Here is how you beat the heat this summer and take a chill pill by enjoying the destination for what it is.
Ooty & Coonoor
The Nilgiri mountains are home to the wonderful hill stations of Ooty and Coonoor and being 6600 feet above sea level, the cool climes are a welcome relief from the scorching summer. Being blessed with several natural vistas, a holiday here, is your way to come close to 2700 plus species of flowering plants, 160 plus species of fern and also see the majestic sholas of the Nilgiris. The Nilgiri tahr, an endemic species can also be found here. The grasslands and shrublands have today made way to rows and rows of tea plantations. In Ooty there are several waterfalls that make for scenic sights with the Kolakambai Fall being the highest at a height of 400 feet. Also check the Catherine Falls near Kotagiri and the Upper and Lower Pykara falls apart from the Kalhatti and Karteri Falls. The highest point in the Nilgiris is the Doddabetta Peak and you can enjoy several trekking trails here as well. In Ooty do make time to see the Ooty Lake, Botanical Gardens and the Pine Forest. At a distance of 18 km from Ooty is Conoor, known for its wildflowers and birds and I suggest you take the Nilgiri Mountain Railway (Toy Train) to reach Coonoor. Sim’s Park, Lambs Rock, Dolphins Nose and Law’s falls are some popular places to visit in Coonoor.
Spicejet flies to Coimbatore, 86 km from Ooty
Known by the moniker, the Princess of the hill stations, Kodaikanal means the gift of the forest in Tamil. The hill town is located between the Parappar and Gundar Valleys and grasslands and meadows cover the hills. Eucalyptus trees, shola forests, large rocks and cascading streams and gardens make this a delight for the nature lover. Simply walk around and it is impossible to miss the majestic cypress, eucalyptus and acacia trees. Flowering trees like rhododendron and magnolia as well as pear trees are also commonly seen. Multi-hued, large dahlias are must see at Bryant Park and the town is a splash of colour courtesy the profusion of flowers. If you are here in autumn, the ton is awash in pink with cherry blossoms. The famed Kurunji flower that blooms once in 12 years cawn also be seen in Kodiakanal. When in Kodaikanal stop by at the Pine forest, a famous shooting spot, Guna Caves, Pillar Rock Viewpoint as well as indulge in a spot of boating in Kodaikanal Lake.
Spicejet flies to Madurai, 120 km from Kodaikanal
A charming hill station in Uttarakhand, Mussoorie is close to 6600 feet above sea level and is a fascinating place thanks to its varied flora and fauna. When you are here, take a walk on the famed Camel’s Back Road that is a rocky outcrop shaped like a camel’s hump. Also stop to admire the flowers and plants in Company Garden as well as take a trip to Happy Valley home to India’s first Tibetan temple. Hike to Lal Tibba and soak in the majestic views of the Himalayas. When you are here, do not miss heading to Landour, a cantonment town on the north of Mussoorie, where you can see the Nag Tibba Range of the Himalayas. Simply walk among the deodar cedar, Himalayan oak, blue pine and Himalayan maple trees and also spot the Garhwal Himalayan range. With over 350 species of birdlife recorded, this is an avian lover’s paradise. The Kempty Falls, Soham heritage & Art Centre and Christ Church are some sights to see.
Spicejet flies to Dehradun about 35 km from Mussoorie
Himachal Pradesh’s capital city, Shimla has an inextricable connection with India’s freedom movement as this is where meetings like Simla Accord of 1914 and the Simla Conference of 1945 happened. As such, the British influence on the town is unmissable and you must take time to admire the architecture dating back to the colonial era manifests itself in buildings built in the Neo Gothic and Tudorbethan styles. Attractions here include Viceroy Lodge, Christ Church, Jakhoo Temple, Mall Road and the Ridge. Hop on to the famed Kalka–Shimla train a UNESCO World Heritage Site and check out the Indian connection to this British construction at the Baba Balkuram museum. Shimla also has the largest natural ice skating rink in South Asia, so you can indulge in a spot of adventure here. The air in the hills is pure, so make the most of it by trekking in the local mountains and meandering roads and to the meadows at Annadale, The Glen, Wildflower Hall and stop by at the quaint village of Mashobra.
Spicejet flies to Chandigarh, 115 km from Shimla
An eternal favourite holiday destination, Goa is much more than its famed beaches and this summer go off the beaten track and explore the natural vistas of India’s smallest state. For starters, explore the Portuguese connect and take a walk in Fontainhas, the Latin quarter of Panjim and you will not stop admiring the colourful homes, ancient architecture as well as the traditional living style that is still in vogue here. A visit to the ancient churches here are a perfect way to see the unique amalgamation of Hindu Goan and Portuguese architecture. To come up close with the biodiversity of the state, head to its relatively unknown mangrove habitat home to varied birds and wildlife and can be best seen while kayaking on the rivers – Mandovi, Sal, Zuari, Terekhol, Chapora and Mapura. Also enjoy wildlife in the Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary and stunning birds at Dr. Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary. With varied forts, museums, beaches and churches, there is also much to see and do in Goa.
Spicejet flies to Goa from several cities in India.
This story appeared in the April 2018 issue of Spice Route as the cover story here: Cover Story
Another part of this story is done by fellow Bangalorean and ace writer Anita Rao Kashi.