Best Places to Experience Monsoons in India

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The romance of rains is like no other. And India with its tropical climate has several destinations that can help you make the most of your tryst with the monsoon.

As the sun makes way for clouds it is that time of the year once again when the monsoon comes calling. And India is slowly but surely waking up to the charms of travelling to experience the rains. Here are some of our top ten offbeat destinations that are sure to add a zing to your monsoon getaway.

Gokarna, Karnataka

If you are looking for a beach destination that is secluded and yet has more, Gokarna is the place to head to. Located in Kumta district of North Karnataka this temple town has some stunning beaches including the Om Beach, Kudle Beach, Gokarna beach, Half Moon Beach, Paradise Beach and Belekan beach. Beach trekking here is a great activity that will get you up close with the natural vistas of the place and is a great way for a couple to bond with each other. Naturally this coastal town is the best place to enjoy adventure sports and water activities as well so hold hands and dive into the fun together. To add a dose of spirituality, pay obeisance at the Mahabaleshwar temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and the Lord Mahaganapathi temple whose presiding deity is a 1500-year-old Lord Ganesha. Walk around the market and you are bound to find interesting souvenirs too. Do make sure to take your taste buds on a world tour while you are here as the beaches have a number of restaurants that dish up cuisines ranging from Mexican, Israeli, Indian, Tibetan and Irani food. Food after all is the way to your heart and an aphrodisiac like no other and combine it with the magic of the rains and it you have an experience like no other.

NAVIGATOR

Getting There

The nearest airports to Gokarna are at Goa (160 km away) and Hubli 150 (km away). The nearest railhead is at Ankola 20 km away. Gokarna is connected with state and national highway roads that

Stay

The Arthigamya Spa & Resort (http://www.arthigamya.co.in/ ) with spacious rooms, spa and pool is a good choice of accommodation. The beach front offers many shacks and homestays as well. Tariff starts from Rs. 4460 per night.

Best time to visit

June to August when the Southwest monsoon visits the city.

Must See

Visit the Paradise beach, a white sand beach that can be accessed via boat for a fun day out.

Kotagiri
Kotagiri

Kotagiri, Tamil Nadu

The lesser known part of the Nilgiris compared to its cousins Ooty and Coonoor, Kotagiri stands tall close to 6000 feet above sea level and has a quiet charm of its own. It makes for a great monsoon getaway for the very same reason and is tucked in the majestic Nilgiris biosphere, Kotagiri was a British summer getaway and has distinct colonial undertones amidst its verdant green tea estates. John Sullivan, who was the collector of Coimbatore, visited Kotagiri and built a home here making him the first European to reside in Kotas well as batted for the cause of the tribes. One of the important sights here is the beautiful Catherine Falls – a double cascade waterfall that you can see at a distance via a short trek amidst a tea plantation. The sacred Rangaswamy Pillar is a view point from where you can see the beauty of the majestic Nilgiris. For an experience like no other head to Kodanad estate a beautiful tea estate that is owned by late Chief Minister Jayalatitha. Usually shrouded with mist this place is very cold and great for couples to enjoy the varied vistas over a hot cup of tea. Apart from the panoramic views of the hills you can spot the Pied Bushchat that frequents the environs here. The Nilgiris is inhabited by several tribes including the Todas and a visit to the Woman’s Cooperative of Kotagiri is the best place to pick souvenirs made by them.

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Getting There

The nearest airport is at Coimbatore (100 km away). Kotagiri is well connected by road to other places in Tamil Nadu through road transport. The Mettupalyam Ooty heritage toy train is a great way to reach Coonoor or Ooty and access Kotagiri.

Stay

Kotagiri has several options for accommodation and the charming Tea Nest Nightingale (https://www.natureresorts.in/teanest-nightingale/) tucked away amidst lush tea gardens is a good choice to stay here. Tariff starts Rs. 4195 per night.

Best time to visit

The North West monsoons appear between June to September.

Must See

Check out the Longwood Shola a picturesque trekking path where you can see the local Shola Forestry in all its glory.

Kumarakom
Kumarakom

Kumarakom, Kerala

Located alongside the longest lake in India and largest in Kerala, Lake Vembanad, Kumarakom is a destination that is unlike any other courtesy its amazing backwaters. This is where you will see nature in its pristine beauty and the monsoon ensures that the whole place is awash is all hues of green. A must see here is the Kumarakom bird sanctuary that has two options – a walking trail and a boat ride. In the season you can see many species including egrets, darters, bulbuls, herons, teals and more and it is recommended that you reach here just after sun rise when the sightings are the best. The walking route is long and you will see how villagers live on the backwaters too passing several homes on your walk. There are two watch towers here that will give you a panoramic view of the space and is a great spot for bird sightings. I saw several painted storks and white egrets when I was here. This is where you can see many species of butterflies too so keep a close eye for them. Taking a ride on the traditional Kettuvalloms or house boats is a must when you are here. There are longer rides where you can even stay on the houseboats or simply go for a sunset cruise where you can see the backwaters in a mellow light. Being a small town, there is not a lot to do but admire the beauty of nature here which is at its peak in the rains.

NAVIGATOR

Getting There

The nearest airport is at Kochi (60 km) away. Kumarakom is well connected to other cities in Kerala via road. The nearest railhead is at Kottayam (16 km away).

Stay

Kumarakom has several luxurious accommodation options that are guaranteed to elevate your overall experience. A good choice for accommodation is the new Niraamaya Retreats Backwaters & Beyond, Kumarakom (https://www.niraamaya.in/backwaters-and-beyond-kumarakom/) Tariff starts at Rs. 14320 per night.

Best time to visit

June to September is the best time to see Kumarakom in its rain washed majesty.

Must See

Visit the five step Aruvikkuzhi a scenic picnic spot set amidst rubber plantations.

Khajjiar
Khajjiar

Khajjiar, Himachal Pradesh

A quiet hill station that has earned the moniker ‘mini Switzerland of India’, Khajjiar in Himachal Pradesh is like a picture postcard. Surrounded by the snow clad mountain peaks of the Himalayas, the meadows set amidst Deodar forests are as charming as they are romantic. Start your exploration at the Khajjiar Lake where you can enjoy stunning views of Mount Kailash as well as get an adrenalin rush by paragliding and zorbing. A small floating island with a grass cluster in the middle of the lake is a specialty here. When here, a visit to the Kalatop Wildlife Sanctuary that is surrounded by Blue Pine, Green Oak and Rhododendron trees and houses animals like the langur, jackal, bear, barking goral, Himalayan black marten and leopard is a must. Check out one of the oldest temples of Himachal Pradesh here when you visit the Khajji Nag Temple dedicated to the Serpent Lord. Stop and marvel at the Panch Pandav Tree that has six shoots which locals say represent the five Pandavas and Draupadi. Soaking in the sights and sounds of the hills and enjoying the rains can be the best way to reconnect with yourself.

NAVIGATOR

Getting There

The nearest airport is the Gaggal or Kangra airport (134 km away). Khajjiar is well connected by road to major towns of Himachal Pradesh. The nearest railhead is Pathankot (118 km away).

Stay

There are a variety of hotels, resorts, hostels and guest houses where you can stay here. The town of Dalhousie located close by also has a variety of accommodation options. A popular option is the NotOnMap Mystic Village hotel (https://www.notonmap.com/destinations/himachal-pradesh/mystic-village) Tariff starts Rs. 400 per night.

Best time to visit

March to October

Must See

Visit Dainkund Peak the highest peak in Dalhousie for stunning views of snow-capped mountains.

Araku Valley
Araku Valley

Araku Valley, Andhra Pradesh

If you dream of a destination that is virtually cut off (read no phone connection), then the verdant Araku Valley must be your choice. And yes, this will ensure that you can spend all your time talking to your partner. A hill station in Vishakhapatnam district, located close to 3000 feet above sea level, Araku is a quiet oasis set amidst the beauty of nature. Start your exploration of the valley by visiting the beautiful Chaparai waterfalls or Dumbriguda Falls. Surrounded by lush green forests all around, this is a fun way to spend the day admiring nature at close quarters. Araku is also known for its coffee and a visit to a coffee plantation is a good idea when you are here. Sample the world renowned coffee it’s the best way to enjoy the rains. Do stop by at the Padmapuram Botanical Garden and Araku Tribal Museum when you are here. Non vegetarians must sample the Bongulo Chicken cooked in a bamboo stem a local delicacy here perfect in the rains. The landscape is dotted with several waterfalls that come to life in the monsoons and this is when the entire valley is swathed in the colours of nature.

NAVIGATOR

Getting There

The nearest airport is at Vishakhapatnam (115 km away). It is highly recommended to take the scenic train journey from Vishakhapatnam to Araku that passes through numerous tunnels and gives you views like no other. State highways connect Araku to important towns in Andhra Pradesh.

Stay

Being a small town there are a few small hotels in Araku that are mostly basic and nothing fancy. The Haritha Valley Resort run by AP Tourism (http://aptdc.gov.in/aptdc/getHotels?hotelPlace=ARAKU) is a good place to stay. Tariff starts from Rs. 1700 per night. However you can also stay in Vishakhapatnam if you are planning a day trip.

Best time to visit

June to October

Must See

Make the time to visit the Borra Caves located close by and admire the amazing stalagmite formations in various shapes that date back many thousand years.

Minicoy, Lakshadweep
Minicoy, Lakshadweep

Minicoy, Lakshadweep

If you want to experience the Island Life there is no better place than the Minicoy Islands in Lakshadweep. The ethereal charm of the sea in a somewhat cut off island has a romantic charm like no other, that multiplies in the monsoon. What sets this matriarchal society apart is that it has some of the best clear beaches. The fun of dipping your feet in the shallow waters that recede to reveal colourul fish is a surreal experience that will stay with you always. Located in the southernmost tip of the archipelago, the island is home to a British lighthouse that dates back to 1885 and is a major sightseeing attraction. From atop the tower are views of the Virgin Island and Arabian Sea and the view of the white sands and swaying coconut palms makes for a compelling sight. Locals here perform a dance called the lava dance that is performed on special occasions and you can join in to make memories for a lifetime. Pedal boats, kayaking and sailing and a village tour to understand the unique way in which they are designed in neat enclosures is a must here. Pick up a handcrafted boat model here which is a local craft available in vibrant colours as the perfect souvenir from this trip.

NAVIGATOR

Getting There

The nearest Airport is Agatti and there are flights that operate from Kochi to Agatti. Passenger ships like MV Minicoy, MV Bharat Seema, MV Tippu Sultan or MV Amindivi can also be boarded to sail to Lakshadweep. An airport at Minicoy is on the cards as well.

Stay

Privately managed cottages are available to be rented. The island is dotted with several beach resorts and the Minicoy Beach Resort (http://tourlakshadweep.com/minicoy-beach-resort.php ) is a good option to stay when you are here. Tariff starts from Rs. 6000 per night.

Best time to visit

June to August

Must See

Visit a tuna canning factory as this is an important place for tuna fish breeding.

Mawsynram, Meghalaya
Mawsynram, Meghalaya

Mawsynram, Meghalaya

The romance of rain is unmatchable and to see it firsthand a visit to Mawsynram the wettest place on earth in Meghalaya is a must. A small village in the East Khasi hills, this is where you can see some unique stalagmite formations. A botanical garden here is the place to reconnect with each other as your admire the bounty of nature. The oldest surviving root bridges around the village are a must see attraction here. The stunning rolling tree laden mountains, beautiful orchids and waterfalls makes the village a romantic getaway for couples. A key attraction here is the Mawjymbuin Cave that has exquisite stalagmites that have been formed over thousands of years. The star attraction here is the stalagmite shaped like a Shivalinga. Take a look at the Symper Rock here which is a dome shaped rock with a flat top. You can take many day excursions to nearby villages as well from here.

NAVIGATOR

Getting There

The nearest airport is at Umroi which is 30 km from Shillong and has connections from Kolkata and other North East capital cities. The nearest rail head is at Guwahati Railway Station about 99 km from Shillong. Mawsynram is 61 km from Shillong and roads connect the town.

Stay

Emily and Sankrita’s Homestay (https://www.airbnb.co.in/rooms/13506791?guests=1&adults=1). Tariffs start at Rs. 1500 per night.

Best time to visit

April to June

Must See

Check out the thin aerial roots that locals have knotted to be used as bridges and ladders

Pelling, Sikkim

At 6250 feet above sea level the small town of Pelling in West Sikkim is nestled amidst scenic natural vistas. When here start by visiting the Pemayangtse Monastery an old Buddhist monastery from the 17th century that is bound to give you soothing vibes. Experiencing the calm vibes is a wonderful way to stay spiritually connected too. To get up close with village life, head to the beautiful Darap Village 8 km away. To see nature in all its majesty, visit the Kanchenjunga waterfalls and also stop at the Khecheopalri Lake. The lake is believed to be a wish fulfilling space and is also a vantage spot for bird watching. Visit the Rabdentse Ruins a palace that was the capital of the Sikkim’s Kings set amidst a thick deciduous forests that also offers panoramic views of the valley as well as the majestic Kanchenjunga range. If you like wildlife, do visit the Kanchenjunga National Park. Indulge in local food like Thukpa, Thenthuk, Momos and Gundruk when you are here. The annual Khangchendzonga Festival is when you can indulge in white-water rafting, kayaking, trekking, mountain biking and more. The monsoon rains breathes life to the entire landscape and the place is less crowded too so it really is the best time to see this part of the country.

NAVIGATOR

Getting There

The nearest airport is at Bagdogra (160 kilometers away). The closest railhead is at New Jalpaiguri at a distance of 152 kilometers. Roads connect Pelling to other cities in the North East.

Stay

Pelling has a range of accommodation options from budget to luxury including heritage hotels to homestays. Ace Pine Valley (http://www.acepinevalley.com/) is a good option. Tariff starts from Rs. 1700 per night.

Best time to visit

June to September

Must See

Trekking and hiking here is a great option to explore the place in your own way and is the best way to spend quality time in the lap of nature.

Lansdowne
Lansdowne

Lansdowne, Uttarakand

A quaint hill station located 5800 feet above sea level this town has a distinct cantonment culture. For a bird’s eye view of the hill station head to the Tip-In-Top or Tiffin Top that is both a  picnic spot and a vantage view point for stunning sunrise. The magic of watching an incredible sunset is an experience like no other. The monsoon clouds swirling through the hills add an unmissable charm to the environs. This is the place to see panoramic views of the Shivalik Hills, Chaukhamba and Trishul peaks of the Garhwal Himalayas. Bird watchers can rejoice as over 600 species of birds have been recorded here. For a spiritual sojourn a visit to the Tarkeshwar Mahadev Temple 37 km outside the city and set amidst thick forests. The quaint St. Mary’s Church that dates back to 1895 built in Victorian style architecture replete with stained glass windows open on weekends is another place that must be on your to-do list here. This hill town is also home to the command office of the legendary Garhwal Rifles of the Indian Army. A stop at the artificial lake Bulla Tal for a boat ride is a fun way to add a dash of romance to your holiday.

NAVIGATOR

Getting There

The nearest airport is Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun (117 km away). The nearest railhead is at Kotdwar (40 km away). Lansdowne is connected to Kotdwar, Haridwar, Dehradun, Mussoorie and Delhi by road.

Stay

There are plenty of accommodation options in Lansdowne across budgets and the GMVN Lansdowne Tip-N-Top hotel (http://tipntop.resortsinlansdowne.com/ ) is a lovely property. Tariff starts from Rs. 5000 per night.

Best time to visit

June to September

Must See

Visit the Kalagarh Tiger Reserve 13 km from Lansdowne where you can spot several species of birds and animals including the tiger.

Hampi
Hampi

Hampi, Karnataka

The ruins of Hampi are as poignant as they are romantic. This is where poetry in stone comes alive and the many sights and sounds of this small town in North Karnataka will leave you with memories that will last you much after you have left the place. Post the arid summer, the rains are a welcome relief in this UNESCO World Heritage Site whose the unique stone formations and cultural connections make for an enticing break. Start exploring the place at the Vittala Temple Complex that houses the famed stone chariot a testament to the Vijayanagara style of art and architecture. This sprawling complex with its many temples, pavilions, halls and pillars (some of which produce musical notes) are best explored with a guide. Stop by at the Archaeological Museum of Hampi whose impressive collection of sculptures and antiques give you an insight into the might of the Vijaynagara dynasty. Also check the Hampi Bazaar a kilometer long street in front of the Virupaksha Temple which is the place where jewels and precious stones used to be traded during the Vijayanagara Empire and the site of the annual Hampi festival. And if you are a birder, Hampi is happens to be one of the best birding sites in Karnataka and you can spot some rare and unique species here.

NAVIGATOR

Getting There

Hubli is the nearest airport (about 160 km away). The nearest railhead is at Hospet (11 km away). Hampi is well connected via state and national highways to major cities in Karnataka.

Stay

Hampi has several accommodation options across price points. For a luxe stay however Evolve Back (https://www.evolveback.com/hampi/) is the perfect choice. Tariff starts at Rs. 21000 per night.

Best time to visit

July to September when the rains cool the entire place.

Must See

Take a detour to Anjanadri hills and climb up the 500 plus steps to be rewarded with a magical sunset.

This story first appeared in Discover India May-June 2019 issue here: Cover Story

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