Monsoons in India ripen the mood for a romantic and nostalgic getaway. Escaping to remote waterfalls flanked by misty mountains, lush forests housing a rhapsody of migratory birds or little shacks on beaches to catch puffy clouds and rainy sunsets—our readers do it all. We’ve assembled a list of parks and reserves, ruins and forts, hill stations and a lot more for your next monsoon escape.
Monsoon Recco: Dalhousie, Himachal Pradesh
If you wish to enchant yourself with the beauty that nature hides within itself, a trip to Dalhousie during the monsoons is something you should plan for. An underrated hill station in Himachal Pradesh, it offers a breathtaking view of Khajjiar. A peaceful walk through the forests with a light drizzle will reward you with a cool breeze and an unforgettable experience. Travellers should make sure to make full use of the early morning light, where clouds will act as roommates and guides. Adventure seekers and nature-lovers must visit Kalatop Wildlife Sanctuary for a small trek towards the resthouse at the top through a forest that offers delightful views of Dalhousie. Waterfalls along mountains will make you wish to never leave this hill station. From Delhi, one needs to take a train to Pathankot, and from Pathankot, one can take a private taxi or a local bus to Dalhousie. It is about 87 kilometres from Pathankot.
Monsoon Recco: Shantiniketan, West Bengal
My favourite monsoon getaway is Shantiniketan in West Bengal. It is a 3.5 hour drive by car and 2.5 hour train-ride from Kolkata. Shantiniketan, which is otherwise a quaint idyllic place, bursts with energy during the Basanta Utsav (festival of colours) and Poush Mela (their age old annual winter fair). However, for me, monsoons present the best time for a visit, as it is during these months that the town appears at its unadulterated best. There are beautiful home stays and mud houses where one can go and spend a few days watching the rains. Staying amidst nature at its best. The way the red earth smells during the rains in Shantiniketan is something I haven’t witnessed anywhere else. The sprawling greens in monsoon offer ophthalmic therapy.
I would always recommend home stays (especially the ones where they farm and grow their own food) with pools, since swimming in the rain is a magical experience. One can hire cycles and roam around the Viswa Bharati University campus and adjacent Santhal villages when it’s not raining.
Monsoon recco: Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Mumbai, Maharashtra
My favourite monsoon getaway spot is the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Mumbai. It’s easiest to travel here by the Mumbai local train, with it being an hour away from the suburban part of the city. As I was interning here, I got a chance to see how critters bring the forest to life, at night. Fireflies gleam near the Thane entrance of the park which is right next to Tikujini wadi. Seeing them glow, the city lights glistening in a wet background offered me my first experience of witnessing the alchemy of these species.
Monsoon recco: Banswara
Banswara city is a small district in Rajasthan which is located around 525 kilometres from Jaipur and 165 kilometres from Udaipur. It is also called the ‘City of a Hundred Islands’ since the Mahi river fills during the monsoons, highlighting the numerous small islands. It is easiest to travel here via road from Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, while the closest railway junction lies in Ratlam, 85 kilometres from the city. Iridescent waterfalls and beautiful hills make for popular tourist sightings, especially in the monsoons, which offer breath to the lush green forests in the city.
Monsoon recco: Meghalaya
I had visited some of the most mesmerising spots in Meghalaya—the place that had first paved the path for my photography career—during the late monsoon of 2019. After heavy rain, the greenery around Umiam Lake adds a lushness to the surrounding landscape. Nohkalikai Waterfall in Cherrapunji is touted to be India’s tallest plunge type waterfall cascading from a height of 1,115 feet, and I will always remember it for its gurgling roar during heavy rainfall. A boat ride in the crystal clear waters of Umngot River in Dawki was remarkable as cold wind and drizzles kept us company throughout. Witnessing the high pressure of Krang Shuri waterfall nestled amid Jaintia Hills was as adventurous as it was rewarding.
Monsoon recco: Amboli, Maharashtra
When I visited Goa with four friends in August 2017, we found out about Amboli, the last hill station in Maharashtra before the coastal highlands of the sunshine state. So, we set out for a day trip on our bikes to cover the 90-kilometre stretch from Panjim to Amboli. Travelling to this place was just as much about the destination as it was about soaking in the greenery, snaking ghat routes and making pit stops at roadside stalls to indulge in chai breaks. We even stopped by unassuming waterfalls flowing from forests whose names we did not know, and dunked our feet in the streams to shake off the weariness from the journey. When we reached Amboli waterfall, a heavy fog cloaked the region and it started pouring abruptly. But I was equipped with rain protection gear and spent the day photographing the gushing stream and biting into piping hot snacks at local dhabas.
Monsoon recco: Cherrapunji, Meghalaya
The charm of seeing one of the wettest places on earth during the monsoon is underrated. I have visited Cherrapunji from Guwahati (approximately 150 kilometres away) a couple of times but had only been there once with a few friends during a rainy July, when it was devoid of the usual tourist hustle. The Khasi hills that surround the area appear astonishingly green during this time. The forest, pastures, and farmlands come alive. The numerous waterfalls and streams find their momentum due to the continuous downpours. One morning, we went out with a guide to trek the nearby hills to see the living double root bridge in Nongriat village. To reach the starting point of our trek, we drove to Tyrna village and walked through the clouds engulfing the hills, drenched in a slight drizzle.
We climbed close to 7,000 steps up and down during the entire course. Our guide, a local who seemed adept at walking the terrain, frequently waited for us ahead so that we could catch up. It was dark by the time we headed back to our cottage. That evening, we rested in the warmth of the cackling bonfire listening to the rendition of old English songs by few of the fellow travellers. It was a trip to remember for the rest of our lives.
Monsoon recco: Bhandardara, Maharashtra
My connection with Bhandardara found its depth eight years ago when I first travelled there during monsoon. The village, approximately 70 kilometres from Nashik, is nestled in the Western Ghats of Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar district. The natural vistas serve up views of hills, waterfalls, forts, a dam and a valley. There are plenty of options for trekkers, solo travellers or group travellers: the early 20th century-built Wilson Dam surrounded by Sahyadri hills, the 34-kilometre long Arthur lake, and the nearby Ratangad fort. Kalsubai Peak, dubbed the Everest of Maharashtra, rests to the north of Bhandardara’s backwaters. Other attractions include Kokankada point and Sandhan Valley.
Monsoon Recco: Devadanapatti
Devadanapatti is a panchayat town in Periyakulam Taluk, Theni district .This village is located at the foothills of the Kodaikanal Hills. Moongilinai Kamatchi Amman temple is one of the famous temples situated here. A six-kilometre-hike up the top hills of the Kamatchi Amman temple will take you to a scenic waterfall with mesmerising views.
Monsoon recco: Hampi, Karnataka
Hampi is known for its boulder landscapes, fascinating rock formations, and incredible ruins of palaces and temples. During monsoon, the terrain takes on a tint of green, the hot climate turns pleasantly cool, waterfalls emerge near Anegundi—an ancient village situated across the Tungabhadra river whose breathtaking views can be enjoyed from Anjanadri Hill and Matanga Hill. A visit to Tungabhadra Otter Conservation Reserve and Sandur valley surrounded by green jungles is a must. Head to Kamalapur for a dip in the public bath tank. Hampi is a complete package in itself, ideal for lessons in history, architecture, and science of irrigation via gravity, and also loaded with fun treks and coracle rides.
Monsoon recco: Vagamon
Vagamon is a small hill town in Idukki district, and is Kerala’s well-kept secret. It is a true fusion of nature and adventure. A less-explored region, it is a traveller’s gateway to nature in its purest form, away from tourists and a bustling city life. With a never-ending line of lush green hills, it’s a perfect spot situated 1,200 meters above sea level and surrounded by picturesque tea gardens, pine forests, small waterfalls and sprawling meadows.
Vagamon is also host to activities like hiking, trekking, off-roading and ziplining, along with paragliding. With quiet surroundings, and an unexplored landscape, Vagamon is a perfect rejuvenating getaway during the monsoon months.
It takes around three hours to reach Vagamon from Kochi, with the Kochi International Airport located 95 kilometres away. From Bangalore it’s about a 10-hour drive. You can even take a bus till Kuttikkanam and then switch to local transport to reach Vagamon.
Monsoon recco: Kabini Forest
Spread across 55 acres, the Kabini Forest in Karnataka is a vital part of the Nagarhole National Park and one of the few that remain open during the monsoons. The place is known for its serene lakes, valleys and streams. The Kabini Forest Reserve is quite popular among wildlife enthusiasts and adventure seekers, given its accessibility to lush landscape, lakes, and sightings of elephants, tigers, leopards, wild dogs, deers and Indian gaurs. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a black panther! During monsoons, even leopards can be spotted on trees. The nearest airport to Kabini is the Bangalore International Airport, which is 204 kilometres away by road.
Monsoon recco: Valley of Flowers Trek
The Valley of Flowers is one of India’s most famous treks and a great one to take in the monsoons. The Indian government created the Valley of Flowers National Park in 1980. In 2002, it was recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The closest metro city to the Valley of Flowers National park is Delhi, luckily, that’s where I hail from. The first stop to the valley is Govind Ghat, Chamoli District, Uttrakhand, that is easily travelled to from Delhi by road. The next stop is Ghangaria, where the actual trek begins. Ghangaria lies at the height of 10,000 feet. From Ghangaria, the road is divided into two parts, one of which leads to the Valley Of Flowers at 12,000 feet, and the other leads to Shri Hemkund Sahib Gurudwara at 15,200 feet. While the Hemkund Sahib is a summer trek, the best time to visit the Valley of Flowers is in the monsoon as it is during these months that the flowers are in full bloom. The entire journey is a magical one with greenery as far as the eyes can see, clouds so close to you that you can almost touch them, and small creeks and waterfalls throughout the hike whose sounds rejuvenate the soul.
Monsoon recco: Nagarhole National Park and Tiger Reserve
The Nagarhole National Park and Tiger Reserve in Karnataka is a great place to visit during the monsoons, when its lush green forests come alive, its flora and fauna in mighty abundance and tourists flock to its many homestays and resorts.
Situated 220 kilometres from the south of Bangalore, it is also 90 kilometres from the south of Mysore. There are plenty of State transport buses that you can commute via. The reserve has become the spot for our annual family monsoon vacation. I have a ton of childhood memories of my cousins and me ambling around the forests and the first time I ever drove through the park, it rained. Feels like only yesterday.
Monsoon recco: Sundarbans
For most people living in West Bengal, and definitely for my family, the Sundarbans present the perfect monsoon getaway. The most common entry point into the mangrove forests are through the Godkhali port, where boats of all sizes are lined, waiting for commuters. From Kolkata, which is 74 kilometres away from the Godkhali Port, one can travel either by car, bus or train.
The Sunderban come alive in the rains. Unlike other tiger reserves, Sunderban Wildlife Sanctuary restricts tourists from entering the forest. One has to enjoy the beauty of the jungle, from the boat, which every turn brings with it an air of mystery. You have to remain alert every second if you wish to spot a tiger. Even if you can’t spot a tiger, you will spot the Lesser Adjutant foraging on the exposed mud along rivers or hear the captivating calls of the near-threatened Mangrove Pitta or catch the flight of a Brown-winged Kingfisher. If you closely monitor the water where these creeks and canals meet the river, you may spot the gentle Gangetic Dolphins. During monsoons especially, one may spot the Buffy-fish owl, Mangrove whistler, Ruddy Kingfisher, Mangrove Heron and other rare birds.
Monsoon recco: Amba Ghat, Maharashtra
I keep road tripping to Amba Ghat pretty often. The Mountain Pass on Kolhapur-Ratnagiri road in Maharashtra lies approximately 70 kilometres from Kolhapur city in Sahyadri Mountain Range of the Western Ghats. While it is ideal for a day’s getaway, stay back and explore the nearby temples of Amba, Marleshwar, Ganpatipule or Ratnagiri. History buffs can head to Pawankhind and Vishalgad fort.
Monsoon recco: Mandu and Maheshwar
On the Malwa plateau, with an entrance guarded by waterfalls and narrow gates, lies one of India’s largest citadels. Mandu with its undulating natural beauty of lakes and waterfalls dotted with restored and crumbling monuments comes alive with the first kiss of the monsoons. The rains highlight the romance in the citadel that is ripe with memories of past romances, especially that of a former ruler, Baz Bahadur and Rani Roopmati. Sit on a pavilion made for her on the edge of the plateau, as the veil of clouds lift for you to catch a glimpse of the Narmada below. Experience misty clouds race through the Jahaz Mahal, straddling two lakes, which as the story goes, was a pleasure palace housing a harem of nearly 1500 women!
On days when puffy white clouds fill the sky, hire a cycle or drive to the restored and crumbling monuments, ponds and waterfalls dotting the place. Before the entrance of Mandu at the Alamgiri Darwaza, there is a waterfall overlooking a wide gorge.
Maheshwar with its Insta-worthy ghats enclosing the stunningly carved temples of black rock are another treat to be experienced during the rains, when the Narmada flows full and deep, drowning the lower small temples on its banks. Mandu and Maheshwar are both a two-hour drive from Indore. A hired taxi is the best way to get to get around.
Monsoon recco: Lakshman Jhula
My favourite and the most memorable monsoon getaway spot has to be Lakshman Jhula in Rishikesh, Uttarakhand. As I stood on the suspension bridge built over the Ganges, I witnessed the spectacular beauty of the place—with the pitter-patter of raindrops mingling with the rage of the Ganges. As I watched a blanket of clouds gradually descend, splashes of a cool breeze swayed the Lakshman Jhula even as I stood on it, watching the mighty Himalayas ahead of me in the distance. The entire experience was a perfect blend of spirituality, beauty and charm which, especially during the monsoons, makes Laksham Jhula a splendid getaway spot.
From Delhi, one can drive down for seven hours to Rishikesh. The Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun is the closest airport to Rishikesh and there are many flights between Delhi and Dehradun.
Monsoon recco: Kotagiri
We stumbled upon Kotagiri, only because our trip to Vagamon was cancelled due to flooding in Kerala in August 2019.
Driving down from Bangalore, which is about 300 kilometres away, we reached Kotagiri, which is tucked in the lap of the Nilgiris. Surrounded by lush green tea estates, cotton clouds and misty mountains, Kotagiri will ensure your interaction with nature remains pure and undisturbed. Get yourself into a cozy corner, a cup of filter coffee or tea and enjoy this raw, enchantingly peaceful hill station during the rains. Kotagiri has a few breathtaking waterfalls—Catherine being the most famous among them. Trekking up to this waterfall is an adventure by itself. Once, when we were returning from the falls, we encountered a mother bear, who was standing a few kilometres away with her cub. Surely enough, we first backed away slowly and then ran for our lives!