Winter is knocking at our doors, and if like me, you too aren’t very keen on the colder months, consider escaping to these 9 excellent destinations across India that promise a lot of fun under the sun.
A camel safari to the Thar Desert in Rajasthan is an excellent way to experience the rugged beauty of the desert. Surrounded by miles of golden sand dunes as far as the eye can see, a visit to the Thar Desert is truly a charming experience. Take in the stunning sunset views and spend the night at a desert camp savouring delicious Rajasthani food and enjoying folk dance and music performances. Fall asleep under a star studded night sky to the echoes of music by the Manganiar tribesmen. A warm experience, both for your body and your soul!
Goa, the land of sun, sea and surf makes for a perfect winter getaway. Apart from its beaches, Goa is also known for its colonial churches, complete with Portuguese Baroque style architecture, delicious seafood, and of course, a vibrant nightlife. Relax by the beach, or if you’re an adventure enthusiast, enjoy water sports like jet skiing, speed boating, banana boat rides and parasailing.
Spend a day in Old Goa visiting ancient Portuguese churches—the most famous being the Basilica of Bom Jesus which contains the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier. Spend the evening at one of Goa’s many nightclubs, like Tito’s, Mambos, Curlies, or St. Anthony’s—especially popular for its karaoke nights.
A former French colony, this quaint little town is known for its colonial buildings, beaches and authentic French food. If you’re looking at experiencing Pondicherry differently, we suggest you spend a few days at Auroville, known for its quiet and peaceful community living. Spend time here learning the nuances of Pottery and even Patisserie! Auroville has its own bakery where you must try a traditional French breakfast and other French delights like brioche, cookies, lemon cake, fruit tarts and cream puffs. Sounds perfect doesn’t it!
If you’re a wildlife enthusiast then a safari at the Ranthambore National Park is a must. Sprawled over a rambling 1,334 square kilometres, this forest in Rajasthan is home to the Royal Bengal Tiger, Marsh Crocodiles, Leopards, and Chinkaras and over 300 species of birds including Woodpeckers and Kingfishers. We suggest you take two or three safaris to increase your chances of spotting a tiger. Apart from wildlife, other popular attractions here include the Ranthambhore Fort dating back to the 10th century, ancient mosques and temples and even Chattris (burial tombs).
Placid backwaters, swaying green coconut palms and lush green vistas everywhere you look—that’s Alleppey for you. The serene waterways of Alleppey are best explored onboard a Kettuvellam (houseboat). Most houseboats are fully furnished and come equipped with a bedroom, sundeck, bathroom, kitchen and AC’s. The staff onboard includes a captain, lifeguard and chef. Don’t forget to savour traditional Keralan food like appams with stew, fish curry and Malabar parotas during your stay on the houseboat. Spend a relaxing day on the backwaters reading, relaxing or just reviving your smoke and traffic weary souls by absorbing the lush views of paddy fields and tiny villages in the distance.
Far away from the chilly winds, the sunny temple town of Mahabalipuram, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is popular for its historic temples. One of the most popular attractions here include Arjuna’s Penance-a gigantic relief carving on two adjacent boulders. The monument is engraved with scenes from Hindu mythology, like Arjuna fasting on one leg. Other noteworthy attractions here include The Five Rathas (a Hindu temple dating back to the 7th century) and the Shore Temple, a magnificent 8th century rock structure overlooking the sea.
If you’re keen, you can also try your hands at sculpting and stone carving guided by the locals artisans. While you’re here don’t forget to buy soapstone and granite sculptures. If you choose, your shopping can be parceled back to you in any part of the world, saving you the hassle of lugging it back!
One of India’s most iconic structures, the Konark Sun Temple is one of the biggest draws to the city. Dating back to the mid-13th century, the Sun Temple is considered a chariot of the Sun god, Surya. Seven powerful horses are depicted to be pulling this massive stone structure on 24 stone cartwheels (representing the number of hours in a day). The temple has been constructed in a manner that the first rays of the sun, light up the interior of the temple, and the deity within it. The structure is truly impressive and it is recommended that you set aside a day to do justice to the architecture.
If you like, you can also visit the Archeological Museum, which has many of the sculptures and carvings that were discovered during excavations of the Sun Temple. Walking around here will completely take away the chilly feeling from your body.
Rann of Kutch
One of the largest salt deserts in the world, the Rann of Kutch is a fascinating natural phenomenon. During the dry season, these salt flats are an island, but come the monsoon, they’re flooded with water and turn into a saltwater marsh. The biggest draw to the Rann remains the Rann Utsav, which is when this part of Gujarat truly comes alive with traditional Gujarati folk music, dance performances and luxurious camp stays. The salt desert also offers great opportunities for perspective photography.
A two hour drive away from Mumbai, Matheran makes for a perfect sunny weekend getaway. Did you know that this hill station is India’s only ‘no-automobiles’ zone? This ensures that the air here stays clean and fresh. Perched on the Sahyadri Hills, Matheran is home to emerald green forests, complete with walking trails and breathtaking views. And even though it is a hill station, the weather here during the winter months is pleasant and not uncomfortably cold. Since no vehicles are allowed inside the town, the Dasturi car park is the closest point you can drive up to, after which it is a 40 minutes’ walk up to this stunning little hill town. If you’re not comfortable walking, you can opt to travel either on a horse-back, or take a scenic toy trail ride from the Neral Junction up to Matheran.
So where are you heading to chase away those winter blues?