village town. The hills are alive with green foliage and wonderful apple orchards, there are plenty of easy day treks and hikes in the neighbouring regions, and there’s really nothing quite like waking up to a foggy hillside resplendent in its post-monsoon finery, where – if you strain hard enough- you just might spot a snow-capped mountain. Enjoy the traditional hill hospitality, escape to the nearby Shimla if the solitude gets too much for you (though, why?), and don’t be surprised if you come across a big herd of sheep midway through one of your salubrious hikes!
Fagu is nearly 400 km by road from Delhi-via Chandigarh- although only 22 km from Shimla, and you are on National Highways almost throughout so it isn’t a bad drive. Alternatively you can take the train up to Chandigarh or Kalka and a taxi from there.
From Mumbai: Bhandardara
Really, the people from Mumbai are spoilt for choices in this season. The whole of the Western Ghats come to life with the first drop of rain, and MTDC has reasonable holiday resorts close to every peak and fort in the region. You don’t have to stay at one place for the entire 4 days and can just as well visit as many small towns as possible.
Our recommendation for this season is the particularly scenic Bhandardara. Ensconced deep in the Sahyadris , Bhandardara is a lovely destination with many natural delights ranging from waterfalls and lakes to lovely, relaxed hiking routes; and slightly more difficult treks up some of the most picturesque forts of the region- chief among them being Ratangad fort-with its totally spooky (and fun) rock cavity-The Needle. The nearby Randha Falls should also be gurgling in this season, and they make an excellent half-day trip from here. There are a couple of temples for the devotionally inclined, and some excellent staying choices ranging from the MTDC Resort to newer Anandvan and Yash Resorts which do all-inclusive packages.
Mumbai to Bhandardhara is a 165 km distance that can be covered in 4 hours or lesser depending traffic/road repairs.
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Valparai Photo Credit: Wikipedia