Travelling during the monsoon season is not everyone’s cup of tea. There’s the rain constricting the view in the first place. Then, the dampness and cold, foggy weather may make you prone to fear a cold, or a stomach upset. However, like us, if the rains put you in a happier mood, and stokes your wanderlust, here are some lovely spots to travel to during the rains. They may look very different in other seasons, but the rain bestows them with fresh greenery and a softer vibe. Plus, who doesn’t like to cuddle in bed with a hot cuppa, while they see the clouds floating by from their window!
Some of these places, quaint towns like Darjeeling and Binsar, might not get all the internet’s attention but are slowly becoming popular for those who wish to escape to a quieter spot.
Uttarakhand is filled with some of the most pristine locations, presenting nature in its rawest forms. Bikaner is one such hamlet, located at a height of 2,420m, giving you what is probably the best view of the Himalayas from zero point. The former capital of the Chand Dynasty gets its name from a 16th-century temple called Binsar Mahadev temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. With panoramic views of mountains, orchards, and meadows, Binsar is a great place for a quiet, relaxing getaway. It is also known as an adventure junkie’s haven offering some of the most exciting activities, from forest walks to wildlife exploration and bird watching, and even some thrilling paragliding, skiing and river rafting (which might not be available during the monsoons).
Hidden within the dense wilderness, the Mary Budden Estate in Binsar is one of the popular boutique hotels in Binsar. Strategically located, the hotel has the best views of the Himalayas. Logwood fireplaces, stone patios, and antique furniture give the hotel a unique rustic-contemporary vibe. Bird watching at the Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary is a must for all travellers. Walking through the dense pine tree forests revives all your senses; the smell of the fresh greens and the sound of birding chirping make this quite an experience.
Tea lovers can take a trip to the Kausani Tea Estate, Uttarakhand’s largest tea estate, to learn about the process of tea making, and enjoy a cup of delicious, organic tea. Another popular spot is the Chaubatia apple orchard. A hamlet within another, the orchard is located in Ranikhet, a 2.5-hour drive from Binsar that is totally worth the drive. Drive to Pariyadeva Pashan – a historical archaeological site on the Binsar Almora road dating back to the Megalithic age (1500 BC to 500 BC) – for some interesting archaeological facts. For a truly awe-inspiring experience, take a trip to Patal Bhuvaneshwar, a limestone cave temple which according to folklore, enshrines Lord Shiva and thirty three koti demigods. Aside from these, Binsar is filled with serene forests which make for an excellent trek.
A charming city in the northeastern corner of India, Darjeeling is a green gem of vibrance with wonderful weather, landscapes and attractions. The town is located in the state of West Bengal, sitting around 2,590m above sea level in the lower Himalayas. The name Darjeeling means ‘the land of the thunderbolt’. It gets its name from a combination of Tibetan words, ‘Dorje’ meaning thunderbolt and ‘ling’ a place, or land. While Darjeeling is most famous for its tea, the quaint town has so much more to offer.
Because of its beautiful weather and attractions, Darjeeling is crawling with tourists and vacationers all year round. The monsoon is one of the only seasons where the town is a little less crowded and beautiful nonetheless, making it a perfect time to visit. When visiting Darjeeling, The Windamere is one of the popular luxury hotels, best known for its colonial aesthetic. Built during the British Raj, the hotel is a heritage property and has been a temporary home to kings, queens, aristocrats and diplomats of the yesteryears. A ride in the heritage toy train is one of the first things every visitor needs to experience. Holding a UNESCO World Heritage status, the infamous toy train follows two routes, a two-hour ride from Darjeeling to Ghum and a seven-hour ride from Siliguri up to Darjeeling. Aside from the toy train, the cable car ride also called The Ropeway, is another popular attraction. One of the longest cable car rides in Asia touring 40 minutes, the cable car rides over the rolling tea estates overlooking the Sikkim hills. Watch the perfect sunrise from Tiger Hill. A lookout located about 11 kilometres from Darjeeling town, the hill sits at a height of 2500m.
Tea lovers cannot leave Darjeeling without a tour of the Happy Valley Tea Estate, the second oldest tea estate in town. Established in 1854, the estate is spread over 440 acres. Guided tours of the estate include a tour of the factory where guests can learn and understand the process of tea making, the different types of tea, and even enjoy a fresh brew at the end of the tour. Take back a piece of the town with you, with handicrafts from the Tibetan Refugee Self-Help Centre. Here you will find a collection of paintings, woodworks, and photographs, among other artistic creations.
South India truly is a sight to behold during the monsoons, and Kodaikanal in Tamil Nadu is at the heart of beauty. It is one of the few places in South India that are a must-visit. Cool weather, lush greenery, verdant hills and pristine water bodies, what’s not to love? Referred to as the princess of hill stations, Kodaikanal means “The Gift of the Forest” in Tamil. The town is situated in upper Palani hills of the Western Ghats near Madurai, standing tall at a height of 2,133m above sea level.
While there’s no shortage of hotels in Kodaikanal, staying at a boutique hotel like Onondaga Kodaikanal helps you experience the best of Kodaikanal’s rich heritage, culture and warm hospitality. Located in the heart of Kodaikanal, Onondaga is one of the oldest hotels, dating back to the early 1900s. Its strategic location is a bonus for visitors, with popular attractions located nearby. The weather in Kodaikanal ranges anywhere between 10 and 18 degrees Celsius, making it an ideal spot for a cosy staycation. If you still want to explore the area, Kodai Lake is the best place to start. Located just 5 minutes from Onondaga hotel, the lake is a manmade water source, which was created in the shape of a star, and is surrounded by spectacular views of the Palani hills and surrounding greenery. Guests can either rent a paddle boat for a ride in the lake, or a bicycle to stroll the lake’s borders.
Kodaikanal is a hotspot for adventure seekers. Dolphin’s Nose, perched at a height of 6000m above the sea, is a short 3-kilometre hike, providing the best views of Kodaikanal’s landscapes, foggy clouds, rugged terrain, and plunging valleys. For a more challenging climb, visitors can try the Pillar Rocks, a 7km climb to the top. One of the exciting things about this spot is that it is made up of three vertical granite boulders packed together with dense forests and overlooking the dangerously stunning valley. Aside from these, Perumal Peak and Silent Valley also have some of the best views of the town.
The misty hills of Munnar are a majestic sight to behold. Sprawling hills, verdant plantations, mist and waterfalls, Munnar is paradise on earth during the monsoon season. The name translates to ‘three rivers’ in Malayalam. Munnar is situated at the confluence of three mountain streams – Muthirapuzha, Nallathanni and Kundala, hence the name. Located in the Kannan Devan Hills of the Western Ghats 1500m above sea, Munnar’s tea plantations and waterfalls are its biggest attraction.
The Chandys Windy Woods resort has the best view of the hills and plantations, from every angle of the hotel. Although it is popular for couples and honeymooners, Munnar is also great for solo travellers. The first thing to do when you’re in Munnar is to visit the waterfalls. Atukkad Waterfalls, Lakkam Waterfalls, and Nayamakad Waterfalls are the most visited waterfalls in Munnar, beings safe, clean and simply pristine. The tea plantations are another must-do, especially the Tata Tea Museum also known as Nalluthanni Estate. Another popular plantation is Chithirapuram, a charming plantation characterized by old bungalows and cottages. There’s plenty to see in Munnar like Top Station, a scenic destination elevated at a height of 1800m. The experience here is described as walking through the clouds.
Take a walk through the Eravikulam National Park which is home to almost 750 different species, like tiger, leopard, Nilgiri tahr, gaur, sambar deer, golden jackal, wild dog and dhole. The Mattupetty Dam is one of the famous picnic spots in Munnar and is great for boating. End your holiday with a trip to Marayoor, one of the most famous spots in Kerala. The region is famous for its Neolithic-era rock paintings which are said to be painted by the Pandavas during their exile. It is also home to Kerala’s only natural sandalwood forests and is quite a serene place to spend the day.
Shillong is another city that does not get enough credit for its beauty. The capital city of Meghalaya has been credited as the Scotland of India and the rock capital of the country. The name Shillong comes from “Leishyllong”, which is the superpower or God believed to reside on the Shillong peak, overlooking the city. Sitting at an altitude of 1,520m Shillong has some of the best waterfalls in the country, surrounded by clean, green beauty.
For the best hilltop accommodation, check into The Heritage Club-Tripura Castle. It boasts of the best views in the city, surrounded by pine forests and open skies. Waterfalls are the main reason travellers come to Shillong and rightly so. The Elephant waterfall and Bishop & Beadon waterfalls are a hotspot while, along with the Nohkalikai Falls which plunge from a height of 1100 ft., and the Spread Eagle Falls which literally resemble an eagle spread wings. Trail the Laitlum Canyons and feast your eyes with stretches of greenery and rocky landscapes.
Living Root Bridges is an adventure out of a movie. A natural wonder preserved by the Khasi tribesmen; the bridge is made of the roots of ancient rubber trees. The tangled mess of the roots were created by the Khasi tribesmen who trained the roots to grow that way, later being intertwined to form single and double-decker root bridges. For the best view of the city, trek to Shillong Peak, the highest point in the city perched at a height of 1970m. For a truly endearing appearance, you can dress up in the Khasi Tribe attire and take pictures with the locals. The Mawphlang Sacred Forest is a popular tourist attraction that is about 25km from Shillong. The forest has been regarded as nature’s own museum, as it houses some of the rarest species of plants, trees, and butterflies. Shillong’s popular marketplace, the Police Bazar is where you can find a piece of Shillong to take back home. Exquisite handicrafts, traditional items and of course food.