Diwali Holiday Special: 27 Ideas for Families, Couples, Solo Travellers and Friends

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Suryagarh’s central courtyard is the venue for a heart-stopping Halwaii breakfast, as well as for musical evenings with the hotel’s Manganiyar musicians. Photo courtesy Suryagarh


Diwali usually brings a chunk of holidays, so we’ve put together a list of great trip ideas from around India, for every kind of traveller. Take the kids to Kaziranga or Corbett to spot wildlife, or visit the beautiful Barot valley with your friends. Solo travellers can seek the solitude of the Tibetan monasteries in Bylakuppe, Karnataka or pick up pottery in Andretta, Himachal Pradesh. If you’d like nothing more than to luxuriate in a hotel room over the weekend, we’ve picked stays such as Rajasthan’s impressive Suryagarh and Wildernest, located in the Western Ghats in Goa.


Jim Corbett National Park

tigers in the forest

Corbett’s tall grass provides great camouflage for tigers, making them hard to spot. Photo: Dhritiman Mukherjee

“The beauty of Jim Corbett National Park is that it is not just one forest, but many rolled into one, changing with seasons, terrain, and time of day. It’s got stunning grasslands, where the grass grows taller than people. It’s got riverine vegetation growing alongside the Ramganga and Kosi rivers that meander through the park. And thick jungles of sal and deciduous trees that fill the air with their faint fragrance.” –Neha Dara

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Appeared in the June 2015 issue as “Many Forests in One”.


dehradun temple

Peace pagodas or shanti stupas are shrines to world peace that have been built in various places around the world. This one, set amid the beautifully landscaped lawns of Mindrolling Monastery, is one of the largest. Photo: Ruthchoi/Shutterstock

“Dehradunwallahs will inevitably direct you to the crowded waters of Kempty Falls, which is closer to Mussoorie, or in a desperate moment, show you the Tibetan market, a scrawl of tarpaulin-covered stalls. But the better way to discover Dehradun’s delights is to simply follow the townsfolk around. In their daily routine they visit places far more interesting than the obvious tourist attractions. A visitor is bound to understand the fuss about this town’s laidback charm.” –Ambika Gupta

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Appeared in the April 2015 issue as “Doon Valley’s Hidden Delights”.


Swaminarayan temple

A new Swaminarayan temple made of white marble and gold was built a short way from the old structure which was destroyed in the 2001 earthquake. Photo: Omrita Nandi

“I found the expanse of the White Rann, extending over 7,500 sq km, a little frightening. It was uniformly barren, with no markers to delineate boundaries. The desert, covered in layers of salt of varying thickness, appeared to be a snow-covered landscape. The salt crunched delicately under my feet, like thin glass. Even before the sun had set, an almost-full moon rose gracefully, leaving the landscape awash in an ethereal light. I was hypnotised by the surreal whiteness around me and the odd romance of the moment. Sitting on the ground, I tried to soak in as much as I could before the temperature fell, and it was time to leave.” –Anita Rao Kashi

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Appeared in the September 2014 issue as “Across The Salt Desert”.



The 13th-century Konark Sun Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, known for its erotic carvings, is about 35 km east of Puri. In the early decades of the 19th century, local rulers took away stone panels from the majestic Sun Temple to use in their own temples. Photo: Chirodeep Chaudhuri

“The holy city of Puri is the last stop on the chardham pilgrimage that Hindu devotees undertake—the other sites are Dwarka in Gujarat, Badrinath in Uttarakhand, and Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu. I enter the temple and find that it is bustling. An entire city seems to be inside the complex: tourists, locals, priests or pandas, all vying to get a darshan of the lord. We weave through the crowd and manage to find a little corner to silently commune with the troika of deities. Mesmerised by the sight of these larger-than-life, brightly clad wooden idols of Jagannath (Vishnu, or his avatar Krishna), Balabhadra (Balarama, Krishna’s elder brother), and Subhadra (Krishna’s sister), I nearly forget the jostling and elbowing. When we step out of the shrine into the vast courtyard, I realise I have 4,00,000 square feet of the complex to explore.” –Lakshmi Sharath

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Appeared in the April 2014 issue as “Juggernaut Journey”.

Kaziranga National Park

national park animals

Elephant rides allow visitors to get quite close to the wild one-horned rhinos. Photo: Strdel/AFP/Getty Images

“Squat rhinos peep from the tall elephant grass, as swamp deer gaze lazily at elephants carrying fascinated tourists. Kaziranga Tiger Reserve offers a unique experience: it is the best place in the country to see the highly endangered one-horned great Indian rhinoceros in the wild, since two-thirds of the world’s one-horned rhino population lives here. While the armoured mammals are the main attraction, many birds and animals can be spotted through the dense vegetation, including the wild Asiatic water buffalo, Bengal tiger, hog deer, and Assam roofed turtle.” –Natasha Sahgal

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Appeared in the October 2012 issue as “The Wild Way”.



coracle rides

Campers at Honnemaradu can participate in a host of water-based activities including coracle rides. Photo: Ameen Ahmed

“Formed after the waters of the River Sharavathi were stoppered by the Linganamakki Dam in 1964, Honnemaradu—literally golden lake or a place of golden sand—is a reservoir that looks like a sheet of water, with only gentle ripples near the shore marring its stillness. The bank is full of sand-coloured pebbles that twinkle in the light. These, coupled with the fact that the water looks like molten gold at sunrise and sunset, could have given the lake its name. The other theory is that it got its name from the honne trees that abound here. Spread over an area of 350 square kilometres, the reservoir is filled all year round. It is ideal for a variety of water sports or long picnics. The lake is close to ancient temples and lush forests, which make for a multifaceted trip.” –Anita Rao Kashi

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Appeared in the June 2013 issue as “Lakeside Idyll”.


mulshi ghats

The road to Tamhini Ghat winds along Mulshi Lake. During the monsoon, the road is flanked by the large, beautiful lake, and countless waterfalls plunging down the hillside. Photo: Dinodia

“The real charm of the Pune district lies well below the lofty heights of Lavasa, in the 40-kilometre circuit between the lakes of Mulshi and Temghar. The area is particularly beautiful during the monsoon, when it is draped by mist and greenery. The roads are flanked by fields with thatched huts and mossy mountains with little waterfalls. Tourists are forbidden from entering the lakes owing to hazards ranging from quicksand to reptiles, but thanks to a few lovely eco-resorts set in the untouched hills, there’s enough to keep one busy.” –Azeem Banatwalla

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Appeared in the November 2013 issue as “Lake District”.


Sakleshpur Trek Karnataka

The hills in the southern part of the Western Ghats are peppered with hiking trails that offer sweeping valley views. Photo: Siddharth Sumitran

“Located between Coorg and Chikmagalur— Karnataka’s more famous weekend getaways— Sakleshpur is permanently swathed in robes of emerald and jade. Its slopes are filled with Arabica coffee plantations, gorgeous waterfalls, and trekking routes to suit all abilities. For those who like to spend vacations reading, dozing off, and living the life of a bean bag, there are intimate homestays. Others who prefer more invigorating weekends can spend their time trekking the Western Ghats, snooping for orchids, colourful frogs, and the numerous species of birds that live here.” –Neha Sumitran

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Appeared in the August 2013 issue as “Hillside Haven”.

Barot Valley

winter view

Wearing a misty cape, Barot Valley’s winter views are best enjoyed with mugs of hot tea. Photo: Nimish Dalal

“When I first reached Barot in Himachal Pradesh, I wasn’t sure how I’d last a week in an unknown little town. By the end of two weeks, I didn’t want to leave. Very quickly, my husband and I became accustomed to the serene beauty of the place: languid days spent soaking up the meagre sunlight, finger-licking meals served hot from the stove, and the quiet warmth of the locals.” –Mamta D

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Appeared in the March 2015 issue as “A Sight for Sore Eyes”.


kavalam view

Besides swimming and adventure sports, visitors can also take a boat ride in a traditional catamaran. Photo: Robert Harding/IndiaPicture

“To get a fix on Kovalam’s topography, visit the observation deck of the candy-striped lighthouse at the southern end of Lighthouse beach. It’s an approximately 157-step barefoot climb (footwear is not allowed), including a final stretch up an almost vertical metal ladder, to the deck. You’ll probably arrive breathless but the view is worth the effort.” –Sankar Radhakrishnan

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Appeared in the June 2015 issue as “Kovalam’s Small Joys”.



boat house in kerla

Houseboats can be hired for overnight trips around the backwaters of Kasargod. Photo: South India Picture/IndiaPicture

“Kasargod is the sort of place where shops close for the afternoon, and it can be hard to find anything apart from a rice plate, or thali, for meals. The placid pace of life is part of its charm. There isn’t much to do in the town but its close proximity with many beaches, temples, forts, and hills makes Kasargod a good base, from which to explore this district.” –Natasha Sahgal

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Appeared in the March 2013 issue as “Unseen Sands”.


lake side hotel

Lakeside terraces and rooftop restaurants are ubiquitous. On summer evenings, they fill up as soon as the temperature drops. Photo: Martin Harvey/Getty Images

“Udaipur’s romantic landscape is as enduring as the city’s seductive monuments. The lake city’s enchantment appeals to travellers tired of making last-minute dashes to Jaipur. With its placid waters, gently gliding boats, and graceful havelis, Udaipur looks like a delicate watercolour. It originally grew on the banks of the lovely Lake Pichola, which continues to dominate the south of the city along with the City Palace and Fort that rises from its edge in breathtaking splendour.” –Ambika Gupta

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Appeared in the May 2015 issue as “Regal Romance”.


jahaz mahal

Although the Jahaz Mahal exudes elegance, its walls are three feet thick. It was built by Sultan Ghiyas-ud-din-Khilji to house his harem of 15,000. Photo: Herve Hughes/Getty Images

“As the walled-in capital of the Malwa Kingdom, Mandu witnessed terrible strife over the centuries: the Mughals, the Khiljis, and Bahadur Shah of Gujarat, all struggled for control over it. But the spirit of indulgence is still palpable among its relics, from the luxurious pools of Jal Mahal to the pillared dancing halls of Jahaz Mahal, which must have once resonated with song and dance.” –Harsimran Gill

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Appeared in the December 2014 issue as “Ruins Of The Empires”.


daman and diu view

The lighthouse is built atop Diu fort, which is one of the most recognisable structures on the island. Photo: Ashima Narain

“It offers the opportunity to explore the best-preserved Portuguese town layout in India. Strolling through the island’s winding lanes and quiet squares at twilight teleports you straight into the pages of the seventeenth-century travelogue of Scottish sea captain Alexander Hamilton, who claimed that the settlement was “one of the best-built Cities and best fortified by Nature and Art that I ever saw in India and its stately Buildings of free Stone and Marble are sufficient Witnesses of its ancient Grandeur and Opulency”.” –Naresh Fernandes

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Appeared in the July 2012 issue as “Colonial Cousins”.

Romantic Hotels

Ananda In the Himalayas Spa Hotel Uttarakhand

The luxurious wellness experience at Ananda in the Himalayas keeps guests returning. Photo courtesy Ananda in the Himalayas

If you’re looking for great couples retreats, you’ll love these gorgeous hotels we’ve picked for you. Lose yourself in the blissful treatments of Ananda In The Himalayas, take in beautiful views from your room at the Ri Kynjai in Shillong, picnic in lake-side tents at Mihir Garh in Rajasthan or enjoy the azure waters of the Bay Of Bengal when you stay at the Vivanta by Taj – Fishermen’s Cove in Tamil Nadu.

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bhudha statues

Namdroling Monastery in Bylakuppe is the world’s largest teaching centre of the Nyingmapa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Its Golden Temple houses three gold-plated statues. Photo: Dinesh Babu.I/Dinodia

“In the shadows, the Sera Jey Monastic University closely resembles the wood, stone, and clay counterpart that was built in Lhasa in the 15th century by a disciple of Lama Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Yellow Hat Gelukpa tradition of Buddhism. But Sera Jey’s prayer flags aren’t fluttering over mountainous Tibet: they are sending benedictions across the fields around Bylakuppe, a cluster of villages in Karnataka’s Mysore district.” –Aliyeh Rizvi

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Appeared in the October 2013 issue as “Dal Bhaat & Thukpa”.


coracle rides

Coracle rides are a leisurely way to end an activity-filled day. Versions of these bowlshaped, wooden boats—seen in many parts of south India—are also found in Ireland, Wales, Tibet, and Vietnam. Photo: Neelima Vallangi

“The Karnataka coast, largely ignored for Goa’s more popular beaches, is blissfully free of tourists. Sandy coves are lined with casuarina groves, perfect for picnics in between dips in the ocean. Roads are in great condition and highways are often flanked by the ocean on one side and broad, jade rivers, still as glass on the other. Puppies drag bits of seaweed along empty beaches, young boys try to catch crabs along the river, and there are fish markets every few kilometres, brimming with mussels, clams, and shrimp. An hour-long drive can easily take twice the time if you make as many stops as we did, but that is the allure of road trips. You can linger where you want.” –Neha Sumitran

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Appeared in the August 2015 issue as “Hike for your Supper”.


doon valley

Landour affords dizzying views of the gorgeous Doon Valley draped in slow-moving clouds. Photo: Rishad Saam Mehta

“Lovely Landour looks like a picture postcard and is about the same size. An old-fashioned aura drapes the town’s mighty deodars and red rhododendron flowers. This is a relic of the British Raj. A steep, four-kilometre drive from Mussoorie, it is a world that floats dreamily in clouds and mist, far removed from the crowded hill station below.” –Ambika Gupta

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Appeared in the July 2015 issue as “Landour In The Mist”.



The potter’s wheel was first used back in the Bronze Age and though it has been modified, the basic principles remain the same even today. Photo: Rajat Bansal

“Andretta has had a history of creative residents. It began with Norah Richards, an Irish dramatist and activist who lived in Andretta from the mid-1930s to 1971. Andretta is a prosperous, clean and green village. It curves around a gentle hill slope and looks up at the mighty Dhauladhar range, which often has snow-covered peaks. The streams are noisy and houses hide behind overhangs of trees.” –Yamini Dhall

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Appeared in the July 2012 issue as “Pottery In The Hills”.

The Only Olive

Rooms at The Only Olive are filled with antique furniture and ancient light fixtures. Photo: Teja Lele Desai

Rooms at The Only Olive are filled with antique furniture and ancient light fixtures. Photo: Teja Lele Desai

“The Only Olive is a nearly 100-year-old Portuguese-style villa in the village of Aldona in northwest Goa, close to the Khorjuem River. Family heirlooms and antique furniture fill the large airy rooms. Its old tiles made me want to potter around barefoot. The ancient light fixtures, the delightful nooks and crannies, and profusion of fresh flowers invite dedicated lingering.” –Teja Lele Desai

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Appeared in the July 2013 issue as “Beyond the Beach”.



Suryagarh Rajasthan Desert Hotel

Suryagarh offers a lavish welcome to the shimmering sands of the Thar. Photo courtesy Suryagarh

“Entering the grand fortress of the Suryagarh hotel, we were welcomed with a shower of rose petals. The lobby and its anteroom are dressed like a royal residence, with traditional shields and swords decorating the walls. The decor is full of design elements incorporating the most-loved of Rajasthani aesthetics. Rooms are large and handsomely decorated in earthy tones using handwoven fabrics. The bathroom of my suite was the size of a Mumbai studio apartment and over-the-top luxurious. Amid the grandeur, it was the little touches that made Suryagarh stand out over other luxury hotels.” –Niloufer Venkatraman

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Appeared in the August 2015 issue as “Golden Promise”.

Fort Jadavgadh

amazing view

Fort Jadhavgadh hotel has numerous terraces, which offer sweeping views of the fort, the surrounding fig orchards, and the hill of Dive Ghat, a short distance away. Photo courtesy Fort Jadhavgadh

“When Vithal Kamath decided to restore Fort Jadhavgadh and turn it into a hotel in 2007, he was doing more than protecting a little piece of history. He was allowing travellers to imagine, for a little while, that they were fearless Maratha warriors. Maharashtra has over 300 forts in pristine locations—high in the Ghats and on the pretty coastline—but Fort Jadhavgadh is the only one that is a hotel.” –Natasha Sahgal

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Appeared in the June 2013 issue as “Time Travelling”.

Hidden Village

serene lake

There is a serene lake around 20 minutes away along a dirt track. In the evenings, residents of Sakhroli village, and occasionally, their livestock, can be seen taking a dip in the green waters. Photo: Jayesh Timbadia

“Most travellers on the Mumbai-Nashik highway don’t give more than a passing glance to the unmarked exit that connects to a crumbly road leading to Sakhroli village. However, a couple of kilometres along the winding road, a gate with conspicuous foliage catches the eye. A closer look reveals a small mud tablet with three barely-legible words inscribed. The sound of a stream can be heard as it swishes quietly under a little bridge ahead. What lies beyond is an oasis of leaves and branches that, a few minutes ago, seemed impossible to find in the barren landscape. Hidden Village is true to its name.” –Azeem Banatwalla

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Appeared in the January 2013 issue as “A Forest in Hiding”.

Soma Kerala Palace

soma kerala palace

The resort is part of the Somatheeram Ayurveda group, and can only be approached by boat. Photo courtesy Soma Kerala Palace

“The resort is part of the Somatheeram Ayurveda group, and can only be approached by boat. After nearly three hours of driving from Thattekad, we bypassed Kochi to reach Chempu and drove straight to the jetty. The hotel’s courteous boatswain picked us up and soon we were skimming the surface of the vast waters. As we left the shores of India’s longest lake behind, I floated across a soothing vision of coconut trees. Cormorants dived in and out of the waters, agile like fishermen. I snapped out of my reverie only when we arrived at the property.” –Shikha Tripathi

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Appeared in the January 2014 issue as “Lake Placid”.


Wildernest has a spectacular infinity pool and resident naturalists who will help you spot the wildlife. Photo: Wildernest

Wildernest has a spectacular infinity pool and resident naturalists who will help you spot the wildlife. Photo: Wildernest

“My eco-cottage at Wildernest had an enchanting view of the Vazra Falls, flowing gloriously over the green gradients of the Swapnagandha Valley. Located at the intersection of Goa, Maharashtra, and Karnataka, the Chorla Ghats are the residence of tigers, leopards, sloth bears, and an important nesting site for critically endangered vultures. A few years ago, however, this misty forest was well on the path to destruction when it was opened up for mining.” –Prerna Bindra

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Appeared in the September 2014 issue as “Go Green”.


the bridge

At Vanaashrya, wooden bridge over the rivulet connects the main camp to the spa, and the poolside where yoga classes are held. Photo: Shikha Tripathi

“Vanaashrya, located on the fringes of the park, off the village of Tehla, has luxury tents that cater to guests looking for quietude, comfort, and the joys of birdwatching. I had planned on sleeping late into the morning after arriving, but the sun goes up quite early here, and the fresh surroundings were far too invigorating to stay in bed. I stepped out to explore a marshy rivulet that cuts through the resort’s grassy heart and harbours plenty of avian residents. Waterfowl waddled in the rivulet, diving occasionally for moss and insects. Peacocks, every bit like regal monarchs, inspected the land carefully, while a kingfisher peered into the waters, patient as a saint.” –Shikha Tripathi

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Appeared in the March 2015 issue as “Starry, Starry Night”.

Doli Guest House

“It says on the guesthouse website that these cottages are inspired from Swiss chalets and for once, the comparison doesn’t make me laugh when I get there. Deodars, locally known as the “Tree of the Gods”, have shed their cones on the forest floor all around us while making their powerful ascent towards the sky. The land ahead slopes down towards the banks of a stream that’s swirling urgently around boulders before disappearing purposefully around the bend, quite determined to break the tranquil mood. On the opposite bank, Doli Guest House remains unfazed in the afternoon sun, with a few guests sprawled out in the garden with books and mattresses. The smell of pine and cedar seals it. We’ve unwittingly walked into a Kipling novel.” –Sejal Mehta

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