From the hills of Yelagiri my travels take me further up to
the “Cherapunjee of the South – Agumbe”, here I’m welcomed by the lush green
rain forest cover fresh from the monsoons which have just gone by. This
charming hill station to holiday in South India, is a trekker’s paradise with its endless nature trails. I
choose to stay at a place swelling with history and old world charm –
Doddamane; an old house run by two old ladies offering their house to visitors
to stay and enjoy home cooked meals all for free, so you can choose to pay them
as much or as little as you like.
District: Shimoga, Karnataka
How to reach: The nearest airport is at Mangalore. The nearest railhead is Shimoga.
Stay: Ideal for weekend trip from Bangalore, 347 km away, with not many stay options, you can choose to stay at Doddamane for a rustic old world experience.
Feeling refreshed after a nice bath with water heated over a
stack of wood, I set out to explore this hill town for myself. I visit several
little waterfalls, rivers and streams which are in its full glory after the
monsoons. The white crystal like water gushing down the rocks at Kunchikal
Falls from a height of 1493 feet is known to be amongst the highest waterfalls
in the country. From one gurgling cascade I bump into yet another picturesque
bubbling waterfall called the Jogigundi Falls and OnakiAbbi Falls which is
where I decide to enjoy my little picnic basket which I packed to satisfy my
taste buds! After lunch I head to the Lord
Gopalakrishna temple built in the 14th century and pay my respects
and take a closer look at the architecture and carvings. Coming here you can
also visit the Kudremukh National Park and Someshwar Wildlife Sanctuary for
some great spotting like I did. Before you call it a day, do not forget to
catch a glimpse of the splendid sunset dipping into the horizon along the
Arabian Sea. With this I wrap up my state Karnataka and head to the neighboring
state of Chennai!
From the Metro city of Bangalore I make by next base the
city Idli Sambaar and Kachipuram saris – Chennai. From here a 4 hour tours from Chennai brings me to one of the most ancient mountain ranges dating back to the
Pre-Cambrian period, I’m told by a local who I chat up with. The pristine views
of the green canopy over the hills are simply breathtaking. Its not only the
views which are inviting here, but so are the nomadic Paliyan tribes who dwell
in this region, an interaction I had with them with the help of a local was an
experience in itself, seeing them blend the best of old and new and still stay
District: Dindugal, Tamil Nadu
How to reach: The nearest airport is at Coimbatore. The nearest railhead is Dindugal.
Stay: Ideal for a day trip from madurai, coimbatore, trichy, kodaikanal, dindigul which are 2-3 hours away from Palani.
Next I set for some bird watching, this region known for its
eco friendly environs attracts birds like the Golden Backed Woodpecker which we
spotted sitting pretty on the bark of a tree. My quest for wildlife brought me
to the areas best known region called Bison Wells. Wondering what’s the story
behind the name, my guide tells me that a lot of Bison’s in the region come
here to quench their thirst at the natural wells in the region, and so the
name! With that I wrap up by wild wilderness experience and hit the road all
set to rough it out again!
From the hills to a hill town that is blessed with pristine
views of lush green tea plantations and crisp mountain air, a rejuvenated
feeling sets in as I enter this hill town perched at an altitude of 1839
meters. Have a little time on hand like I did, then a fun way to experience the
hills is by hopping on the toy train on the Metupalayam and Ooty 28km line.
With the sound of the train, the serene hills and the mountain breeze, I was
transported to another world altogether, before the train came to a grinding
halt! My next stop was at the local botanical garden called Sim’s Park, it was
sight to cherish the happy flowers and rich green leaves in full bloom and
loving the weather nduring the trip to Coonoor.
District: Nilgiri, Tamil Nadu
How to reach: The nearest airport is at Coimbatore.
Stay: Ideal for weekend trip from Chennai,496 km away, with both budget and luxury options.
Stepping out of Sim’s
Park I decided to take a stroll in the local market, the best place to check
out the fresh local produce and the local people of the region. From here I
decided to visit Catherine Falls in its full glory after the monsoons, in love
with nature’s wonders I move on to something on every travelers must do list, shopping!
I hopped in and out of several tiny local stores and packed myself some fresh
tea, shadow work sheets for the house and something not to miss out on are the
fruits found here like the Mulberry,
Passion fruit and Ambrosia. After my shopping spree I end my day and wrap up my journey in the south and go higher up!
From the hills of South I head up North to the region of
snow capped Himalayas and blue lakes – Mcleodganj. This small hill town tucked
away in the upper part of Dharmshala, nestled amidst the Dhaluadhar mountains,
it goes unsaid that it’s the most scenic region. As I look around the town the
strong influences of Buddhism and Tibetan culture are evident. Colorful and
beautiful monasteries sprinkled in the region catch my attention as I set out
to embrace and imbibe the peace and tranquility of this place both physically
and spiritually. After a tour of the monasteries, next on my list is one of the
biggest and most famous Buddhist temples in the region called Tsuglag Khang.
Located opposite to Dalai Lama’s residence, a feeling of inner peace and calm
sets in while at the temple.
District: Kangra, Himachal Pradesh
How to reach: The nearest airport is at Gaggal 30 km away. The nearest railhead is at Kangra and Nagrota.
Stay: Ideal for weekend trip from Delhi, with both budget and luxury options.
From here I head to what’s a must see on my list, the
Norbulingka Institute – the centre of Tibetan arts and crafts. Looking at the
artisans at work, engrossed in their intricate weaves is sight to remember.
From weaves to performing arts I head to the Tibetan Institute for Performing
Arts, where traditional Tibetan dance and Opera are practiced. The last dot on
the arts piece can be seen at the Naam Art Gallery which has art pieces done by
A.W.Hallet who lived in the region for 40 years due to his sheer passion for
nature and the regions culture. The Gallery is open from 10am to 7pm and closed
on Mondays, so make sure you mark this on your itinerary while on your McLeodganj tours in Himachal Pradesh!
My hunt for picturesque hills has brought me 17 km away from
Nainital to a nature lover’s harbor - Jeolikot holiday in Uttaranchal. A town famous for fluttering
colorful butterflies and floriculture is perfectly located against the backdrop
of the Kumaon hills. As I make my way to the town, a look into my guide book
tells me that this place is not only known for its beauty but also for its
spiritual powers as great Guru’s like Shri Aurobindo and Swami Vivekananda
meditated in the calm and quiet of the region.
District: Nainital, Uttaranchal
How to reach: The nearest airport is at Delhi. The nearest railhead is at Kathgodam.
Stay: Ideal day trip from Nainital, while on a weekend getaway from Delhi which is 277 km away, with both both budget and luxury options in Nainital
Soaking in the sights of the valley it was time to dive into
what the city has to offer and my first stop was a “abuzz” literally at the Bee
Keeping Centre, a closer look at these buzzing creatures and I was off to the
horticulture outlet for some fresh honey. Honey in my backpack I move on to
visit an ancient temple. From sightseeing to some trekking I take a short walk
down from my cottage to enjoy my picnic basket. Alert and enthusiastic I sling
my binoculars and head out for some bird watching. Having done so much in a
day, i couldn’t think of a better way to end my trip to Jeolikot than to dig
into some interesting buys like the fresh Kiwi fruit, mushrooms, olives and
ripe red strawberries. Just when I was all packed and ready to leave I spotted
tiny saplings of vibrant geraniums and couldn’t help picking up a few for my
tiny garden back home!
I land in the city of Mishti Doi, a city I have visited
often but this time I’m here to make it my base as my journeys are destined to
be high up in the hills. My first haunt in the region brings me to the
beautiful hill town sandwiched between Siliguri and Gangtok. The route to this
hill town with its twirls and swirls and the swiftly flowing Teesta River was
icing on the cake for a nature lover like me. As I enter the town I realize I’m
perched at a height of 1250 meters and blessed with splendid views of
Mt.Kanchenjunga and the Himalayan peaks. Before I head to hotel, I decide to
make a stop at Durpin Dara and Deora Hill which are famous vantage points in
the hill town. After capturing panoramic views in my Nikon D50 I head to my
hotel to get some rest before I head out to paint the town red!
District: Darjeeling, West Bengal
How to reach: The nearest airport is at Bagdogra. The nearest railhead is at New Jalpaiguri.
Stay: Ideal for weekend trip from Kolkata, 284 km away, with both budget and luxury options
Refreshed and energetic I first visit Dr.Grahams house which
is an hour’s walk from the city centre. Founded in 1900 on the slopes of Deolo
Hill, some of the must see spots here are the Chapel with stain glass
paintings, the school building with its huge grounds where you can choose to
enjoy a small picnic and 40min away from here is Deolo Hill from where you can
enjoy impressive views of Kalimpong. After a dose of history I turn to
spirituality with my visit to the Durpin-Dara Monastery. Built in mid 1970’s,
the monastery was sanctified by Dalai Lama himself. Coming out from here, you
are welcomed by vast stretches of lush green pastures of the golf course –
playing here gives you the feeling of playing on the edge; literally! With history, nature and
spirituality conquered I head to the next destination marked on my map…
My itchy feet this time have brought me to a land which is
perched on the ridge of hill at an altitude of 1700 meters. Known for its
scenic beauty, coming here I know why, with marvelous views of the Kanchenjunga.
While most of my travels before this have wrapped up in a day and a half I
decide to spend the entire weekend here for the sheer amount of things I have
to see and do.
I start off by visiting the Rumtek Monastery on my Gangtok tour packages which is amongst
the largest in the eastern Himalayas. Taking a closer look at its architecture
and intricate traditional designs, my thoughts race to appreciate the
craftsmanship which has gone into making this beautiful structure. From an
intricately carved monastery to one which is famous for its Cham dance I visit
the Enchey Monastery, which literally means Solitary temple was built back in
the time with solace that no other construction would be allowed around it.
District: East Sikkim, Sikkim
How to reach: The nearest airport is at Bagdogra near Siliguri. The nearest railhead is at New Jalpaiguri.
Stay: Ideal for weekend trip from Kolkata, 693 km away, with both budget and luxury options.
From man made to something closer to nature I visit the
Tsomgo Lake – meaning ‘Source of the Lake’. This placid lake at 3780 meters is
held sacred among the locals here I’m told.
From here I head to a place I have always wanted to visit – Nathula pass
on the India-China border. With so much political turmoil among the nations,
but come here and the only thing you can feel is a sense of serenity and calm.
I made sure I hit the shutterbugs with a Chinese Soldier and waved a friendly
‘bye’ to some Chinese tourists on the other side!
Day two began with a traditional Tibetan breakfast Momo’s
and spicy sauce dipping. Tummy full I head to visit the Do-Drul Chorten(Stupa).
This Stupa has a complete collection of Holy Books, Holy Chants and religious
objects. Now for some tourist fascination, there are 10 Mani-Lhakor (prayer
wheels), spinning them as I walk by was something I had fancied for a long
time; fancy for me but this has great religious significance to the Tibetans.
Before I wrapped up by visit here I visit Tashi View point and catch panoramic
views of Mt Siniolchu and Mt Kanchenjunga.
With memories captured behind my lens I get ready for my next base in
the heart of ‘Dahi Misal' and ‘aika dajiba’ – Pune.
Making this bustling hub my base I head to the hills high up
at 1305 meters, 18 km east of Mahabaleshwar on the river side of the Sahyadri
ranges – Panchgani. With the splendid scenary of the Valley, views of lush
green paddy fields against hilly terrains on one side and coastal plains on the
other, makes for a picturesque sight.
District: Satara, Maharashtra
How to reach: The nearest airport is at Pune. The nearest railhead is at Pune.
Stay: Ideal for weekend trip from Pune, 95 km away, with both budget and luxury options.
Once I settle into my tiny cottage and sip on some hot tea
taking in the views and breathing the crisp mountain air, I feel ready for a
long day ahead. I start off by a visit to the mystical caves of Rajpuri. A
religious spot, it is surrounded by several ponds and devotees believe that taking
a dip here relives them of diseases and evils. Going by this believe, I take a
dip hoping to leave behind the cause of my permanently running nose high up here
in the hills!! After the dip I visit the Lord Karthikeya temple which is
believed to be built out of the sand taken from the Rajpuri caves.
After some spiritual cleansing and offering my prayers I
visit Parsi Point, where I decide to enjoy some goodies from my picnic basket,
while enjoying panoramic views of Dhom Dam backwaters and the rich flora of
Krishna Valley. After a treat for the tummy and eyes I head to visit Asia’s
second longest mountain plateau- Tableland.
Splendid views and a great place for some fun sports, I leave enjoying
this place having enjoyed the whole experience thoroughly.
From the pristine hills of Panchgani, my last destination
marked off is the small thriving hamlet of Kolad on the Mumbai-Goa route.
Sprinkled with several little ponds and waterfalls, I couldn’t have found a
better place to end my hill station haunt which will be a combination of
leisure and some adrenaline rushing river rafting too!
Situated on the banks of river Kundalika I thought let me
start with some adventure and rough it out, so I dived into a river rafting
experience. After some quick instructions and all strapped up it was time to
take on the rapids! After an hour of adrenaline rush we were back to the calm
waters of the river brimming in excitement.
District: Raigad, Maharashtra
How to reach: The nearest airport is at Mumbai. The nearest railhead is Kolad which lies on the Konkan rail line.
Stay: Ideal for weekend trip from Mumbai, 113 km away, you can stay at Doctor’s farm.
After my adventure I head for more serene experiences like
visiting some of the nearby waterfalls which are swelling with water post the
monsoons. A perfect place to enjoy a sumptuous lunch packed by my host at
Doctor’s Farm, I leave the falls after spending some leisure time relaxing
after that rough rafting ride! On reaching the farm I find that they have
strategically placed fishing rods at all the banks, so I decided to try my hand
at some fishing. Did I get lucky (?), nope, but I sure did get tired and hopped
across to the river side restaurant for some sea food delights.
With this I ended by long, picturesque, calm and peaceful
hill station hunt and got back to my base to share this with you all. Hope
you’ll liked it and are inspired to jot down some pointers and get packing for
your long weekend coming ahead!