Beautiful Monsoon Destinations In India

I’m busy packing for a trip as I type today’s post. (Keep an eye on my social media updates to know where I’m headed! 😉 ) The weather in my city is unpredictable this time of the year – it pours heavily a few minutes, then it’s sunny as if it never rained. However, I’ll have to leave Mumbai alone in this game of hide-n-seek as I go to a part of India I’ve never explored before. Meanwhile, I have collaborated with three of my travel writer friends to tell you about four places from four different parts of this country that you can holiday in while the rains are on:-

East: Cooch Behar – West Bengal

Cooch Behar Palace

Cooch Behar Palace

The state of West Bengal has so much more to offer than the oft-hyped hill station of Darjeeling. If you are looking to beat the clutter of Kolkata and the tourist-traps of the Eastern Himalayas, catch a train to Cooch Behar. Before the independence of India, the region was a princely state under the reign of Maharaja Nripendra Narayan. This district in North Bengal looks ravishing in the monsoon! Enjoy the idyllic backyard ponds of old brick-houses where Bengali men gather to talk about politics and education while they indulge in fishing – a favourite pastime.

If you appreciate history and architecture, take a tour of the majestic Cooch Behar Palace which was built in the late 19th century. Boasting of Italian Rennaissance design, this mansion draws its inspiration from London’s Buckingham Palace. There is a museum inside that displays photographs of the royal family and records the history of the province. The palace neighbourhood has a sprawling garden with manicured bushes and carefully chosen flowers, some the size of my head. There is also a lake and benches to enjoy the tranquil surroundings.

North: Jibhi – Himachal Pradesh

Jibhi (Courtesy: Natalia Shipkova)

Jibhi (Courtesy: Natalia Shipkova)

Recommendation by Natalia Shipkova – My Trip Hack

“If you want to experience the power of monsoons, Himalaya is the place to be. Since it becomes a popular destination during summers due to the favourable climate, I recommend looking for offbeat destinations there. One of them is Jibhi – a hidden village in Banjar valley. Jibhi is a very calm place with just a few vehicles passing daily. Though it’s a slow travel destination, there are a few interesting activities, especially for adventure seekers. Being situated close to Jalori Pass, it is possible to trek to a lake from there. You can explore authentic Himalayan architecture in the neighbouring villages or hike to a waterfall.

You will find accommodation in Jibhi within 8-15 USD (500-1000 INR) per night. Most of the houses are converted into homestays, though there are also a few camping sites. I recommend staying with a family to experience the Himalayan cuisine, local traditions and get a feel of the village. Note, if you are looking to work remotely, you can get internet connectivity outside of the homes (so seek stays with cute balconies overlooking river 😉 )”

South: Karimnagar – Telangana

Karimnagar (Courtesy: Neeharika Satyavada)

Karimnagar (Courtesy: Neeharika Satyavada)

Recommendation by Neeharika Satyavada – Map In My Pocket

“If you love photography and it is dramatic clouds that you seek, then Karimnagar in Telangana is the place to be. And, even if it isn’t photos you are after, Karimnagar, with its ancient Buddhist ruins, forgotten Hindu temples and striking Islamic forts makes for a beautiful monsoon destination. For instance, the Elgandal Fort whose beautiful Teen Minar – which oscillate when shaken – seemingly piercing the rain clouds, herald your entry to the fort. Even before you can cross the ancient moat and begin your hike up the hill.

Also in Karimnagar are two ancient Hindu stone temples whose ruins, now overrun by nature, make for a setting straight out of Jungle Book. The precariously balanced pillars, the lush green trees everywhere – inside, outside, through the fissures in the walls, make for delightful vistas and the rain clouds only set the scene. Karimnagar is a two and half hours drive from Hyderabad and you can read everything to need to plan your trip to Karimnagar, here.”

West: Mumbai – Maharashtra

Western Ghats (Courtesy: Rashmi & Chalukya)

Western Ghats (Courtesy: Rashmi & Chalukya)

Recommendation by Rashmi & Chalukya – Go Beyond Bounds

“Mumbai is a bustling city, popular for a plenitude of street shopping and street food. It is also the place if you love exploring heritage sites. But very few know that there are ample trekking places in and around Mumbai which are a great respite from the busy life of the capital of Maharashtra. Monsoons are the best time to visit these places when they turn lush green, the mountains peaks are shrouded in mist and covered with innumerable waterfalls by the rainwater – a wonderful sight to behold!

Most of the trekking spots are located close to quaint villages where the villagers have a part of their homes turned into small eateries and homestays, providing an unusual experience. Many other trekking spots are at the ruins of ancient forts and temples. So when you visit them, you get to explore and learn a bit about the history of the state of Maharashtra. These places can be easily reached by the local trains (the suburban railway network of Mumbai). From the station, you have plenty of options, such as autorickshaws and buses to reach the spot. Alternatively, hire a cab all the way to the destination.”

Are you a fan of the rains?

Which is your favourite monsoon destination in India?

Let me know through your comments below! 🙂

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All Roads lead to Hyderabad

I finished a much awaited trip to Hyderabad earlier this week. And this time, my experiences beautifully complemented the ones I’ve had on my previous visits to the city of pearls.

Hyderabad as viewed from the heavens above

Hyderabad as viewed from the heavens above

My Friday morning began with a drive to Golkonda Fort, a good 15 kilometres from where I stayed. Golkonda means shepherd’s hill, and rightly so, for the highest point of this citadel requires the strength of a shepherd to scale! This ancient castle was built in the 13th century and has an intelligent acoustic system which it is famed for. What now remain are the ruins of white granite that cast a spell on all tourists that walk on these lands. The complex has landscaped gardens and multilevel arches that adorn the walkways and lead to the base of the ‘stairway to heaven’. And this ‘heaven’ is astonishingly a prison – Ramadas Bandikhana, which is now considered sacred due to the unlawful imprisonment of a loyal Lord-Ram-devotee. A visit to Golconda Fort is highly recommended for the breathtaking views that every yard on the 380-step climb lends the visitor. This heritage site is well maintained and has food-stalls and rest-rooms at strategic locations in the caves. The place is almost romantic with the chipped walls, greens peeping out of stones, and beryl skies playing hide-and-seek behind the white clouds.

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Saturday afternoon saw me waiting under overarching branches of trees outside the Salar Jung Museum as my travel-companion parked the car. This 38-gallery art museum has over a million objects from Far East to North America, and is the world’s largest collection of antiques by a single person. The building showcases artefacts like paintings, carpets, sculptures, arms, apparel, crockery, manuscripts and furniture that Nawab Salar Jung III zealously invested in.

Hot Tip: Time your visit such that you can hear the central grandfather clock chime at the stroke of a new hour.

Nightlife and Dining options in Hyderabad:-

(This list is in addition to the eateries I’ve mentioned in my first Hyderabad-post.)

  • The night I arrived in this city, I had the buffet at The Square, Novotel (near the airport). The food wasn’t much to boast about and the couple of drinks we ordered took our bill to almost 7000 INR. But this is a nice place if you’re bored of the airport-food-court and are starving after your flight.
  • Chutneys is a pocket-friendly restaurant specializing in South Indian cuisines. We ordered guntur idlis (very spicy) and palak paneer dosa, and were served an assortment of 6 exotic chutneys (both coconut based and coconut-free) complimentary!
  • Staying in a southern city doesn’t mean you only have to eat South Indian delicacies. Dil Punjabi proves this with flavours of Punjab. We had ordered veg and chicken soups, hara-bhara kebabs for starters, a roti-basket of Amritsari kulchas, naans and tandoori rotis with a paneer dish (large cubes of paneer) and some chicken preparations (for my non-vegetarian friends) for mains. The food was finger-licking good and the portion sizes, befitting a Punjabi eatery! The restaurant closes in the late afternoon, but if you can persuade the maître d’hôtel, you’ll be allowed to order from limited sections of the menu and enjoy a quiet lunch.
  • Hyderabad is mostly a conservative city and has numbered discs, but the party-scene is gradually picking up. I spent my Saturday night at Hard Rock Cafe as the outlet celebrated its 4th anniversary. A large part of the restaurant and bar area was converted to a dance floor and they played some pop and rock chartbusters.

Hot Tip: Ensure you ‘check-in’ on Foursquare if your bill goes over 1500 INR, for a complimentary tequila shot! 🙂

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Insights from an Insider:-

(This is an exclusive interview with a local Hyderabadi)

Praveen in his Deccan Chargers jersey

Praveen in his Deccan Chargers jersey

Me: How long have you lived in Hyderabad?

Praveen: 20 years

Me: Your favourite thing about this city…

Praveen: Our unique language… ‘Hyderabadi Hindi’. You will only hear it in Hyderabad!

Me: Teach me a phrase in Telugu.

Praveen:  ‘garu’ – giving respect to a person. E.g., Oindrila-garu

Me: When does the city go to sleep?

Praveen: Though Hyderabad is one of the thriving Indian cities, the mindset of the people here is still very traditional. You will notice that a typical Telugu girl still prefers to wear traditional dresses over Western. Likewise, the nightlife here is pretty dormant.

Me: One thing nobody must miss doing here…

Praveen: One should visit all heritage locations like Chowhmalla Palace, Chudi-bazaar, Charminar, Golconda, Taramati Baradari and agar aap hyderabad mein hai toh aapko ek bar toh hyderabadi biryani khaani ‘padingi’ ! (a-la-Hyderabadi Hindi) [Now, that you’re in Hyderabad, you must have Hyderabadi biriyani atleast once!]