The heat is on this summer and being holiday season the summers also signal travel plans. We handpick some Spicejet destinations that are sure to make your summer break memorable.
The summer sun is shining bright and with school holidays on it is the time to plan your next summer break. With a plethora of options in India there is really no dearth of choice but when you are travelling with family, one of the key considerations is accessibility. The diverse landscape of India offers several options where you can explore the many dimensions of the country. So whether it is a culture holiday, mountain adventure or wildlife that you seek, there is all this and much more. After all India has a vibrant culture that varies every 50 odd kilometers which means there is never a moment of boredom. And travel of course is a way to open your mind to an entire new world while broadening your perspectives. Of course it is of prime importance that the destination has something for everyone. Well, this might seem like a tall order but it is not really as difficult when you look at this list of destinations that can be accessed via Spicejet. So, well it is time to get, set packing.
The North eastern state of Sikkim is where the landscape is dramatic courtesy the undulating Himalayan range, beautiful meadows and stunning wildflowers in its natural environs. Start your exploration at the capital city Gangtok’s Rumtek Monastery the center of the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism that was originally built by Karmapa Wangchuk Dorje in 1740 and has been renovated last in 1959. A stop at the Tsongmo Lake 40 km from Gangtok a large lake that is inhabited by Brahminy Ducks as well as a favourite with migratory birds is a must. Tucked amidst a lush forest cover, the lake is revered by both Buddhists and Hindus who believe that the birds do not allow even one leaf to float on the lake’s surface. Being in a restricted area an inner line permit is required by Indians to visit this place. Sikkim is also home to the Nathu La pass that also needs special permission one day in advance before it can be visited. The Harbajan Singh Baba Temple located close to the Nathu La pass is a well-known place as well. The Gurudongmar Lake that stands at an altitude of 5150 meters freezes in winter is sacred as a part of it is considered to be touched by Guru Padmasambhava. Sikkim also offers numerous trekking trails and the Dzongri trek gives you a stunning view of the unique landscape. Also visit the Yumthang Valley home to several exotic, rare and wild flowers and is a riot of colour. Since there is a strong Buddhist influence in the state you will find several monasteries like the Lingdum Monastery and Enchey Monastery here.
- Nearest airport: Gangtok
- Best known for: Largest cardamom producing place
- When established: 17th century by the Namgyal dynasty
- What to shop for: Sikkimese cups with colourful art especially dragons printed on them as well as Buddhist Prayer Flags.
- Must-try food dishes: Apart from momos and Thukpas (noodle soup), try the Phagshapa a strip of pork fat stewed with radishes and dry chilies and wash it down with Chhang / Tongba a locally brewed millet beer.
Located in the Sahyadri mountain range in the Western Ghats, Mahabaleshwar is a hill station surrounded by evergreen forests that make it a perfect summer getaway. The hill town is home to the famed Pratapgarh Fort that towers 3450 feet above sea level. This fort is the pride of the Marathas and has a lower and upper portion and was used by Shivaji to strategize all his military expeditions. A huge statue of Shivaji that weighs a whopping four tons is seen atop the fort. Once you climb to the top you will be rewarded with magnificent views of the mountain ranges all around. Another must see destination here is the Venna Lake also a popular tourist attraction of Mahabaleshwar. The lake was built by Appasaheb Maharaj in 1842 and is surrounded by greenery. Boat rides are a common way to enjoy the lake and you can also hop on to a horse for a ride around the lake. There are several restaurants that dot the lake which makes it a popular pit stop with both locals and tourists alike. Close by is the famed Mapro Garden that hosts the annual strawberry festival. A food processing company, you can actually visit the factory and see the entire process of making the candies. The older part of Mahabaleshwar has some fantastic view points as well as architecture that is admirable. For a spiritual fix, check out the Krishnabai temple where the Krishna river that is believed to originate here is worshiped. Do stop by at the 3 Monkey Point a natural sculpture of stones that resemble three monkeys and Arthur seat point a vantage view point.
- Nearest airport: Pune
- Best known for: Strawberries
- When established: 1829
- What to shop for: Goodies from Mapro, especially the Falero fruit based candies, jams, squashes and preserves and of course fresh strawberries in the season.
- Must-try food dishes: Strawberry ice cream and Corn Pattice.
Arguably one of the best skiing destinations of India, Auli in Uttarakand is the perfect summer break. Set amidst the Garhwal Himalayan range, the place is dotted with apple orchards, pine and deodar trees. With stunning natural vistas, the destination is also popular for its treks that get you close to the snowcapped mountains. Standing at an elevation of 2800 meters above sea levels, the mountains of Nanda Devi, Dunagiri, Mana Parvat and Kamet are located in Auli. Auli also has Asia’s longest and one of the highest cable car rides that covers 4 kilometres and is at a height of 3010 meters above the sea level. The locals believe that the revered saint Adi Shankaracharya visited Auli in the 8th century and there are a number of religious sites here as well. Incidentally Joshimath which is one of the four ‘maths’ created by Adi Shankaracharya can be reached via cable car from Auli. The Kalpavriksha and Narsingh temples are 14 kms from Joshimath. 1 km ahead of Gurso Bugyal is a small yet beautiful lake Chattrakund. Another popular trekking destination 12 kms from Gurso Bugyal, Kwani Bugya is at 3380 meters above sea level. A relatively quiet place that remains largely inaccessible due to lack of motorable roads is the Chenab Lake that is after the last village of Joshimath, Dang Village. The highest manmade lake in the world, the Auli artificial lake is another must see place here. Located close by is the Nanda Devi National Park that has amazing flora and fauna.
- Nearest airport: Dehradun
- Best known for: Skiing, this is the best pace to do a quick skiing course.
- When established: 8th century AD.
- What to shop for: Woolen items especially shawls, sweaters and caps.
- Must-try food dishes: The hillside Maggi noodles are a must try.
Located 1475 meters above sea level, Dharamshala is located in the beatiful Kangra Valley and is often labeled as the ‘Little Lhasa of India’. Best known for being the holy residence of the Dalai Lama, Dharamshala is nestled amidst the Dhauladhar ranges and is surrounded by deodar cedar trees and snowcapped peaks which frame the landscape beautifully. A popular summer destination, Dharamshala is divided into two parts the lower division is Dharamsala town and the upper division is called Mcleodganj. Naturally there is a strong Buddhist influence which is manifested in the quaint old monasteries here. The most important landmark here is the residence of the Dalai Lama the Namgyal Monastery which is also the largest Tibetan temple outside Tibet. About 200 Tibetan monks live here and this is a center of learning and the monks work tirelessly to preserve the rituals, skills and traditions. This is a hub for Tibetans and is known for the St. John Church, dedicated to John the Baptist built using neo-Gothic architecture. The Belgian stained-glass windows here are a specialty and interesting the Church has survived the 1905 Kangra earthquake as well. The Tibetan New Year is celebrated through the Losar Festival held annually. To experience the majesty of nature stop at the Bhagsunag Fall that falls from a height of 20 meters and is home to an old temple as well as a fresh water spring. Some of the popular markets that you must visit here include the Kotwali Bazar where you can buy Tibetan trinkets, mandala paintings, thangkas, prayer wheels and other Knick knacks. Also stop at Mcleodganj where you can buy Tibetan handicrafts and carpets. Do check out the Green Shop run by the Tibetan Welfare Office which deals with eco-friendly products.
- Nearest airport: Dharamshala
- Best known for: Being the residence of the 14th Dalai Lama
- When established: 1849
- What to shop for: Tibetan handicrafts
- Must-try food dishes: Tibetan food and Momos
Rising 1700 meters above sea level in the majestic Western Ghats, Munnar is a hill station in Kerala that is a favourite haunt all year round especially for its salubrious climate in the summer. This is where you will be treated to undulating views of tea gardens and the terraced plantations make for a compelling visual here. When you are in Munnar, a visit to the Eravikulam National Park is a must as this where you can spot the endangered Nilgiri Tahr apart from several species of butterflies, animals and birds. The endemic Neelakurinji blooms here once in twelve years. To take in the beauty of nature a trek to the Anamudi Peak located within the Eravikulam National Park which is the highest peak in South India with permission from the Forest and Wildlife authorities at Eravikulam is a good idea. About 13 km from Munnar is Mattupetty known for its storage masonry dam and beautiful lake where boat rides are the best way to enjoy the landscape. Do stop at the first hydro-electric project in Kerala at Pallivasal whose scenic beauty makes it a favourite picnic spot. Another place that must be on your itinerary is Chinnakanal whose Power House Waterfalls make for a beautiful sight in the Western Ghat ranges. From here, seven kilometers away is Anayirangal, which is home to a dam and the place is shrouded in green courtesy the tea plantations and evergreen forests. Since this is tea land, a visit to the Tea Museum located in the Nallathanni Estate of Tata Tea which is a storehouse of information on the evolution of tea plantations is a must. This is where you can admire artifacts, photographs and machinery used to process tea and also sip a hot cup of tea.
- Nearest airport: Kochi
- Best known for: Tea plantations
- When established: 19th Century
- What to shop for: Flavoured teas, local spices, curry powders and cocoa.
- Must-try food dishes: Appam with stew, Malabar Parotta, Idiyappam with Egg Curry and Kerala Prawn Curry
Located within the Nilgiri Biosphere, Masinagudi is where you can enjoy nature uninterrupted. Being next to the famed Mudumalai Wildlife sanctuary, Masinagudi with its moist deciduous forests is perfect to walk, trek and indulge in bird watching. Bird lovers can spot several species here including the crested hawk eagle, crested serpent eagle, woodpeckers, mynas, owls, barbets and parakeets. This is also home to varied wildlife including elephants, gaurs, deer, langurs and the Malabar giant squirrel. The best way to see this up close is to hop on to a jeep safari that will take you on a two hours wilderness ride. This is ticketed and happens early morning and late evening. Also visit the Maravakandy Dam that was built in 1951 that also has an animal watching tower. Being a place where animals come to quench their thirst, this is where you can spot several wild animals too. Being adjacent to the Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary do make time to go on a wildlife safari that is home to Bengal tigers, leopards and several other species. A visit to the beautiful Moyar River that separates the Bandipur the Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuaries is a good idea as well. Apart from enjoying fishing and boating activities, this is also a spot for wild animal sightings as it is a water body. Again being very scenic this place also happens to be a photographer’s delight. Camping in Masinagudi is a popular way to explore the natural vistas as well. Do make time to visit the Theppakadu Elephant Camp that is home to a large number of rescued elephants who are trained here. This is where you can also see how the elephants are fed. Just make sure you are here in the morning or evening at the feeding time.
- Nearest airport: Coimbatore
- Best known for: Madhumalai wildlife sanctuary and elephant habitat
- When established: 1940
- What to shop for: Spices, Tea dust, Coffee powder, Eucalyptus oil and jackfruit.
- Must-try food dishes: Try the Badaga cuisine which includes The Badaga Chicken curry or Koi Udaka, masala fried fish fillets and Gaasu Dotti, a local bread.
This story first appeared in Spice Route April 2019 issue here: