Lakes, hills, a lovers palace, coffee, and lots of rains – four great places in India to enjoy the monsoon.
Yeh mausam ka jaadu ha mitwa….
There’s a big Cheshire grin on our face and an uncharacteristic bounce in our step. The culprit – the impending rains that, sooner or later, will lash across the country, granting food & income to the farmers and joy to the jaded city dwellers. Even the thought of the crumbling roads, the inevitable traffic snarls and the leaking Metro does not douse our anticipation, for the Monsoon is to India what Spring is to the Western world.
So as you prepare to welcome the torrential showers with a hot cup of of chai and a plate of sizzling pakodas, why not head to these four places that fully capture the magical splendour of the Indian Monsoon?
The Venice of the East has tourists pouring out of every crevice during the Autumn/Winter tourist season. Unless your idea of enjoyment is to share the tiny pool in your overpriced hotel with two dozen families, or spend a day being poked and shoved by the millions lined up to eat-sightsee-eat, we suggest you give this season a skip. A better time to savour the splendour of this magnificent city is during the monsoons. Enjoy the lush greenery of the Aravallis that keep a watchful eye on Udaipur, ramble around the palaces and bazaars, gorge on delicious Rajasthani food and spend hours gazing at the beauty of the city’s lakes. The cherry on the cake is the special monsoon packages offered by the town’s premium hotels.
Forget Coorg, Ooty and Mysore. This monsoon, head to Chikamagalur, Bangalore’s best kept secret getaway. Although the area offers several fantastic trekking options, this is not the time to test your endurance. Instead, book yourself into a charming homestay and marvel at the unrelenting vigour of the monsoon lords. Do carry some indoor games as the chances of the rains letting up are minuscule. Make sure your room has a terrace so you can ace the game of Poker or Pictionary while breathing in the fragrance of wet earth, coffee and spices. When the rains run out of breath (it doesn’t last long), walk around the neighbourhood to invigorate yourself. All of this is sure to give you a massive appetite – enjoy the delicious home cooked meals served by your hosts and don’t hesitate to ask for steaming hot kapi and pakodas for the evenings! (Tip: Our favourite place to stay in Chikmagalur is Thippanahalli Homestay).
Mandu, Madhya Pradesh
Baaz Bahadur and Roopmati are India’s Romeo and Juliet – except that instead of warring clans, they belonged to different religions. Baaz Bahadur was the last sultan of Malwa, who ruled from its capital of Mandu. He fell in love with Roopmati, who was a Rajput, and brought her home as his bride. But their romance was short lived – Mandu was invaded by the Mughals, Baaz Bahadur was defeated and fled the city, and his bride committed suicide to save herself from the advances of Akbar’s lieutenant.
The couple did not spend a lifetime together, but the ruins of the beautiful palace that Baaz Bahadur built for his queen – most notable for the Roopmati Pavilion and Rewa Kund – still survive. These – and other remnants of Afghan architecture – are best enjoyed during the monsoon, when the sparsely forested plateau that seats Mandu comes alive with a carpet of vivid green. Wandering through the monuments or sitting by one of the lakes that dot the area, it’s easy to hear the sound of Roopmati’s immortal voice sing one last song for her infatuated Sultan.
The Sahyadris literally come alive during the monsoons – stunning green as far as you can see, waterfalls spouting at every curve of the road and a thick mist that makes you feel you are walking into the clouds. Luckily, there are countless places to enjoy the majesty of the Ghats, but one of our favourites is Amboli. Recipient of the highest rainfall in Maharashtra, it offers mind blowing valley views and numerous small and big waterfalls – don’t be surprised if you are tempted to join the locals prancing in the rains. Enjoy the views from your hotel, go walking down its picturesque trails, and if you are feeling particularly reckless, call in sick and drive all the way to Goa through the lush and winding Ghats. One look at the pictures and the boss will be busy planning her next vacation.
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This post was originally published on July 10, 2014