Waterfalls we know are synonymous with the monsoons, their beauty and vigor unparallel, but wildlife parks and hill towns are not far behind, the rich green awning, the little dew drops hanging from the tip of the leaves, the chirping birds, the colors of green and brown against the changing colors of the sky, calls out to the nature lover, to go out and explore.
So here we are out and about, hopping from wildlife parks to hill towns, giving you a lowdown on the best of “Incredible India”.
Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary
District: Mysore, Karnataka
How to reach: Nearest airport is at Bangalore & nearest railhead is Mysore.
Park Entrance Fee: Rs 10 – Indians, Rs 50 – Foreigners
Stay: Ideal for a day trip from Mysore.
Our first haunt brings us closer home to the Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary. Situated on the banks of the river Cauvery, the several islets and abundance of aquatic insects make it the most desirable habitat of birds during the monsoon. An important Asian nesting and breeding ground for several migratory birds like spoon bills, open bill storks, darters and white ibis to name a few, make this place a bird lovers paradise. A boat ride is the best way to get a closer look at the flora, fauna and the bird life on Karnataka tour packages. The park is open from 9 am to 6 pm
Thekkady: Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
District: Thekkady, Kerala
How to reach: Nearest airport is Cochin & nearest railhead is Kottayam & Ernakulam.
Boat Safari Timings: 7 am, 9 am, 11 am, 2 pm & 4pm
Park Entrance Fee: Rs 25 – Indians, Rs 300 – Foreigners
Stay: There are several resorts and hotels in the region and is Ideal for a long weekend
From the bird sanctuary in Karnataka we set foot into God’s Own Country – Kerala, putting aside the backwaters we hit it rough with a visit to the Periyar Widlife Sanctuary.
A visit to the sanctuary and you are sure to be spell bound by nature's splendor, on the banks of the Periyar lake – the artificial lake is filled to the brim in the monsoons.Located on the high ranges of the Western Ghats clad in dense evergreen, moist deciduous forests and savannah grass lands, this wildlife sanctuary is home to elephants, sambars, tigers, gaurs, lion tailed macaques and Nilgiri langurs which are easily spotted while cruising on the lake. You can capture the beauty of the lake and the wildlife on elephant back, and get a bird’s eye view of all that nature has to offer on Thekkady tours in South India. A trek to the ruins of Managala Devi temple, a beautiful stone temple situated in the heart of the Thekkady forest is sure a one of kind experience. The park is open from 6 am to 6 pm.
Bharatpur: Keoladeo Ghana National Park
District: Bharatpur, Rajasthan
How to reach: Nearest airport is at Agra at 56 km, nearest railhead is Bharatpur.
Park Entrance Fee: Rs 25 – Indians, Rs 200 – Foreigners
Boat Ride: Best way to explore the park, Rs 100 per person/hour
Stay: There are several resorts and hotels in the region and is ideal weekend getaway
From the calm and serene backwaters and velvet green expanses, we head to the desert state of Rajasthan. The state is home to one of the finest bird sanctuaries in the country. Home to more than 300 species of our feathered friends, this park is also known as the Keoladeo Ghana National Park. It gets the name Keoladeo from an ancient Hindu temple inside the park devoted to Lord Shiva and “Ghana” meaning dense, which refers to the thick forest area. Bharatpur is a popular place to holiday in Rajasthan.
The Bharatpur lake around which this colorful bird paradise is located, is a man made lake contructed to save the town from floods. This park was declared a World Heritage site in December 1985. Each year the park is home to several migratory birds coming from Siberia and Central Asia, including animals like Sambar, Chital, Nilgai and Boar.
This park is unique in the way it can be explored, you can hire a cycle for Rs 25 for a day or a cycle rickshaw for Rs 50 per hour, if your rickshaw puller displays a yellow plate, it means he doubles up as your guide too, carrying binoculars! The park is open from 6 am to 6 pm and the best time to visit: is during Aug-Nov for resident birds and Oct-Feb for migratory birds.
District: Hoshangabad, Madhya Pradesh
How to reach: The nearest airport is at Bhopal, 195kms away, and the nearest railhead is Pipariya.
Stay: The hill town is dotted with several stay options and is ideal for a weekend getaway.
From the wild to the hinterland, we head to the state of Tigers- Madhya Pradesh. The state is best known for its wildlife sanctuaries, but most sanctuaries here remain closed during the monsoons. So, we make the best of the season and head to the hills. The path to the hills leads us to the saucer shaped valley of Pachmarhi. The valley is at a height of 3500 ft, amidst the rocky Satpura mountain range. The Emerald donned valley is in full bloom with bubbling streams, lush green forests and deep gorges.
This little town has several little streams and pools like the Fairy pool, Big Falls at a short 10 minute walk over a rocky terrain, the famous Bee falls and the Tridhara where two streams meet makes for a lovely monsoon getaway. Vanshree Vihar is a beautiful picnic spot with trees and ferns all around, and for the more adventurous a short trek to the Duchess Falls you can enjoy the cascading waters and enjoy a swim too!
Before we wrap up our trip around this quaint hill town, a visit to the famous Pachmarhi caves is a must. The mystic caves have animal paintings, pottery shards and much more tracing back to the past. One of the caves here was the place the Pandava’s stayed!
District: Lonavala, Maharashtra
How to reach: A short 60km drive from Pune will bring you to Lonavala. Pune is the nearest airport and the railhead at Lonavala is well connected.
Stay: This popular hill town has several stay options and is ideal for a weekend getaway.
From Madhya Pradesh we head to the hill town paradise included in most of Maharashtra tours. The states several picturesque hill towns come alive in the monsoons. Our first stop is along the Khandala-Lonavala belt, the drive to the Kune Falls in Lonavala is simply splendid. It more seems like a waterfalls gallery with so many big and small streams and waterfalls flowing by. As we drive through one of the many tunnels, we come out of what seems like the last one and there we have the three-tiered falls cascading down the hills. This sure makes for a beautiful picnic spot to enjoy the views and snack on some monsoon delights!
District: Raigad, Maharashtra
How to reach: The nearest airport is Mumbai and nearest railhead is Neral.
Stay: This popular hill town has several stay options and is ideal for a weekend getaway.
From tours from Pune to Mumbai, we head to the picturesque little hill retreat of Matheran. This little town was brimming in all its post monsoon glory, visiting the towns many vantage points, Panorama Point, Heart Point, Echo Point, Louisa Point and Sunset Point amongst others is the best way to soak in the best of what Mother Nature has to offer. Each of these points offer spectacular views, like the Panorama point is true to its name and a popular picnic spot in the region, the Heart point offers great views of Mumbai later in the evening, Louisa point is famous for its beautiful views of the waterfalls in the region and the Sunset point is a perfect way to end an evening at the hill town, with great views of the Prabalgad Fort one of Chattrapati Shivaji’s forts along the horizon. The crowning glory of the monsoons in Matheran is the Charlotte Lake, filled to the brim, offers some great views. A picture postcard complete, with the lake flanked by the Pisarnath temple to the left and the Louisa point to the right, will sure keep you coming back to this hill town.
District: Sindhudurg, Maharashtra
How to reach: The nearest airport is Belgaum at 64 km and the nearest railhead is Sawantwadi at 28 km. A weekend getaway from Pune is perfect as it is 346 km away.
Stay: This unexplored hill town has both budget and luxury resorts with all amenities and is Ideal for a weekend getaway.
From one beautiful city to another and we reach Amboli, the unexplored jewel of Maharashtra. Sitting pretty at an altitude of 690 meters,amidst the beautiful Sahayadri hills, this has been the centre of Eco-Tourism around the region. Known for its flora and fauna, this place promises for some breath taking views, by views I mean a glimpse of the coast line (!), yes a bird’s eye view of the Konkan coast can be caught from this pretty hill town. Travelers like you and me are left mesmerized by the swelling waterfalls post monsoon, the green canopy across the forest, the beautiful Hiranyakeshi Shiva temple located at the cave where the water emerges, the several panoramic view points such as Sea Point, Purvicha Vas and Mahadevgad point – all of which offer great views of the Konkan coast merging with the Arabian sea.
A monsoon delight is a visit to the Nagatra and Narayangad falls, which are about 9 km away, are perfect for a picnic or to enjoy some angling. Shopping for the famous Savantwadi wooden toys and food items made of Kokum – a sour fruit. All in all this is one hill station which is picturesque,pretty and perfect place to relax, unwind and go for long walks along un-trodden paths amidst the scenic hillscapes and misty forests.
District: Uttarkashi, Uttaranchal
How to reach: The nearest airport is Jolly Grant at Dehradun 152 km away and the main railhead is Kotdwar. A 250 km drive from the nation’s capital makes it an weekend getaway.
Stay: Hotel Fairy Dale is a good option to stay.
Hill towns and their charm never seem to tire me, as living in the city can really make those glimpses of the hills, lush green forests, little streams and fresh mountain air screeching in happiness. So here we are in yet another hill town, where the serenity and calm was palpable, and in its true sense “untouched” with unparallel beauty which is a part of most of HP holiday packages.
Influences of the British rule can be seen everywhere, starting from its very name which is got from the then Viceroy Lord Lansdowne, to the churches and buildings built during the pre independence era –Lansdowne.
Enjoy your chai and head out to visit the Regimental Museum, a walk down memory lane; see architectural influences at the St. Mary’s Church and St. Johns Church, closer to nature - an artificial lake- Bhulla Tal where you can enjoy a scenic boat ride, later an easy trek through the rugged terrains and dense forests takes you to the famous tourist spot- Tip-In-Top, and wrap up your things to do list with a trek to Hawaghar, which passes through the Khyber Pass along the road to Jaiharikhal, and before you know the weekend is gone by and you leave Lansdowne with thoughts as clear as the gurgling stream and plans to come back soon, just like I did!