Diwali Special: 20 Ideas for Families, Couples, Solo Travellers and Friends

Festive getaways for everyone across India, no matter where you are based.

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Perumal Peak peers over Kodai. Photo by: Mazzzur / iStock

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

Even when the Diwali season doesn’t bring a long weekend or a series of holidays to hop into your car for a getaway or catch a quick flight, it usually sets the tone for the bracing winter months. No matter if you’re a solo traveller seeking due rest and relaxation or an invigorating trail somewhere in the hills, or looking for the perfect romantic getaway, or badly waiting to claim some family time on a short trip, we’ve got you.

 

Families

Kodaikanal

“The hill station is also the starting point to explore the vast amount of natural wonders that make up the Dindigul district and beyond. Day trips to Vattakanal for honey-lemon-ginger tea and orchard scenes at Altaf’s, hikes to Dolphin’s Nose and Pillar Rocks, and visits to Kukkal Caves—inhabited by members of the Paliyan and Paliyan tribe up until a few decades ago—are several destinations that attract visitors to the region. There are dozens of hikes to undertake, from beginner to advanced levels, a few of which can include camping and night safari add-ons. Some of the more ambitious hikes from Kodaikanal are to Perumal and Palani.” –Julian Manning

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Alibaug

“Unfortunately, tourists get the worst parts to explore [in Alibaug]. Most remain on the main road while passing through. When in Alibaug, always use Google Maps to find out what’s happening around you. In Awas, we have a large lake and a beautiful temple—there are ducks and monkeys around and it’s really picturesque. Then there are the historical parts of Revdanda and Chaul, where all the Portuguese and the British and the Jews have marvels of their architecture. The Portuguese ruins in Revdanda are particularly spectacular. Travellers should ideally ditch hotels and rent a bungalow, especially if they’re with family, get a local cook and experience local culture.” –Krsnaa Mehta

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Mysuru

24 Hours In Mysuru

A classic breakfast and filter coffee at one of the city’s oldest joints to a rendezvous with the resplendent Mysore Palace—the musts of of the Mysuru experience. Photos by: Sumukh Bhardwaj

“I would sit on a bench on the tank and watch the sun’s performance, the gradual fading of the colours in the sky, and the emergence of the first single star at dusk.” R.K. Narayan gushed about Kukkarahalli Kere in his autobiography, My Days. The manmade lake was built in 1864 with a 5 kilometer walking track around it. It is centrally located and has free entry. There’s also Karanji Kere near the Mysuru Zoo, with its 90 hectares, including the lake itself, the Regional Museum of Natural History, and a butterfly park. Do enquire at Gully Tours about an early morning bird-watching visit to Ranganthittu in the winter.” –Saritha Rao Rayachoti

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Naharlagun to Guwahati

Running thrice a week, the train from Naharlagun to Guwahati covers a distance of 343 kilometres, stopping at seven stations along the way. Sit back and watch as the foothills of the Himalayas slowly give way to the pristine waters of the Brahmaputra river. Vistadome coaches were introduced to this and other routes in the North-East, like Naharlagun–Tinsukia and New Jalpaiguri–Alipurduar, to attract more tourists to the region.” –Radhika Agrawal

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Pangot

Pangot 1

The sharp screeches of the black-headed jay (left) fill many corners of Pangot; The straited laughingthrush (right), is a common visitor here. Photos by: AGAMI PHOTO AGENCY

“Pangot is slowly turning into a preferred destination for many birding enthusiasts. It lies along a vital corridor that connects Jim Corbett and Rajaji National Parks on the foothills of Uttarakhand to the Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary in the Himalayas. “It serves as a stopover for winter migrant birds such as the scarlet minivet and the veridter flycatcher that move up and down the corridor. Some unexpected visitors, like the white-throated kingfisher, can only be seen here for a day or two in the year,” says Mohit Aggarwal, owner of Jungle Lore and a wildlife enthusiast. Pangot is also the breeding ground for the rare and vulnerable cheer pheasant and koklass.” –Radhika Raj

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Couples

Jawai

“The Bijapur Lodge team has discovered another dimension to the lakeside sunset—the lakeside moonrise. One of our sundowners is at another local reservoir, where a sublime sunset saturates the sky with a chromatic brilliance. We jump right back into the jeeps, drive around on an artificial ridge hemming the lake in, and access a little cape reaching into the centre. A few minutes pass in complete darkness, after which a blood moon ascends the sky, scattering its lunar radiance over the water. Not long after, I gaze up and meet the sky’s cerulean countenance lit up by hundreds of visible and hundreds of invisible stars.” –Prannay Pathak

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Marayoor

Weekenders At: The Mudhouse Marayoor, Kerala

A stay at Erumadam (right)—The Mudhouse Marayoor’s only treehouse—guarantees spectacular views of the surrounding environs (left). Photos Courtesy: Aman/The Mudhouse Marayoor

“Alarm bells are replaced by birdsong at the crack of dawn; up to 30 avian species can be spotted at the property. Deepak and a local guide accompany us on a 10-minute sunrise trek to the view point, located at a hilltop in the backyard. We move past tall lemongrass and beetle trees before arriving at a secluded spot overlooking Marayoor village below and the surrounding dense forests and native settlements up in the mountains. Given the region’s close proximity to Tamil Nadu, I learn that it borrows heavy influences from Tamil culture. In a matter of minutes, we catch the first rays of the sun peeking from behind faraway lands, lighting up everything they touch along the way.” –Pooja Naik

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Kausani

Kausani’s terrific night sky and minimal light pollution first gave rise to a barebones ‘planetarium’ and now an observatory. On the other side of the hill, a short walk away, this observatory has still not caught the attention of stargazers lining up to pitch tents at Benital, which the Uttarakhand Government plans to develop as an astro-village. The Gurugram-based startup Starscapes started their first observatory in Kausani, conducting night shows conducted by experts where visitors can learn more about the moon, galaxies, star clusters and nebulae in the sky and view them through an eight-inch GoTo telescope.–Prannay Pathak

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Kutch

Kutch’s Best-Kept Secret

The author visited Rann of Ekal, a less visited stretch of the glorious Rann of Kutch (in photo). Photo by: Dchauy/ shutterstock

“The glorious white colour that gives this region the nickname “White Desert” is due to the salt marsh. The white land glows even whiter under the full moon sky. The Great Rann of Kutch is spread over 7,500 square kilometres area in the Thar Desert, but this, where we sit right now, feels like its most magnificent spot.” –Shirin Mehrotra

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Dharamshala

“Those interested in exploring the culture of Dharmashala’s Tibetan community can visit craftsmen at Norbulingka Insitute, participate in a fire puja at Gyuto Monastery, or study ancient Tibetan lore and history at the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives. Public ceremonies and sermons hosted by the Dalai Lama at the Tsuglagkhang complex are rare (typically around three times a year) and highly sought after. Those able to attend should arrange a translator. Any travellers interested in the rich history of Tibetan medicine should schedule an appointment at Men-Tsee-Khang, the largest manufacturer of such medicine in the world.” –Julian Manning

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Friends

Sikkim

Cooling Off: Hot Spring Hopping In South Sikkim

Sikkim’s misty topography boasts numerous hot springs. Photo by: Sneha Chakraborty

While a countryside landscape like Barong can make you wax poetic by simply existing, it can be overwhelming to describe this little pocket beyond Gangtok, a place the Lepcha people refer to as “one of the last remaining Himalayan gems in the Eastern world.” Tourism often touts the state as Nye-mae-el or ‘paradise’ but the land within really is so. The people who do sign up to hike the long trail to complete the circuit redefine the meaning of getting back to nature, not entirely unlike the pilgrims who came here long ago.” –Sneha Chakraborty

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Haiderpur

“We climb a watchtower and watch grey hornbills in flight, Asian open bills loitering on mud, colossal painted storks and black-headed ibis going about their business, and the state bird Saras crane in the distance, among other large birds that are a wetland birder’s delight. After a long birding session and an informative exchange on human-wildlife conflict and cohabiting (fishing has a negative impact on the wetlands but local employment alternatives are limited), we get back on our bicycles to continue to the next spot, home to a multitude of duck species. As we gear up, I ask Loya what brought him here.” –Shikha Tripathi

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Kolkata

“Depending on what time you start your pub crawl, you might just hit party central in Salt Lake’s Sector V during the golden hour. The 218-seater Capella overlooks an endless horizon and offers a spectacular view of the sunset. Ideal for sundowners, grab an alfresco table and watch the stars come out as planes take off and land from the airport in the distance. The brews on tap are all named after constellations — Draco, Crux, Cygnus and Lepus, and comprise wheat beers, an IPA and a hefeweizen. On the menu is their signature fried chicken, the interestingly titled Bengali Wedding Bhetki Fries, and delightfully light Neapolitan sourdough pizzas.” –Malini Banerjee

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Vizag

Top Street Eats Of Vizag

Clockwise from top left: Avirikudumu, Mysore bonda, Momos and kebabs are popular food choices. Photos by Pooja Naik (Avirikudumu), Shaurya240/Shutterstock (Momos), Reddees/Shutterstock (Kebabs and Mysore bonda)

“To my surprise, biryani is devoured in street fare-like flair in this part of the country. For my guide, however, it makes up his daily meal. He then lets me in on an insider’s secret. The 1988-established Raju Ghari Dhaba in Rushikonda, located approximately 15 kilometres in the direction of the town’s outskirts, is touted as a local biryani star. The Rajus have long been hailed as a cooking community, spanning generations, so it is common to see the name etched across food establishments around town. In addition to some lip-smacking chicken, mutton and prawn biryani, their marquee dish is the potlam biryani—a mound of rice and prawn delicately wrapped in an omelette—a distant cousin of the Japanese omurice.” –Pooja Naik

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Leh

“Residents love their sea buckthorn, the source of a tart and tangy beverage that acts as an after-hike replenishment, grounding lunchtime drink and diabetic-friendly cooler for sunny riverside brunches. Organic Ladakh on Skara Road has sea buckthorn pulp apart from a whole variety of products (soaps, marmalade, herbal tea and the like). Oh, and don’t forget to pick some fine local apple wine (brewed in Uley on Leh’s outskirts) and buckwheat nutrition bars here. Recently, a 50-year-old ban on the export of Ladakhi apricots was lifted but you can get your fix at Ladags Apricot Store (Zangsti). Should you choose to buy them fresh from the hawkers, don’t shy away from asking for the Raktsey Karpo variety, which is believed to be the world’s sweetest apricot, and at ₹500-550/kg, costs a little more than the usual variety.”
–Prannay Pathak

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Solo

Kalna

The Mecca Of Makha, Bengal’s ‘original’ Sandesh

Devotees at the Lalji Temple, the oldest temple at the complex; A weaver works on a muslin (jamdani) drape at a local workshop. Photos by: Prannay Pathak

“This is Kalna, you see. Unless you’re an utter newcomer to these parts, you never fail to sense the freshness of Bardhaman’s chhana and the fluffiness of the sandesh in the air? Of course, Ambika Kalna, as it is also known, is the home of the 108 Shiva temple complex—one hundred and eight shivalingam shrines arranged in two concentric circles and constructed to staggering geometric harmony—and the Pratapeshwar Temple, a terracotta marvel. Kalna is also a stronghold of jamdani weaving, with active workshops still producing weaves that can fetch several lakh rupees for a single drape and frequently lure international buyers.” –Prannay Pathak

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Goa

“For most mainstream travellers, their experience in the sunshine state has been limited to disembarking at Goa’s railway stations and then haggling with cabbies until they’re whisked away to the popular but narrow and rather crowded stretches on the coast. Lately though, there has been more interest in local getaways, which offer immersion rather than a fly-by. Consequently, the options in Goa today, especially inland, have expanded significantly, as I found out on a three-day visit to Aldona, a village in northern Goa’s Bardez taluka.” –Samarpan Bhowmik

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Kullu

Houses Of The Hills

The wooden pagoda-style Tripura Sundari Temple, said to be constructed in the kath kuni template. Photo by: Oscar Espinosa/Shutterstock

“When in Himachal, the best places to spot Kath Kuni architecture (kath meaning wood and kuni meaning corner) is in the Kullu district, especially in the villages of Naggar, Old Manali, Chehni Kothi and Malana. From popular draws such as the two temples dedicated to goddesses Hidimba (Manali) and Bhimakali (Sarahan), and the exquisite Naggar Castle to houses dotting villages across Malana, Chehni Kothi, and Sainj Valley, Kath Kuni influences are seen in varying degrees across the region.” –Kapil Kajal

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Bhopal

“Ever since I watched Ismail Merchant’s classic In Custody, I was eager to see the film’s beautiful setting—Sheesh Mahal, located at the Moti Masjid Chauraha. As we entered the Mahal, the setting, a middle-aged man seated on a diwan and the lady of the house on a vintage wooden chair, the open courtyard and a narrow staircase leading to the room above instantly recalled the film’s atmosphere. The wooden balcony, with colourful glass panes, opened out to a view of Iqbal Maidan, which appears more than once in the movie.” –Basav Biradar

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Haridwar

Pilibhit House: Haridwar's Heritage Haven By The Ganga

The multiple terraces and decks at Pilibhit House Haridwar offer panoramic views and great dining spots. Photo courtesy: Pilibhit House Haridwar

“Rivers have a way of turning even the most self-aware of travellers into mawkish weekend philosophers, I type on my phone’s screen and sound into my mind’s echo chamber. Gazing glassy-eyed at the heaving Ganga, which is busy thrashing around rafts pilgrims have fashioned using plastic bottles and flotillas of diyas, I am dangerously close to believing I have entered that tactless state myself. Thankfully, it’s closing time for Haridwar’s largest private bathing ghat, as a lurking security staff member informs me gingerly. I conveniently turn back and make my way to the classy restaurant at Pilibhit House Haridwar, prepared to submit myself to another sumptuous meal.” –Prannay Pathak

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Also Read | 18 Romantic Hotels to Escape to in India

 

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